What I Love About Sojourn Music

This past weekend I had the joy of hanging out with Mike Cosper and the gang from Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY. Mike is one of the pastors at the church and heads up Sojourn Music. He’ll be leading a band for one of the main sessions at WorshipGod11 and also co-leading a guitar workshop on “tone, gear, and playing together.”

It was a quick trip that included leading a songwriting workshop, dinner at an amazing Mexican restaurant with a bunch of the guys who lead the music for Sojourn (including Jamie Barnes and Brooks Ritter), attending one of the Sunday AM meetings, and leading the singing for the two evening meetings (5 and 7PM).

I came away inspired, challenged, encouraged, and freshly aware of the beauty and power of the gospel. Here are some of things I appreciated about my time with Mike and the church.

1. A commitment to the church.
Sojourn Music is deeply enmeshed in the local church. All the instrumentalists, vocalists, and songwriters you’ll hear on their 7 albums are or have been part of the church. They aren’t seeking to write the next big worship hit. Just seeking to be faithful to use music to proclaim the glorious news that Jesus has come to rescue us from God’s wrath and reconcile us to himself.

2. A commitment to the gospel.
A love for the centrality of Christ’s redeeming work comes through in everything Sojourn Music is connected to. The songs they write and sing, the church website, the structure of the meetings, the preaching, the books they read, and most importantly, in their lives and conversations.

3. A commitment to mentoring musicians and leaders.
The level of musicianship at the church and on their albums is pretty serious, both instrumentally and vocally. Some gifted musicians have joined the church along the way. But Mike and others have consciously taken time to invest in younger musicians in the areas of theology, musical skill, and character. That’s accomplished through scheduled meetings, hanging out, encouragement, honest feedback, and modeling what they want others to be.

4. A commitment to sound theology.
Sojourn guys aren’t apologetic about writing songs that are heavy on the doctrinal side. One of the more humbling moments came when someone in the church said that a Sovereign Grace song I introduced was light on theology in comparison to what they usually sing. Ouch. But I loved what that statement represented in terms of the church’s values. (At the end of this post, you can download a song from their latest CD, The Water and the Blood.)

5. A commitment to rootedness and relevance.
The meetings at Sojourn Community Church loosely follow a liturgy that has been around for centuries. They include a call to worship, confession of sin, assurance of pardon, congregational readings, and the Lord’s Supper every Sunday. But it was all done in a way that was authentic, faith-filled, and understandable. The music is anything but “traditional” (combination of indie rock, americana, alternative, folk, blues, and a few other styles), but the lyrics are often taken from hymns that have been around for centuries.

6. A commitment to relationships.
It was obvious to me that the Sojourn folks love spending time together. Once a month after the last meeting on Sunday Mike and a group of leaders go out for dinner and conversation. They get involved in each other’s lives to encourage, empathize, and challenge. They’re not afraid to speak truth to each other and not ashamed of expressing their affection for each other either. Great combination.

I asked Mike to share a few thoughts on the state of music in the church and here’s his response.

Grateful that God is raising up leaders who take the gospel, the Scriptures, and music in the church seriously. And looking forward to Mike and his crew being with us at WorshipGod11.

Mike has graciously give me permission to give away the song he references in this video, Absent From Flesh, from their latest album The Water and the Blood. Enjoy.