Jonathan & Melissa Helser Lead Top Christian Albums Chart

Courtesy Photo
Jonathan David and Melissa Helser

"We have been married for 17 years and this project best chronicles our journey," Helser says. "It's the most joyful of our albums." Meanwhile, Fred Hammond earns his 10th Gospel Albums topper.

Asheboro, North Carolina-based singer/songwriters, worship leaders and husband and wife Jonathan and Melissa Helser vault in atop Billboard's Top Christian Albums chart (dated Oct. 22), as their ninth album, Beautiful Surrender, starts with 9,000 copies sold in its first week (ending Oct. 6), according to Nielsen Music. The 12-song set, recorded in Nashville, is their first through the Bethel Music Collective; all of their previous albums were independent releases.

Beautiful Surrender, which was produced by Ed Cash (NeedToBreathe, Chris Tomlin), is also the duo's first to make an appearance on Top Christian Albums. "I have to say that I am super grateful," Jonathan tells Billboard. "Being part of Bethel Music is like being part of a family that is out there fighting for us."

The Helsers had a hand in writing all of the set's songs. "We have been married for 17 years and this project best chronicles our journey. And it's the most joyful of our albums," adds Melissa. "We wrote more songs together for this album than ever before, so we're really thankful for the response."

The LP's 12th track, "No Longer Slaves" (billed as a bonus cut), won the trophy for worship song of the year at the annual Dove Awards, handed out in Nashville on Oct. 11.

On Top Gospel Albums, artist/producer Fred Hammond's Worship Journal: Live becomes his 10th No. 1, debuting with 6,000 sold. Recorded live in Houston, the 12-track LP is Hammond's fourth consecutive set to bow at No. 1, following 2014's I Will Trust (Dec. 6, 2014; 10,000), United Tenors: Hammond, Hollister, Roberson, Wilson (April 13, 2013; 15,000) and God, Love & Romance (Feb. 18, 2012; 26,000). "Father Jesus Spirit," the lead single from Worship Journal, bumps 17-15 on Hot Gospel Songs, helped by its 15-14 jog on Gospel Airplay (up 6 percent).

Also on Top Gospel Albums, Eddie James' Magnify begins at No. 4 (1,000), marking his highest debut and best overall rank in more than 20 years. His first entry, Higher, with the Phoenix Mass Choir, peaked at a career-best No. 3 in January 1996.

Bishop J. Drew Sheard's Presents GEI: Live arrives at No. 5 on Top Gospel Albums (1,000). It's the first chart visit as an artist for producer/pastor. His daughter, artist Kierra Sheard, is featured on the LP, which was recorded live in Detroit.

On Gospel Airplay, Tamela Mann's "God Provides" ascends 3-1, becoming her fourth No. 1 on the tally. She ties Kirk Franklin, Donald Lawrence and Marvin Sapp for the second-most leaders in the list's 11-year history. James Fortune & FIYA lead with five, although Mann is first among female artists.

Finally, on Hot Gospel Songs, J.J. Hairston & Youthful Praise's "You Deserve it" breaks 12-9. It's the sixth top 10 on the chart for the gospel choir.