Format: Sound Plus Doctrine PodcastDownload Session
In this first episode of Season 4, Bob and David discuss the significance of the name, Sound Plus Doctrine, explain why it’s the name of our podcast and how it communicates the mission of Sovereign Grace Music.
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David Zimmer: Hi, welcome to the Sound Plus Doctrine Podcast. I am David Zimmer.
Bob Kauflin: My name is Bob Kauflin.
DZ: You forgot?
BK: I didn’t. I wanted to do what you did. “I am.” But I thought, “My name is.” And I got confused momentarily.
DZ: You know what? It’s season four of the Sound Plus Doctrine podcast.
BK: Unbelievable. It seems like just yesterday we were thinking, “Should we even do a podcast?”
DZ: I know.
BK: And it took us about six months to decide that we should do one.
DZ: It is so great. We’ve covered a lot of topics so far.
BK: We have, we have. It seems like we’ve pretty much done it all.
BK: So okay, let’s make this one real short.
DZ: Well, today, we’re so happy that you’d be with us listening in or Watching in on YouTube.
BK: Thank you. Oh, sorry, you’re talking to them. Sorry. I thought you were taking to me.
DZ: I wasn’t.
DZ: But it’s so great to be with you, Bob.
BK: Thank you, David. It’s great to be with you as well.
DZ: We just wanted to take the beginning of season four to talk about our name, The Sound Plus Doctrine Podcast.
BK: We are so on top of things. Like the fourth season and we are finally saying, “So this is why we called it Sound Plus Doctrine.”
DZ: That’s what I appreciate about us.
BK: We are so ahead of the curve.
DZ: But we stole this from the Sovereign Grace Music byline.
BK: Yes. But that’s okay because we are Sovereign Grace Music. So, we can steal our own stuff.
DZ: Yes, for sure. So I thought it would be great to talk about that. What are those two elements and why is there a plus in the middle of those two elements?
BK: Those are very deep questions. I think we’ll be able to get into them. I really don’t know why there’s a plus sign, so let’s just ignore that one. But we can talk about the origin of the name.
DZ: That’s great.
BK: And then maybe get into the podcast.
BK: So yeah, we were trying to think of something that would briefly succinctly, I guess that’s the same word, same meaning. Communicate what we’re trying to do at Sovereign Grace Music. And we’ve always been about the content. So the doctrine seemed to be the easy part, and we are interested in sound doctrine. Doctrine affects us. What we believe affects what we do. It affects our lives. It’s not just the fact that we believe something, it’s that what we believe is true.
BK: So that’s what doctrine is. Paul says to Timothy, 1st Timothy 4:6, “If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.” So our singing is meant to be an expression of that.
BK: So that’s where the doctrine came from. And then the sound, you know that sound doctrine it’s healthy, it has integrity. So it’s kind of a play on words, obviously. Sound Plus Doctrine, we’re not just reading the doctrine we’re giving expression to it.
BK: Like the Psalmists do. Psalm 71:23, “My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to you. My soul also which you have redeemed.” It’s like someone has said, “Theology that doesn’t lead to doxology isn’t good theology.”
BK: Our doctrine, if it doesn’t lead to the worship of God, either we’re deficient in our doctrine or we’re approaching it the wrong way. Because when you study God rightly, when we understand who he really is, it’s almost impossible not to give expression to that because of who He is. So I love what the Psalmist says, Psalm 111, verses one and two where you get the combination of Sound Plus Doctrine. “Praise the Lord. I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart. In the company of the upright in the congregation. Great are the works of the Lord.” And the ESV says, “Studied by all who delight in them.”
BK: So there’s this inner play of the truths we’re coming to know, the theology we’re coming to understand better, the doctrines that we’re capturing more, that are being ingrained more into us and the expression of that.
BK: So the psalmist in Psalm 119:54 says, “Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning.”
DZ: Yes. Yeah.
BK: So you have all these references to the truth of God, the doctrines about God being combined with giving expression to them. So that’s what we were kinda thinking when we gave the byline Sound Plus Doctrine to Sovereign Grace Music.
DZ: Yeah. So since we’re talking about doctrine starting here, you’ve already teased it out for us a little bit, but I know that Colossians 3:16 is so key into that Doctrine portion.
BK: Yeah, I did mention that, yeah.
DZ: But yeah, let’s talk about how that applies to the songs that we’re singing.
BK: Oh, wow. Well, for those who might not know Colossians 3:16 says, Paul is in the middle of talking about how to live a gospel-centered life in the midst of a pagan culture. That’s what he’s doing in his letter to Colossians. And then prior to this verse he’s saying things like, “Put on then as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, patience. Bearing with one another and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving one another as the Lord has forgiven you, so also you must forgive others.” And he’s just talking about the way we relate to each other. And then in verse 16, he comes to, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom. Singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” And it’s just like wow, what is that? And there’s something about singing that is an expression of our gospel-enabled, and gospel-centered relationships that involves the word of Christ dwelling in us richly.
BK: Now, literally that’s the gospel. That’s the word about Christ that the Son of God became incarnate, took on human flesh, lived a perfect life, died a substitutionary death, took God’s wrath against us in our place, rose from the dead to prove that that sacrifice was accepted. It was his vindication, ascended to his father’s right hand is interceding for us, and is one day coming back for the bride He redeemed, that’s the Word of Christ. Well, those truths, that doctrine is to dwell in us richly. And of course, the whole Word of God points to Jesus.
BK: He is the Living Word of God and the written Word of God points to Him. That’s what should dwell in us richly as we sing. Our singing isn’t just meant to be about sound, it’s about those doctrines. It’s about the word of Christ dwelling in us richly.
DZ: Right. Well, and in that passage the admonishing and training…
BK: Teaching and admonishing one another. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
DZ: Yeah. So much of our Sunday gatherings are putting the words of God in the mouths of those who are there.
DZ: You’re training them. You’re teaching them.
BK: We’re teaching one another, not in an office kind of sense.
BK: But we are teaching and admonishing one another. We’re saying, “Remember who God is.”
BK: “Remember what Christ has done, remember who we are.”
DZ: Right. Well, and I mean, there have been so many Sundays where I’ll be distracted or I’ll have something on my mind and I’ll come into the gathering…
BK: Oh, really?
DZ: And we might open with Scripture and it just blows by my head and I’m not really paying attention.
BK: David, pay attention.
DZ: And then a song lyric of the first song will just cut me. And in that moment, I pause and realize, “Wow, this is admonishing me. This is doing the work that only God’s word can do,” but to be able to put that to a song is such a special, I mean, that’s an unbelievable joy to be able to do.
BK: Well, it’s what we’re called to do. With Sovereign Grace Music, we have a specific task, a call, we feel responsibility to write songs, produce songs that are theologically driven. And I draw a distinction between songs that are theologically driven and theologically aware. Now, some songs they don’t even seem to be theologically aware.
BK: It’s just like, hey, I feel this, so I can express it, so we can sing it.
DZ: Right, right.
BK: Which is not the kinds of songs we should be singing. There are theologically aware songs where you are aware that certain things are true in the Bible and you might use a Scripture verse, but it’s not necessarily applied in a way that’s consistent. So we make the Scripture say what we wanna say.
BK: That’s different from being theologically driven. A theologically driven song realizes God has spoken to us in a certain way.
BK: He’s put things together in certain priorities, certain progressions, certain connections, interconnections. And it’s our responsibility to steward that with the songs we write, that’s what the hymn writers were so good at. At least a lot of them.
BK: Tying together all the strands of theology of a doctrine and Scripture and saying, “This is what this means. This is how this ties together.”
BK: That’s what our songs should be helping us do.
DZ: Right. And I think a lot of people, I’m sure I did. I thought of hymnity as the sort of standard hymns we sing on Sunday, the standard hymns that are in our hymn book. But when you go back and look at some of these hymns, so many of them are so specific in the categories they’re talking about.
BK: Yes, yes.
DZ: And I really appreciate that about Sovereign Grace Music as well, that obviously people don’t know all of our songs, every song that we’ve written.
BK: I don’t know all of our songs.
DZ: But there are very specific songs that speak to very specific themes. And can you talk to our listeners about why we do that?
BK: That is a great question. Yeah. I remember when we were working on an earlier website. By the way, we’re talking about revising our current website, so if you have any ideas for how that can be better, let us know.
DZ: I was just gonna say, don’t send those to us because, we already have so much work to do. Oh no, we can…
BK: In a year or so we wanna redo the website. But when we were first working on it we were talking about categories for songs.
BK: And I think, the website designer was saying, we’ve got like seven to 10 categories; the praise, worship celebration. I said, “The people who use our music, that’s not gonna be enough.” And I use the example of hymnals, where if you open up most hymnals, they’ll have like, I don’t know, a 100 different categories for hymns.
DZ: Oh, yeah. For sure.
BK: It’s because songs say things, they mean things. They’re meant to communicate specific truths. I think it was 10 years ago we did The Gathering, we did an album called The Gathering, where we wrote songs for specific parts of the meeting. I’d read Bryan Chapell’s book, Christ-Centered Worship, which talked about the value of liturgy through history and Scripture in our own lives. And a lot of good stuff has come out on that since then. But it made me aware that, “Wow, we need more songs for specific parts of the meeting.”
BK: A call to worship, a confession, an assurance of pardon, prayer for illumination, prayer to hear the word, songs of commitment, songs that did something, communion songs, songs of thanksgiving.
BK: And so we wrote specifically for those topics. And a lot of those songs are still being used, which I’m grateful for it, we want the songs to be used.
BK: But because they fit those categories and themes. Just different Trinity, Christ exultation, Christ work. We have, I don’t know how many, we probably have about 100 categories for our songs. And if you go to our website, we list all those.
BK: So you can look up a song that might talk about the ascension of Christ, or his atonement, or the pre-existence of Christ. I don’t know if we have that or not. But just different aspects, specific things that we might wanna have a song about. So that’s driven a lot of what we do, whether a song’s trinitarian or not. We did a whole album based on the Trinity, Sooner Count the Stars, where I wonder if our theology kinda overtook our musical senses on that album. But it was a hard album.
DZ: And a whole book or a whole album on the book of Romans.
BK: On the Book of Romans, Grace Has Come. Yeah, and we’re working on an album based on JI Packer’s, Knowing God. Which, wow, what a treat that is. That won’t be out for quite some time.
DZ: Right. Just releasing an album on the book of Psalms.
BK: The Book of Psalms. Yeah.
BK: So specific focuses of the songs that you can use in particular instances.
DZ: Yes. I just wanna say, before I came to Sovereign Grace and I was leading the music at my church, that was so helpful because it connected the dots for me on what book we were working through or theme we were working through, and specific songs for that. I remember we were going through the book of Job and looking up songs for suffering and songs of hope, and typing that into our website, I mean, it’s so helpful. And so if you don’t know about that or you’re not familiar with our website or we even offer that, that will be such a resource to you. That has been a resource to a lot of people, myself included. So yeah, you’re talking about distinctives and themes in our faith that we can pull from and how that applies.
BK: And different songs we’ve done come to mind like, I think on the Glorious Christ song, we had a song called Christ Our Treasure, which talks about all the fountains we’ve sought to drink from have left us dry. And we followed after idols, but, “You’re our treasure.” There just aren’t a ton of songs that say stuff like that. Or A Christian’s Daily Prayer.
DZ: I was just gonna say A Christian’s Daily Prayer.
BK: Why don’t you talk about A Christian’s Daily Prayer?
DZ: Yeah. “As day unfolds, I seek your will in all of life’s demands.”
DZ: I mean, about just how we’re going about our day and our lives, ending with, “Let every effort of my life, declare the matchless worth of Christ.”
BK: “Declare the matchless worth of Christ.”
DZ: Yeah. “Make me a living sacrifice.” It’s another song we can sing to instill hope and joy in our people in their just daily struggles.
BK: Yes. Well, and you and Nate wrote, I think this is on, Glorious Christ too. Christ Our Glory.
DZ: Yeah, Christ Our Glory.
BK: Which is an up tempo song about suffering.
BK: Which is really odd. Talk about that.
DZ: Right. Well, drawn from my favorite hymn writer, Henry Francis Lyte. It’s all about, “Come joy or come sorrow, whatever befall, the light of the Savior will outshine them all.”
BK: “Outshine them all.” That is so good.
DZ: And just a song that, yeah, it’s funny, an up tempo song to sing on Sunday that says, “My joy is not here.”
BK: Yes, yes. There’s a confidence in it.
DZ: My home’s not here. Yes.
DZ: Yeah. I’m not placing all my hope here. And again, that’s what our people need when they’re coming into a Sunday morning and thinking, “Wow, this has really let me down. The world or my job or my circumstance.” Instilling that hope again. Yeah.
BK: I think another thing about just the doctrine aspect of what we do and why this podcast is called Sound Plus Doctrine, is in Sovereign Grace we believe certain doctrines. I am a guy who loves to make peace wherever I can, just to find if there are two opposing viewpoints, “Okay, what do we share in common? You know what?” But there are certain things that we have to stand on because God has spoken them. There are primary issues in Scripture that we must stand on.
DZ: Yeah. That’s good.
BK: We can’t change on the gospel. We can’t change on the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ or the fact that he’s truly God, truly man, and those things. So in our songs, we’re also bringing focus to some of those doctrines that we believe. We just, I think last year, approved a Statement of Faith for our family of churches Sovereign Grace. It took seven years, it was seven years in the making. And it’s just wonderful, it’s devotional, it’s thorough, but it communicates certain doctrines that we would want our people, and other people to embrace and celebrate and sing about.
BK: The doctrines of Grace, our inability, God’s choosing of us, the perseverance of the saints. The fact that we’re Continuationist, that we believe the Holy Spirit continues to work through many and varied gifts in the church today. The doctrine of sin, that that’s a reality that we can’t skirt that. Just different truths that we are joined around, that we are building our lives on. So if they mean something, why not sing about them.
DZ: Right, and when you say we, you’re talking about Sovereign Grace Church.
BK: Churches, yeah, yeah, yeah.
DZ: Yeah. Sovereign Grace Church Network.
BK: Yeah, I mean churches, yep denomination, yep.
DZ: Yes. So yeah, we’re instilling those distinctive in our family of churches, in our denomination, but outside that, we’re also telling people, “We want you to be singing these distinctives of faith, and of hope and trust.
BK: Well, yes. We’re just following the footsteps of hymn writers throughout the centuries. Probably the best example is John and Charles Wesley.
BK: Charles wrote somewhere between 6500 and 9000 hymns, and their goal was to have every part of the theology, the doctrines they taught, encapsulated in song.
BK: Now, we don’t have that quite high as a goal, [laughter] but we do want to have songs for different occasions, different times, different opportunities.
BK: I know just as a leader on Sundays as the guy who picks the songs, a lot of times I will use Sovereign Grace songs, not that I don’t use other people’s songs, there’s a lot of other people’s songs I use and hymns, but because we’ve been so specific and why we’ve written these songs, they tend to speak to the specific need of the moment after a message or during a certain season, whatever, they’re just more focused and they help us apply the gospel to whatever that season of that truth is.
DZ: Yeah, yeah, just before we launch into the sound portion of Sound Plus Doctrine. Yeah, I just think that’s really important, that last piece of information you shared, the fact that over these many years you’ve been writing songs that fit specific themes.
BK: Trying to, yeah.
DZ: It’s a different philosophy than just, “We wanna try to write some songs that get us on the radio, or we just wanna write some hits that people can connect to.” Which, I’m not saying that that’s wrong, but it’s a different perspective.
BK: Well, if you’re just writing songs like to get hits, I think that’s wrong. [laughter] But I think, yeah, if someone’s saying, “Yeah, I want a song that could be as popular as possible.
BK: That one is possible.
DZ: Right. It’s a wealth of songs that not everyone is used, obviously, but there’s a lot in there that aren’t used universally but can really fit a specific theme, a specific occasion.
BK: And the more we sing about those specific truths, it does so much. It forms our affections, not just our thinking, but our affections, the things that drive us, and helps us to discern error, so the more specific our songs are, the more we can tell when “Wait that’s off. Oh yeah, that’s off.”
BK: And I think for a song to be really popular, you can start with the mentality of, Well, we don’t wanna mention sin or wrath or justice, you know, we wanna identify with people in their suffering and say, “God’s really good.” You kinda leaving in that broad realm, and it’s just a lot better than that. The details of what God has given us in His Word are just a lot better than vague assumptions or vague statements about God’s greatness and His goodness, and He demonstrated that in a specific way through the giving of His Son who died in a place and rose from the dead, so that we can know through faith in Him, repentance for our sins, that we have eternal life and will be with Him forever. That is good news we’re singing about. And we don’t wanna shy away from that. So it’s so important that writers whoever you are, that we get specific, not overbearing, not too much theology, 100 gallons of theology in a one gallon of brain, but that we strive to help people understand specifically Why God has been so good to us, why He’s so holy, why He alone is the savior, why He is our God.
DZ: Man. Yes. Okay, let’s talk about the sound portion of Sound Plus Doctrine.
DZ: So you’ve said that the sound is referring to the songs we sing, the songs we’re writing.
BK: We’re not just writing books or articles.
DZ: Yes, we are writing songs, and have been writing songs for 20, 30-plus years.
BK: 35 or more.
DZ: So, in terms of sound, I kinda wanna narrow that in, and would you say that there is a sound that defines Sovereign Grace Music? [laughter] Like a specific sound?
BK: Oh, that is a great question. Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t know if there is. I could say we certainly don’t want there to be… I can say we don’t want there to be… It won’t be certain things, like Sovereign Grace Music is not a choral sound. Sovereign Grace Music is not a marching band sound, Sovereign Grace Music is not a heavy metal sound.
DZ: Well, we’ve never explored heavy metal.
BK: No, and as long as I’m alive, we’re probably not going to. [laughter] So, Sovereign Grace music is not a country sound, although there is a guy in one of our churches who has an amazing country voice and we might put out some country sounding EPs or something soon. Just a little teaser there. But yeah, I think early on in our history we had a sound. It was very much the ’80s, ’90s, chord changing and everything synth, pop kind of stuff. Lots of words, lots of chords, lots of words and chords. [laughter] And some people love that, I listen to it now and just go, “Oh my gosh, what were we thinking? What… ” But it was hip, it was relevant. And so I think that was a sound for a number of years, I’d say in the last 15 years we’ve been trying to get away from that.
BK: And play music in a way that communicates, “You know what? These songs should be played in a lot of different ways.”
BK: We’re not so interested in people doing music the way we do it.
DZ: Yeah, yeah.
BK: We love it when people do new arrangements and stuff. Take someone like Hillsong, they tend to have a sound. I don’t know if we have a sound like that?
BK: Or the Getty’s, Kristin sings a lot of their stuff. Matt Boswell & Matt Papa. So you identify it with the vocalist, somewhat the Irish feel. We don’t have that. So I don’t know, I think we’re somewhere between the Getty’s and Hillsong, maybe? I don’t know. ‘Cause we use modern bands, but we’re not against using quartets and string quartets and doing something more stripped down.
BK: I mean, what do you think?
DZ: Well, yeah. I would say that I was thinking about that question, and how do you even define that? I think a lot of artists are defined by their sound.
BK: Yes, yes, yes.
DZ: It’s recognizable, it’s familiar.
BK: Beatles being a rare exception.
DZ: That’s true.
BK: Except for the vocalist.
BK: But they just were constantly changing and seemed to make it work.
DZ: Yeah. But I think because Sovereign Grace Music is a collection of writers and songs for the church, that’s always gonna sound different.
BK: Yeah, yeah.
DZ: And it has throughout the years. Case in point, differing vocalists.
DZ: Differing musicians.
BK: Yes, yeah, yeah.
DZ: I love our kids albums. If you haven’t heard our kids albums, they’re excellent.
BK: Five of ’em.
DZ: And we used some Nashville, Didn’t you use some Nashville musicians?
BK: Phoenix. They’re in Phoenix. Ben Gowell, who plays the electric guitar for Paul Baloche, produced the last three. We send him the songs, he gets a band together, uses great musicians, and then we add the vocalist in.
DZ: That’s awesome. Yeah, but I don’t think you’re hearing it and going, “Oh yep, that’s the Sovereign Grace kids album.”
BK: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
DZ: It’s again, wanting those truths that should fuel what that sounds like.
BK: So we want good sound, we want accessible sounds, we want pleasing sounds, but we’re not saying they have to be these sounds. So we’ll even do, and I think a lot of groups do this, we’ll do a song a certain way and then release another version of it. Just say, “Hey, you can do it this way.”
BK: And that’s to say, “We don’t think you have to do it our way.”
BK: I love the fact that there are these websites where you can learn the exact parts that everyone plays, and Multitracks, and Loops Community.
DZ: They’ll play all of them for you, yeah.
BK: Yeah. But we’re not trying to do that. We’re not trying to say, “Hey, you need to play the song like this.” The song is a servant, it’s not a master. You use it in your congregation with the musicians you have the way it fits your congregation.
BK: It doesn’t have to sound like we do it.
BK: The sound you really wanna hear is the congregation.
BK: You wanna hear them singing.
BK: So if you have a piano and guitar, great go with that.
BK: And we wanna write songs, mostly, that can be done in that kinda context.
DZ: Right, because I think if you’re trying to do a really complicated song that has a massive range and is a big… And you’re alone on an acoustic guitar…
BK: It’s really awkward.
DZ: You can feel like you’re on an island alone. And everybody is staring at you. Yeah, so writing melodies and lyrics that can serve in any context.
BK: Yes. That’s our hope.
DZ: Yeah. And I think it will sound different in different contexts.
BK: Yes, yes.
DZ: But yeah, I also don’t think that Sovereign Grace just skimps on wanting it to sound really good. We hire great producers, we spend weeks arranging songs.
BK: We’re trying to get better at that all the time. Yeah, it’s just a constant. There’s a point at which the production becomes the master and you’re serving the production. I don’t ever wanna get there, we don’t ever wanna get there. Because the production is just a means of getting the song into people’s lives, into people’s homes, and cars, and churches.
BK: But it can draw attention to itself in an unhelpful way.
BK: John Piper uses the phrase, “Undistracting excellence.” We want our production to be undistracting. It’s really good. And who does this really well is CityAlight.
BK: Who, by the way, will be at our WorshipGod Conference at the end of July here in Louisville. Just really looking forward to that. But they excel, I think, at doing music in a way that is not flashy, but it’s really well-done. And the thing is really the song.
BK: So we’re probably a little more producing than they are, but that’s our heart, is we want you to sing the songs and do them the way you think is best. If you like our arrangement, great, use that arrangement. But if you wanna do another way, that’s great. The important thing is that those sounds are helping get that doctrine into people’s hearts.
DZ: That’s excellent. Well, I hope that that gives our listeners a context of what our name means.
BK: Sound Plus Doctrine. Yeah. So we were thinking about the podcast name, we thought, “Well, let’s do something that’s gonna serve leaders, and planners, and musicians, and just church members in that area.” Sound Plus Doctrine, what is that about? Let’s explore it. Let’s find out how we can do it better. Let’s understand better why we’re even attempting to sing songs, write songs, why we gather. All those things, you just want to tease those things out in a way the song can’t.
DZ: Yes. Yeah, good.
BK: So that’s our hope. And I’ve been surprised really, I’ll get emails or talk to a mom who’s at home, say, “Yeah, I listen to your podcast and it’s great.” I go and I’m like, “Are you on a worship team?” “No, no. I just listen.” “Great.” But we’re really aiming at those who have the responsibility, or in some way involved in doing the same things and we pray it’s a real help to you.
DZ: Yeah. That’s great, thanks Bob. And thank you for tuning in, listening or watching this. And we are excited about season four, what God has in store.