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What makes a healthy church? Lamp Mode and 9Marks have teamed up to let Christians know. Utilizing the “9 Marks of the Church,” (created by D.C. Pastor Mark Dever) Flame, Trip Lee, shai linne, Tedashii, and others seek to communicate the characteristics that aid in the health of the church. This album is a perfect marriage of weighty doctrinal teaching and quality rap music. Learning has never been so worthy of a rewind as it is here.
The album starts with a quality song by God's Servant and Azriel, which gives an overview of what the Church should look like. This is quickly followed by "Expository Preaching" by shai linne, where the lower case emcee makes an airtight case for the importance of expository preaching. He specifically calls out preachers who use the Bible merely as a springboard to talk about what they want. He addresses this abuse by saying "instead of applying the word's reality / alot of pastors relying on personality / but giving self communication can never be a true replacement for the Holy Spirit's illumination!"
On "Conversion," Trip Lee is in rare form as he seeks to give listeners a correct view of true conversion. His flow is precise and his rhyme schemes are as sharp as ever over an exquisite beat by Alex Medina. Instead of a traditional hook, the song has a powerful sermon snippet from Mark Dever speaking of the necessity of powerful and lasting change in the life of true believers. This song is indicative of what makes this album so powerful. Often when rappers are didactic with their lyrics it comes across forced and stale; throughout this album, however, it's presented in a way that's naturally fresh.
"Membership" is a scathing indictment of "long term visitors" who criticize the church instead of being a part of it. Over the Tony Stone production, Stephen the Levite questions the listener: "this may be bold to say but if your not part of a church how do you know your saved? / the chances are your probably not a bit the objective evidence Is saying the opposite". This is just one of the many hard truths communicated on the Church. The songs here are clearly labors of love by artists who love the body of Christ passionately and want to see a clearer reflection of Him when they look at her. Throughout they do an excellent job of not only reminding Christians of the mission of the Church, but getting them motivated about fulfilling it.
This album also gives Hazakim a chance to remind listeners they are one of Christian Hip Hop's best kept secrets. They are featured on two songs "The Good News" & "Evangelism." The latter is one of the dopest songs on the album. Excruciating effort is put forward as the two Messianic Jewish brothers seek to encourage believers to keep the Gospel central when sharing their faith. The beat is exquisitely constructed around a soulful loop which serves as the backdrop for lines like "it's good to give ya testimony and tell of His benefits / but it's just a story if the Gospel ain't preeminent / matter of fact all you get is a typical / 'good for you response' and a pat on the back."
The only unfortunate aspect of this album is Tedashii's "Discipleship." Due to what must be a rare engineering error by the Lamp Mode team, Tedashii’s usually commanding voice is reduced to sounding like a prepubescent 6th grader during his verses. This is very unfortunate because his lyrical content is excellent as always but the lackluster sound in his voice makes this song much less than stellar.
This album is “Lyrical Theology” at it's best. The medium of rap has so much potential for the conveying of truth and here it is squeezed for every bit of that potential. The Church is nothing if not thought provoking. The subject matter might be slightly daunting but it's necessary; as shai linne says on "Biblical Theology," "Satan is ready to chop us into mince meat / if our faith is a mile wide and an inch deep". With this album, Lamp Mode gives listeners shovels and encourages them to dig into the Word to find out what the Church should look like, and then live it out in their faith communities.
“The Church: Called & Collected” ends with the "Beautiful Church" by Evangel which reminds listeners of why building biblical churches is vital. The Church is more than just a group of chums or Sunday services; it is the Bride of Christ. God has called people from all walks of life to be His - it should be our greatest privilege to live as He has called us to. As the Church we have been called, collected, and commissioned; let's live out the reality of this until we reach glory. WE THE CHURCH!!
Purchase on iTunes Release Date: June 8, 2010
Label: Lamp Mode Recordings
1. Take 'em to Church - God's Servant feat. Azriel
2. Expository Preaching - shai linne
3. Conversion - Trip Lee
4. The Good News - Hazakim
5. Membership - Stephen the Levite
6. Words from Mark...
7. Biblical Theology - shai linne
8. Evangelism - Hazakim
9. Leadership - FLAME
10. Words from Thabiti...
11. Church Discipline - Stephen the Levite
12. Discipleship - Tedashii
13. Beautiful Church - Evangel