Steven Curtis Chapman was born in Paducah, Kentucky on November 21, 1962. In 1987 he released his debut album, FIRST HAND. FOR THE SAKE OF THE CALL (1990, Sparrow) was his fourth album. Produced by Phil Naish and executive produced by Peter York, it won a Grammy for ‘Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album’ and a Gospel Music Association award for ‘Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year’. In the liner notes Steven reflects: “Jesus’ invitation was and is so simple-‘Come follow Me’. Beginning with twelve unlikely men, history records the lives of many who have responded to that call at all costs and so shown themselves to be disciples of Christ...Somehow when they recognized Who it was calling them, they needed no other reason to obey. It was the simple yet profound fact that God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, in all of His authority had called”. The album is dedicated to the 12 disciples and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
The title track, ‘For the Sake of the Call’, is one of a handful of songs on the album penned solely by Chapman. This adult pop song about obedience makes good use of the Christ Church Choir from Nashville, Tennessee: “Empty nets lying there at the water’s edge/Told a story that few could believe and none could explain/How some crazy fishermen agreed to go where Jesus led/With no thought for what they would gain/For Jesus had called them by name and they answered/’We will abandon it all for the sake of the call/No other reason at all but the sake of the call...’” ‘What Kind of Joy’ is a light pop song about spiritual maturity: “What kind of joy is this/That counts it a blessing to suffer?/What kind of joy is this/That gives the prisoner his song?/What kind of joy could stare death in the face and see it as sweet victory?/This is the joy of a soul that’s forgiven and free”.
‘Busy Man’ is a bouncy adult contemporary song about the often hectic lives we live: “Billy, Billy, Billy/You’re a very busy man/But you’re running with your eyes closed/You could be missing life all along the way/And you’d never even know it/You’re a busy man/Billy, Billy, you’re a busy man/Just too busy man/You’re too busy man/You’ve got a lot of nice things there Billy/But they’ve cost you more than you know/’Cause what is it really worth, can you tell me/If you’re gaining the world, but you’re losing your soul?” Chapman co-wrote ‘Lost in the Shadow’ with James Isaac Elliott. It has a melodic chorus that reveals a pure heart’s desire: “I want to get lost in the shadow of the cross/To answer the call, surrender it all/In the shadow/I want to live each day/With a humble heart that’s ready to pay/Whatever it costs to find myself lost/In the shadow of the cross”.
‘Higher Ways’ is one of two co-writes with Phil Naish. This adult contemporary ballad opens with very relatable words: “If I could only fly/I’d go up and look down from the sky/So I could see the bigger picture/And Lord if I could sit with You/At Your feet for an hour or two/I’m sure I’d ask too many questions/Cause there’s so much going on down here/That I must confess I just don’t understand/I don’t understand”. ‘Blind Lead the Blind’ is a co-write with friend Geoff Moore. It speaks of the need for discernment: “There’s a preacher in a nice church anchored in the heart of town/People flock to hear his eloquent delivery/He talks of Jesus, how He can please us/But the cross cannot be found/Makin’ theory out of facts until they’re all deceived/And the lost lead the way and more hearts are led astray.../This is a dangerous time and the truth can be so hard to find/So let His Word light your way and guard every step you take”.
Bob Sauer co-wrote, whistles on, and provides background vocals on ‘You Know Better’. This light pop song reminds us not to compare ourselves with others: “I saw you staring out your window/Watchin’ the people passing by/Taking some notes on what you saw out there/So you would know how hard you need to try/I heard you asking lots of questions/How in comparison you stand/Please let me warn you to be very careful/God wants our best and not our better than”. ‘When You are A Soldier’ is a lovely adult contemporary ballad of comfort: “When you are a soldier I will be your shield/I will go with you into the battlefield/And when the arrows start to fly/Take my hand and hold on tight/I will be your shield/Cause I know how it feels when you are a soldier”.
Brent Lamb is a backing vocalist on one of my favourite Steven Curtis Chapman songs, the upbeat pop number ‘No Better Place’. It’s a happy testimonial: “I was eight years old when I decided to follow Jesus/I started down that road/Somebody told me that this path that leads to heaven/Will not be the easy way/Well, I found that to be true/But I also found, I found out/There’s no better place on earth than the road that leads to heaven/No other place I’d rather be/No better place on earth than the road that leads to heaven/No better place to be”. ‘Show Yourselves to Be’ is a ballad about obedience: “He said/’You will show yourselves to be the ones who follow Me/By the evidence you leave along the way/They’ll know that you are Mine like the branches on the vine/If you show yourselves to be following Me.../The fruit cannot help but grow if the branch is joined into the tree/And love cannot help but show in the one who goes where Jesus leads”. A short instrumental reprise of the title track ends off the album.
FOR THE SAKE OF THE CALL deserves the awards it received. The songwriting, musicianship, and vocals are top notch! Style wise these are pop and adult contemporary songs, with pretty much an equal number of fast and slow paced songs. The most common theme is finding the contentment and security Christ brings even in the midst of life’s troubles. The next most common theme is obedience to God. There is also a song about discernment and a song about friendship. Steven looks so young in the pictures accompanying this CD! Fans of Scott Wesley Brown and Steve Green will appreciate this album which I’m rating 95%. For more info visit: www.stevencurtischapman.com.