21 October 2013
Hillsong’s ‘We Are Young & Free’ Album Review
by Blaine Packer
There is no doubt that Hillsong Music have been, and still are one of the most influential labels and identity in the realm of Christian music.
Just this year, new albums have been released from both Hillsong United (‘Zion’) and Hillsong Live (‘Glorious Ruins’), both being incredibly well received for their fresh anthemic lyrics and stellar production quality ultimately leading to many of the songs featured on these albums being sung in churches across Australia and no doubt the rest of the world.
Of course, Hillsong as an identity has branched out considerably over the last three decades with campuses found throughout the world and albums rising from almost every corner of the worship genre. Consequently, when an identity with this magnitude ploughs new ground in the worship music genre. The Christian music industry can’t help but take notice, and with the launch of Hillsong’s ‘Young and Free’ label and the subsequent album release ‘We Are Young & Free’, a bold and impassioned step has been taken to reconnect the music styles of the current generation with the lyrical gravity for which Hillsong is famous.
If this purpose seems familiar, it’s because this was the mantra with which Hillsong United was born more than a decade ago when the necessity for a Youth-infused worship band became evident in the life of the Hillsong church in Sydney. Fast-forward to the present day, and Hillsong United has matured as a label and a global band with its audience, appealing to young adults and even the greater church-going demographic.
Young and Free
Young and Free seeks to engage with the youth in today’s churches encouraging them to ‘stand strong in their youth and in their freedom’, being ‘awakened to their purpose in Jesus and empowered to step out into their calling,’ (https://hillsong.com/en/youngandfree/).
Undergirded by this background, let’s take a look at how this emergent label and album plays out, not only as an album release but also as a trend in the worship of of our creator and saviour in this generation.
The opening three tracks on the album, ‘Brighter’, ‘Alive’ and ‘Wake’ all seem to soar straight from the dance tracks that have made themselves at home on the iPod’s and phones of youth across the world, but all centered on the fullness of joy, life, and hope that is found in Christ. These tracks explode with synth layers and heavy beats all contributing to an opening that immediately hits home with their energetic and passionate audience.
You can sense the utterly electrified atmosphere that was present when these songs were recorded, as thousands of young people gathered to rejoice for the life they have found in Christ; and the lyrics directly channel the unabashed party to exalt the King of Kings. But when the track ends, and you take the headphones off, you realize just how difficult this sort of atmosphere would be for the local youth group to reproduce. And this is where I run into problems.
The majority of Hillsong’s offerings have permeated nearly every Christian circle and worship team no matter the skill level or budget of those leading God’s people in worship because of their lyrical finesse and reproducible arrangements. However, these opening tracks establish an atmosphere and an experience that is difficult to replicate with the same passion and energy as the songs were originally recorded.
I feel that the strength of these tracks is the atmosphere and explosive joy that they created - an atmosphere of which almost any young person (including myself) would love to be a part. Unfortunately, this style of worship can run the risk of leading youth to chase the emotional and experiential high that this kind of music produces rather than the person of Christ. Closely tying the atmosphere and experience to vibrant but worshipful dance tracks can be dangerous as we were made to praise our Creator and express joy to our Saviour regardless of the atmosphere or circumstance of that worship.
I’m definitely not saying that this was the case at the album’s inception and recording, but without the focus being on Christ, young listeners could be allured by the exuberant production and atmosphere, but never fully understand the joy and life of worshipping Christ in their own lives.
Next on the album
Tangent aside, the second act of the album takes the listener to new lyrical depths with ‘Lifeline’, ‘Close’, and ‘Love Goes On’, affirming our identity in Christ and his undying love and passion to be walking with us. Anthemic choruses that echo with vivid imagery and passionate confessions of faith, these songs are Hillsong worship doing what they do best: leading God’s people into intimate worship and adoration.
Regardless of the youthful target audience, these songs are sure to find their way into churches soon as the message applies to all believers, and encourages you while you warble away at the dishes, or sing with all your might on a Sunday morning.
The next two songs on the album, ‘Gracious Tempest’, and ‘End of Days’ both seem to take cues from their predecessors (Hillsong United) both in lyrical content and sound. Swirling with analogue synths, ‘Gracious Tempest’ reminded me of the intimate tracks ‘Oceans’, ‘Mercy Mercy’, and ‘Scandal of Grace’ from ‘Zion’ with their almost Psalmic lyrical approach and swelling choruses delving deeper into the nature of our God. ‘End of Days’ follows with a building anthem of God’s faithfulness and eternal glory accompanied with heavy percussion and atmospheric pads.
‘Back to Life’ and ‘In Sync’ see a return to the dance floor - albeit with a little less gusto, once again returning to the themes heard earlier in the album. The fulfilling nature of a life lived in Christ’s love are woven into the verses of ‘Back to Life’ contrasting our broken human nature with the life-giving faithfulness that is found in a relationship with Christ. With dance-infused rhythms and chanting choruses, ‘In Sync’ continues on the same train of thought, celebrating the joy and freedom that comes from identifying ourselves not based on others’ opinions but based on what Christ did for us on the cross.
Last two songs
Finally, the album’s last two songs, ‘Embers’ and ‘Sinking Deep’, quietly lead the listener into intimate worship of our Creator and Savior declaring our passionate love for Him while gratefully acknowledging His passionate love for us. ‘Sinking Deep’ stands out as a personal favourite on the album for me, both melodically and lyrically.
Starting out as a close piano ballad, it contrasts greatly and satisfyingly with the large production value found throughout the rest of the album. The sincerity and simplicity of this song compliment each other perfectly as you are drawn into the lyrics and heartcry of the song. Halfway through the track, full-instrumentation takes over, at which stage feels perfectly natural as the song builds towards a worshipful anthem bridge that fades the album out.
The album is also complimented by a few studio versions of the more lively dance tracks, ‘Alive’, ‘Wake’, and ‘Back to Life’ for good measure.
Overall, ‘We Are Young & Free’ is a welcome addition to the Hillsong label as it brings a fresh, youthful and joyful element to worship that we should all be experiencing more often. Some of the more excited tracks certainly won’t take off with the more conservative church goers, but to my surprise, the majority of tracks actually would.
Young & Free is unashamedly a Youth worship album/project with lots of potential, and I’m excited to see how this album impacts the youth with whom I work, and indeed the impact of this project in the future.
Blaine Packer is studying a Bachelor of Cross-cultural Ministry at Worldview Centre for Intercultural Studies in Launceston, Tasmania.
Blaine Packer's previous articles may be viewed at
21 October 2013
The Interruption of India
by Gemma Taylor
A Press Service International New Zealand voluntary young writer for Christian Today Australia
I have spent most of my life struggling to fit into my skin. Not in an excess of skin, baggy round the eye balls sort of a way, but in a constant, rigorous and unrelenting wrestle to be okay in the skin that I am in.
I have argued away the hours about how I could better improve myself, seeking out numerous remedies and strategies to negate the qualities in my possession that I decided were unbecoming. I have constructed only to deconstruct to then reconstruct a myriad of different thoughts, patterns and behaviours and to be quite frank, I am over the entire building process all together. Too much dust and the job is never finished.
These last couple of weeks have seen me travel to India, where I witnessed suffering so unfamiliar to me that if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I would deny it existed. I could tell you all about how the gutters are piled high with rubbish, how the heat was almost oppressive some days; I could tell you how I had my heart broken by a beautiful young girl and how I never want to hear another car horn again.
There are many things that plague me about India, injustices so complex that I am literally brought to my knees by them, but however disconcerting as it may be to see thousands of people making their beds by night on the pavement, I want to talk about the joy I found in India, etched into the lines on the people’s faces in spite of that suffering.
I met people who were institutionalised and sick but managed to hold my hand and laugh with me, I met people living under a tarp beside a railway line who met me with so much enthusiasm I almost believed I was a big deal. I met a little girl selling balloons who talked to me about her favourite colours and came alive. I met resilience, I met determination, I met humility.
As I encountered such inspirational people who gifted me with a warmth that filled my lungs to overflowing and who possessed a buoyancy that left me in reverence of them, I began to realise that all we really have to give in this life is ourselves.
And if that’s the case, I better start believing that I am a gift worth receiving because here is the thing…we are all a little bit marred by life and if I don’t have room for my own failings, I definitely don’t have room for yours. And we need each other, you and I.
I think as humans living with worldly wealth, we have the potential to spend our whole lives in poverty, berating ourselves for how much we lack, evading the truth because we are afraid of what it will mean if we embrace it and never backing ourselves for fear of being found guilty.
But the people of India and all of the richness in their response to suffering have helped me to declare a cease fire with myself, get some perspective and acknowledge my validity as a worthwhile person. Even though I still have a mouth on me like a sailor, a short temper and an over active imagination, suddenly my skin fits.
Along with faith, hope and probably worms, India has given me back myself, and I want to spend the rest of my life, in my made to fit skin, sharing it with all the other dishevelled and disillusioned souls out there, because I am convinced, that the only way forward, is together.
Gemma Taylor despite constant scorn and painful jokes is proudly from the Waikato; although she is presently living in Auckland with her fingers in many pies. She is inspired by truth, creativity and connection. Gemma writes for buoyancy and hopes to one day live wholly by the ideas that she writes of.
Gemma Taylor previous articles may be viewed at
22 October 2013
Self Esteem and Humility
by Grace Mathew
Press Service International News writer for Christian Today Australia
Judah Smith, pastor of City Church in Seattle, Washington, gained fame when it became known that pop star Justin Bieber asked if Judah would be Justin’s pastor.
Who here thinks that Hitler had low self esteem? Nobody? Me neither.
And yet for decades the dominant school of thought has held that low self-esteem is the evil behind a host of sociopath behaviour, as well as most of the bad things in the world including mosquitoes.
So a bunch of psychotherapists and researchers set out to prove it and came out with some surprising results.
''There is absolutely no evidence that low self-esteem is particularly harmful,'' says Nicholas Emler of the London School of Economics.
''It's not at all a cause of poor academic performance; people with low self-esteem seem to do just as well in life as people with high self-esteem. In fact, they may do better, because they often try harder.''
Does this mean that low self-esteem is the solution to life’s bigger problems?
Not necessarily. While low self-esteem may be a driving force for some, it is a significant inhibiting factor for others, causing people to hold back for fear of being judged or for lack of confidence.
So if neither high self-esteem nor low self-esteem are the answers to the prevailing issues that we face on a regular basis, then what is?
Try less self-esteem. As in, esteeming yourself, or thinking of yourself, less.
In a self-obsessed world, this is easier said than done.
Facebook, Instagram and MTV culture encourage us to have our own little slice of the ever-growing fame cake (because everyone wants to know what you’re eating for lunch). The problem is that as the cake grows, so does our desire for self-worth via external validation.
Thankfully, the Bible does have a solution for the external validation trap: Humility.
“Worship is aggressive humility,” says Ned Davies, previous worship pastor at Hillsong Church in Sydney. “Worship asserts that God is over all and that we are under His care and His rule – that we are not our own gods… God’s grace and exaltation comes where He finds humility”.
By putting God in His rightful place – at the top – we relieve ourselves of the pressure of having to be our own gods, out for fame and exaltation. And, if we accept that Jesus made a way for us to be perfectly accepted before God, we no longer have to perform to a certain standard. Rather, we can live with purpose, empowered by grace.
Grace Mathew is a Sydney-based writer, speaker and presenter.
Grace's archive of articles may be viewed at
22 October 2013
What’s the trend? (in the young Gen Y & Gen Z)
by Charley Goiris
A Press Service International voluntary Comment writer for Christian Today Australia
Trending on YouTube
Released just over a month ago and with 126,613,794 views on YouTube, ‘The Fox: What Does The Fox Say?’ by Ylvis is already old news.
Yep, that’s right. Sorry if you just went “What did she just say?” and realised you were a bit behind the 8-ball.
However, don’t worry you can still catch up by hitting up the link to Jimmy Fallon, Miley Cyrus & The Roots ‘We Can't Stop’. Released just over a week ago this has already had 8,965,927 hits on YouTube and whilst Ylvis is poking stick this is some incredible talent right here. However, don’t wait too long because this is about to be old news, but in the mean time it is still making the rounds on social media. I guess that means its still new.
But this week Alison Gold released her new music video ‘Chinese Food’ and whilst competing for the title of “Worst Song Ever” according to TIME Magazine it is new and trending on the social media circuit with 6,769,950 views in its first 3 days of release (why this is even popular, I don’t know!?!?). In fact, my guess is, by the time this article is published it will be in its dying days and on the verge of becoming old news.
What does this make Gangnam Style by good old PSY? Well, I guess this is REALLY old news and beginning to enter the YouTube archives with the occasional appearance on ‘2013 YouTube Rewind’ videos sure to be released in the coming months.
Evidently trends are moving fast.
Radio, TV, Fashion & Candy Crush
Let’s take it one step further…
Do you have an Apple product that runs on IOS? Most likely yes. Are you aware that since the release of IOS 7 on the 18th of Sept., Apple has already released multiple updates? If not, you should probably click the settings button on your device and get this sorted out, because among other things, it is pretty rad. Oh and make sure you download the game Candy Crush while you are there, unless you’re already addicted to it!
What about radio? Where did Adele’s music that was played as every other song on playlists in 2012 go? I guess some of these slots were replaced by the electronic tunes of Daft Punk. But when I heard his popular track ‘Get Lucky’ on my radio this morning I thought “Wow, I haven’t heard this in ages! Weird.” So what’s come next? Miley Cyrus’ song ‘Wrecking Ball’, Katy Perry’s song ‘Roar’, etc. etc.
And TV. This is a whole different story. What is even cool any more? Who is the next Australian music star? Do I watch the X-Factor or is The Voice the new big thing? I thought Master Chef is where it was at but is My Kitchen Rules taking centre stage?
And my hair! It looks like long and either wavy or straight with a bang fringe is the pin-up hairstyle for Spring 2013. But wait, it was only last year that the look was shaving part of your head so you could groom a fancy quiff. Can someone tell the trendsetters my hair can’t grow that fast! And it looks like natural colors might be back after the stint of pastel and dip-dyed looks. Argh my wallet will be getting a good work out this season.
That is, if I was to be following each and every trend.
“It Has To Be New”
We are crazy about having something ‘new’ and the rate at which things get around social media highlights a want amongst those of us in Gen Y and Z to be up with the latest trends.
What’s crazy is that things are constantly changing. What is cool today won’t be cool in 6 months time. What everyone is talking about today won’t be what they are talking about in a week. The reality is that trends move fast and no matter how hard we run we won’t ever truly catch up, or at least for very long, because as soon as we craft a quiff, long hair will be in.
What Does The Fox Say? (corny I know)
Prior to Ylvis releasing ‘The Fox: What Does The Fox Say?’ I doubt the internet searches for the sound that foxes make was very high at all; apart from the occasional hit from a uni student majoring in animal sounds or a parent who got stuck in their rendition of Old Macdonald Had A Farm, my guesses are there weren’t many. However, after the release of this video these searches have skyrocketed as people try to answer the central question to this song.
I wonder if we spent just as much time trying to figure out what Jesus says as we did a fox, if what we spent our time following would change.
In Matthew chapter 4 verse 19a Jesus calls us to follow him. In my opinion Jesus is much better than a song about broccoli and spicy food (taken from Alicia Gold’s song ‘Chinese Food’…and who likes broccoli anyway?!?) and whilst I can ‘follow’ someone like Justin Bieber he will never even know who I am, unlike God who knows every hair on my head (Matthew chapter 10 verse 30). Now that, is pretty awesome!
I know who I’m following. What page will get your 'like'?
Ps. In case you were wondering what the fox actually says you can check out this link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_DVvNK7mRA
Charlotte (Charley) works in youth ministry and is studying a Bachelor of Theology at a bible college in Melbourne. Charley enjoys writing children's stories, playing guitar and dreaming the impossible.
Charley Goiris' previous articles may be viewed at
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