Now and then, a worship song comes along which for a while seems to transcend all others. Matt Redman‘s 10,000 Reasons did it; more recently so did Hillsong’s Oceans. For whatever reason, these songs become the evangelical church’s hymn-of-the-moment; the one which elicits an audible gasp of excited connection from any congregation that sees its words appear on their screen.
For the past 12 months, that song has been Pat Barrett and Tony Brown’s Good Good Father. The track, originally recorded by the wonderful but lesser-known US band Housefires, and then popularised by worship ubermeister Chris Tomlin, has become a huge favourite around the world, despite being less than straightforward for a congregation to learn and sing.
In fact, it’s quite unlike most worship songs. The words are unfamiliar; the tune is a little more Country & Western than Praise & Worship. So why is it that this song has risen from the pack and begun to mean so much to so many?
It’s a song about identity
Perhaps most fundamentally, the song is compelling because it helps us to understand and realise that our identity can primarily be found in being a child of God. In a world that is so obsessed with image; where self-esteem is under such constant threat, and where we can so easily become obsessed with what others think of us, this is an incredibly important truth to remember. So many of us spend time wrestling with the question: who am I, deep down? The song provides a biblical (eg 1 Peter 2:10; Romans 8:17) and entirely true answer to that question: first of all we are children of a loving Father, deeply and unconditionally loved by Him.
It’s a song about perfect fatherhood, when so many fathers fail
For some who’ve experienced a less than perfect human model of fatherhood, the song can prove a little difficult to sing. So many of us can’t really picture a ‘good father’, because of the deficiencies and imperfections we saw in our own dads; or even because those of us who are fathers ourselves know that we’ve made such a terrible job of imitating God in our own parenting. If we’re able to see past this however (and I’m not underestimating how hard that is for some), the song is actually a comforting reminder that while earthly fathers can never be perfect, our heavenly father is. “You are perfect in all of your ways,” we sing, acknowledging that even when our lives don’t make total sense, his love and plan remain secure. And more than that, the song reminds us that this is the primary way in which God relates to us: not as an angry deity throwing lightning bolts at a fallen world, but as a loving parent desperately trying to reconcile people to himself.
It’s a song about going deeper with God
The world in 2016 is unbelievably superficial; this song is about a God who calls us into a relationship and an adventure of unimaginable depth. Of course it appeals to and connects with us; we long for a spirituality which makes sense of life, and as the song points out, this is exactly the same thing that everyone is looking for, even if they don’t articulate it as such. Paradoxically this depth is also about simplicity. The lyrics conclude, “you call me deeper still… into love, love, love”; as we draw closer to our heavenly Father, we simply learn to experience and share more of his love.
Good Good Father is a beautiful song which has perhaps become the definitive sound of worship in 2016. It’s unfamiliar musical style has helped to make it memorable, but what really sets it apart is its heartfelt reminder of a message that we all need to hear today: that we are first and foremost loved by God.