song meaning

Reckless Love by Cory Asbury - Song Meaning, Review, and Worship Leading Tips

This article is a brief review of the song “Reckless Love” by Cory Asbury. It has become increasingly popular in churches over the past few months in late 2017 into early 2018. It has also raised a lot of questions regarding the word “Reckless” in describing God’s love. I’ll unpack why fussing about this word choice is making a mountain out of a molehill (something religious people are experts at accomplishing).

Most of my articles are not polarizing, but I feel strongly about this topic. As a worship leader, I’ve dealt first hand with people who think they are being theologically discerning about lyrics in worship songs. They put up a stink to pastoral leadership until the song in question goes away. I try to avoid these churches like the plague.

I also do not like to flash letters after my name, especially since I think higher education is becoming a joke. But I do have a Master of Divinity from Denver Seminary. It’s a well-respected, conservative, evangelical school. So I’m not some lone liberal blogger spouting uninformed theological opinions. I’ve read a lot of books, written a lot of papers on the Bible and theology that grant me at least a bit of authority in this area.

Okay, now for the song review and worship leading tips.

I heard the song for the first time in the summer of 2017  when playing bass for the Red Rocks Young Adults service. Kory Miller, our worship leader, picked the song and I’m so glad he introduced it to us.  It wasn’t even officially released yet. I think someone pirated it off of Bethel TV and uploaded it to Youtube.

It turns out, the song is a hit, and they released the single for it not long ago. I think this is going to be a standard in many worship sets for a few years to come.

Song Meaning

The meaning of the song is straightforward.

Verse 1 highlights that God created us and gives us life. Verse 2 focus on how God redeems us--despite the fact we were his enemies and rebellious in our sinfulness. God is good. God is kind. These verses are simple, but I love how Cory crafted these lyrics. “When I was your foe, still your love fought for me.” “When I felt no worth, You paid it all for me.” 

The bridge continues to emphasize the theme of God’s love using the word reckless. It paints the picture of God pursuing his children like Liam Neeson in Taken who goes to the most extreme measures to rescue his daughter and kill the bad guys.

Is God’s Love Reckless?

The chorus focuses on how incredible it is that God loves us and pursues us. The term “Reckless” has gotten a lot of attention. As usual, when a gifted songwriter uses a bit of language that is not typical, all of the Pharisees in the church come out of the woodwork and make a loud fuss. If you disagree with the use of the word “Reckless” and feel offended by that last sentence, please check out this cool app.

In all seriousness, there are a few reasons why I have no issue with the term “Reckless” in describing God’s love.

  • The definition - (of a person or their actions) without thinking or caring about the consequences of an action. While in most contexts this song has negative connotations (reckless driving) the word reckless itself does not necessarily carry negative connotations on its own.

  • Word meaning changes and evolves - It’s common for words and associated connotations to change and evolve overtime. Maybe it wouldn’t have been appropriate to use “reckless” to describe God’s love a decade or two ago, but words and their associated connotations are adaptable to their time and culture.

  • Biblical support - Cory wrote this song with the parables in Luke 15 in mind. Do you know how “reckless” it was for the Father to receive the Prodigal Son back into his house! He did not care about the consequences of what other people thought of this act of love. Same thing with the parable of the lost sheep. Why would a shepherd not care about the safety of the 99 to go find the one? Oh, and another example of biblical support is 1 Corinthians 1:18, where a guy named Paul writes the message of the cross is “foolishness” to the world. You know what word is similar to “foolishness”? Reckless.

I honestly cannot believe I just wasted 10 minutes of my time needing to argue why reckless is an okay description of God’s love in this context. I think if more Christians were more distressed about reaching their lost neighbors with the gospel of Jesus instead of putting up a fuss about songs like this, the world would be a much better placed with more saved people.

But nope. We still battle our pharisaical and religious tendencies.

Obviously, you know how I feel about this song. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t spend time reviewing it. If you feel offended that Cory used the word “reckless” to describe God’s love, go read your Bible--and more specifically, Luke 15.

Also, read what Cory wrote about this on his Facebook page. Here is an excerpt from what he said:

"When I use the phrase, “the reckless love of God”, I’m not saying that God Himself is reckless. I am, however, saying that the way He loves, is in many regards, quite so. What I mean is this: He is utterly unconcerned with the consequences of His actions with regards to His own safety, comfort, and well-being. His love isn’t crafty or slick. It’s not cunning or shrewd. In fact, all things considered, it’s quite childlike, and might I even suggest, sometimes downright ridiculous. His love bankrupted heaven for you. His love doesn’t consider Himself first. His love isn’t selfish or self-serving. He doesn’t wonder what He’ll gain or lose by putting Himself out there. He simply gives Himself away on the off-chance that one of us might look back at Him and offer ourselves in return."

I don’t know about you but the fact that the God of the universe cares about me, loves me and is willing to give up his Son for me, that’s pretty darn reckless. People will complain about it--especially in a church full of baby boomers wanting hymns. To help ward off potential conflict, make sure you introduce this song and give “reckless” a bit of context. Maybe even reference the three parables in Luke 15!

I've created a free guide for worship leaders called 25 things to say or pray in worship. In the guide, I include a script for what I would say to introduce the song, Reckless Love to my congregation. You can download the guide by clicking the button below.

Tips for leading

Musically, this song is a winner. It’s catchy and singable for any congregation. It’s a 6/8 Bethel ballad, so it will make even the Grinch’s heart grow 10x larger. Seriously, I get choked up when I sing it. I also love the instrumentals in this song when the lead part is syncopated over the rest of the band. In my opinion, Bethel is the most innovate group in worship songwriting right now. Not only lyrically, but musically.

If you want to lead the song so it is comfortable for both men and women to sing the melody, then I recommend singing it in the key of D. You’ll be playing the progression Bm, A, G, D. It won’t sound as sexy as the recording in the key of F#, but on Sunday mornings you’re not trying to sell records. You want people to actually sing.

The only other musical tip I have for this song is to make sure your keyboardist or electric guitar player knows the lead part in the instrumentals. If that isn't doable, you could also just sing it with “oh’s.” But do make sure you have it in there because it’s awesome.

What are your thoughts and opinions on this song? Let me know in the comments!


What was just a simple blog post I threw together in about 15 minutes a few months ago has turned into a firestorm below in the comments. Feel free to share you opinions on the song (it helps Google rankings of this post) but please know I will most likely not engage in a conversation. Don't take it personally. I just don't have the time or interest. The reactions to this post remind me why I do not write a Christian opinion blog. While you are free to add your 2 cents to the comments below, I'd encourage you to do something more worth your time than trying to convince others on the opposing side of this argument.

AUTHORS UPDATE (3/16/2018)

Over 14,000 people have viewed this blog post over the past 30 days. It continues to fascinate me how much curiosity and controversy this song (and this blog post) have sparked. For me personally, this has now become an interesting experiment to see how nasty Christians can be in the comments section.

Yes, I was polarizing when writing this post. You will either hate me or love me for it. Yes, I used the word “Pharisee” to describe people who question the intent of this song and the writer’s heart. Was it politically correct or me to do this? Probably not. But honestly, the outrage I see in the comments section of this post kinda proves my point.

When looking at scripture, you know who got really angry about the reckless nature of God’s love? The Pharisees. You know who thought Jesus was reckless for hanging out with sinners, samaritans, lepers, and women? The Pharisees. You know who got the most angry and offended in theological debates? The Pharisees. You know who got caught up in the minutiae of doctrine and religion? The Pharisees. You know who got the most offended by the message of the Gospel? The Pharisees.

There are valid arguments against the use of reckless to describe God’s love. Some folks have left some very thoughtful counter-arguments below and I am grateful. The internet is a place for free discussion, which I why I haven’t deleted any comments or disabled comments, even when people make a personal attack on my character and calling.

While I’m sorry for causing any discord among Christians by writing the blog post above, I am not sorry for calling out Pharisaical tendencies within the church.

Finally, I only expect this update to make some people more angry, pouring only more gasoline on the fire. That’s why I don’t spend time arguing below in the comments. The arguing will never end on such a divisive topic.

But go ahead. Leave your 5 page essay down below on why I am wrong, Cory is wrong, and everyone who sings this song is going to hell. It’s gonna accomplish so much in the greater scheme of things (said in a very sarcastic tone.)

The only thing it’s actually going to accomplish is prove the point that Christians are better at arguing over the dumbest issues rather than reaching the lost and making disciples.

O Come to the Altar by Elevation Worship - Song Review, Meaning, and Worship Leading Tips

I grew up in a small Pentecostal church in Northern Vermont. It was the church where I discovered my passion for worship ministry. I love the vitality and energy of the charismatic tradition. When I was young, the charismatic church and its style of worship were all I knew. I did not know that not all churches value extended worship sets, raising hands, clapping, and altar calls. Elevation Church is one of a handful of charismatic mega-churches that has been producing solid worship songs for any church to use on Sunday. In early 2016 they released the album, Here as in Heaven. One of the most popular songs on that album is O Come to the Altar written by Chris Brown, Mack Brock, Steven Furtick, and Wade Joye. Since the album’s release, O Come to the Altar has made it to the top 10 most popular songs on CCLI Song Select. Many churches across the globe are singing it right now. This song is both singable and powerful for any congregation.

The following is a review of the song from both a musical and theological standpoint. You’ll learn some practical tips for arranging the song for congregational singing and understanding the song meaning.

The Music

O Come to the Altar is a ballad in 6/8. I don’t know what it is about 6/8 ballads. For some reason, they have a high emotional impact. Another popular but older song that is a 6/8 ballad is How He Loves by John Mark MacMillan or Come as You Are by David Crowder. The range of the melody is small and stays under an octave. That makes it singable for just about anyone. The motifs in the song are also memorable and repetitive. There is nothing particularly challenging about the instrumentation in this song. It sounds great played acoustically or with a full band. If you’re new to leading worship, I would recommend having this song in your library. One of my favorite things about this song is the chord progression in the chorus. I love how it moves from the one chord to the two chord, then to the six chord. The two chord feels a bit surprising but it fits well and gives the song a distinct sound.

The Theology

As I mentioned above, I grew up in a charismatic church where altar calls were the norm. Personally, I can connect with the idea of coming forward to the altar as a sign of surrender and worship. In the Old Testament, the altar was the place where God’s people made sacrifices for their sin. It was a unique place where God interacted with humans. It’s where people would go to consecrate themselves to God. In other words, it’s where people would go to find forgiveness for their sin and devote their life to God. In the New Testament, Christ’s death on the cross was the ultimate sacrifice on the ultimate altar. As Christians, we do not need to make animal sacrifices anymore. Instead, we are to offer our lives as “living sacrifices” to God, as Paul says in Romans 12. We are “living” sacrifices because Christ has brought us from spiritual death to life. We are in right relationship with God. We are consecrated. We are set apart for his purpose. The animal sacrifices in the Old Testament were a prediction of what was to come in complete fulfillment in Christ.

So when you sing the lyrics of this song, know that the imagery of the “altar” has a lot of Biblical meaning behind it. The chorus is simple but packed with truth. When we sing, “O Come to the Altar,” we are not asking people to find a lamb to kill at the front of the church. It’s referring to the type of sacrifice Paul mentions in Romans 12:1. We want to make it a habit of laying down the ways of our old self at the altar so that we can embrace a new life in Christ.

Worship Leading Tips

I would recommend leading this song in the key of F or G if you are a male vocalist and D or E if you are a female vocalist. On the album, they play it in B. In my opinion, it is an awkward key for your average small to mid-sized congregation. If I were leading, I would play it in the key of F and capo the 5th fret and play in the key of C.

This song works great as an invitation for response to a sermon or call to salvation. Depending on your church’s style and traditions, you could even invite people to come to the front of the stage as a tangible expression of coming to the altar. You could have church leaders available to pray over them. Using the brief theological explanation above saying something like, “In the bible, the altar was a place where people came before God and sought to be made holy for His purposes. Back then they sacrificed animals to experience communion with God. Since Jesus’ death was the ultimate sacrifice on the altar of the cross, we can come before God without needing to make animal sacrifices. Instead, we surrender our own lives to God so that we can be living sacrifices. That’s what this song is about. I want to invite you to embrace God’s transformative love for you through Christ.  You are made holy and accepted by God because of Jesus' blood.”

If you found this review and these tips helpful hit that like button and share it with your worship leading friends! I’d love to hear your feedback on this song. Are you singing it in your church? How has your congregation received it? What do you like or do not like about the song?

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!