hillsong united

Shadow Step by Hillsong United - Worship Song Review and Tips for Leading

If you are like me, you are a huge Hillsong United fan. I began listening to them back in 2007 when I was discovering a passion for worship leading in high school. “Hosanna,” “Break Free,” and “Lead Me to the Cross,” were some of the first songs I learned how to lead worship. Ten years later, they are still writing amazing worship songs for the church. I especially love their willingness to push the boundaries of what is considered “worship music.” I was excited when they released their new album “Wonder” a few weeks ago. While I do not know the album super well, I have had some time to listen to it and begin discerning which songs would be a good fit for my church. The song that has jumped out to me is “Shadow Step” written by Joel Houston and Michael Guy Chislett. Here is a brief review of the song. I’ll unpack it both musically and theologically. I hope it helps you in discerning whether or not it will be a good fit for your church.

The Music

“Shadow Step” is very singable. Lately, a significant portion of Hillsong United’s music is not ideal for congregational singing. The arrangements and melodies are a bit more complicated than I would prefer for leading the local church on Sunday morning. But that is not to discredit their approach to songwriting. As I mentioned above, I love how Hillsong is pushing the stylistic boundaries of worship music. With that comes the downside of not everything being ideal for congregational singing. However, there are some songs, such as “Shadow Step,” that I think are very singable. The melodic range is small, and the melody is simple to follow.

I would recommend playing this song in the recorded key of E or maybe dropping it to the key of D. When songs are led by a female like Taya Smith, I think it is unnecessary to change the key since men can comfortably sing an octave lower. If you are a male leading this song, I recommend keeping it in the key of E. Sure, you will not be able to show off your beautiful tenor voice, but more people will be able to sing along.

The Theology

The message of this song is simple. It’s a prayer asking God to help us follow in his steps. The imagery of “shadow step” means walking so close to God that we are walking in the shadow of his steps. At least I think that is what it means. The song also emphasizes the fact that we do not always know where God is going to take us. “Fix my eyes on the unexpected.” Having faith in God means we follow Him no matter how unexpected the path may seem. I love the bridge of the song. We cannot explain the ways of God and the paths he leads us on, but no matter what we know he leads us out of grace and love because of what he showed us on the cross.

Scripture references that support the message of this song include Psalm 119:129-133, Proverbs 16:9, and Romans 11:33.

I think this song fits great toward the end of a worship set. It could function well as a song of response to the sermon or a song of sending. Introducing it to my congregation, I would say something like the following.

We’re going to sing this new song together. It’s a prayer about our need to follow closely in God’s footsteps. So close that we are walking in the shadow of his steps. We often do not know where God is taking us, but that’s what faith is about. He often leads us in unexpected places, but we can be sure that his purpose for our lives is filled with grace and love.

Here are some worship planning resources for this song. Let me know if this information was helpful for your worship planning and leave suggestions for future song reviews in the comments!