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  • Brandon Heath on Being Thankful for Christmas

    Posted on October 31, 2013 by John van der Veen


    Brandon Heath has some hard and fast rules about Christmas.

    1) Christmas music always sounds better on vinyl.
    2) Parents should never lie to their children about Santa Claus.
    3) Decorating should never,ever commence under any circumstance until the day after Thanksgiving.

    Brandon has dreamed of creating a Christmas album for a long time, writing quite a few songs along the way in anticipation for a future holiday release. In the end, he wrote three originals that made the album, Christmas is Here. In the few months leading up to recording he enlisted some friends to make the process memorable. Sonja Isaacs, Ellie Holcomb, Andy Gullahorn and Matt Wertz to name a few. Ben Shive (Andrew Peterson, Matt Wertz) produced the album, which was recorded in mid-July.

    I sat down with the Nashville native on a warm autumn day. The leaves were just starting to turn some color and the hint of "Frosty The Snowman" was a long way off.

    John: Okay Brandon, we need to talk about your song "The Day After Thanksgiving." I’m sensing maybe there’s a little bit of angst in that song.

    Brandon: There might be a little angst. I really just wanted to make this Christmas record fit me, and I’ve been wanting to make one for a long time.

    John: Okay... We need to talk a little bit about that.

    Brandon: Yeah.

    John: Who wrote the song?

    Brandon: I wrote it with my friend Ross Copperman and Lee Thomas Miller.

    Brandon: I have a very strict rule about Christmas music in that I don’t listen to any Christmas music or want to see decorations, or inflatables, or anything until the day after Thanksgiving. Consumerism has just taken over Christmas, and I think I really just want … fall is a great time of the year.

    John: It is.

    Brandon: Pumpkins and apple cider, and football games, and …

    John: Candy corn?

    Brandon: Candy corn, absolutely. All those things are great things that we should celebrate about fall. The seasons are an amazing time, so it’s unfortunate to me that the mall forgets about the fall, or maybe they’re celebrating the fall in the summertime. You just fast forward to Christmas every year, and by the time Christmas actually gets here you’re kind of tired of it.

    John: Yeah.

    Brandon: I wanted to really kind of punctuate that, like a Christmas gift, there is a time to open the gift and I think it starts the day after Thanksgiving.

    John: Yeah. For you, the Christmas tradition … so post-Thanksgiving Christmas tradition, what would that be like in your family growing up? What are some of the fond memories that you have? Are you bringing any of those into who you are today?

    Brandon: Yeah. One of the most fond memories I think of about our family Christmases was really, honestly, the music. Whenever we listened to music, it was usually on vinyl, and so I really wanted to … I think we tend to adopt, as children, we adopt the music that our parents listened to for Christmas.

    Mine would have been Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin. Kind of the crooner-type of Christmas music with great arrangements, and so I wanted that to influence this record. I did “Silent Night,” a very close rendition to what Nat King Cole did, which is all choral. It’s just a choir in the background, a cappella, very free-flowing. There’s not really a meter to it. Then his version of “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” which is actually called “The Christmas Song.”

    John: Yeah.

    Brandon: He was the first person to ever record that song, and I think he did it the right way, so we basically borrowed from old Nat King Cole. Every time I hear that song, that to me, that song is the official beginning of Christmas when I hear that song.

    John: What do you think it is? You’re talking about this idea that a lot of people have in trying to go back to this childhood. One might say, "It was greater back then." What do you think that is? What draws us to that sense of thought, of ideal, of philosophy when it comes to Christmas? Why do we do that this time of year?

    Brandon: I think Christmas is personified by a child. I think we think about The Child, the baby. There's something about maybe even gift giving that kind of comes from the Three Wise Men. I think we have made a tradition of giving gifts at that time of the year because of the Christmas story in the Bible. There is something about tradition that I think makes Christmas really special to people.

    It’s a time when family comes together. It might be that the only time that you see your family is at Christmastime every year. It’s important to know where we come from and who we belong to, and I think the Christmas story certainly fits in all that. Jesus was born to remind us who we belong to. His life was to remind us who we are, and that we’re loved.

    I think that’s why, after all these ages, it’s still important, even though people would argue and even old Brandon Heath would argue that consumerism has really kind of come in and invaded Christmas. I don’t think that you can completely extinguish what it’s all about, and that’s the birth of Christ.

    John: How does someone in pursuit of Jesus during the Christmas Season, how do they continually have the heart that says, “This is what this time of the year is about”? How do you wrestle with that? On your record, you certainly have these great, very fun, sentimental Christmas songs that don’t necessarily have anything to do with the birth of Christ. You’re talking about Santa, “Mama don’t lie to me.” You are talking about chestnuts roasting on an open fire. There’s that, but then there is this explosive idea of God becoming Man and just entering into humanity. How do we, as a follower of Christ … how do we transition to this idea of "remembering that God with us" is what it’s really all about?

    Brandon: Well, I think a lot of people think about Emmanuel, which means God with us. It helps us to feel not so alone, and it’s not necessarily as much an emotion as it is just the fact that God is with us. He is with us. I think that changes everything. We can live in confidence knowing that we’re not without purpose, and that we’re not alone. I think that that can really be a game-changer for people who have been looking for something to live for.

    When the Creator extends His hand and says, “This is who you are and this is why I made you; so that I could delight in you, and you could delight in Me.” It was the Trinity’s, not necessarily last-ditch effort, to connect with Man. The Trinity certainly could have chosen to start over. They, God, created us and He can choose not to have us anymore, but He does choose us. I think we should certainly celebrate that. I really wanted this Christmas record, it’s called Christmas Is Here, I really wanted it to remind people of their memories from a long time ago.

    I also wanted to bring in some new, fresh stories. There’s a story about the innkeeper that I took some liberties with. We don’t really know what happened with the innkeeper, but I wanted him to be remorseful. I wanted him to realize that, “Oh, I just turned away a pregnant woman; I could have helped her.” Then he finds out, “This was the Son of God that was born, I could have had a part in that. God gave me this opportunity, but I said, ‘No.’”

    In contrast, you have Mary, who could have said no but said yes. Isn’t it a great thing that she said yes? That God chose someone like her, a 15-year-old girl, who in our world would be a very unlikely character to carry out the birth of Jesus, but she did and in an unlikely place like Bethlehem, that’s where He was born. Any of us who say that we’re not qualified should think maybe twice about who God uses to carry out His great works.

    John: Do you think that God opens doors of opportunity, or windows of opportunity, towards us and many of us are blind to that?

    Brandon: Mm-hmm.

    John: You have had a lot of success in your life. You’ve had some great, very inspiring singles on the radio. You have toured very successfully. You seem to be a man who is walking into those opportunities that God has given you.

    Brandon: That’s key right there, what you just said.

    John: How does one discern God telling us, “Left, right, not this door, that door?” How do you pursue Jesus in your everyday life when it comes to stuff like that?

    Brandon: It’s definitely been a fun ride for me. I have had some success, but I’ve also had some failures and I’m really thankful for those. In the moment, I’m not so thankful for those, but in hindsight I’m glad that I have failures because then I can celebrate my successes more.

    I also am thankful for that because it reminds me that I’m not God. That I can’t govern what happens in my life but everything is by His Grace and His Power, and it’s His Plan. It kind of humbles you. How do you know which direction to walk? There’s really no way to tell that, but I think that … we were just talking about Mary and she just said yes.

    I think you kind of know when those doors open, you just have a feeling. It may not be an angel appearing to you and saying, “This is what God’s Will is for you,” but the ultimate reality is that all of our calling is to spread the Gospel. Everybody’s calling is to spread the Gospel. Now how you do that is gonna be different for each of us. My gift is music and I’ve known that for a while, and it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the only way that I can spread the Gospel. It’s certainly the most fun way that I could think of, and I feel like I’ve got a gift at it.

    It’s just applying the commandment to spread The Word, and applying my gift with that commandment, and it’s flourished. I guess in some ways I’m not surprised, but honestly I’m always surprised because somebody at the end of the day will say, “Your song did this for me.” I will never get used to that, that God’s used me in that way. I feel an immense amount of gratitude for that.

    John: What’s on your bucket list?

    Brandon: What’s on my bucket list? I would like to, and this is so typical, I’d love to summit a mountain 14,000 feet or above. I’d love to summit a mountain.

    John: How far up have you climbed before?

    Brandon: Seven thousand.

    John: Which was?

    Brandon: In British Columbia, Canada. There’s a mountain there called One Eye, it’s 7,000 feet. That was cool, but that’s going from sea level to seven.

    John: Oh, sure.

    Brandon: You think about in Colorado you’ve got 14,000-15,000 footers, but you start at 9,000.

    John: Right.

    Brandon: It was a long hike, but it’s an amazing experience. It’s about a 3-day trip, spending a couple of nights in the woods. You could take it slower if you want, but we packed really light so that we could do it pretty quickly.

    John: Yeah, that’s cool.

    John: Are you still riding the Harley?

    Brandon: I still ride, yup.

    John: Did you take it with you?

    Brandon: It’s not with me on this trip. I was telling somebody today it is 80 degrees in Michigan; it would have been a perfect day to ride but, no, I didn’t bring it with me.

    John: It’s all right.

    Brandon: Yeah, next time.

    John: Let's circle back to the new album. Christmas Is Here certainly encourages us to celebrate the memories, the traditions, the joy and the meaning leading up to December 25. There’s a reason you want us to hold out to celebrate. Isn't there?

    Brandon: Christmas is like a good surprise, like a present. You should wait and open it when it’s time instead of opening it as soon as you get it, and then there’s nothing special about it anymore,” he says. “I think you should restrain yourself and say, ‘Okay, I’m not going to fully engage in this until it’s time.’ And Christmas is one of those things for me. I want people to savor the moment...just wait.


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews and was tagged with Featured, Brandon Heath, Andrew Peterson, Matt Wertz, The Isaacs

  • Brandon Heath Announces Holiday Album, Christmas Is Here

    Posted on September 16, 2013 by Family Christian

    Emmy Award-winning, five-time GRAMMY nominee Brandon Heath will release his first holiday offering, Christmas Is Here, Oct.15, 2013. Rich in musical diversity, Christmas Is Here takes listeners on a nostalgic journey through the most anticipated time of the year. “I want people to just hear a song and slip back into the past,” Heath says. “Good Christmas music is really about sparking people’s memories.”

    Heath has dreamed of creating a Christmas album for a long time and invited some friends to join him in the studio to make the process memorable. Sonja Isaacs, Ellie Holcomb and Matt Wertz all contributed background vocals, and Ben Shive (Andrew Peterson, Matt Wertz)  produced the album, which was recorded in mid-July.

    The award-winning songwriter looked to some of his favorite Christmas albums for inspiration—recordings by Nat King Cole, Harry Connick, Jr., Patty Loveless and Kenny & Dolly—desiring to craft a timeless release fans would want to pull out year after year. Reflecting his influences, Christmas Is Here features three originals and seven classics, including traditional arrangements of “The Christmas Song,” “O Come All Ye Faithful/Angels, We Have Heard on High,” “Silent Night” and “The Bleak Midwinter,” among others. The well-known Christmas songs showcase a spectrum of sounds ranging from big band to a cappella to bluegrass.

    Two of the three new cuts reveal Heath’s witty personality that has endeared the hit-making award winner to audiences. “The Day After Thanksgiving” pokes fun at the Christmas commercialism that sets in at the end of summer, leading most to completely overlook fall, one of Heath’s favorite times of year. “Momma Wouldn’t Lie to Me” is equally as lighthearted, with Heath putting his parents on the spot for the truth about Santa, mirroring a real-life conversation from his childhood. “Rest assured, no child-like beliefs will be harmed due to the listening of the song. No spoilers!” Heath proclaims.

    In his trademark storyteller fashion, Heath highlights a lesser known character in the Christmas story on “Just A Girl”—the innkeeper who turned Mary and Joseph away. “I took a little creative license to tell what happened,” he explains. Through the innkeeper’s eyes, Mary is seen as an ordinary girl, but Heath notes the irony of the scene. “There’s a story [about] when a non-believer asked a Catholic, ‘Why is Mary so crucial to the Christmas story?’ And the Catholic says, ‘She’s just a girl who said yes.’ I think that says a lot for us,” Heath offers. “God is often giving us opportunities we don’t realize the significance of, but we just need to say yes. God can do things though ordinary people. Mary was just a girl, but she was also a catalyst in a huge event in the rest of history.”

    Fans can see Heath live on tobyMac’s “Hits Deep” Tour beginning November 7 and running through mid-December. The tour will hit 20 cities this fall and also features Mandisa, Jamie Grace, Colton Dixon, Chris August and Capital Kings. Heath and Mandisa will also reunite for select dates this fall on their popular “Brandisa” tour.


    This post was posted in Music and was tagged with Featured, TobyMac, Brandon Heath, Andrew Peterson, Christmas, Chris August, Mandisa, Capital Kings, Matt Wertz, Colton Dixon, Jamie Grace, The Isaacs

  • Mandisa - Finding Freedom by Overcoming

    Posted on August 6, 2013 by John van der Veen

    Coming off her most successful album ever, Mandisa returned to the studio to record her new album, Overcomer. Her previous album, What If We Were Real, has sold over 270,000 albums and featured the breakout radio hits “Good Morning,” “Waiting For Tomorrow,” and the #1 hit, “Stronger.” The American Idol alum and three-time Grammy nominee continues to be a voice of encouragement and truth to women facing life’s challenges. Mandisa also continues to have unprecedented media exposure for a Christian artist including two recent appearances on Good Morning America. 

    I sat down with Mandisa at a local coffee shop to talk about new music, coffee vs. tea, family and what it means to be an over-comer. What follows is a real conversation. Mandisa, some would say is a true artist. She is that for sure, but she is so much more. She is a warrior in a huge battle. She is a fighter - fighting for the truth of the Gospel. That can be summed up with one statement from her, "There is joy unspeakable!"

    John:               I’m reading a quote, and I’m not sure where this was, maybe on your promo sheet or something, but you said, “I recorded both the song ‘Overcomer’ and the album to fuel faith and empower people; to remind those facing a battle that all for the strength and power they need is readily available to them. We are all overcomers.”

    So, my question is, why do you think people struggle with not seeing that identity themselves?

    Mandisa:       Because we are natural people. We have a supernatural heritage, but we’re natural people. We tend to only see our circumstances and not look beyond our circumstances. I was reading in Judges 6-8, which is the story of Gideon, and it was fascinating to me. If you look at the snapshot of who Gideon was and Judges 6, and then if you look at the end in Judges 8, it’s almost like two completely different people. He was really kind of riddled with fear; I just think it was a stronghold of his. When the angel came to him and said, “Oh, mighty man of valor, the Lord is with you,” Gideon’s initial response was, “Well, if the Lord is with me, then why is this happening?” That’s so typical of us, isn’t it? We hear that the Lord is with us but then we look at our circumstances and say it doesn’t feel like the Lord is with me. Once Gideon started to believe what God said about him, he started walking it out. It took him believing what the angel of the Lord was saying to him to make him really started walking as a mighty man of valor. It was a process.

    I’m convinced that when people start believing what God says about them, they’ll start walking it out. But God, He requires the faith at first. That’s why He says time and time again, “Believe Me, trust Me.” I love the man in the Gospel as He says, “I believe; help my unbelief.” God honors that prayer; it’s like, “Lord, I really want to believe and I believe you a little bit but help me in the areas where I don’t so much.” I think when we pray that, God says, “Okay, thank you for finally asking me.” Wham! “Here you go!” [laughs]

    John:               When somebody comes to you and says, “Yeah, but you have it all together.”

    Mandisa:       Ugh! Please. [laughs]

    John:               They may say, “I’m just a single mom raising three kids,” or “I’m a college student with the whole world ahead of me,” or whatever, and yet they can’t see anything going on in their lives spiritually. How do you say, look at Gideon or look at the man in the New Testament who said, “Help my unbelief”? What is your secret? Have you found a set of steps or something?

    Mandisa:       Totally. I say look at them and look at me. My last album was called What If We Were Real? That’s because God really sent me on a journey of taking the mask off. It was the mask that I would wear to try to tell the world that I’ve got it all together. He taught me to really let people see me as I truly am because I’ve found… I don’t know, I think so often in the Body of Christ we drive up to church, get in an argument with our family in the car, and then drive up and hit the church door and we’re like, “Hi. I’m blessed and highly favored.” We put on this veneer like I’ve got it all together and I actually think that God calls us to live more transparently, to live more vulnerably and to let our brothers and sisters in Christ see us as we really are. One, because in that way we can help one another know that we’re not alone; and two, it helps us to become more than what we are or were to start with.

    So, my last album was a process of coming to understand that, and I have just learned to be very transparent--almost to a fault on my social media sites. I posted earlier this week about a moment where I had to confess to somebody at a store—it’s a long story, you can read it on my Facebook [laughs] —I had to confess to somebody at the store that I lied to them and [groans] that is just never easy to do! But I did it because, well, the Lord told me to and he convicted me and the less you listen to the conviction of the Lord, the more you get numb to it. I just want to always follow the conviction and to repent when I need to and to receive God’s grace and forgiveness and to keep it moving.

    I just try to make it a point of letting the world know I do not have it all together.  I’m on this journey just like you are and let’s do this together, let’s learn from one another.

    At the same time, you have to recognize that you’re more than what you currently see. When God looks at us, He sees us as he created us. He sees us covered in the blood of Jesus, not as what we see when we look in the reflection in the mirror.

    John:               Is it scary sometimes when you get that vulnerable with people?

    Mandisa:       I think it used to be; it’s not so much anymore. It’s been a process, but I can thank Simon Cowell, in part, for that [laughs], for kind of putting me on blast, you know, on American Idol years ago. It helped me to not live hidden and not live hiding who I really am. Him making fun of my weight on national television put my weight story out there for the world to see, and that’s the main area where I was the most timid of letting people really see what was inside. So when Simon threw me out there, I was kind of forced out there, but it was a blessing in disguise because I feel like I’ve really learned a lot through it. I’ve helped several brothers and sisters along the same journey know that they’re not alone and that they—and I’m struggling just like they are—we have everything we need to fight and to come in victoriously.

    John:               Total sidebar, but do you still stay in contact with some of those people from those days?

    Mandisa:       The contestants I do.

    John:               Who won that year?

    Mandisa:       Taylor Hicks. He is in Las Vegas right now, and I know I’m a little bit biased, but I think that we had one of the more successful seasons. If you look at our Top 10, you’ve got Catherine McPhee on an NBC show, Kelly Pickler was just on Dancing with the Stars, and Chris Daughtry is a superstar. So many of the people on my season are doing really well, so that’s one of the great things about social media.  I can always tweet them and Facebook them and keep in touch with how they’re doing. Then when I get to their cities, I can look them up and say, “Hey, let’s go grab some coffee.” But no, I don’t hang out with Simon Cowell on a regular basis. [laughs again]

    John:               So let’s look at this: Each of your records seem to tell another chapter or story in your life; adding, maybe, another layer of who you are. When you put those songs together or create that album, are you thinking of Mandisa? Are you thinking of your personal friends… or your fan base? When you make a record, who’s that for?

    Mandisa:       I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that question and I like it!

    My albums have been a journey of my life. True Beauty was first and that was coming right off of doing American Idol and really learning not to define myself by the standards of the world but by what God says about me. Freedom was when God started chipping away at the things in my life that I’ve been bound by, mainly my food addiction, and I began really letting Him teach me that true freedom is not the fact that I can eat these scones that are right behind me, but that true freedom is knowing that I don’t have to and knowing that I have the power to resist those scones and the chocolate cookies or whatever is tempting me.

    The third was What If We Were Real? That record was God chipping away at the layers and letting me show the world who I really am, and with this one, it was a combination of me looking at my life and how I’m overcoming not just the weight struggle, but also lots of other areas in my life.  I’m overcoming … I think for a long time I was very miserable being single. I call myself super-duper single because I think once you hit 30 you’re not just single, you’re super single. (Laughs)

    I’m just saying, once I hit 30. (laughter). I think I was so miserable in that for such a long time, and I feel like God has been helping me to overcome depending on a man to complete me. I believe that I’m called to be married; I believe that I’m going to meet my husband one day, but saying “I’m going to live my life right now and not just wait for the moment when I get married.” That’s a big overcomer story for me.So, I was thinking about myself in those areas and then I was thinking about some friends of mine. One in particular, whose name is Keisha, was diagnosed with breast cancer while she was pregnant and was undergoing chemo treatments while she was seven months pregnant. When I looked at her story, I went, “Wow! You were in the middle of this battle and had the greatest outlook!” I could just see how God was going to use this as a testimony. I was like, “Keisha, you’re an overcomer and we’ve not even seen the end of this battle.” For me, it’s about really studying the Word of God and coming to understand that an overcomer is somebody who has not even conquered their circumstances yet.

    The Bible describes an overcomer as, first of all, if you have the Holy Spirit inside of you, the Bible makes it really clear that those who believe that Jesus is Lord, are overcomers, because Jesus is an overcomer. Then, of course, in John 4:4, it says that the One who is in us is greater than the one who is in the world. So, it really isn’t about circumstances; it’s not about feeling like we’re an overcomer.  We’re an overcomer because God says that we are. Like I said earlier, once we believe that, I think that’s when we’ll start walking it out. But we have to believe it first.

    That’s what this album is, is it’s convincing both myself and my brothers and sisters in Christ to believe that you and I are overcomers. That we need to and can trust God, and that the One who is inside of you is greater than the one who is of the world. You can beat whatever it is that you’re going through, even though beating it may not look like we think it does. Keisha’s doing really well with her cancer. She’s had a double mastectomy and is still going through more treatments, but her baby was born perfectly healthy. We don’t know what the end is going to be, but that doesn’t change the fact that she’s overcome this; she may overcome it by seeing Jesus face to face sooner rather than later. Or she may overcome it by God completely healing her, but what we know is that because Jesus lives in her, she’s an overcomer regardless of how we see the circumstances working out.

    John:               Is this record more personal for you?

    Mandisa:       I think all of my records have been personal.  This one is different in that where I am in my life is different than all of my other past albums. I just feel like I’m in a great place of contentment that I’ve never had before. I love being single now; there are many benefits. Let me tell them to you… (laughs)

    On Mother’s Day, I got a last minute flight to Charlotte where I got to support my friend Lisa who was speaking in her Church. She was speaking about something that was really difficult for her, and as I booked those flights with my miles, I was like, “If I was married and had kids, I probably couldn’t have hopped this flight at the last minute and gone to support her.” I can take my money and use it to benefit causes that are important to me. I can spend as much time in my bed as I want to and I get the whole bed to myself. I love my bed; I named my bed Rufus because I love it that much.

    I have the ability to do that without having to worry about somebody next to me pulling my covers, I love that. I think more importantly, I can spend as much time with the Lord as I want to. I can wake up on any given day, sit there in my bed, Rufus, and talk to the Lord all day long and study the Word and fellowship with my friends. You can’t really do that when you have different devotions to your children or to your husband.

    John:               It’s different.

    Mandisa:       It’s a different kind of a calling, but for right now I’m just appreciating that I have those things. So, yeah, in one area, that’s important, and I have a song, “I’m Praying for You” that I wrote with Chris August. That is a song to my future husband—who is not Chris August, by the way. (laughs) Let me just make that clear!

    So, I long for that day, but I’m not putting my life on hold. And I’ve got a lot of great workout songs on this album, just because that’s been important to me in the last few years. More than anything, there’s a lot of worship songs this time around because I’m just so loving the Lord and just so thankful for so much that that came out in my music. I’ve got a lot of songs that are like, “God you don’t have to do another thing, I just want to worship you because you’re that good.”

    Yeah, it’s different from my other albums. I think a lot of my other albums were more like, “Lord, when?” and “Help me,” and “I can’t get through this!” So now this one is a little bit more like, “Thank you, Jesus! I know that I can get through this!”

    John:               “Dear John”… Can you tell us about that song?

    Mandisa:       Oh, gosh! Do you have Kleenex ready? (laughter)

    John:               We can get some. If you don’t want to talk about it, that’s okay too.

    Mandisa:       No, I’m happy to talk about it. Although I’ve never been able to talk about it without crying.

    John is my brother. He is not a Christian, and I really want him to be. And the reason I want him to be is not because I want him to live a life of rules and regulations. It’s because I know the abundant life that I have from a relationship with Jesus, and I simply want him to have that same abundant life. We’ve talked many times about faith. But right now he’s enjoying his party lifestyle, and he sees a lot of hypocrites—people who say they believe one thing and then their lives reflect another. So I think that’s just kind of been a way that the enemy has blinded his eyes. I pray for him on a regular basis and I have a lot of people praying for him. All of my Facebook and Twitter people know. Natalie Grant is a great friend of mine, and she has an alarm that goes off at nine o’clock every single day to remind her to pray for John. Here I go with the tears… (laughs)

    So, I played “Dear John” for him on Fourth of July weekend. It was the first time he heard it, and his response was, “You know, that’s a great song, Disa.” And, of course, my response that I wanted was, “What must I do to be saved?” and I know that that day is going to happen; it just hasn’t happened yet.

    So “Dear John” is a song that I wrote, if I were to write a letter about my desire for him to live that abundant life in Jesus and then if I were to put that letter to music, that’s what “Dear John” would be. I am praying first for his salvation, and hoping that as he listens to that song, he would put it on repeat without even knowing why, that he just keeps playing it and calls me up and says, “Okay, I’m ready.” Secondly, I’m also praying for every unbeliever who listens to it.  I just … I’m asking God to flood them with grace and forgiveness. I think so often people think that it is about, I don’t know, a list or something of things that you have to do. My brother’s enjoying partying and he likes going to bars and he likes women, and I just think that he probably has some shame there, but he’s just kind of enjoying that. But if I could just convince him, you don’t know what you’re missing! Jesus is literally the best thing that’s ever happened to me and what you think you’re getting from these bars and alcohol and women, it does not even come close to the joy and the freedom and the satisfaction you get from a life with Jesus.

    So I’m praying that for him and I’m praying for every unbeliever as they listen to it that they’ll just receive a flood of forgiveness and grace. Third, I’m also praying for my brothers and sisters in Christ who have loved ones in their lives who don’t know the Lord, that God would just rise up like faith to talk to them, to maybe write their own Dear John letter and say “Hey, one of my favorite artists, Mandisa, has this song that I really want you to listen to,” (laughter) but before you listen, let me tell you about what Jesus means to me.

    I don’t know, I can just imagine people sending a letter with that song and then their loved one calling them and saying, “Okay, I recognize that you want this for me because you love me, so let’s talk about it.” I’m just praying that God opens up doors for conversations about Jesus to be had through this song.

    John:               Very good. Okay, so let’s see. We’ll kind of change gears a little bit. So talk about the record. Any new guest vocals?

    Mandisa:       Yeah, lots of guest vocals.

    John:               Is Chris on it as well?

    Mandisa:       He is, yes. I wrote with Matthew West. We wrote a song called “The Distance.”

    John:               Okay.

    Mandisa:       I wrote with Plumb, we actually wrote “Dear John” together.

    John:               Does that mean that Matthew is then singing with you?

    Mandisa:       Matthew was doing the background on “The Distance.”

    John:               Okay.

    Mandisa:       I wrote “Dear John” with Plumb, she’s singing background on that. I wrote “Praying for You” with Chris, he’s singing background on that. Then, there are a few people who aren’t singing on the album, but we wrote with… Israel Houghton on a song called “At All Times.” He lives in Houston, so we didn’t get those vocals. Then Cindy Morgan and Britt Nicole wrote a song that I did not write on called “Where You Begin,” and they’re not singing on it but they wrote that song.

    So, yeah, lots of guest appearances on this album and they’re not only some of my friends, but they’re also some of my favorite artists. So it’s just been neat to be able to come together on these.

    John:               That’s great! That’s cool.

    Are you a book reader? You are a book reader; what are you reading right now?  That’s okay if you mention like three or four.

    Mandisa:       Okay. I’m reading Captivating by John and Stacy Eldredge, just because as a single woman that’s a great book for me to have. I’m also reading through The 5 Love Languages because there’s kind of a new relationship in my life. I don’t know where it’s going to go but, shhh. (laughter)

    John:               And it’s not Chris August.

    Mandisa:       It’s not Chris August.

    Female:         He didn’t hear that part. (laughter)

    Mandisa:       I think it just kind of helps to know how people are wired. I’m really into my friend Tam here; she does radio at Capitol with me and we’ve been talking all day long about personalities and how different kinds of people communicate with one another. I’m just into stuff like that. So I’m reading The 5 Love Languages, as I mentioned, and I’m realizing what my love languages are and are not. I think it will really help me to be able to show love to whomever I marry; but not just in a potential marital relationship, but with friends and family and coworkers too. So I’m reading that. Then, I’m also reading through the Bible; my Church is reading through the Bible, the Scriptures both in the Old and New Testament, and I’m using the voice translation, which I absolutely love.

    Those three things I’m reading right now.

    John:               You are an author as well.

    Mandisa:       I’m working on a new one [book].

    John:               Really? Wow! When does that come out?

    Mandisa:       We’re just in the process; we’re meeting with publishers now. I have my preference, but we want to do an overcomer book. We want to do an overcomer book where people would compile a bunch of overcomer stories because I’m just convinced that when people tell their story in their testimonies, it helps them because the Bible says that we overcome by the word of our testimony. But it also helps people to hear it so I want to hear people tell their stories of how they overcame cancer because when people are going through cancer to read something like that, fuels their faith. So I want to compile these powerful stories about people in the middle of their battles, and also at the end of the battle. So, we’ll see.

    John:               What kind of music to you listen to now?

    Mandisa:       I’m a big CCM fan; the thing I love about CCM music, which stands for Contemporary Christian Music for those who don’t know, is that it comes in every style. You’ve got Christian Hip Hop and Rap and Country and Rock and Polka, probably! I don’t know. (laughter) I love that you can get all these styles, but the thing I love most about Christian music is that it’s not just something that makes you feel good, that makes you want to get up and dance, there’s a purpose and a meaning to it, and it helps you connect with the Lord. I love worship artists. My favorite worship artists are Israel Houghton and Jesus Culture, Meredith Andrews. I love the more current, more pop, hip hop styles. Capitol Kings I’m loving now. Then more pop artists like Britt Nicole and Natalie Grant. I don’t know; I love it all! If you look at my iPod, you’ll see a little bit of everything, but it’s pretty much all Christian music.

    John:               Last question, because we’re going to end here at three o’clock.

    Female:         Okay, we can leave a few minutes late too, because we came so late.

    John:               Well … What are you most excited about in 2013 besides Overcomer coming out?

    Mandisa;       I think the Hits Deep tour. We did it last year. It is tobyMac’s tour. He brings out a bunch of artists that are all my favorites. Last year it was Britt Nicole and Group 1 Crew were on it, but Britt and Blanca from Group 1 Crew are in baby mode right now, so they’re not on it this year. But we’ve added Colton Dixon who was on American Idol as well and is my label mate, and Capitol Kings who I just mentioned. I love them, they’re just really current. Then the people who were on it last year as well, like Brandon Heath, Jamie Grace and Chris August and Toby and myself. I cannot wait; it’s literally all of my favorite artists in one night.

    John:               Is that this fall?

    Mandisa:       It is. It starts in November and goes through December. Then in October I’m doing some more shows with Brandon Heath. We’ve been touring all year together; we did a 3-in-1 tour with Laura Story, and then we did a few shows called the Brandisa tour (laughs), because there was a rumor that he and I were dating so we just sort of embraced the name Brandisa. We are not, we are not dating.

    John:               Who started that rumor?

    Mandisa:       He did. (laughs)

    John:               Oh, he did?  (laughter)

    Mandisa:       He went on a national radio station and said that we’re dating. I was like, “Brandon, look, I know it’s all kind of fun and games, but as a single woman you are messing up my game by telling the world that we are dating!” (laughter)

    So we set the record straight. There’s a video on YouTube of him clarifying that we’re not dating. But, yeah, we’ve been touring together all year long.

    John:               So we need to pray for a husband for Mandisa, and for her brother.

    Mandisa:       You can pray for continued contentment for Mandisa and then the  husband will come whenever God is good and ready. (Laughs)

     


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, TobyMac, Britt Nicole, Matthew West, Brandon Heath, Jesus Culture, Group 1 Crew, Chris August, Israel Houghton, Mandisa, Capital Kings, Colton Dixon, Meredith Andrews, Jamie Grace, Plumb, Natalie Grant, John Eldridge, Stasi Eldridge, Gary Chapman

  • Jamie Grace Introduces New Single

    Posted on July 30, 2013 by Family Christian

    GRAMMY®-nominee and Best New Artist GMA Dove Award winner Jamie Grace has released her follow up single to the smash hit success of “Hold Me." The single, titled “Beautiful Day,” is available from Gotee Records beginning now. The song reunites Jamie with producer/songwriter Christopher Stevens under the direction of TobyMac and will be a part of her forthcoming new album to release later this year.

    Accompanying the single, Jamie has also released a lyric video for “Beautiful Day” that combines her performance of the song with animated hand drawn lyrics and imagery here:

    "I'm still having a hard time processing the response to 'Hold Me,' the song I started in my dorm room," says Jamie. "The past few years have been absolutely incredible and I feel so blessed to have the privilege of sharing even more music. 'Beautiful Day,' although a fun song, has a message saying that in spite of what we're going through, every day is a good day and an incredible gift because God made it. In my young life I've learned that every day can begin with worshipping my Creator."

    The breakout success of her previous GRAMMY®-nominated, No. 1 smash hit “Hold Me (feat. TobyMac)” assisted in propelling Jamie to win her first GMA Dove Award—for New Artist of the Year—last year, in addition to a Billboard Music Award nomination. As a result, in part of the huge success of “Hold Me,” she has experienced a major wave of acclaim and popularity in the last few years, that is evident in her YouTube's channel combined 13 million views and even finding her making an appearance on ABC's hit talk show 'The View." This fall, Jamie will appear on the silver screen with the release of the LIONSGATE® film GRACE UNPLUGGED, an entertaining story of a talented teenager rising in the music industry led by AJ Michalka (Super 8, The Lovely Bones), James Denton (Desperate Housewives), and Kevan Pollak (A Few Good Men).

    Jamie Grace will be a featured guest on TobyMac’s “HITS Deep Tour 2013,” making stops across the country in November and December. The “HITS Deep Tour” 2013 will also include Brandon Heath, Mandisa, Colton Dixon, Chris August and Capital Kings.


    This post was posted in Music and was tagged with Featured, TobyMac, Brandon Heath, Chris August, Mandisa, Capital Kings, Colton Dixon, Jamie Grace

  • Check Out New Artist Soulfire Revolution

    Posted on July 22, 2013 by Family Christian

    Capitol Christian Music Group (CCMG) announces the signing of Soulfire Revolution, a worship band hailing from Bogota, Colombia, to its list of acclaimed artists.  Soulfire Revolution’s title track – featuring Kim Walker-Smith of Jesus Culture – goes by the same name as their first project, Revival.  Proof that their music and scope of ministry extends beyond just one language, Revival is set to release on August 13.
    Soulfire Revolution primarily serves as a worship band born out of Mision Carismatica Interncional (MCI) in Bogota, a church originated by husband and wife team Cesar and Claudia Castellanos.  Currently, MCI averages 70,000 people in attendance on Sunday mornings in Bogota, growing from the group of eight that first began gathering in the Castellanos’ living room nearly 30 years ago.

    Cesar and Claudia have always been focused on raising a family who loves and serves God, a primary goal that ultimately would pave the way for Soulfire Revolution.  Feeling the call to ministry following a three-day MCI retreat known as “Encounter” just a few years ago, the Castellanos’ daughter Lorena, now the lead singer for Soulfire Revolution, first felt God’s call to ministry.

    “I was 12 when I went to my first Encounter, and up until that point, I wasn’t really interested in church.  I just went because I was the pastor’s daughter, and my parents were there,” Lorena shares.  “But it was during those three days when I truly had an encounter with God.  I had the conviction that God could really use me, and I never turned back.”

    Now comprised of two married couples, Lorena Castellanos (vocals) and her husband Julian Gamba (bass), and Paola Sanchez (drums) and husband Jose Anthony Catacoli (lead guitar), plus Lorena’s brother-in-law Richard Harding (lead vocals and guitar), Soulfire Revolution was started out of a mutual love of music that points people toward the one true Hope.

    Produced by The Myriad frontman and longtime Jesus Culture producer Jeremy Edwardson, and recorded in his studio in northern California, Revival not only celebrates the beauty of God’s creation in the anthemic standout “Count the Stars,” which features a guest appearance from the band’s friend Martin Smith (Delirious) but digs deep into truly leaning on God for everything in “Place of Surrender,” where Soulfire Revolution collaborated with noted songwriter Jason Ingram (Brandon Heath, Bebo Norman).  With “Spirit Break Out,” the band displays a different side of worship with a rap interlude from none other than TobyMac.  This cover of the United Kingdom-based group Worship Central is a moment where substance and style blend seamlessly.

    Revival is only the beginning of what will continue to be a busy season for Soulfire Revolution.  In addition to touring on their own and continuing to minister at their home churches, Soulfire Revolution looks forward to partnering with other artists in sharing a message of salvation and hope that comes in a thriving relationship with Jesus.


    This post was posted in Music and was tagged with Featured, TobyMac, Brandon Heath, Bebo Norman, Jesus Culture, Delirious, Soulfire Revolution, Kim Walker-Smith, The Myriad, Martin Smith, Worship Central

  • New Album from Mandisa - Overcomer

    Posted on July 16, 2013 by Family Christian

    GRAMMY®-nominated artist Mandisa is calling out all Overcomers in her latest project which drops on August 27. The long-awaited fourth studio album, Overcomer, comes over two years since the release of her critically revered and best selling GRAMMY®-nominated record, What If We Were Real, which brought on fan favorites and No. 1 songs such as “Stronger” and “Good Morning.” "Overcomer" is the lead single from the album and is an extension of the impactful message once began with her song “Stronger,” an anthem that there is hope in the midst of life’s battles.

    Mandisa says, "I recorded both the song and the album to fuel faith, empower people, and remind those facing a battle, that all of the strength, power, and weapons of warfare they need is readily available to them. We are all overcomers."

    Produced by Christopher Stevens and David Garcia, Overcomer continues to showcase the former American Idol finalist’s powerful vocals and pop-leaning hooks that blend effortlessly through all 11 tracks. With caution-to-the-wind melodies weaved throughout the record, anchored by emotional songs like her open letter to her brother in “Dear John,” Overcomer is set to be Mandisa’s most impactful release to date. Many songs were co-written by critically acclaimed artists and friends including Chris August ("Praying For You"), Israel Houghton (“At All Times”), Tiffany Lee, aka Plumb ("Dear John"), Britt Nicole and Cindy Morgan (“Where You Begin”) and Matthew West ("The Distance").  This fall, Mandisa will once again embark on six-time GRAMMY® winner TobyMac’s acclaimed "Hits Deep Tour." Joining Mandisa on the tour, which kicks off Nov. 7, are Brandon Heath, Jamie Grace, Colton Dixon, Chris August and Capital Kings.

    Track Listing for Overcomer:
    1. Overcomer
    2. Back To You
    3. The Distance
    4. Face 2 Face
    5. Press On
    6. What Scars Are For
    7. Dear John
    8. At All Times*
    9. Joy Unspeakable
    10. Praying For You
    11. Where You Begin
    *Produced by Ronald Rawls and Chuck Butler


    This post was posted in Music and was tagged with Featured, TobyMac, Britt Nicole, Matthew West, Brandon Heath, Chris August, Israel Houghton, Mandisa, Capital Kings, Colton Dixon, Jamie Grace, Cindy Morgan, Plumb

  • Dara Maclean - New Album - Wanted

    Posted on July 10, 2013 by Family Christian

    Dara Maclean is scheduled to release her sophomore album, Wanted, on September 24. The album’s title track and lead single grabbed early attention jumping seven spots at radio to No. 30 on NCA chart this past week. Produced by Paul Mabury (All Sons & Daughters, Hillsong, Meredith Andrews), Wanted is the eagerly-awaited follow-up to Maclean’s debut album, You Got My Attention.

    For Maclean, both a passionate artist and advocate for the International Justice Mission, an organization that is pioneering the fight against human trafficking, this album is much more than just a compilation of songs. “This album is for those broken, the lost and the ones in need of rescue. It’s for me and it’s for them, whether ‘they’ are next door or half way across the world. This record is a reminder that through God’s grace and redemption, He has made us good enough, He sees us as ‘blameless.’ We’ve been forgiven and we can find the peace, satisfaction and rest we’re looking for in Him,” said Maclean. “This record is my mouthpiece to raise the volume of the already screaming heartbeat of the Father, crying ‘Set My People Free.’ When life hits in the hardest ways, and you need peace and you need an answer, let’s take Him at His word and together learn about truth, discover sustaining hope and put all of our trust in the only answer, God.”

    “She genuinely cares for people and has a story to tell; she genuinely wants to see people changed,” said Mabury. “I heard a girl singing at the beginning…now I hear a woman singing.”

    Sonically, Wanted reveals Maclean’s musical upbringing and love for powerful, soul-steeped vocalists from Etta James to Lauryn Hill.  This influence can be seen throughout the album that infuses her soaring vocals with modern pop and soul melodies thanks to the help of multi-talented producer Mabury. “Paul knows the world of worship and he’s a songwriter, a producer and one of the best drummers that I’ve heard,” said Maclean. “He is also extremely well-versed in the music that moves me. He has this backbone of soul and took the time to ‘get me’ and wanted to make music that was true to that.”

    During the past two years Maclean, who embraces song writing equally as much as being a vocalist, wrote heavily in preparation for this album. She co-wrote each of the 12 tracks on Wanted and loved getting to write with some of her favorites including Paul Mabury, Jason Ingram (Brandon Heath, Bebo Norman), Dave Barnes (Blake Shelton, Bebo Norman) and Cindy Morgan (Amy Grant, Mark Schultz).


    This post was posted in Music and was tagged with Featured, Mark Schultz, Hillsong, Brandon Heath, Bebo Norman, Dara Maclean, Dave Barnes, Amy Grant, All Sons & Daughters, Meredith Andrews, International Justic Mission, Blake Shelton, Cindy Morgan

  • All Sons & Daughters Release LIVE CD/DVD

    Posted on April 23, 2013 by Family Christian



    Music lovers worldwide are captivated, swept up in the surging wave of modern folk as heard in the likes of Mumford and Sons, The Avett Brothers, Neon Trees, The Civil Wars and others. Organic, acoustic and packed with live energy and freedom, it’s the unpolished imperfection and open invitation to sing along that has catapulted these artists into the spotlight and up the charts.

    Unpolished. Imperfect. Freedom.

    For All Sons & Daughters’ Leslie Jordan and David Leonard, these qualities are even more keenly experienced in music that connects broken people with their God. Worship leaders at Journey Church in Franklin, TN, their critically acclaimed EPs, Brokenness Aside, Reason To Sing and The Longing, along with their first full length feature album, Season One, bear witness to the power of worship by the people, for the people and of the people. In the truest sense, the mesmerizing, soul-baring lyrics and acoustic styling of this unlikely duo are beginning to make an impact...inside and outside the church.

    Now, with their first-ever live recording, Jordan and Leonard give listeners a chance to experience God in the context of confession and doubt, with an open invitation to be completely transparent and human. Produced by Paul Mabury (Brandon Heath, Hillsong), All Sons & Daughters LIVE, which was recorded with a live studio congregation in one continuous take at Ocean Way Studios in Nashville, captures the spirit and truth of transparent worship.

    “We always begin by saying ‘This is a place of freedom,’ Jordan says of their approach to every concert and every Sunday morning service. “We want people to feel complete freedom to worship as they feel called to because Scripture says, ‘What we bring to the Lord is enough for Him.’ And we trust that the Spirit lives in that freedom.”

    With a sensitivity and Scriptural grounding beyond their years, All Sons & Daughters’ Jordan—who began leading worship in high school while still wrestling with the idea of church ministry—embraces the tension between worship and real life. “When I came to Journey in 2007, we as a church were in a pretty heavy season of lament. This town is so churched, and this is an artist driven community, and yet so many people here are living with shattered dreams...”

    “The demographic here, similar to the people we meet on the road, are broken people, people making their last ditch attempt at church or their first attempt at coming back,” says Leonard, who grew up in church but had never written for worship before meeting Jordan in 2009. “Most of our songs have been written with that healing season in mind. We’ve all thought, ‘Will God leave us if we leave him?’ its just that most of us were never given permission to feel and express those feelings of brokenness in church. That’s the most beautiful part of doing what we do, helping people find that freedom.”

    From the opening song of confession, “Brokenness Aside,” to “Oh How I Need You” and “Reason to Sing,” songs for when life doesn’t make sense, All Sons & Daughters LIVE showcases 13 transparent invitations—including the unforgettable “All the Poor and Powerless”—to get real and accept that you are loved. Standards in the making like “Reason to Sing” and “Wake Up” give people hope to cling to when life, even among the faithful, doesn’t make sense.

    Nothing hits closer to home for Leonard than “Your Glory,” a song of total surrender. “Being a new father, I’m seeing more than ever how much I need God. When the song says, ‘My life is yours/my hope is in you only, and my heart you hold ‘cause you made this sinner holy...’ it is a constant reminder that I can’t be the best father or the best husband, but there is a God who can help me be the man I need to be. It’s a vulnerable moment for me, every time we sing it.”

    The album also introduces two new compositions: “God With Us” and “Great Are You Lord.”

    “Both songs came out of writing sessions with Jason Ingram (Chris Tomlin, Brandon Heath),” Jordan says. “For ‘Great Are You Lord,’ Jason had this line, ‘It’s your breath in our lungs so we pour out our praise,’ and we felt such a sweetness and depth in it, we just ran with it. When the duo dropped in on Passion 2013 to hear founder Louie Giglio speak, the song received a sort of punctuation. “‘Worship is when we give God his breath back,’ Giglio said, having never heard the new song. That image has stayed front and center with the duo, a reminder that our acts of worship originate with the One we worship. It is His gift.”

    “God With Us,” a song about the power and presence of God... “has an easy melody and felt singable and congregational,” Jordan continues, “which has always been important to us.”

    All Sons & Daughters, who take great care to make music that meets people where they are, are equally intent on serving and resourcing musicians and worship leaders. As always, their song charts are free online, and they take advantage of any opportunity to start new conversations about what worship might look like... if approached with an open heart and mind.

    “We’ve been given an atmosphere of freedom at Journey,” says Jordan of the All Sons & Daughters’ approach to the people who come to hear their music, many of whom experience something completely outside the worship norm. “We’ve been given the freedom to try new things and fail, to consider how different worship can look from what it has looked like. We really believe that the spirit of the room is based on the spirit of the people in the room, so that’s how we approach what we do, by asking ‘How can we serve that spirit?’”

    Duo Appears Live Coast-To-Coast

    Following the four critically acclaimed projects All Sons & Daughters release its first live, full-length recording, LIVE, today from Integrity Music. Receiving widespread critical acclaim, the CD/DVD was recorded in the chapel at Oceanway Studios in Nashville and features members Leslie Jordan and David Leonard sharing their best-loved songs, such as “All The Poor and Powerless” and “Reason to Sing,” as well as new songs, all delivered in a congregationally-friendly, organic worship setting.

    Debuting the new music for the first time at a packed out DVD screening event at the historic Franklin Theatre in Franklin, TN, the video for All Sons & Daughters’ new song, “Great Are You Lord,” was also premiered online by RELEVANT Magazine as its “Video of the Day.”

    "Great Are You Lord" from All Sons and Daughters LIVE

    Here is just the latest round of critical acclaim for the duo and LIVE:

    “I don’t take it lightly in saying this, but I feel I can truly say that this is the best live worship album I’ve heard in many years. It’s an album for not only worshippers, but for music lovers who want something different to listen and worship along to than the norm…All Sons & Daughters present a gorgeous outing in Live. This talented duo continue to turn out excellent pieces of artful worship and this latest venture is their best yet.” – JesusFreakHideout.com (First 5-Star-rated album of 2013)

    “This project is a potential game-changer in the area of live corporate worship. Intimate and deeply personal, it still carries the weight of a heavy-hitting worship album recorded in a packed out church or arena…On the musicianship front, David and Leslie’s vocals are near perfect the entire album, which speaks volumes to their talent as vocalists…a sparklingly rugged piece of worshipful artistry. For those seeking the perfect album for soul soaking moments of praise and seeking God, All Sons & Daughters’ LIVE is just what you’ve been looking for.” – NewReleaseTuesday.com

    “With the band redefining and possibly even reinventing the worship genre...the band has taken modern worship music and stretched it, placing it on its head to remind listeners that worship music can still be fun and enjoyable, unique and different, compelling, emotive and encouraging all at once....such a hopeful and inspiring album, one of my favorite in April 2013!” – IndieVisionMusic.com

    “There is something about these guys - something pure, something natural, something incredible about the way they write and deliver worship songs. This new LIVE release from All Sons & Daughters made me think two main things: 1) it is one of the most concentrated albums of great worship songs I’ve ever heard; and 2) it is a very natural live album - there is a completeness to the set.” – LouderThanTheMusic.com (5-Star review)

    “Comprising of Leslie Ann Jordan (on vocals and guitar) and David Leonard (on vocals and piano), they have much to teach us about bringing an organic diversity (in incorporating elements of folk, jazz, country, Celtic and hymns) in their worship… Of all the copious worship bands out there, there is something different about All Sons & Daughters. They are a gracious duo who not only took time to enrich their worship with nuances of various stripes, but they come across as organic, embracing and so heartfelt.” – Breathecast.com

    Beginning today in Cape Girardeau, MO, All Sons & Daughters will bring the music and message of LIVE to audiences across North America in cities like Atlanta, GA; San Francisco, CA; Phoenix, AZ; Toronto, Canada; St. Louis, MO; Rochester, NY; and numerous others. Additional tour dates will be announced soon as the duo readies its first headline tour this fall. For the latest tour detail, go to http://allsonsanddaughters.com/dates/.

    The story of All Sons & Daughters begins in 2010 with artist David Leonard (Jackson Waters, NEEDTOBREATHE) wanting to spend less time traveling and more of it in real relationship with his local spiritual community at Journey Church. David connected with Leslie Jordan, part of the creative staff at the church, and the two began writing songs together, including the popular “All the Poor and Powerless.”

    Quickly realizing that they shared a similar style of leadership and desire to foster authentic connections in the church through a transparent form of worship, David and Leslie adopted the name All Sons & Daughters in reference to each other and the listeners who are vital to this active fellowship process. As worship leaders at Franklin’s The Journey Church, All Sons & Daughters see their music as an extension of their church. They are known for writing songs that focus squarely on Jesus while embracing the tension of the Christian walk.

    Drawing comparisons to The Civil Wars and The Swell Season for their harmonies and organic instrumentation, the duo has been named Worship Leader Magazine’s “most enchanting sound emerging in the worship genre.” They were also recently featured on tours with Chris Tomlin and Kari Jobe.

     


    This post was posted in Music and was tagged with Featured, Hillsong, Chris Tomlin, Brandon Heath, Kari Jobe, All Sons & Daughters, needtobreathe

  • Matt Maher. On Being Christian.

    Posted on April 1, 2013 by John van der Veen



    Matt Maher's newest album, All The People Said Amen," fuses the popularity of his vibrant live show with several new studio cuts, offering fans an assortment of writing and performance styles.

    “This project,” offers Maher, “is a real collage of who I am musically. You’ll hear intimate worship songs, anthemic praise tunes often sung and shouted aloud together in unison, and celebratory songs that inspire the whole church.”

    I chatted with Matt on cold winter day.  What follows is a conversation on who Matt is, what he hopes to accomplish and how he just wants to sing about Jesus.

    John: So, Matt … hey man, again, thank you for talking with me. I’m wondering if you could give me a little bit of background information on who you are. I know you spent some time in Arizona as a worship leader, but before that, where did you come from?

    Matt: I grew up in Newfoundland, Canada. I was involved in the Northeast, and I lived there for 20 years. I was born and raised there. I grew up in St. Johns, sort of a small harbor town with a population of about 250,000. I worked there when I was 19. My parent’s got separated and my mom’s American. So, she moved back to Arizona. Her father was a naval pilot and her parents retired in Arizona. I wasn’t going to church at the time. I was born and raised in the Northeast. Like a lot of people 20 years ago, you grew up definitely in one of the main lines of denominations: Catholic, Anglican, Episcopal or what have you. I grew up Catholic with Catholic schooling and all that, and had a lot of great experiences. From a very young age, my parents did a great job of instilling a general faith in God, in Jesus. Going to school, you hear the story of the incarnation and salvation, but I didn’t really get all the person of Jesus. I grew up like a lot of people, sort of educated somewhat in my faith but not really getting to have a moment where I made a decision to follow this person, Jesus, who did all of these amazing things for me. Not only gave the universe and gave me life but also died for all my sins and the sins of the whole world and guaranteed me a place in heaven.

    I think what happened was, I moved … I was 19, my parents were getting divorced, I was a Music major in college already, studying music. I wanted to do film restoring. That was my childhood dream! I figured, well I moved to Arizona and L.A. is an eight-hour drive. I could get a job working part-time. Then I thought about it and I was like, “You should really finish your degree.” Then I applied to Arizona State University and got accepted! I didn’t realize that it was two months after the admission deadline and somehow I still got accepted and met the people for the school of music and had to do an audition tape. They were like, it’s obvious you’re meant to be here but we don’t have any scholarship money available. You are an American citizen, so why don’t you come here and live here for a year and then we can get in the tuition and we can figure out what we can do for you then. So I did!

    I took one credit hour. That’s all I could afford! I worked at a coffee shop down the road, but more importantly, I had a cousin there who was my age. I had been in Arizona for six weeks, and she was really involved with a youth movement called “Life Team” which is kind of like “Young Life” in the Catholic Church. It started at a church in Arizona and now it’s in more than 1,600 churches in the U.S. and all over the world.

    Basically, what they were doing is they were taking sort of the historical traditions and the doctoral teachings of Catholicism and presenting them in a format that helps kids understand that the foundation of it all is having a relationship with Jesus. So, I started hanging out with her because I didn’t know anybody else my age. All her friends were helping out with the youth group. I had met them a couple of years ago because when I was in high school, like I said I went to Arizona and I went on a couple of the youth trips and it seemed kind of cool.

    So, I’m 19 years old, my parents are divorced and I realized that I had a lot of questions about life and about who I am. I wondered about my real purpose and the meaning behind all of it and that kind of stuff. I was in that time frame when people are asking those major questions, and what I realized is that I was going to everywhere but God for answers. I think that by being in a community of not just people my age, but in one where young people, older people, families and everybody was sort of living out their faith, it gave me permission to do the same thing. So in a very short period of time, I started going to church again every week. That summer I was prayed with to receive Jesus, and I started participating in my Catholic faith again, but this time in kind of in a more personal sense. I had never experienced anything like that before growing up.

    I started helping out with the youth group and started playing piano at our masses and services. All of this amazing stuff happened. I found … like I said, I found a job and my mom got an apartment a mile away from ASU and a mile away from the church, and it just became very apparent to me that God had a plan all along. I helped out at this church for a year and then I actually ended up at another church. I got my job there because of Rich Mullins.

    John: Really?

    Matt: Yes. Back to the story … Like I said, I had been in Arizona for about a year and a half and I got a phone call from this guy named Tom Boos who was sort of a contemporary Catholic music guy, worship leader, more liturgical of sorts.

    He was the music guy for “Life Team” and basically Tom started mentoring me. He was casting a musical that Rich had written, called “Canticle of the Plains.”

    John: Oh sure!

    Matt: The church that he worked at—St. Timothy’s, which is in Mesa—did a performance of it. He asked if I would play a character. He goes, “I’m doing a musical that Rich Mullins wrote and I think you’d be perfect for it. He was actually thinking … I was praying and I felt like Jesus told me that I was supposed to cast you.

    It was like the worst … well, not the worst, that’s probably a bad word, but it was the most amazing type of typecasting. I played a character who was best friends with Frank, who’s modeled after St. Francis and his name was Ivory, we’ll just nickname him or Ira was his name. He played piano in a saloon. What was crazy was I paid my way through the first three years of college in Canada by playing piano in a hotel bar.

    John: Wow!

    Matt: I spent about a month, on and off every other week, a couple of days with this guy Rich Mullins and the only song I knew that he wrote was “Awesome God” which I didn’t particularly like the verses. I thought it was so strange, but to hear this amazing chorus ...

    I got to know Rich, and during that time a job opening came at St. Tim’s and so I took it. Rich would periodically come down. He developed a really good friendship with Tom who was my mentor. Tom actually co-wrote the song, “Nothing is Beyond Jesus” with Rich and Mitch McVicker. I kind of ended up joining this other church then for 13 years and during that time I graduated from college and discovered modern worship music. I discovered that there were a bunch of guys my age doing what I was doing, but in the denominational or the Baptist world. I was led to Christ by sort-of charismatic Catholics, so I was much cooler with that bit of musical expression anyways. For me, hearing music such as the Delirious and Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman, all of a sudden I was like, oh, this is what I’m supposed to be doing. There was this period where I was meandering and I was trying to figure out what am I supposed to be doing? I was just writing music primarily for my church for the youth group I was part of. We started doing a weekly worship night, kind of like a Wednesday night. It was primarily geared towards kids in the Catholic Church and I think what changed was in … are we good so far? Do you need me to stop?

    John: I’m really enjoying this Matt. I have hours and hours and days and days. You can talk as long as you want!

    Matt: Oh, good. In 2002, no 2003, I wrote your “Grace is Enough” and I remember when I wrote it, I was going through a bit of a dry spell, spiritually, you know like most people that work at churches do. You know, you just get burned out. You give a lot of yourself, you know, and a friend of mine once said, “Look, if you allow her to, Church will suck the life out of you!” The harvest is plenty but the laborers are few!

    I wrote that song, and later that same year, I played it at a youth specialties convention. They came to my church and they were so flipped out that there was this Catholic Church in Arizona doing not only youth ministry but using contemporary music, like in a mass. They were like, “You need to come sing that song! That song’s amazing. I was kind of oblivious and I was like, “Okay, cool!” I knew who Chris (Tomlin) was and I was familiar enough with the Passion ministry. I used to go to a Family Christian store and buy CDs when I worked at the church.

    John: Woo Hoo!

    Matt: So, what happened was that Chris backed me up with that song; him and his band. He, I guess, I guess he really, really liked it and a couple of months later I ran in to him again and he said, “Hey, do you have a copy of that song? I’d really like to show it to somebody and I was like, sure!” Well, what I didn’t realize was that that somebody was Ed Cash, who was his producer.

    John: Oh yeah!

    Matt: The next day or that Saturday or Monday I got an email from him that said, “I’m going to record this song. Are you cool with me putting it on my next record?” He wanted to make a couple of arrangement changes and stuff, and so we talked on the phone and I was like, “Absolutely!”

    I remember when I read that email, where I was … I was in the house across the street from my church and that’s where all the worship staff worked and I remember reading it and I think I even screamed out loud! It wasn’t so much that Chris Tomlin was recording my song, as much as it was that I felt like I was staring at the screen through words on a screen, sort of looking into my future. And I felt like God was just saying, “I’m opening a door here and there’s a new sequence of life coming.” Chris recorded that song, obviously, and it was on “Arising,” and I think that started a relationship, which has really turned into a friendship. Chris, to me is just a great friend. He’s a wonderful man of God and I think that’s blossomed over the years; that sort of collaboration. In fact, kind of what happened after that was that he asked us to come to a Passion conference and lead in a small community group. We did and I was the token Catholic; that’s what people were talking about. I think all of us kind of looked at it like what is happening? Why do we all connect?

    During that time, I just kind of started to feel like the Holy Spirit was downloading into me a vision for ministry that was less focused on denominations and more about trying to bring the Church together. Not ignoring the disagreements that we have, but more so saying the things that we agree upon are just far greater, and that that’s something that the world desperately needs to see. It needs to see the Church standing together in solidarity.

    John: Matt, let’s talk a little bit about that. You’ve had a unique role in walking in to both Catholic as well as Protestant circles with that ideology behind you. What do you think... where others have attempted that before you but for some reason, there is something with your songs that are resonating very well. Not to say that they’re two camps but just to kind of break it down to some extent that there are two camps. What do you think that is? Why is it that God is using you in this particular moment in time to do such a thing as that?

    Matt: Well, I think and here’s what I’ve learned, that as a songwriter, you can write songs about your faith, you can write songs from your faith. I think a great example of that is just in the test of time in great songs of the Church that we all sing, because of our denominations. I think that when you look at those songs, those songs weren’t necessarily written about doctrines of faith as much as they were written from doctrines of faith; the difference of that being that I realize that early on in my writing I was writing songs about my Christian faith from a Catholic perspective. I think over time as my faith became more and more integrated just to know who I was, I realized that I didn’t need to do that. I just needed to write songs from my faith, and so I think when you do that, there’s a timeless element of core Christian truth that shines through regardless of disagreements. I think people just start to go … I mean, “Amazing Grace” … that song isn’t about justification. It isn’t about subsidiary atonement or sensationalism. It’s a song about grace! It’s a song that comes from a deep personal perspective, and in a way from the gospel. It’s not about the gospel.

    I think that’s the difference. I think writers more and more are realizing that. “10,000 Reasons”… some people could say it was a theological speculation about the multitude of reasons that a redeemed sinner would have to bless God, or you could just simply say that it’s an amazing prayer that comes from a heart of somebody who knows Jesus. Do you understand what I’m saying?

    John: Yes.

    Matt: I think part of it is the realization that I don’t major in the minors!

    John: That’s a good point!

    Matt: Like Matt Redman and I wrote a song about communion together. He comes from an Anglican or Evangelical background and I came from a Catholic background. We have completely different doctoral teachings about communion and about the Eucharist. Does that mean that we can’t write a song together about the importance of communion. Or that when Jesus says in the Bible, “Remember me … do this in remembrance of me… that we can’t. What we can say is let’s try to serve the Church with a song that somehow reflects truth and leaves a little bit of room for the mystery of faith. I think that’s what I’ve tried to do with my music. Particularly I think the corporate songs … the songs specifically for churches to sing on Sunday. I have definitely tried to do that in those songs.

    John: When you look at the catalog of songs that have come through Christian-dome in the years, down through the ages, what is a song or two that continues to move you and make you go, “That is a song that drives specifically to my heart and makes me fall at the feet of Jesus”?

    Matt: Hmmm.

    I think for me I definitely do … I liturgically sort of … coming from a liturgical mindset and as a believer … I’m a firm believer in seasons and so I would say it would depend on what season we’re in. I think “It Is Well” is just to me such an awe-encompassing, amazing hymn that I think the more you grow in your faith and in your life, you know, being single and following Jesus is one thing but being married and being a father and following Jesus it completely changes. Particularly as you get older in life, you just start noticing this thing where people around you, their bodies just start breaking down. It’s like I have had more family members or friends suffer with illness or disease or heart problems or diabetes or all of that. I think that combined with just the climate of everything going on in the world. Well, we don’t have a pope, we’re currently sequestered and the city of Detroit just filed for bankruptcy. If you don’t have anything to pray about, just go ahead and pick one of those!

    I think a hymn like that speaks volumes because it’s very real and it addresses a lot of the human experience. It’s like we have mountain top moments that are fleeting and small, and they inspire us to walk through the valleys, so that even in the valley’s we can continue to be a joy for people and say it as well.

    It’s so funny because when you immediately said it, I thought of “Oh Holy Night”. We sing that song once a year but for a lot of people, the lyrics just fly right by. Truly He taught us to love one another, His name is love and His gospel is peace, chains shall He break for the slave is our brother and in His name all oppressions shall cease … the problem is that we only sing that song once a year so it doesn’t get enough scrutiny.

    I think of a hymn like that and a song like that and how it defines a singular moment. I mean if you hear “Oh Holy Night” you knew everybody, even the un-churched can think of an experience of being in church and hearing that song, hopefully sung well. I think that is powerful. Those are two examples. I think it’s so funny … I just love the fact that a melody that was written hundreds and hundreds of years ago, we’ll still sing it and that’s just a really neat prospect.

    As a songwriter, to think that you might eventually stumble upon something that you’ll get to hand down to the church and the point isn’t that you wrote it, the point is that it gets to get handed down and to me, that’s exciting.

    John: I’m going to ask you a personal question and again, all of these are fair game. If you don’t want to answer any one, it would not offend me at all.

    Matt, how does somebody who is in your role, who’s known possibly all over the world for leading people to Jesus … how do you kind of step out of that and say, it’s not about Matt, it is about Jesus when you happen to be in front of a couple thousand people at that time?

    Matt: Well, I would say that wherever you are in your life, God has used the years prior to that to prepare you for that moment and that season. I look back on the 13+ years of doing ministry in the local church and not being known and kind of being taken for granted. I asked God for moments in my life where I could be part of relationships and communities where I am a little bit taken for granted; not in a negative way but in a positive way. To be seen as part of the body of Christ and not the head. There’s only one head. That experience of being active in the local church—not just leading worship on a platform, but being in community with people and having your relationships with young people, teenagers and playing at funerals and playing at baptisms and playing at weddings and participating in the life of the body of Christ—those things stay with you. I think that has definitely been part of it. I had very small beginnings; the first thing I ever really got to lead worship for was a Bible study … no that was actually on a good night … it was with about 15 teenagers. That’s where I started falling in love with leading worship. The biggest fear I had was playing for 65 kids one night and it might as well as been with 65,000 people. I just think for me, that’s where my heart was formed and God definitely poured a lot into me and spoken a lot of things in those years that have stayed with me. For example, I remember being in a conference and God saying, “All you’re doing is standing up and supporting what I’m doing. Don’t worry, you’re not doing anything!”

    Because you do … you get in there and you’re like, what if I make a mistake or what if I mess up or you know? You fall victim to your pride and think like … look at me, I’m so great and I just remember God saying I’m doing all the work and it kind of comes from second Chronicles when the Lord leads that small army … he said, “Go and stand up on this hill and I want you to watch, I’m basically going to kick it!” I remember reading that early on and then carrying that into worship one night and God saying, that’s all that you’re doing. You and your little band of people are going to go stand up on the mountain and watch and look down and watch me take care of everything! Being married helps a lot!

    John: Amen!

    Matt: You know, my wife isn’t impressed at all by musical ability. It’s not that it doesn’t matter anymore, it just doesn’t woo her anymore … that’s all!

    John: I may need to have a part II interview with her pretty soon!

    Matt: (laughs)!

    John: Let’s talk a little bit about your new record. You have a new record coming out next month. “All the People Said Amen” and in listening to it, it’s a little bit different than your previous records. Do you want to talk a little bit about what went in to the making of it?

    Matt: Sure. I was on tour with Third Day and talking about what’s next, and I started sharing that I wanted to double-down on the experience of being with people. I discussed how I pray a lot with the church and love writing songs, but that I love watching the church sing them even more. So, when you record songs live, there are a couple ways you can do it. You can record a specific night’s performance or you can take it on the road and just see what you get. I was formed so much by live worship albums like “Delirious” and some of that stuff that was really spontaneous, that I wanted to do more of that. So we were like, “Let’s get going and do that then! Let’s try to capture some live moments. And some of them were worth shipping, and some of them were a little more like a jam session, but I think that kind of reflects what happens out there on stage. We had one weekend where we realized we had a perfect representation of what my ministry looked like, which was we were playing in a non-denominational church at a sports bar at the University of Notre Dame campus, right on campus …we’re talking across the street from the football stadium! A Franklin Graham crusade and a Catholic church in Detroit. I thought, this is it! This is what I do! This is kind of where I go. I go wherever the Lord leads me.

    We tried to record everything that the Franklin Graham crusade, the weather was really bad that night and so that night kind of got messed up and we didn’t get anything from it. We had those three nights and it was great! The night at Notre Dame was so special. I mean 500 college students showed up and God’s been doing stuff on that campus. There are kids there who are hungry and are running after Jesus and are trying to lift him up in that place. It was just amazing to be able to go there and all of a sudden I’m singing “Your Grace is Enough” and I realize that everybody has their hands in their air! I’m like, they’re not just singing any more, they’re worshiping God!” It was really, really amazing. We recorded that weekend and then we worked it out where we could record our set every night when we were on tour with Brandon Heath and we said, “Let’s just try to capture ‘moments’!”

    I think the cover of the new album is indicative of the music and the ministry that I do and it’s just mismatched. It’s a collage of a bunch of different stuff that reflects a lot about who I am. I’m a worship leader, but then I’m a songwriter who studied jazz in college. There is a mismatched component to all of it and it was exciting. I got to use my studio… I got to use my band that I play with live. I was able to use them in the studio for the first time for actual studio tracks and that was significant for to me. You don’t always get that opportunity, to record music with those you actually play live! It was great fun to be able to do that.

    I think ultimately what I’m trying to do is just help the Church remember who she is! She’s a work of art. She’s the bride of Christ. She’s the body of Christ. We have all this art … you know we have all these photos of religious art and photos of churches and buildings on the cover—and my life’s in the middle of it from my perspective—but the church is a work of art. Ephesians 2:10 says we are God’s handiwork created for his good work which he has prepared for us in advance. That is the heart behind this project.

    Also helping people that maybe haven’t yet heard me sing live, but have heard songs on the radio. I wanted to create an experience that would make them say, “Man, I want to go see this guy live now.” Not just to see me, but more so that we could maybe have an encounter with Jesus together.

    John: Wow, that’s really awesome, Matt. So, now tell me. Who are you a fan of, Matt?

    Matt: I’m obviously a friend of all the guys from the Passion movement: Chris [Tomlin], David [Crowder], Matt Redman, Kristian Stanfill and everybody else. In fact, Louie came up to me and has mentored more worship leaders just through his sermons online and conferences than anybody else. I call them friends now but God used them early on. I feel a certain level of gratefulness. I was a huge fan of “Delirious” when they were around.

    Honestly, musically, growing up, I was huge a fan of the Beatles. A huge fan of Billy Joel, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Foo Fighters, Nirvana. I kind of grew up listening to everything. My dad listened to Frank Sinatra and Willie Nelson when he would cook dinner. My mom listened to instrumental music. I played in youth orchestra and concert bands and jazz bands. I kind of grew up literally listening to every style of music.

    I would say right now that the newest album I’ve been listening to … I’m trying to think … it’s so funny, when you become a parent things change. I listen to the Backyardigans channel on the Pandora station… that’s what I listen to when I’m home with my son. Ha!

    John: Funny. But of course. How old is he?

    Matt: My son is 18 months.

    John: Eighteen months!

    Matt: Yes. I just started listening to Bach in B-minor again to kind of get reacquainted with it. I had to listen to it in college because I was getting graded on it and I kind of got out of classical and plugged into listening to whatever was current, and then I was writing a lot of music.

    I mean going back and listening to Bach... or classical music in general… Bach and more on a contemporary level, Erin Copeland, who’s an American composer, it’s pretty fantastic.

    And of course, there are certain popular bands that everyone’s listening to right now. With the advent of shared music services. This is funny… I used to go to record stores to find new music. I would go to a Family Christian store and go to the listening station and spend 45 minutes to an hour. I discovered Audio Adrenaline and Underdog that way. It’s weird. It’s changed now.

    John: Do you think that you’ll ever do a film score?

    Matt: It’s kind of one of those things that’s in the back of my head, that I say to God, “Well, whenever you want to get around to that, just let me know.” And if it’s meant to be, just give me enough time in advance so that I can maybe take a couple of theory classes again to get myself ready.

    John: Or you could do like Smitty did. He didn’t call them film scores but basically that’s what they are… when he did his two pieces.

    Matt: Yes, the inspirational… I think I would probably do most of it. If I was to do a film score now, I would lean toward the sound from the Social Network movie, which was a weird combination of instrumental, electronic and acoustic music. I think that’s what I would probably go for, mostly because of budget. Recording with a huge orchestra cost a lot of money! Anything’s possible though, especially if God desires it to happen. If He wants me to do a film score with a symphony orchestra, who am I to turn that down!?

    John: Is your wife rolling her eyes right now?

    Matt: No, no. She’s upstairs playing cards with our son, but if she was downstairs she probably would be rolling her eyes!

    John: I’m sorry… I shouldn’t have said that!

    Matt: That’s alright. You’re obviously tuned in. That’s good!

    John: Matt, I’m assuming because you used to work at a coffee shop, you are a coffee-snob?

    Matt: I’ve gone through phases. My wife and I have been married for almost three years, and I remember for the first Valentine’s day, she brought me a hand-grinder. I embrace the whole thing; I was hand-grinding beans and using beans from a certain mountaintop in Ecuador or El Salvador, but you know, when you have a baby, all bets are off! Whatever’s in the cupboard that doesn’t have mold on it, just pour hot water over it and put a paper towel underneath it.

    At this point … black with one Sweet’N-Low or Stevia and I’m good to go!

    John: I love a good cup of coffee!

    Matt: I still do too.

    Matt: Yes!

    John: Hey, Matt, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me today and I’m excited. I’ve listened to the new record, and I love it. I think it’s fantastic. I have your other records.

    Matt: Thanks! It’s been a pleasure!

     

     

     

    MATT MAHER INTERVIEW Edited by JLF

    John: So, Matt … hey man, again, thank you for talking with me. I’m wondering if you could give me a little bit of background information on who Matt is. I know you spent some time in Arizona as a worship leader, but before that, where did you come from?

    Matt: I grew up in Newfoundland, Canada. I was involved in the Northeast, and I lived there for 20 years. I was born and raised there. I grew up in St. Johns, sort of a small harbor town with a population of about 250,000. I worked there when I was 19. My parent’s got separated and my mom’s American. So, she moved back to Arizona. Her father was a naval pilot and her parents retired in Arizona. I wasn’t going to church at the time. I was born and raised in the Northeast. Like a lot of people 20 years ago, you grew up definitely in one of the main lines of denominations: Catholic, Anglican, Episcopal or what have you. I grew up Catholic with Catholic schooling and all that, and had a lot of great experiences. From a very young age, my parents did a great job of instilling a general faith in God, in Jesus. Going to school, you hear the story of the incarnation and salvation, but I didn’t really get all the person of Jesus. I grew up like a lot of people, sort of educated somewhat in my faith but not really getting to have a moment where I made a decision to follow this person, Jesus, who did all of these amazing things for me. Not only gave the universe and gave me life but also died for all my sins and the sins of the whole world and guaranteed me a place in heaven.

    I think what happened was, I moved … I was 19, my parents were getting divorced, I was a Music major in college already, studying music. I wanted to do film restoring. That was my childhood dream! I figured, well I moved to Arizona and L.A. is an eight-hour drive. I could get a job working part-time. Then I thought about it and I was like, “You should really finish your degree.” Then I applied to Arizona State University and got accepted! I didn’t realize that it was two months after the admission deadline and somehow I still got accepted and met the people for the school of music and had to do an audition tape. They were like, it’s obvious you’re meant to be here but we don’t have any scholarship money available. You are an American citizen, so why don’t you come here and live here for a year and then we can get in the tuition and we can figure out what we can do for you then. So I did!

    I took one credit hour. That’s all I could afford! I worked at a coffee shop down the road, but more importantly, I had a cousin there who was my age. I had been in Arizona for six weeks, and she was really involved with a youth movement called “Life Team” which is kind of like “Young Life” in the Catholic Church. It started at a church in Arizona and now it’s in more than 1,600 churches in the U.S. and all over the world.

    Matt: Basically, what they were doing is they were taking sort of the historical traditions and the doctoral teachings of Catholicism and presenting them in a format that helps kids understand that the foundation of it all is having a relationship with Jesus. So, I started hanging out with her because I didn’t know anybody else my age. All her friends were helping out with the youth group. I had met them a couple of years ago because when I was in high school, like I said I went to Arizona and I went on a couple of the youth trips and it seemed kind of cool.

    So, I’m 19 years old, my parents are divorced and I realized that I had a lot of questions about life and about who I am. I wondered about my real purpose and the meaning behind all of it and that kind of stuff. I was in that timeframe when people are asking those major questions, and what I realized is that I was going to everywhere but God for answers. I think that by being in a community of not just people my age, but in one where young people, older people, families and everybody was sort of living out their faith, it gave me permission to do the same thing. So in a very short period of time, I started going to church again every week. That summer I was prayed with to receive Jesus, and I started participating in my Catholic faith again, but this time in kind of in a more personal sense. I had never experienced anything like that before growing up.

    I started helping out with the youth group and started playing piano at our masses and services. All of this amazing stuff happened. I found … like I said, I found a job and my mom got an apartment a mile away from ASU and a mile away from the church, and it just became very apparent to me that God had a plan all along. I helped out at this church for a year and then I actually ended up at another church. I got my job there because of Rich Mullins.

    John: Really?

    Matt: Yes. Back to the story … Like I said, I had been in Arizona for about a year and a half and I got a phone call from this guy named Tom Boos who was sort of a contemporary Catholic music guy, worship leader, more liturgical of sorts.

    John: What was his name?

    Matt: His name was Tom Boos. He was the music guy for “Life Team” and basically Tom started mentoring me. He was casting a musical that Rich had written, called “Canticle of the Plains.”

    John: Oh sure!

    Matt: The church that he worked at—St. Timothy’s, which is in Mesa—did a performance of it. He asked if I would play a character. He goes, “I’m doing a musical that Rich Mullins wrote and I think you’d be perfect for it. He was actually thinking … I was praying and I felt like Jesus told me that I was supposed to cast you.

    It was like the worst … well, not the worst, that’s probably a bad word, but it was the most amazing type of typecasting. I played a character who was best friends with Frank, who’s modeled after St. Francis and his name was Ivory, we’ll just nickname him or Ira was his name. He played piano in a saloon. What was crazy was I paid my way through the first three years of college in Canada by playing piano in a hotel bar.

    John: Wow!

    Matt: I spent about a month, on and off every other week, a couple of days with this guy Rich Mullins and the only song I knew that he wrote was “Awesome God” which I didn’t particularly like the verses. I thought it was so strange, but to hear this amazing chorus ...

    I got to know Rich, and during that time a job opening came at St. Tim’s and so I took it. Rich would periodically come down. He developed a really good friendship with Tom who was my mentor. Tom actually co-wrote the song, “Nothing is Beyond Jesus” with Rich and Mitch McVicker. I kind of ended up joining this other church then for 13 years and during that time I graduated from college and discovered modern worship music. I discovered that there were a bunch of guys my age doing what I was doing, but in the denominational or the Baptist world. I was led to Christ by sort-of charismatic Catholics, so I was much cooler with that bit of musical expression anyways. For me, hearing music such as the delirious and Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman, all of a sudden I was like, oh, this is what I’m supposed to be doing. There was this period where I was meandering and I was trying to figure out what am I supposed to be doing? I was just writing music primarily for my church for the youth group I was part of. We started doing a weekly worship night, kind of like a Wednesday night. It was primarily geared towards kids in the Catholic Church and I think what changed was in … are we good so far? Do you need me to stop?

    John: I’m really enjoying this Matt. I have hours and hours and days and days. You can talk as long as you want!

    Matt: Oh, good. In 2002, no 2003, I wrote your “Grace is Enough” and I remember when I wrote it, I was going through a bit of a dry spell, spiritually, you know like most people that work at churches do. You know, you just get burned out. You give a lot of yourself, you know, and a friend of mine once said, “Look, if you allow her to, Church will suck the life out of you!” The harvest is plenty but the laborers are few!

    I wrote that song, and later that same year, I played it at a youth specialties convention. They came to my church and they were so flipped out that there was this Catholic Church in Arizona doing not only youth ministry but using contemporary music, like in a mass. They were like, “You need to come sing that song! That song’s amazing. I was kind of oblivious and I was like, “Okay, cool!” I knew who Chris (Tomlin) was and I was familiar enough with the Passion ministry. I used to go to a Family Christian store and buy CDs when I worked at the church.

    John: Woo Hoo!

    Matt: So, what happened was that Chris backed me up with that song; him and his band. He, I guess, I guess he really, really liked it and a couple of months later I ran in to him again and he said, “Hey, do you have a copy of that song? I’d really like to show it to somebody and I was like, sure!” Well, what I didn’t realize was that that somebody was Ed Cash, who was his producer.

    John: Oh yeah!

    Matt: The next day or that Saturday or Monday I got an email from him that said, “I’m going to record this song. Are you cool with me putting it on my next record?” He wanted to make a couple of arrangement changes and stuff, and so we talked on the phone and I was like, “Absolutely!”

    I remember when I read that email, where I was … I was in the house across the street from my church and that’s where all the worship staff worked and I remember reading it and I think I even screamed out loud! It wasn’t so much that Chris Tomlin was recording my song, as much as it was that I felt like I was staring at the screen through words on a screen, sort of looking into my future. And I felt like God was just saying, “I’m opening a door here and there’s a new sequence of life coming.” Chris recorded that song, obviously, and it was on “Arising,” and I think that started a relationship, which has really turned into a friendship. Chris, to me is just a great friend. He’s a wonderful man of God and I think that’s blossomed over the years; that sort of collaboration. In fact, kind of what happened after that was that he asked us to come to a Passion conference and lead in a small community group. We did and I was the token Catholic; that’s what people were talking about. I think all of us kind of looked at it like what is happening? Why do we all connect?

    During that time, I just kind of started to feel like the Holy Spirit was downloading into me a vision for ministry that was less focused on denominations and more about trying to bring the Church together. Not ignoring the disagreements that we have, but more so saying the things that we agree upon are just far greater, and that that’s something that the world desperately needs to see. It needs to see the Church standing together in solidarity.

    John: Matt, let’s talk a little bit about that. You’ve had a unique role in walking in to both Catholic as well as Protestant circles with that ideology behind you. What do you think... where others have attempted that before you but for some reason, there is something with your songs that are resonating very well. Not to say that they’re two camps but just to kind of break it down to some extent that there are two camps. What do you think that is? Why is it that God is using you in this particular moment in time to do such a thing as that?

    Matt: Well, I think and here’s what I’ve learned, that as a songwriter, you can write songs about your faith, you can write songs from your faith. I think a great example of that is just in the test of time in great songs of the Church that we all sing, because of our denominations. I think that when you look at those songs, those songs weren’t necessarily written about doctrines of faith as much as they were written from doctrines of faith; the difference of that being that I realize that early on in my writing I was writing songs about my Christian faith from a Catholic perspective. I think over time as my faith became more and more integrated just to know who I was, I realized that I didn’t need to do that. I just needed to write songs from my faith, and so I think when you do that, there’s a timeless element of core Christian truth that shines through regardless of disagreements. I think people just start to go … I mean, “Amazing Grace” … that song isn’t about justification. It isn’t about subsidiary atonement or sensationalism. It’s a song about grace! It’s a song that comes from a deep personal perspective, and in a way from the gospel. It’s not about the gospel.

    I think that’s the difference. I think writers more and more are realizing that. “10,000 Reasons”… some people could say it was a theological speculation about the multitude of reasons that a redeemed sinner would have to bless God, or you could just simply say that it’s an amazing prayer that comes from a heart of somebody who knows Jesus. Do you understand what I’m saying?

    John: Yes.

    Matt: I think part of it is the realization that I don’t major in the minors!

    John: That’s a good point!

    Matt: Like Matt Redman and I wrote a song about communion together. He comes from an Anglican or Evangelical background and I came from a Catholic background. We have completely different doctoral teachings about communion and about the Eucharist. Does that mean that we can’t write a song together about the importance of communion. Or that when Jesus says in the Bible, “Remember me … do this in remembrance of me… that we can’t. What we can say is let’s try to serve the Church with a song that somehow reflects truth and leaves a little bit of room for the mystery of faith. I think that’s what I’ve tried to do with my music. Particularly I think the corporate songs … the songs specifically for churches to sing on Sunday. I have definitely tried to do that in those songs.

    John: When you look at the catalog of songs that have come through Christian-dome in the years, down through the ages, what is a song or two that continues to move you and make you go, “That is a song that drives specifically to my heart and makes me fall at the feet of Jesus”?

    Matt: Hmmm.

    John: If I put you on the spot there, I apologize.

    Matt: I think for me I definitely do … I liturgically sort of … coming from a liturgical mindset and as a believer … I’m a firm believer in seasons and so I would say it would depend on what season we’re in. I think “It Is Well” is just to me such an awe-encompassing, amazing hymn that I think the more you grow in your faith and in your life, you know, being single and following Jesus is one thing but being married and being a father and following Jesus it completely changes. Particularly as you get older in life, you just start noticing this thing where people around you, their bodies just start breaking down. It’s like I have had more family members or friends suffer with illness or disease or heart problems or diabetes or all of that. I think that combined with just the climate of everything going on in the world. Well, we don’t have a pope, we’re currently sequestered and the city of Detroit just filed for bankruptcy. If you don’t have anything to pray about, just go ahead and pick one of those!

    I think a hymn like that speaks volumes because it’s very real and it addresses a lot of the human experience. It’s like we have mountain top moments that are fleeting and small, and they inspire us to walk through the valleys, so that even in the valley’s we can continue to be a joy for people and say it as well.

    It’s so funny because when you immediately said it, I thought of “Oh Holy Night”. We sing that song once a year but for a lot of people, the lyrics just fly right by. Truly He taught us to love one another, His name is love and His gospel is peace, chains shall He break for the slave is our brother and in His name all oppressions shall cease … the problem is that we only sing that song once a year so it doesn’t get enough scrutiny.

    I think of a hymn like that and a song like that and how it defines a singular moment. I mean if you hear “Oh Holy Night” you knew everybody, even the un-churched can think of an experience of being in church and hearing that song, hopefully sung well. I think that is powerful. Those are two examples. I think it’s so funny … I just love the fact that a melody that was written hundreds and hundreds of years ago, we’ll still sing it and that’s just a really neat prospect.

    As a songwriter, to think that you might eventually stumble upon something that you’ll get to hand down to the church and the point isn’t that you wrote it, the point is that it gets to get handed down and to me, that’s exciting.

    John: I’m going to ask you a personal question and again, all of these are fair game. If you don’t want to answer any one, it would not offend me at all.

    Matt, how does somebody who is in your role, who’s known possibly all over the world for leading people to Jesus … how do you kind of step out of that and say, it’s not about Matt, it is about Jesus when you happen to be in front of a couple thousand people at that time?

    Matt: Well, I would say that wherever you are in your life, God has used the years prior to that to prepare you for that moment and that season. I look back on the 13+ years of doing ministry in the local church and not being known and kind of being taken for granted. I asked God for moments in my life where I could be part of relationships and communities where I am a little bit taken for granted; not in a negative way but in a positive way. To be seen as part of the body of Christ and not the head. There’s only one head. That experience of being active in the local church—not just leading worship on a platform, but being in community with people and having your relationships with young people, teenagers and playing at funerals and playing at baptisms and playing at weddings and participating in the life of the body of Christ—those things stay with you. I think that has definitely been part of it. I had very small beginnings; the first thing I ever really got to lead worship for was a Bible study … no that was actually on a good night … it was with about 15 teenagers. That’s where I started falling in love with leading worship. The biggest fear I had was playing for 65 kids one night and it might as well as been with 65,000 people. I just think for me, that’s where my heart was formed and God definitely poured a lot into me and spoken a lot of things in those years that have stayed with me. For example, I remember being in a conference and God saying, “All you’re doing is standing up and supporting what I’m doing. Don’t worry, you’re not doing anything!”

    Because you do … you get in there and you’re like, what if I make a mistake or what if I mess up or you know? You fall victim to your pride and think like … look at me, I’m so great and I just remember God saying I’m doing all the work and it kind of comes from second Chronicles when the Lord leads that small army … he said, “Go and stand up on this hill and I want you to watch, I’m basically going to kick it!” I remember reading that early on and then carrying that into worship one night and God saying, that’s all that you’re doing. You and your little band of people are going to go stand up on the mountain and watch and look down and watch me take care of everything! Being married helps a lot!

    John: Amen!

    Matt: You know, my wife isn’t impressed at all by musical ability. It’s not that it doesn’t matter anymore, it just doesn’t woo her anymore … that’s all!

    John: I may need to have a part II interview with her pretty soon!

    Matt: (laughs)!

    John: Let’s talk a little bit about your new record. You have a new record coming out next month. “All the People Said Amen” and in listening to it, it’s a little bit different than your previous records. Do you want to talk a little bit about what went in to the making of it?

    Matt: Sure. I was on tour with Third Day and talking about what’s next, and I started sharing that I wanted to double-down on the experience of being with people. I discussed how I pray a lot with the church and love writing songs, but that I love watching the church sing them even more. So, when you record songs live, there are a couple ways you can do it. You can record a specific night’s performance or you can take it on the road and just see what you get. I was formed so much by live worship albums like “Delirious” and some of that stuff that was really spontaneous, that I wanted to do more of that. So we were like, “Let’s get going and do that then! Let’s try to capture some live moments. And some of them were worth shipping, and some of them were a little more like a jam session, but I think that kind of reflects what happens out there on stage. We had one weekend where we realized we had a perfect representation of what my ministry looked like, which was we were playing in a non-denominational church at a sports bar at the University of Notre Dame campus, right on campus …we’re talking across the street from the football stadium! A Franklin-Graham crusade and a Catholic church in Detroit. I thought, this is it! This is what I do! This is kind of where I go. I go wherever the Lord leads me.

    We tried to record everything that the Franklin-Graham crusade, the weather was really bad that night and so that night kind of got messed up and we didn’t get anything from it. We had those three nights and it was great! The night at Notre Dame was so special. I mean 500 college students showed up and God’s been doing stuff on that campus. There are kids there who are hungry and are running after Jesus and are trying to lift him up in that place. It was just amazing to be able to go there and all of a sudden I’m singing “Your Grace is Enough” and I realize that everybody has their hands in their air! I’m like, they’re not just singing any more, they’re worshiping God!” It was really, really amazing. We recorded that weekend and then we worked it out where we could record our set every night when we were on tour with Brandon Heath and we said, “Let’s just try to capture ‘moments’!”

    I think the cover of the new album is indicative of the music and the ministry that I do and it’s just mismatched. It’s a collage of a bunch of different stuff that reflects a lot about who I am. I’m a worship leader, but then I’m a songwriter who studied jazz in college. There is a mismatched component to all of it and it was exciting. I got to use my studio… I got to use my band that I play with live. I was able to use them in the studio for the first time for actual studio tracks and that was significant for to me. You don’t always get that opportunity, to record music with those you actually play live! It was great fun to be able to do that.

    I think ultimately what I’m trying to do is just help the Church remember who she is! She’s a work of art. She’s the bride of Christ. She’s the body of Christ. We have all this art … you know we have all these photos of religious art and photos of churches and buildings on the cover—and my life’s in the middle of it from my perspective—but the church is a work of art. Ephesians 2:10 says we are God’s handiwork created for his good work which he has prepared for us in advance. That is the heart behind this project.

    Also helping people that maybe haven’t yet heard me sing live, but have heard songs on the radio. I wanted to create an experience that would make them say, “Man, I want to go see this guy live now.” Not just to see me, but more so that we could maybe have an encounter with Jesus together.

    John: Wow, that’s really awesome, Matt. So, now tell me. Who are you a fan of, Matt?

    Matt: I’m obviously a friend of all the guys from the Passion movement: Chris [Tomlin], David [Crowder], Matt Redman, Kristian Stanfill and everybody else. In fact, Louie came up to me and has mentored more worship leaders just through his sermons online and conferences than anybody else. I call them friends now but God used them early on. I feel a certain level of gratefulness. I was a huge fan of “Delirious” when they were around.

    Honestly, musically, growing up, I was huge a fan of the Beatles. A huge fan of Billy Joel, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Foo Fighters, Nirvana. I kind of grew up listening to everything. My dad listened to Frank Sinatra and Willie Nelson when he would cook dinner. My mom listened to instrumental music. I played in youth orchestra and concert bands and jazz bands. I kind of grew up literally listening to every style of music.

    I would say right now that the newest album I’ve been listening to … I’m trying to think … it’s so funny, when you become a parent things change. I listen to the Backyardigans channel on the Pandora station… that’s what I listen to when I’m home with my son. Ha!

    John: Funny. But of course. How old is he?

    Matt: My son is 18 months.

    John: Eighteen months!

    Matt: Yes. I just started listening to Bach in B-minor again to kind of get reacquainted with it. I had to listen to it in college because I was getting graded on it and I kind of got out of classical and plugged into listening to whatever was current, and then I was writing a lot of music.

    I mean going back and listening to Bach... or classical music in general… Bach and more on a contemporary level, Erin Copeland, who’s an American composer, it’s pretty fantastic.

    And of course, there are certain popular bands that everyone’s listening to right now. With the advent of shared music services like Spotify; this is funny… I used to go to record stores to find new music. I would go to a Family Christian store and go to the listening station and spend 45 minutes to an hour. I discovered Audio Adrenaline and Underdog that way. It’s weird. It’s changed now. You know? Now you go to sites like Noise Train, and find that a lot of independent artists are giving away their music.

    John: Do you think that you’ll ever do a film score?

    Matt: It’s kind of one of those things that’s in the back of my head, that I say to God, “Well, whenever you want to get around to that, just let me know.” And if it’s meant to be, just give me enough time in advance so that I can maybe take a couple of theory classes again to get myself ready.

    John: Or you could do like Smitty did. He didn’t call them film scores but basically that’s what they are… when he did his two pieces.

    Matt: Yes, the inspirational… I think I would probably do most of it. If I was to do a film score now, I would lean toward the sound from the Social Network movie, which was a weird combination of instrumental, electronic and acoustic music. I think that’s what I would probably go for, mostly because of budget. Recording with a huge orchestra cost a lot of money! Anything’s possible though, especially if God desires it to happen. If He wants me to do a film score with a symphony orchestra, who am I to turn that down!?

    John: Is your wife rolling her eyes right now?

    Matt: No, no. She’s upstairs playing cards with our son, but if she was downstairs she probably would be rolling her eyes!

    John: I’m sorry… I shouldn’t have said that!

    Matt: That’s alright. You’re obviously tuned in. That’s good!

    John: Matt, I’m assuming because you used to work at a coffee shop, you are a coffee-snob?

    Matt: I’ve gone through phases. My wife and I have been married for almost three years, and I remember for the first Valentine’s day, she brought me a hand-grinder. I embrace the whole thing; I was hand-grinding beans and using beans from a certain mountaintop in Ecuador or El Salvador, but you know, when you have a baby, all bets are off! Whatever’s in the cupboard that doesn’t have mold on it, just pour hot water over it and put a paper towel underneath it.

    At this point … black with one Sweet’N-Low or Stevia and I’m good to go!

    John: I love a good cup of coffee!

    Matt: I still do too. If you ever come to East Nashville, there’s a great coffee shop right around the corner from my house, and I will gladly take you there. It’s a really fantastic cup of coffee.

    John: I may have to take you up on that. I used to live down in Springhill.

    Matt: Oh really?

    John: Yes. I was there for six years but now I’m back up here in Grand Rapids.

    Matt: That’s funny. I was in Michigan last weekend!

    John: You were?

    Matt: Yes. I played … where was it Friday night? Flint, and then Saturday in Holland.

    John: You were that close man!

    Matt: I know! I actually flew out of Grand Rapids airport Sunday morning!

    John: We could have chatted face-to-face!

    Matt: It would’ve been great!

    John: Oh, well. Next time!

    Matt: I’m going to be back. I know I’m going to be back in April with Chris August and Bella Reid.

    John: Oh. Well, that’s cool.

    Matt: Yes!

    John: Hey, Matt, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me today and I’m excited. I’ve listened to the new record, and I love it. I think it’s fantastic. I have your other records. I don’t have your Indie records so maybe one day I’ll try to find those somewhere!

    Matt: (laughs).

    John: The records that you have done, honestly man… terrific!

    Matt: Thanks! It’s been a pleasure!

    Burning In My Soul - Lyric Video


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews and was tagged with Featured, Chris Tomlin, David Crowder, Brandon Heath, Third Day, Rich Mullins, Michael W. Smith, Audio Adrenaline, Matt Redman, Divorce, Louie Giglio, Young Life, Ed Cash, Matt Maher, Catholic, Anglican, Episcopal, Mitch McVicker, Delirious, Franklin Graham, Kristian Stanfill, Bach

  • Childlike Faith & Saving Kids - An interview with Bob Goff

    Posted on November 26, 2012 by John van der Veen

    Bob Goff

    You’ve probably heard the phrase, “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.” Sure it sounds simple, but grabbing hold of that idea’s roots has revolutionized the way Bob Goff lives. He’s cracked a simple code for finding God’s direction for your life with his new book Love Does. How does God feel about (fill in the blank)? And what are you good at? Cool, now go.

    So what exactly does love do? We caught up recently with Bob to ask just that…

    Family Christian: Hey Bob, could you start by telling us a little about how you grew up?

    Bob Goff: I was raised in California. If you read the book you’ll know that I slanted all [of my answers to] aptitude tests to make it absolutely clear that I was supposed to be a forest ranger because I wanted to live in the Redwoods and hang out. Then I went to the Redwoods and I saw where forest rangers live on cots, the neon lights and all that and how they give people tickets for parking in the wrong places (laughs) and I said, I’m out. So I moved to southern California (totally disenchanted) to just surf and went to San Diego State and had a terrific time. And it was in that whole process that I bumped into this outfit called Young Life and they do just a terrific job with high school kids. At the time that I first got acquainted with them I was in high school and it made all the difference for me.

    FC: So how many redwood trees did you drive through?

    Bob: (laughs)

    FC: Ya know, because that’s a thing. Where you can veer off highway 101 and drive through a huge tree…? It’s like a side show or something…

    Bob: Right, with a big paper mache Paul Bunyan or something? (laughs) Yes! I went to school at Humboldt State because I was going to be a forest ranger and I used to drive by that place all the time. So for all those years I drove by, I never stopped until just a couple of years ago. My son and his friend and I started in Mexico and we bought some Harleys and said, we’re going to drive all the way up to this place we have in Canada. And when we got up to northern California we actually drove through that stupid tree. (laughs)

    FC: Good for you. I grew up in Oregon and actually had a similar experience. My dad decided to lasso all of us together, threw us in a van and we all drove down to Southern California to Disneyland.

    Bob: Oh! My favorite place in the whole world! How was your trip?

    FC: Oh, it was great – but it was many years ago…

    Bob: Isn’t it a great place? Actually a pastor from Uganda came a couple of days ago, and I think he was thinking we’d meet in a boardroom and wear suits and ties and everything. And I said, “do you want to go to my office?” And he said, “Yes.” So I put him in the car (laughs) and we drove to Disneyland because my office is on Tom Sawyer Island. It just is. I mean, Disneyland doesn’t think it’s mine, but I think it’s mine. So we met out there. It was terrific!

    FC: Bob, so tell us about your transition from Young Life to Restore International. When was it that you saw, perhaps, a greater need going on around you?

    Bob: I really kinda backed into it because every outfit that I wanted to work for, Young Life, World Vision, International Justice Mission, it seemed like everybody didn’t want me to work for them. (laughs) I got out of college, and I’d raised all my support so I asked Young Life if I could go on staff and they said no. And I thought “rats!” (laughs) I knew it wasn’t because they couldn’t afford me because it wasn’t going to cost them anything, and then I went to these other outfits – really doing terrific things all over the world, and because no one would have me I just felt like – I’m going to make a difference and I’m not going to be head-faked by all of these inexplicable no’s. I’m just going to pick something and do it. It’s like picking a fight. You don’t want to pick a fight with just the guy at the deli, [you want to] pick a fight somewhere in the world and just run towards it. Run because the fight is going to go on without you if you miss it. So that’s where Restore International was born. It was born out of a desire to make a difference. A lot of people see things like this as “open doors” or “closed doors” and I don’t really see Jesus that way. I see these doors [as situations where] you sometimes have to find another way in. So we started Restore International and started chasing bad guys in India using India’s laws to prosecute them and we ended up in Uganda shortly after that (probably ten years ago) and started making differences there.

    FC: I’m thinking about all of these organizations saying no to you. What would you say to a person who is in similar shoes? What does a person do when they’re in a world of no’s and they’re beating their head against the wall because they thought they were pursuing things they thought God was calling them to?

    Bob: I think that is such a common feeling – I’ve sure had that as well. But I just decided I’m done spending my life doing the things that I’m able to do. Because (like a lot of people) I’m able to do a whole bunch of things. And so [why not] try to tease out what it is I’m made to do? And then to do a bunch of that. So we go to organizations (and there’s nothing wrong with organizations, they’re terrific) but Jesus didn’t have one. He said, let’s just go do stuff. Love God. Love people. And do stuff. That’s my punch list everyday. (laughs) Ya know, somebody says, what’s on your to-do list? And I tell them the same thing, Love God. Love people. Do stuff.

    So when you identify with an organization and you want to do stuff [but] you get this inexplicable ‘no’ – a lot of people get off the end and think, Well, God must have said no to me. No! The organization just said no to you. Find what it is that you were made to do and get on it! Go do what you were made to do. So for me, I knew that justice was something that has always been a big part of my life. And I know that Jesus is nuts about kids. He doesn’t seem to think much of lawyers (laughs) which really lands close to home, but He’s nuts about kids and loves justice. So I said, why don’t we go do that? And do a lot of it? And if you get a no from somebody, don’t say, ‘I’m going to take this as some big cosmic signal.’ No, you just got a no, deal with it. Just go to the next step. I never know what all of the steps are but I do know the next step. So the next step for me was to engage a country (just pick one, there’s nothing mystical about it, just pick a fight), and then run towards it. What’s the next step? Buy a ticket to Uganda. What’s the next step? Find a judge. Where do you do that? The courthouse. Ya know, the next thing you know you’re sitting in the office of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. I know that’s nuts, but I think Jesus does that to blow our minds. He doesn’t want us to think that we’ve got all of these plans laid out. I love that Jeremiah passage [when God says] – the plans I’ve got are good. And I keep doing my plans. The problem with my plans is that all my plans work and I get these puny little returns that go with my plans, but when you do this cannonball – did you do a cannonball when you were a kid? Where you just grab your knees and jump in? I love that! So when I think of faith, I’m thinking of a cannonball. You pick a fight – wherever it is, in the Congo or down the street from you and you run toward that. I love that scripture in Joshua of him headed toward the fight and he meets this big angel with the sword drawn, and I think Joshua had some lawyer in him because he said, ‘whose side are you on?’ And the angel said ‘neither, take off your shoes.’ I love that! So like, instead of picking sides on this thing, keep picking Jesus and keep running toward the fight.

    So that’s a long way around the bush but I just decided I wasn’t going to get head-faked by an inexplicable no and I just did the next thing, which was doing justice things in Uganda. From there we ended up trying cases. I bought the entire Ugandan law library – both books. (laughs) And I just tried cases, and people were like – were you invited? And I said, ‘no, but as followers of Jesus we’re invited to everything!’ (laughs) It doesn’t seem polite but I’m telling you, you could show up at my house for dinner, man, you’re invited. And I think Jesus is saying that about all these fights out there – you’re invited. Bring your hook shot; bring what you’re good at. I’m good at law stuff, so bring that. So when we tried the first hundred cases of kids [who were] stuck in jails without a trial, we dropped off 98 at home, with all of the charges resolved. And I go, Man! I don’t need to have a memo from God on that. I know God loves them and justice, and then there’s this idea that you and I can be part of that…? Ya-hoo.

    FC: So whose responsibility is justice? Is it the state’s or the church’s?

    Bob: I’d say it’s all of the above. We each are stakeholders. It’s government and the various people in positions of power – they have a responsibility. But I think of the church as this bride of Christ, who is incredibly capable of doing amazing things. And so where we see injustice, we come, not with fists clenched but with palms up. And we say, what’s the next thing we can do? And the stuff we do is the stuff we were made to do. I know that sounds so circular, but for you, what you were made to do, is different than what I was made to do. But instead of spending all of our time having Bible studies about what we were made to do, go do stuff and you’ll figure out what you were made to do, because you’ll be great at some things and you’ll be terrible at others. And I say, do less of what you’re terrible at and more of what you’re good at. I don’t know if that sounds too simple, but it’s been working for me.

    FC: No, I don’t think that sounds simple at all. I think it actually sounds quite profound. It seems that sometimes we can over complicate our value system so much it almost prevents us from doing anything good.

    Bob: Yeah, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for getting together with men and women in small groups around Scripture and letting it just wash over us, but for me, I’ve been meeting with the same ten guys for like 15 years now, but we don’t have a Bible study every Friday, we have a Bible doing. We say, let’s not just agree with Jesus about this stuff, let’s do something – so what’s the next step? You know those [studies] where you’re reading about Lazarus and he’s raised from the dead and they say well, dead in Greek means this, and dead in Hebrew means this, and dead in Aramaic is…? And then the compelling question is “when was the last time you were dead?” (laughs) and I’m thinking like NOW. (laughs) And what I want to say is, let’s go do something! Let’s either head to the morgue or let’s pick the next thing to read that we’re actually going to do something with because Jesus never got all of the disciples together and said, guys I just want you to agree with Me. So I mean, I get it, Jesus won’t think we’re swell if we do a bunch of stuff, He already thinks we’re swell. He’s just nuts about us, our pictures are in His wallet. So now that we’re done with that can we just go do whatever the next thing is… So for some person, doing stuff with the court systems and justice, that would be a train wreck, it would be the worst thing they could ever do because it isn’t what they’re made to do. They’d be able to do it, but it wouldn’t be what they were made to do.

    [What if the] body of Christ said, “What are you good at?” And people responded, “Well, I’m good at this”, and we said, “Ok, are you doing a lot of that?” “Well not really,” so ok, “Why don’t you do some more?” It probably wouldn’t feel so complicated. And don’t ask guys like me, ask my wife “What is it that Bob’s good at? And what does he stink at?” And she’ll know. I would say to all men, listen to your brides! The stuff that they’re saying is really good. These are words of truth to you. Maria Goff and I have been married for 26 years, 1 month and 23 days, I kid you not, I’m counting. I spent so much time trying to get that girl to like me that I’m going to count every single day. (laughs) And you know what she’s been telling me the whole time? Bob, work the plan. She never tells me what the plan is, but I know what she means when she says that. It means like all this stuff that Scripture says you’re supposed to be about? Do that! Ya know that stuff you were made to do? Do that. And this stuff over here on the other side that you kinda stink at, or it kinda feeds your pride – not that. So it’s really been terrific. I’m so glad she got dropped into my life and tells me to ‘work the plan.’ I think that’s really a beautiful way of viewing the Christian faith. Jesus is saying work the plan. You want to know what the plan is? Read what I wrote about it and then go do it. Then overlay it with the stuff you’re good at and do less of what you stink at. And as to your pride and selfishness, try to arrest that. As to compassion, try to enhance it. And that, that’s the plan.

    FC: Before we talk about your new book Love Does, we’re curious what you think about the church here in the United States. Are we in a healthy state?

    Bob: Oh I’m nuts about the church. Have you ever gone to a wedding and brought a card with you that says “7.5” like the Olympics? (laughs) And as the bride passes by you say, Oh, I’ve seen better…? Not at all! We’re the bride of Christ, and what makes the bride look so great, at least at the weddings I’ve gone to is, not only is she dressed up nice, but the groom – you just sense his anticipation. He knows everything about her and he picked her and he said, I’m in. So when I think about the church, I’m just nuts about her. She’s looking good, she’s got this Groom that’s just crazy about her. Does the church have all kinds of problems? You bet, because it’s made up of people like me, so I get that part too. But all I need to know about the church is that Jesus picked her. Wouldn’t that be lame if you were trying to talk me into what a swell gal your wife was? I mean, all the information I need to know is, you’re married. With that comes all the information I need – that she must have taken you by storm. You must have given up everything. I bet you would have given up food if she would have gone on a date with you. Like that kind of thing, that’s all the information I need to know about the church, Jesus picked it. And so instead of me telling the church how she would really look better if she had this in her hair, or that over there (and I’m not just being shallow here), I think I’m just respecting the Groom’s pick. The bride is going to do great things, and has the ability to. I think one of the times the bride looks great is if she is just trigger-locked on the groom. Wouldn’t it be weird if the bride was just looking to the right and the left the whole time she was just walking down the aisle? Distracted by this and that? What if a bride came down the aisle reading a list of all of her opinions? “This is my opinion about this…” wouldn’t that be a screwed up wedding? I mean, really?! (laughs)

    So one thing I do is (and I realize this might sound nuts), every month or so, I try to take like an Etch-a-sketch [so to speak], and I clear my faith. I go to zero, clear the deck. And I start adding things back to my faith, one at a time. What would be the first thing I’d add back? Jesus. It sounds a little bit like a Sunday school answer, but that’s what I do. Then what’s the next thing? And I’d say, well, loving people. And then the next… and what’s crazy about it, (just try it yourself) what would be like the seventh thing you’d add back to your faith? I bet you won’t get there. I think you’re really going to have a hard time even getting back to seven things. And we start sometimes talking about number 80! Like, this opinion about this, or that. If the bride is looking to other things, we’re [essentially] talking about number 80. I want to say, just as an illustration – what’s number 7? Because I think if I can get number 1 and number 2 right, and then number 3 and 4, those will instruct what my number 5 and 6 are – and I’ll probably never get to 80. But if I do, it will probably be so instructed by those other numbers that then it’s just trigger-locked on Jesus. Just eyes focused on Jesus.

    FC: Bob, what was your goal in releasing Love Does: discover a secretly incredible life in an ordinary world?

    Bob: Oh it’s a terrific caper. Thomas Nelson asked if I would write a book and I said, “Oh I don’t know, would you build a school?” (laughs) And they said, “How big’s the school?” and I said, “260 kids and 40 teachers in Gulu, Northern Uganda.” Many of these kids are child soldiers and they said “Wow, big school!” And I said, “I don’t know, big book!” And so we did it! It was everybody together, Donald Miller, Thomas Nelson, me and everybody just said, let’s go build this school, and it’s built! You can build a school out of a bunch of pages of paper. That’s amazing to me.

    FC: And is that what Restore Leadership Academy is?

    Bob: Yes! Isn’t that great?! And get this, they’re the number one school now in all of Northern Uganda. We’ve sold a couple more books than we thought and this thing hit the New York Times [bestseller’s list] a couple of times and we’ve got seven more buildings underway right now. We’ve got a library with 5,000 books in it, already. It’s the first one in Northern Uganda. It’s nuts! So, that’s what we set out to do. We said, what if there’s nothing on the other side of the equals signs? Just Jesus. We don’t even really tell anybody until the last page of the book, and then it’s hey, do you know what you guys did? All of the proceeds of this thing go to help these terrific kids.

    FC: We won’t tell anybody either… well, not until the end of this interview.

    Bob: (laughs) Ahhhh! Terrific!

    FC: Bob, at the end of your life, what do you want people to remember you for?

    Bob: (laughs) Well, we had all of these pets growing up – did you do this as a kid? Ya know, the rabbit would die or a squirrel or a canary. Well, I never wanted to tell the kids that their pet died, so we’d always say, “it got away.” (laughs) Isn’t that crazy?! They’d say, well, dad, where’s the bunny? And I’d say, well, it got away.

    Actually one time I was too chicken to say it… We had this long-eared rabbit called Ben, so I found a replacement rabbit and I put it in the cage and everything because Ben “got away.” But it was a little bit bigger and the spots were in different places (laughs) and when they got home they said, “Where’s Ben?” And I said, “This is Ben” and they said, “Dad this is NOT Ben.” So we named him Bennigan. (laughs) So I’m flaking on your what’s-on-your-tombstone thing… I hope it just says “He got away.” (laughs) I know that’s what the kids will put. But I hope that I leave a legacy of capers and mischief and joy. And there’s a difference between a caper and a prank. A prank is like playing Ding-Dong-Ditch, you know, you ring the doorbell and then run and hide in the ditch. That’s a prank. It has no shelf life, like reassembling the principal’s car up on the roof of the gym. It’s cute and everything but there’s no shelf-life, and it can actually be kind of destructive. But a caper is different. It’s something where everybody has made it in. so I hope that I can leave a legacy of capers. We have a thing around the Goff house. The first one to make dad cry around Christmas, they’re the big winners. And all I want are photographs of the kids. And so anything flat… if the kids pick up something flat and start walking toward me – I just start crying because I know it’s going to be a picture of them. (laughs) It could be the Beatles White Album, but if I thought it was a picture of them, I’d start to cry. So the kids this past year put together a book of all the capers we’ve done in the last 15-20 years and there’s a lot. It was a pretty thick book, and so I’m just weeping, turning the pages from one caper to the next. And at the end of this book there was an envelope with three letters in it. They were letters that the kids had written to the children that they don’t have yet. They’re not even going out on dates yet (laughs) but they wrote their [future] kids. And so to read this letter from my son Adam to his kids talking about a life filled with whimsy, filled with joy, filled with adventure that he’s looking forward to, and then to see at the bottom of the letter signed, “your dad, Adam…” that just took me out. That’s what I want to leave behind. That kind of legacy where the kids are already plotting and planning for their kids, and I think that’s what the church did. They had all these hopes for us early on. They said this is who we could be. This is this big God that we follow. They were hoping, they were just rooting for us. That’s that ‘great cloud of witnesses.’ Rooting for us, hoping we’ll live into the people that God meant for us to be. The people that God made us to be. Not just [who we’re] able to be.

    FC: Are you a book reader?

    Bob: I am! I tell you, every time I read a book now though I think, here’s a guy or gal who did their job. (laughs) They finished the book! It took me so long to do it. Sometimes with reading it’s hard to make the time. I think Don Miller’s probably one of my favorite authors of all time because he just writes with his heart. He’s just a good guy. I’ve learned a lot about love and friendship from how he lives his life.

    FC: How about music?

    Bob: Oh, probably Brandon Heath is one of my closest friends and he’s releasing a single called, get this, “Love Does.” Isn’t that fun? He totally mugged me. Like he played the song for me, and I’m crying and he’s like “Bob I put this on the album, I hope you don’t mind.” And I’m like what? And he played the song and I’m like NO! (laughs)

    And to learn more about Bob’s ministry around the world – visit Restore International.

    Love Does


    This post was posted in Books, Interviews and was tagged with Featured, Brandon Heath, Bob Goff, Dennis Miller

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