I love the sounds of Hezekiah Walker, Anthony Evans, Kirk Franklin, and Israel Houghton. These black gospel artists bring a power and spirit I can only dream of replicating when I lead worship.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t listen to and enjoy these songs. That’s why I put together this list of 25 black gospel songs that we should all be listening to despite our backgrounds or typical listening preferences.
See You Again – Anthony Evans
This song knocked me out when I first heard it. I decided this was the gospel song I was finally going to try in my church. So we got the (predominantly white) worship team together, rehearsed it like crazy. Yep, it came out like a long-lost U2 song. Nothing like the original. Even though we couldn’t replicate the song’s majesty and power, I still like listening to it often. Evans brings insane intensity and vocal prowess to this number. Whether or not you go to church or believe in God, you’ll be one step closer to the Almighty after hearing this masterpiece.
Way Maker – Sinach.
This is one of those songs that unexpectedly takes the world by storm. Nearly every worship band and major Christian artist has covered it by now, and it will continue its rise in 2022. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a farming town in Iowa or urban Los Angeles, or London, England or Lagos, Nigeria. You will worship like never before when you hear it.
Every Praise – Hezekiah Walker
You see, there’s just certain I can’t pull off when I lead worship. Like call and response. Walker performs this masterfully. He naturally calls out and leads the choir (and the onlookers in this video) with the spoken word. If I were to try this, it would sound more like Weird Al Yankovic calling out the next line of my latest polka. Props to Hez.
You Are Good – Israel Houghton
There’s a reason this guy’s named after the Promised Land. That’s exactly where he takes you with his high-energy vocals and ridiculously good guitar playing. This is one of my all-time favorite worship songs of any style. Now I only wish I could do it justice!
Anything Can Happen – Jonathan Nelson
You know, there’s just something about a strong worship leader. Anyone can be a song leader, but it takes a special anointing to lead people in worship. Jonathan Nelson brings worship leading to the next level with this song. He all but takes the congregation by the hand into the Lord’s presence. No matter what your background, you can learn something from this guy.
Shackles (Praise You) – Mary Mary
I still remember hearing this song on secular radio when it first came out. It’s a purely pop song and worship song at the same time. I’m not sure how Mary Mary did that, but I’d sure like to do that someday.
No Weapon – Fred Hammond
Hammond brings serious encouragement to the believer with “No Weapon.” I love it when a worship leader teaches and lifts up a congregation. God wants every worship leader to lead his people as skillfully as Hammond does here.
You Deserve It – JJ. Hairston & Youthful Praise
One thing that most predominantly white churches haven’t figured out yet is how to build and use a choir. In this tune, JJ Hairston uses his choir to bring a new power through call and response. Truly inspiring!
Your Spirit – Tasha Cobbs Leonard ft. Kierra Sheard
There’s nothing better than listening to strong women lead in worship. Leonard and Sheard absolutely wreck you with this powerhouse tune.
O Come to the Altar – Israel Houghton & Elevation Worship
Psalm 133:1 says “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (ESV). Houghton and one of my favorite bands, Elevation Worship, team up and demonstrate how the best of two genres of worship can be combined with fantastic results. Why shouldn’t worship be a unifying tool to so that congregations can better “dwell in unity”?
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Your Love – William Murphy
Why can’t I work the stage like William Murphy? Drenched in sweat, walking every inch of the stage, speaking and singing into the lives of the congregation. In my dreams.
You’re Bigger – Jekalyn Carr
A tour de force about the magnitude of God, “You’re Bigger” blasts the misconception that your problem is bigger than God. I love Carr’s passion. She sings faith into existence when you don’t have any left.
You Are Here – William McDowell
This song is another mind-blowing example of a true worship leader at work. McDowell brings a new power as he leads his massive ensemble and congregants. The idea of call and response is an unpracticed art for me and most majority-white churches. It’s something I’d like to get better at. The first step is to have a very solid set of support vocals who can carry the tune and feel of the song, so that the leader can lead and ad lib. What an inspiration this song is.
Victory – Yoland Adams
Ok. Mind blown. This is one of those songs that you think about doing for about 2 seconds and then decide against it because you could never do it justice. There are so many elements here. First of all, I could never coordinate a choir to sound this good and dance like this at the same time. Second, Yolanda Adams’ stage presence is so natural and intriguing that you can’t help being pulled in. Third, I’ve never heard a strings section so funky. Once I started watching this video, I couldn’t stop!
I Need You Now – Smokie Norful
Smokie Norful is a testament that talent inside the church is as plentiful as it is outside. In fact, many of today’s secular stars got their start singing in church. Norful is a John Legend-like talent whose piano and vocal work in this song leave me wishing I could sound the same.
Awesome – Pastor Charles Jenkins & Fellowship Chicago
This is just good old-school get-you-out-of-your-seat worship.
To God be the Glory – Andrae Crouch
This is a classic from a pioneer in worship music. This song transcends style, background, and culture. I remember singing it in my majority-white church as a kid. This is a unique song in that it’s powerful no matter how you do it.
Breathe – Byron Cage
Unlike most of the other songs on this list, this is one I’ve done hundreds of times going back even to when I was leading worship in youth group. The encouraging reminder that Byron Cage’s rendition brings about is that you can put your own twist to any song and make it great. The songs of God are bigger than style and culture.
I Need You – Donnie McClurkin
I was really surprised when I ran into this song. It’s like a rock band meets gospel choir meets big tent revival. McClurkin isn’t afraid to lead out. Instrumentally, I think my worship band could replicate this sound. But vocally — that’s near impossible.
A God Like You – Kirk Franklin
There’s plenty of room in today’s worship sets for happy tunes. I’m not sure why, but most of today’s worship songs are either dirges or power ballads. Well, here’s a happy song to help fill that gap. And if I were as talented as Mr. Franklin, I might do this one in my church.
Good & Bad – J Moss
You know it’s a good worship song when the singer, in the middle, starts ad-libbing about when your phone stops ringing and no one wants to hang out with you. This isn’t a song, it’s a sermon. I think many worship leaders are afraid to weave teaching and encouragement into the song. J Moss is a master at the technique.
Alright – Lowell Pye
If I could only do this song justice, I would be feeling alright too.
Boasting – Lecrae + Anthony Evans
Who says worship music and rap don’t mix? Why can’t God’s people reach out with spoken word just as well as with singing? There’s no difference in God’s eyes. Rap is still a long way off from making it into mainstream worship services (especially white-predominant churches) but it’s coming. So get ready.
Jesus the Same – Israel & New Breed
Yes, please! Where was I when God was handing out this kind of talent?
Better – Hezekiah Walker
Hezekiah Walker looks like he’s having so much fun in whatever he does. I’d love to have more joy like this when I lead worship.
Father Jesus – Fred Hammond
I’ll leave you with this powerhouse of a worship song. Complete with turntables, dancers, and lights. I think this is a little taste of what heaven will be like.
Diversity Is The Key To full worship Of God
I hope you enjoyed this totally non-comprehensive list of powerful black gospel songs. If I missed any, add them in the comments section below.
One final thought: Some people wonder why there are different styles of music.
It’s the same reason there are different kinds of people. The fullness of God can’t be expressed with one style alone. If all churches and songs were “white guy U2-style rock worship,” God wouldn’t be fully honored. Nor could we fully express God with black gospel alone.
We need these types, plus Norteño from Mexico and the rhythmic styles of Africa, and everything in between.
Revelation 7:9-10 says (ESV)
Behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
There’s nothing more beautiful in God’s ears than every style, genre, language, and culture praising him, each in their own way.
One group shouldn’t feel inadequate because they can’t pull off another style or genre. When we can’t do something, it just means that God has raised up another who will powerfully excel in it.