If music paints a picture and evokes emotion, Lighthouse Church’s new album, Reason to Praise, provides snapshots into the life of the Denver, Colorado, congregation.
Sam Tichenor, Lighthouse pastor of worship and care, describes the album as a “love letter to the church,” the songs he wrote reflecting the lived experiences of the congregation.
“I’m sitting with people, learning from them and going, ‘Hey, tell me your story,’” Tichenor says. “I get the story and I get these pictures and I get these words. It’s very vulnerable because you offer this to the church and to the Lord as a love letter, and you hope that it doesn’t miss the mark.”
Space to write
Writing music for Lighthouse Church has been one of Tichenor’s goals ever since he was hired in fall 2018.
Tichenor has been writing music since he was 14, but with no previous pastoral experience aside from volunteer work and mentorships, his plans for writing music were put on hold as he leaned into his new role, meeting with people, making set lists and preparing for Sunday services.
He began work on a new album in late 2019, then the coronavirus pandemic afforded time that sped up the project. With pastoral care moved online and no in-person gatherings, Tichenor finally had space to write.
“It probably would’ve taken a little longer if COVID-19 hadn’t happened because you’re juggling two different things,” Tichenor says. “You’re juggling being a pastor and juggling writing music, and being a pastor is always going to win out. Being able to take time in the office and work with our lead pastor Josh (Shaw) was a great opportunity for us to push it through.”
With hours a day dedicated to the project, a new album began to take shape. Shaw says the album reflects Lighthouse’s identity and the Jesus the congregation serves.
“Pastor Sam is an incredible musician, and most important, shepherd to our church,” Shaw says. “The songs his team wrote for this album reflect the deep reverence our church has for the lordship of Jesus. They are full of lament and joy, suffering and praise.”
Reason to praise
The album, Reason to Praise, contains nine songs, including a mix of what Tichenor calls “typical worship songs,” Christian contemporary music and contemplative songs of lament.
The album covers a wide range of emotion, from the upbeat and happy Overcome, to the more somber Reason to Praise and Psalm 51.
“I think the biggest thing that we can learn is that we can find two emotions in one place,” Tichenor says of the album’s message of hope. “We can be able to struggle and wrestle with something but also find joy in the mourning. Find joy in the sadness. … The Lord is still good and his mercy endures forever, so I can still praise him no matter what season I’m going through.”
Each song on the album reflects the lived experiences of the church and members of the congregation, including difficult seasons of losing staff members, enduring COVID-19 or mental health issues.
“There’s the struggle and wrestle with God of the lament, but we also have the hope of Jesus,” Tichenor says.
The title track references a season of Lighthouse teachings on lament as church leaders learned of congregants’ struggles with mental health.
“We learned that a lot of our church congregants were dealing with depression, suicide—just a lot of mental health issues—bipolar disorder,” Tichenor says. “As we were aware of that, we were able to sit with our congregants and our people that we love and say, ‘Hey, can we walk through this with you?’ so it basically came out of a couple different stories of congregants we loved.”
Thank You was written the first Sunday Lighthouse returned to in-person gatherings after meeting online for a season as a result of COVID-19.
“We ended up in what we call ‘spontaneous moment of worship,’ where we were just singing to the Lord and giving the Lord praise out of our hearts,” Tichenor says. “Because we were all together, this phrase came out, ‘My heart cries thank you, thank you for all that you have done.’”
Meanwhile, Tichenor wrote the verses of Psalm 51 five years ago and finished the song after a Lighthouse series on the Psalms. The song is slow, Tichenor says, then reaches a sudden big moment in the bridge, reflecting David’s emotional state and reliance on the Lord.
“Even if it doesn’t hit everyone, that’s okay because it’s for the church, and our church has latched onto these songs,” he says of the album. “So we’re really thankful for that.”
An offering to the church
Lighthouse Church has been involved in the process from the beginning, allowing the congregation to take ownership of the project.
After writing a song, Tichenor and the team worked out changes on stage.
“When we play it live versus listening in a studio after we’ve recorded it, we can feel a moment more,” he says. “We’ll write, we’ll play and then we’ll finalize it and record it.”
All of the writing and recording was done in-house with about 10 volunteers and staff members. Tichenor played piano and served as one of the primary vocalists on the album with a handful of others, including his wife, Jamie, who serves as family ministries pastor at Lighthouse.
The Lighthouse congregation can be heard on the album as the choir behind the lead vocals. Lighthouse held a live event to record audio and video. Tichenor used a hybrid model for the audio, meshing what he produced beforehand with the live recording.
“It’s a lot of cut and paste and all that fun stuff,” he says. “Everything, production-wise, lies in my hands.”
Meanwhile, a volunteer crew captured video using seven cameras for the nine videos that was released on YouTube the same time as the album, set for mid-December.
“We wanted to capture the elements of what was going on,” Tichenor says. “That way if a listener is watching that video, say, somewhere else, they feel immersed into it. They feel the atmosphere, they feel the powerful spirit of God on it.”
Tichenor estimates he worked on the album between four to six hours a day for six months during the time Lighthouse held services online.
It took a team of 25 volunteers to put the album together, including video, audio mixing and mastering. Outside help to mix and master the album could have cost as much as $9,000, Tichenor says, not including production costs.
“It’s all being made possible by people in the church, and that’s like the biggest statistic for me,” Tichenor says. “It’s been amazing the gifts that people have been given by God and their ability to serve and honor the church with those.”
As for what’s next, Tichenor says the team has already written two new songs with the goal of recording more songs. He would also like to create a “poetry and prayer” album.
To listen to “Reason to Praise,” visit the Lighthouse website, www.lighthousechurch.tv, to find links to videos and streaming platforms.
“It’s not about being known, it’s not about putting something out there for the world to see,” Tichenor says of the album. “It’s about an offering to Jesus and an offering to our church.”