Rend Collective – Whosoever

Capitol CMG / Rend Family Records

Release Date: August 26th 2022

Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre

Rend CollectiveWhosoever (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  1. Whosover
  2. Let It Roll
  3. Hallelujah Anyway
  4. Plans
  5. Boast in the Cross
  6. True in the Light
  7. Beloved
  8. Gratefulness
  9. As For Me
  10. We Need the Love of God

If you’ve ever frequented out website within the last few years, you would be familiar with the band Rend Collective, a Northern-Irish group that have taken radio and the CCM market by storm with the rousing and poignant anthems within the last five years, especially. Formally called ‘Rend Collective Experiment’, this band from Northern Ireland is perhaps one of the biggest groups to come of the area ever since the British worship band (and one of the founding fathers of CCM and worship) Delirious?; and now to come from relative unknown around ten – fifteen years ago, to now in 2022 becoming a go-to band to listen to if you want to hear emotive and challenging worship music, is nothing less than miraculous. Originally signed to Integrity Music before making the jump in 2015 to the more radio-friendly Capitol CMG, from the album As Family We Go onward; Rend Collective have managed to fuse together two things and do both of them well- present to us great worship music, while also pushing boundaries and creating good acoustic/folk/alternative music worthy enough of having repeat value, with their craft on a higher plane than sadly most of the modern worship music available at our fingertips at the moment. Not to discount the valid passion present in much of today’s CCM/worship community, it’s just that when a band/artist comes along that presents to us something different (and it’s a different that is great), we all ought to sit up and take notice. And Rend Collective is one such band.

Now a few albums into their career on Capitol CMG, and a chart-topping hit in ‘Counting Every Blessing’ from their 2018 album Good News, this Northern Irish band continue to stretch musical boundaries to be on the same musical ingenuity plane as other artists and bands- like Delirious?, Leeland, All Sons and Daughters, The City Harmonic and Crowder, to name a few. These 5 band members out of Bangor, Northern Ireland, have always been honest and earnest with their songs. And while they are currently on Capitol CMG, it was their former years at Integrity Music that solidified them as one of today’s most heartfelt worship groups, able to bring to us songs full of heart and hope, pain and suffering, yet equal moments of reverence and awe, encapsulated nicely in an Integrity Music album called ‘Mixtape’, a project that was, though redundant in every way because of Spotify, a nevertheless must-have for anyone who hasn’t heard much of Rend Collective before and want to start on a project that encapsulates the best of Rend Collective’s earlier years! Fast forward to 2020, and Rend Collective unveiled to us in March 2020, their brand-new album CHOOSE TO WORSHIP– consisting of previously released singles and promotional songs ‘Your Name is Power’, ‘Revival Anthem’ and ‘Sing it From the Shackles’. As the band continued to create a space of worship where creativity and ingenious song-writing was both celebrated with worshipful moments where songs were given space where people could respond as they meditated upon the emotive and challenging, and often uncomfortable lyrics; we as a site reviewed the album here. Now here we are in September 2022, and the band have once again, given to us another musical offering, this time a full-length album in Whosoever, upon the heels of their successful 2021 single ‘Come Out Fighting’, alongside their deluxe edition of their Christmas album, released in 2021 under the title A Jolly Irish Christmas, Vol. 2 (Deluxe).

I’m not sure if it’s common knowledge, but way back in February 2022, an article surfaced online about Christians ‘declaring war’ against people who profess to be deconstructing their faith. The article showed Skillet frontman John Cooper in a Winterjam 2022 concert, declaring these words quoted below:

‘…this world right now is being run by a secular elite people. Celebrities tell you how to find happiness by being your truest authentic self and encourage you to ‘divorce yourself from the limitations of Christianity [and] divorce yourself from the chains of the Bible. What they really want is a sexual revolution so you can finally be free and you can turn your back on Jesus and all the stuff that He demands…the problem is, they believe that Jesus will take your freedom away. What they don’t understand is that they are already slaves to sin. What they don’t understand is that true freedom is found in Jesus Christ who came so that He can set you free from sin and death…do you really think that you can defy God and He’s not going to bring judgement?…there’s some Christians—I’m not sure they’re Christians anymore—they’re saying this, ‘Embrace Jesus, just don’t embrace the Bible…there is no such thing as loving Jesus but not loving His Word. There’s no such thing!…there’s no such thing as divorcing Jesus Christ from the authoritative Word of God It is time for you young people to tell those celebrities, atheists, and deconstructing Christians alike [that] ‘We are not listening to you anymore! We are not listening to your lies anymore! You think that you are free, but you are a slave to sin! But the blood of Jesus Christ has set me free and who the Son sets free is free indeed, the Bible says!’…it’s time that we declare war against this deconstruction Christian movement—and I’ll tell you what—I don’t even like calling it deconstruction Christian [movement], because there is nothing Christian about it. It is a false religion! It is a whole other religion…’

Shortly after this video surfaced online, lead singer of Rend Collective, Chris Llewellyn, wrote a column on the Premier Christianity Website, on March 8th 2022, where in it, he expressed that questions were healthy, and that if Rend Collective were actually touring with Skillet at the time of John’s remarks, then John would be ‘declaring war’ on Chris himself. So…how do you deal with that, knowing that a lead singer of one of the most popular worship bands, is admitting outright, that they are deep within the deconstruction process, or they’ve actually done it already? Or are even considering undertaking it? What then? I’m sure there have been plenty of music artists who have deconstructed their faith and still believe in historical Christianity- people like Lecrae, Alisa Childers and Jason Gray, to name a few.

Then there are others who have either deconstructed or have walked away from the Christian faith, people like Joshua Harris, Audrey Assad, Marty Sampson, and Jon Steingard. Where does Chris seem to fit? Is it too early in his deconstruction journey for him to even be categorised, or am I just being paranoid for nothing? How should I even listen to Whosoever (which on the surface, and to the uninitiated, could seem to promote universalism, if you just take the album name at face value), knowing all of this information? Here’s an excerpt of Chris’s take on John’s video, below:

‘…“I’m declaring war on deconstruction…they need to shut up!” This was the battle cry of John Cooper, lead singer of Christian rock band Skillet, in front of an arena crowd on Winter Jam 2022 – arguably the most popular travelling Christian music festival in the world. I wonder if John knows that if he had said the same thing on one of the many stages we’ve shared over the years, that he would have been declaring war on me. I began re-examining my faith in 2009. (At that time the term ‘deconstruction’ wasn’t ferociously populating search engines – but the concept is as old as faith itself.) This was somewhat unfortunate timing, as it coincided with the year I signed my first record deal with an evangelical label. I was immediately immersed in the very systems I was questioning: suspiciously assessing the merit of the megachurch model; raising an eyebrow at sermons across the globe that seemed to lack the gracious inclusivity of the gospel and wondering about our lack of emphasis on matters of social justice. They were challenging years, full of passionate discourse with God, intense wrestling with scripture, and soul searching. But it never once occurred to me that I needed to shut up. (It probably has occurred to my band mates, but not because they can’t live with my worldview!) My relationship with God was becoming more complicated, but also deeper and fuller. Questions are healthy. Warfare is not…the Psalms are full of uncomfortable questions. So many there’s no need to reference a specific verse – just open the book anywhere you like. The biblical prophets crafted stinging critiques of the religious systems of their day and explored the path to reform (consider Amos 5:21-24). Jesus himself challenged the religious establishment at every turn, calling into question almost every prevailing assumption about the kingdom of God, the Messiah and what righteousness actually looked like. The Sermon on the Mount in particular has a pattern of clauses which follow the cadence: “You have heard it said…but I tell you…” Deconstructing Christians obviously don’t carry the authority to dogmatically overthrow historical Christian teaching, but surely there is sufficient precedent to show that the Church doesn’t always get it right and, sometimes, it needs to be challenged. Deconstruction can be overly negative, bitter and cynical. But it can also be illuminating, rich and necessary. It can lead to a loss of faith, or to the emergence of a more weathered, mature and robust belief…I’m always going to advocate for anything that drives a person to more desperately, search the scriptures and pray like it matters. So, I don’t declare war on the deconstructionists – or anyone else for that matter. I declare myself to be in support of anyone who is struggling in their faith and seeking to find God within that space…’

It is with this understanding and knowledge from both John Cooper and Chris Llewellyn that I come to review Rend Collective’s new album. So…how do I go about it? Can I actually try to divorce my own feelings about the whole Chris v John scenario, and review the art just based upon merit and merit alone? I hope so. I’ll at least give it a try. Dunno if this ‘review’ would be perfect, but at least it’ll be honest. One thing that I know from all of this, is that both John Cooper, and Chris himself, don’t seem to have ill intentions. They both desperately want to see the gospel of Christ Jesus and His love transform and encourage lives both in the here and now, and on the other side of eternity. Yes, upon reflection and watching John Cooper’s video again, what John said could’ve been said better, and maybe differently. Maybe that’s why Whosoever was actually created, as a response to all of the segregative suggestive thinking with regards to deconstruction. I hope that people can find something good that may come from all of this ‘hullabaloo’. Maybe, through watching John Cooper’s video (and thereby also, Chris Llewellyn’s response), people can get a better understanding of the fundamentals of the gospel. Or they can realise that they’re still on the deconstruction journey themselves. However which way people will react, here’s hoping, that maybe, just maybe, Whosoever (which is most definitely a response and a wrestling by Chris himself, in regards to John’s comments) can be used by God to bring people closer to Himself. So now…onto the actual review now, shall we?

Opening the 10 track album with the title track ‘Whosoever’, we are met with a rousing 3 minute anthemic moment of celebration as Chris invites people to the table of Jesus, and reminds us all, that ‘…no more of life on the sidelines, there’s an open door and you are invited, come on in and join the song and raise a glass ’cause you belong, no matter what, you’re welcome and wanted, God so loved the world, God so loved the world, He never left you out of it, whosoever needs a shelter, needs a Savior, come in closer, all who wander, every outsider, you are safe here, whosoever…’ And while people may immediately see this lyric above and state that slowly but surely, Chris (and maybe by extension, Rend Collective as a band) will move from historical, orthodox Christianity to universalist Christianity (there’s no indication that Chris himself is a universalist, yet, with recent revelations that he is in the process of deconstruction, him being a universalist may not be outside the realms of possibility); ‘Whosoever’ the song, nevertheless encourages people to welcome the outsiders, the people who are on the fringes who feel as though organised and structured religious institutions have told them that they don’t belong. Let’s just hope, that these people, upon hearing the inclusivity in the song ‘Whosoever’, can also hear the hard-hitting truth of sin and death, hell, and the grave, in the track of ‘Boast in the Cross’ as well. Standing at track #5, Chris and the rest of the band illuminate us all in the reminder that as Christians, we ought to boast in the cross and in what Christ has done for us, for us to be reconciled back to Him and Him to call us holy and blameless in His sight. For in order to boast in the cross, we need to know why Christ came to die on the cross (and subsequently rise again 3 days later), in the first place. We need to know of our sinful nature and that we would be separated from God otherwise, to know the gravity of our sinful nature that separates us from Him. Thus, once we fully grasp and understand why He came, then the songs ‘Boast in the Cross’ and ‘Whosoever’ would mean so much more- one song cannot make sense without the other. Well done Chris and co. for these two powerful songs, both which form the backbone of not only the album, but form the backbone of Christianity, full stop.

Throughout the rest of the album, we see the band deliver heartfelt melodies and rousing anthems of a faith in which we share, that ought to be transparent, life-changing, transformative, and even inclusive to people who may not necessarily ‘fit’ the mould of a typical ‘Christian’ in today’s society. ‘Let it Roll’ is a declaratory anthem about us allowing and surrendering to God, for Him to encourage worship and justice to ‘roll’ off our tongues as we practise what we seemingly preach, as actions hopefully ‘roll like a river’, so hopefully other people see us changed by the Father’s love, and our actions reflecting such a change. ‘Plans’ was unveiled by the band earlier on during the year; and is a song that focuses on us being reminded by the Lord, that even during the most difficult and uncertain times, He has plans for us. A song that works quite well during this lingering 2+ year time of COVID-19, ‘Plans’ challenges us to believe that even if it may not look like He does have plans…that He does, and that trusting Him even when every other metric shows us that He is not trustworthy, requires boldness and faith. ‘True in the Light’ is a song that can hopefully minister to people who are seemingly struggling in their faith, or even people who may be in the midst of deconstructing their own faith. We know from the excerpt written by Chris previously aforementioned, that he is either in the midst of, or he’s starting on the journey of, deconstruction. And yet even though deconstruction can seem like a ‘dirty word’, if by the end of it, historical and orthodox Christianity is still intact (and all of the cultural Christianity and megachurch atmosphere to someone’s faith is trimmed and refined through the process), then deconstruction is firmly welcomed. It’s only when fundamental biblical truths are indeed questioned through this process, that deconstruction becomes dangerous. As the lyrics of ‘True in the Light’ suggest, ‘…now more than ever, keep me tethered, the pain I feel has come to steal the truth that’s been my anchor, wild winds are shakin’ my foundations, give me strength to stand against these doubts as they come floodin’, to put my hope in what I know instead of what I’m feelin’, what’s true in the light is true in the darkness, though sorrow is real, You won’t let it break us, so we sing in the night and trust in your promises, You’re true in the light and true in the darkness…’

‘Beloved’ follows along from ‘True in the Light’; and speaks of this thing called unity and being unified as one body in Christ our Saviour and Lord. For the fact that Christianity itself has plenty of denominations that seemingly don’t see eye to eye on 100% of doctrine (Methodists, Baptists, Anglicans, Pentecostals, Catholics, Messianic Judaism, Presbyterianism, Eastern Orthodox, to name a few), alongside the fact that in any country, Christians on each divide of the political spectrum (of that particular country) are unfortunately standing in their camps, and otherising anyone else who assimilates or even affiliates with _____; is very unfortunate indeed. ‘Beloved’ attempts to mend such bridges that have been built within the confines of Christianity, and remind us, that as long as we profess Christ as Lord, and acknowledge our own very sin and Christ’s atonement for it on the cross (and this thereby subsequent resurrection); then it doesn’t matter if people are Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists or even Messianic Jews. What matters is that we all follow Christ. If people can unify on that fundamental level (and also come together on political issues as well), then that’s a good way to start the healing process that is needed in the church right now. ‘Gratefulness’ is a powerful encouragement as this stripped down looping-percussion melody allows us all to familiarise ourselves with this church-ready song about gratefulness and us acknowledging that we have to have an attitude of gratitude in this time of today. Choosing to see pain and trials as some kind of blessing and joy can seem hard in the moment, but we have to know and hold onto the truth, that He knows what He’s doing. And ‘Gratefulness’ is Chris processing through all of these emotions in real time, and acknowledging himself, that he has to pursue gratefulness, especially during a time where gratefulness isn’t necessarily something to be expressed, because of all of the uncertainty seen in the world right now. The album then ends with the songs ‘As For Me’ and ‘We Need the Love of God’- the former (‘As For Me’) is a declaration (complete with organ-styled keyboards and possibly bagpipes) that ‘…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord forever, as for me and my blood, we will hold the line together, though they fall on every side, we will never compromise, as for me and my house, we’ll serve the Lord…’, as this sense of boldness and bravery is exuded through hearing this Braveheart-esque track, while the latter (‘We Need the Love of God’) is a powerful album-ender that encourages us to run after the love of God above all else- being done with ‘cold religion’ and longing to pursue something real with a holy God that desires our love for Him and others above any other rule that we can religiously keep.

Then there’s ‘Hallelujah Anyway’, arguably the standout song on the album, and quite possibly one of my favourite tracks I’ve heard from Rend Collective ever since ‘Counting Every Blessing’ way back in 2018. A song that has a similar theme to that of ‘Even If’ by MercyMe, or ‘Broken Hallelujah’ by The Afters; the song reminds us that even during the darkest of trials and the most uncertain of circumstances; we will choose (sometimes even on a daily basis and even during the moments when we don’t feel it) to declare hallelujah to the Lord anyway, to be reminded that God is present in any and all circumstances. He works things for our good and His glory. He is faithful and never fades, even if society and what is happening right now, says the contrary. ‘Hallelujah Anyway’ ought to give us comfort, bravery, hope and encouragement, to believe these words anway. Because God never fails. Even if we sometimes do. Well done Chris and co. for this rousing anthem, and for me, my favourite song on Whosoever.

Rend Collective have always been a source of worship music over the years, and hopefully, as we all listen, we can admire the band for their tenacity and their longevity in a music, dare I say, business; where artists come and go at the drop of a hat. Whosoever is an album that allows us all to take a ponder as to the real reasons why and how there’s all this division within Christianity, not to mention political divide as well, in the world, when the Lord encourages us all to come together, unified by our love for Christ and the church. Whosoever is bold, brave, challenging, and compelling, and is arguably one of my favourite worship albums of this year in particular, and indeed an album that is very much needed at a time when everything, from gender, familial relationships, the meaning of man and woman, even what it means to be a Christian, seems to be under question and maybe even fluid to some extent. Its good to have something solid in Whosoever, and maybe we all can be encouraged by these songs in such a time when we need encouragement…badly. Well done Chris & co. for this worshipful standout album of 2022 thus far. Looking forward to how the Lord uses this album for His glory and our good, in the upcoming weeks and months ahead.

3 songs to listen to: True in the Light, Hallelujah Anyway, Boast in the Cross

Score: 4.5/5

RIYL: We The Kingdom, Crowder, Urban Rescue, UNITED, We Are Messengers, I Am They

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