In an age when it’s easy to cynically dismiss a lot of worship music as formulaic, it can be difficult to be intentional about finding music that both honors God and is great to listen to. That’s a tension felt by worship collective Gungor. Over the course of three albums, the band has tried to figure out what, exactly, it means to worship God in an authentic way. Because, above all, Gungor just wants to give listeners something that’s honest.
“Worship is an offering,” says Michael Gungor, the band’s leader and producer. “So anything can be worship regardless of the content if it’s made in that way. I guess I can say, for me, it’s worship. I hope it can become worship for other people.”
Their latest attempt at this is the mold-breaking Ghosts Upon the Earth, an often quiet and contemplative concept album. Instead of a string of artificially joyful worship anthems, the album detours to explore pain and sadness. None of its tracks are worship “hits” mined from other worship albums either—frankly, there aren’t even many songs that could be sung by a congregation. And, oh yeah, flutes are involved.
Michael and his wife/co-songwriter, Lisa Gungor, don’t recall the exact moment their band’s third full release turned into a concept album. It began as a study of dark vs. light. Eventually, it blossomed into one of the most well-received albums of 2011. From “Let There Be” to “Every Breath,” it examines the narrative spanning creation to our own restoration—with the aid of non-traditional instruments and odd time signatures.
“In an age of our attention being at two minutes, I liked the idea of putting the effort into a complete work,” Michael says. “There’s a lot of laziness in the creative world a lot of times. I like the idea of thinking enough through it that we could create this entire work that is coherent.”
With their art, the Gungors want to do their part to help take worship music out of the well-intentioned box it has often been placed in. They believe people are ready for an expanded definition of worship.