Album Review: To Be Like Jesus

Here’s a review of the new Sovereign Grace Kids album. If you hate reading reviews, I’ll cut to the chase: To Be Like Jesus is excellent, and required listening if you’ve got kids ages 4 to 12.


There are several problems with most songs for Christian kids, and the problems are so . . . um . . . problematic that it’s really heavy sledding to find something you’d like your kids to sing non-stop.

Most Kid Songs Have Bad Theology: Kid songs are a retirement home for awful theology. In “big church,” it took a few years (maybe a generation) to identify and dismiss the poorly-expressed beliefs, imbalanced foci, or outright heresies of many corporately-sung songs. Thanks to careful theological reflection and courageous leadership, this errant thinking was expelled . . .

. . . directly into children’s music. Examples?

  1. Imploring God to simply remember who you are (“Do Lord“). And will someone please tell me the location of “way beyond the blue.”
  2. The saints final resting place is in outer space (“10 and 9, 8 and 7, 6 and 5 and 4 . . .“).
  3. Hey N.T. Wright, James Dunn, and E.P. Sanders! Contemplating Romans 9 – 11, and the Gentile inclusion among Abraham’s offspring? Don’t forget — “Right arm, left arm, right foot, left foot, Chin up, turn around, sit down!
  4. Let’s divide the church into competitive factions. (Praise Ye The Lord! vs.  Hallelujah!)
  5. Our emotions are the basis for ___________. (If You’re Happy and You Know It, Say ‘Amen’!)
  6. True Confessions with Matthew Westerholm: I had a Sunday School teacher who led our class in “The Hokey Pokey” — yes, THAT’S what it was all about.

No wonder Karl Barth (or Daniel Webster, or Emil Brunner, or perhaps a 92-year-old preacher) loved “Jesus Loves Me” so much. Ten minutes of theological reflection forced the rejection of many other songs.

Bad Music. If you were to survey any preschool’s musical collection, you would think that kids’  musical taste consists of lullabies and circus music. This is the realm of the slide whistle, rim shot, and vibraslap (do yourself a favor and click the “rim shot” link). This — coupled with how much children enjoy repetition — is the main reason (along with children’s enjoyment of repetition) that parents can’t STAND kids’ music. Also, children enjoy repetition.



Enter Bob Kauflin and the folks at Sovereign Grace Music. This movement is dedicated to provide the theological reflection and courageous leadership that children’s music needs. Their album, To Be Like Jesus is a well-aimed follow-up to 2004’s Awesome God. My wife and I disagree about which album is better. Rather than tell you who prefers what, I’ll simply say this — she’s right.

This  album is a topical survey of the Fruits of the Spirit. Lyrically, the songs avoid the trite moralism found too often in kid songs (and, who are we kidding, the whole church). The song-writers first discuss the fruit within the character of God before moving to our need for Him to give the fruit to us.  Wonderful.

Musically, the songs cover wide swaths of pop music. Yes, there are some lullabies — but just two, and stylistically they fit the topics of “Peace” and gentleness (“Gentle Like Jesus” — shades of McCartney with the “minor 4” chord. Nice).

There are punky rockers (“To Be Like Jesus”), folksy toe-tappers (“Give Me Self-Control”), Kink-ish Brit-rock (“Nothing Better Than Jesus”), and shuffled proto-funk (“Because You First Loved Me”).

And a few of the songs have spoken-word sections — no doubt preparing people for Shai Linne’s appearance at WorshipGOD ’09.  The instruments are mostly live (with the sad exception of the horn section on “Gotta Wait”) and well-executed.

Our family’s favorite is “Gotta Wait.” It brings tears to my eyes to have my impatient 4-year-old say “Dad, I love this song” whenever it starts. And, how useful it is to use the lyrics he loves in steering his heart toward the Savior.

The boys are singing along to about 30% of the album after only a week of driving around in the car. They love repetition.

And, when it’s this album, I love repetition, too.


5 thoughts on “Album Review: To Be Like Jesus

  1. hey man, great post. I would like to point to one more album you may want to look at. Its called deliberateKids. by Phil Joel who was the bass player for the newsboys for so many years. His solo work is great, and his passion for kids music that actually means something is also huge! check it out.

  2. Matthew, you might know that the song, “If you’re happy and you know it,” is actually a parody of a song in Ezekiel 6:11, only his version is “If you’re sorry and you know it” (sorry as in godly sorrow that leads to repentance). First verse, “clap your hands”; second verse “stomp your feet”; third verse, “Say Alas.”

  3. Matt,

    Thanks for the kind review! You get why we do children’s albums. Only one correction. The horns on Gotta Wait were live. In fact, Steve Cook, the producer, played the trumpet. Does that mean they were that good? or that bad?

  4. Bob – thanks for stopping by! And THANK YOU for all the work you do in putting these things together.

    So, I was wrong about the horns. I blame my fading ears, and downloading files without liner notes. I MEANT that they sounded like synth horns — neither good nor ill implied. 🙂 I always prefer live, as apparently Steve Cook does as well. 🙂

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