The story of Thousand Tongues begins with hymns. Founder David Ward was a young worship leader in a small church in New Jersey in the 1990s leading so-called “praise songs” – short choruses that were made popular by organizations like Maranatha Music. Hymns were a bit of an enigma to David – they were filled with too many chords, confusing words, and were set to what felt like lifeless, uninspired tunes and accompaniment. What’s more, many of the pastors and writers in the circle of David’s doctrinal convictions held hymns up as the gold standard while despising contemporary worship songs. The divide between contemporary expression and traditional hymns seemed too wide to cross.
In 1999, David began to see hymns in a new way – as poems rather than simply songs. This fresh perspective helped him to pay more attention to the lyrics and start discovering just how many treasures were tucked away in these precious volumes. It also led him to begin writing new tunes for some of his favorite hymn texts, tunes which were similar in style to the praise songs of his day. Armed with a growing library of these updated hymns, David created a simple website called Reformed Praise where he could share the songs with others in the hopes that they might prove useful. He began writing, teaching, and preaching at his home church and other churches, hoping to help Christians navigate the controversies surrounding styles of music and get back to what worship should be all about – celebrating the gospel of Jesus with mind, heart, and body.
As the years went by, David’s desire to understand worship and music’s relationship to worship grew. Leaving his first career as a software developer in 2004, David ventured to Southern Seminary, where he was reunited with his former worship pastor, Chip Stam, and had countless opportunities to expand his vision for Christian worship. Shortly after leaving Southern Seminary, David’s long-time goal of supporting and nurturing additional songwriters and authors began to materialize when he met Eric Schumacher and Jeff Bourque in 2005, who have since become key contributors and good friends.
Slowly and steadily, the reach of our worship songs has increased as churches around the world have come to use and cherish them. And it’s not only our songs that have increased, but our vision to impact the church with biblical teaching on worship and gospel-centered worship resources. After the success of our 2010 album “Merciful to Me,” the Lord began crystallizing a new vision for our ministry. Our new name and mission statement will, Lord willing, allow us to make an even wider impact on the church through teaching and preaching, leading worship, training and developing, and writing articles, books, and of course, songs and musical works grounded in a depth of biblical teaching. Please pray for our mission and consider how you might be a part of what God is doing!