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.
Tour Features Darlene Zschech, Israel Houghton With Special Guest BJ Putnam
World-renowned worship leader and best-selling author, Darlene Zschech, and five-time GRAMMY Award-winner, Israel Houghton, open their U.S. “Revealing Jesus Tour” in San Diego today (April 16) followed by events in Las Vegas (4/17), Phoenix (4/18), Irvine and Rancho Cucamonga, CA (4/19), Houston (4/20-21) and Dallas (4/21). In addition to new music from Zschech and Houghton, the events will feature special guest worship leader and songwriter BJ Putnam. For all the latest tour detail and ticket information, go to www.darlenezschech.com.
Christians across continents are joining in the call to worship presented through Zschech’s Revealing Jesus live CD/DVD and 365-day devotional hardcover gift book from RGM-NEW BREED Music / Integrity Music and Bethany House Publishers, respectively. Released March 19 amidst international acclaim, her long-awaited new recording was produced by Houghton and features special guest appearances and song co-writes with Michael W. Smith, Kari Jobe and Houghton. The first video from the Revealing Jesus DVD is “Victor's Crown.”
Dr. Chuck Fromm, founder and publisher of Worship Leader Magazine / Song Discovery says, “Among today’s hymnwriters and music creators, Darlene Zschech is a pioneer, mentor and vital contributor with worldwide impact.” Charisma Magazine says, “Zschech, with Houghton’s direction, has crafted one of the finest live worship projects in recent memory, which serves as a bridge for those raised on early Hillsong music who want to sing a new song.” CCM Magazine says, “In her classic fashion, worship leader Darlene Zschech brings her A-game once more in this newest release.”
In addition to the 12 new Revealing Jesus CD/DVD worship anthems, bonus tracks in custom versions of the album will include fresh takes on such internationally acclaimed songs as “Shout to the Lord,” “Hosanna” and “Worthy is the Lamb,” as well as the Houghton-penned “Jesus at the Center.” The custom versions include a “deluxe” CD/DVD combination.
The companion Revealing Jesus book was poured out from the pages of Zschech’s personal journals. Honest, raw, and beautifully written, the devotional contains meditations and Scriptures revealing the heart of Jesus. Worship Leader magazine says the book is “beneficial for those who may feel stuck in a rut in their prayer life or for those who may not know where to start, overwhelmed by the vastness of the Bible…[it] will help readers to gain a fresh perspective and renewed hope for each day, deepening their understanding of God and drawing them closer to Him.”
To listen to song samples from Darlene's newest album, click here.
GRAMMY and DOVE Award-winning Jason Crabb has become one of the most respected names and voices in Christian music. Working alongside accomplished producers Jay DeMarcus (band member of Rascal Flatts), Ed Cash and Wayne Haun, Jason has delivered his sophomore studio solo recording, Love Is Stronger. A moving collection of down-home gospel and contemporary songs that feature Jason’s incomparable voice and heartfelt performance style, the release offers inspiring and challenging messages of comfort through the love of Christ that conquers all. Loved by audiences of every age and background, Jason Crabb is fast-becoming a prominent voice of hope for his generation and for generations to come.
I had the privilege of talking with Jason over the phone recently to hear about his new album, his family and his heart for God.
John van der Veen (FC): Hello, Jason. Thanks for talking with me. How are you?
Jason Crabb: Hello! Fine. We’re getting ready for a concert tonight.
FC: Oh I'm excited to hear about that.
Jason: Oh, thank you. I appreciate all that you do.
FC: I'm not sure how often you check your twitter account, but I did send out a message earlier today asking all of our friends if they had any questions that they wanted me to ask you, and someone suggested, “What was the greatest advise Dottie Rambo gave you in your beginning?”
Jason: Oh, wow! I will never forget that. When we first started out, we used to host a concert at the Executive Inn, on the river front there in Woodboro, Kentucky. One of the performers that came in was Dottie. We were on stage with her and Dottie—she was always polite, and she always messed with you, she was just so funny—well, she was getting ready to play a song. And she said, “Oh, Jason, can you come out here and get my guitar pick? It's in my shoe, and she was sitting down. So I had to go out, get down on my knee and get the guitar pick out of her shoe. And it was kind of a funny thing to be doing, and then, you know, we're sitting there and she said, “Well, now sing a song with me, and we sang together, and then she said, “Jason,” she said, “if you take care of these people (and she was pointing at the audience) and be there for them, they will always be there for you.”
I took that to heart, and that's why during every intermission, after every concert, I'm the last one to leave the building because I want to be there for the people, and I want to hear what they have to say and listen to their prayer requests and things like that. You know what, I can really truly obviously say that was one of the best things that anybody has ever told me, because truly I believe that is why I am here today, doing what I'm doing. Because I'm there for the people... and they've always been there for me.
FC: Jason, let me ask you a little bit about the influences that you have had in probably your personal life at least the way that you're talking about Dottie, but your personal life as well as your career. You have mentioned that Bill Gaither has been not just an influence to you, but certainly a mentor, and probably even somebody closer than that as well. Bill said once, “Jason Crabb is the real deal. I love his voice, I love his heart and I love the unique way he can connect people to the hope every human being needs to hear.”
Jason when you hear that and have people talking into your life like that, how do you take that as a man who is pursing Christ? How do you take the words from other people and then apply them to your own life? And then what does that mean for us, and how should we be looking for mentors and other people to speak into our lives as well?
Jason: Let's go back to Bill and those people that are speaking into your life and influencing you. I have had so many in my life; of course, my family—all my family from my parents to grand parents to my siblings. They've been so supportive with encouragement and we've helped each other out, but I mean also people on the road and in different situations and things. Bill is one of those. He's one of those men that if you'll just sit, watch and listen, you can learn so much. I think people like that when they speak into your life and they truly mean it, if they say something positive about your life, what it does for me is it challenges me to be even better. It challenges me to live up to maybe what they might say. If they say, Hey, thanks for being there for me,” then it makes me want to be there for others as well. Those things feed the spirit of the person that is there and it feeds your spiritual side. If you use it the right way. Even bad things, things that people say—could even be in a negative way—can be turned around for the good. I think we have to use all of that.
So yes, everybody needs that person to speak truth into their life, whether it's good or whether it's bad. Like, “You just have to watch how you treated this person,” or “I just couldn't believe that you went down and talked to that person and you didn't have to.” That makes you want to do those things, and so I think it's very important to listen and let those things help create who you are.
FC: How does Jason Crabb—not Jason Crabb the artist or the actor or the author or the TV personality—but Jason Crabb the regular guy keep a continual focus on Christ in your own personal walk? When the rubber meets the road, Jason, how are you doing that?
Jason: I think the Lord will find ways to speak to you. Of course, in His Word, He speaks to you on what to do in character building and those types of thing. One way that He speaks to me--I've got two kids and a gorgeous wife—is through parenting. He lets me know, kind of the role that He plays in my life, and in a similar way with my kids, such as being gracious and how to treat my children if they falter or fail at whatever they do. Those situations draw me to Him, and it's the same with my ministering on stage a lot of times. Even though I am ministering, I still get ministered to as well, and feel like I'm in the presence of God and being led by Him and those types of things.
Even the times that we are on the road, people come up and say certain things that minister to me. And believe me, I do know who I am without Christ and it's a mess. I know who I need to be with and I know I need him to be the center of my life and so whatever way that I have to do that, whether it's reading or whether it's listening to one of my favorite ministries, church and all of those things, I just think that it has to be an every day moment in your life. And usually He'll show you how to get to the best ministry to where you need to be. I can also say there have been many times when I've failed at that, and I would be the first to tell you that I am not perfect, but when I do falter I'll learn from it, and that's the whole walking it out with Christ part, just to experience all those moments.
FC: As you mentioned, your family and obviously the family that you grew up in, and of course now, you and your wife have some kids… The traditions that you had growing up musically, I'm picturing like the Crabb Family Pray album where there is that little girl, I think, in front of the white church and you just kind of have this picturesque family all together and periodically you guys have these moments where you are bursting out into song. I'm not exactly sure if that's true or not, but that's just what I had in my head as I listen to the Family records. Do you and your wife have that similar tradition with your kids? Are you incorporating those traditions that were passed down to you as a child onto your kids?
Jason: Well, yes and no.
FC: I guess more specifically, when it comes to music?
Jason: Yeah, kind of. Here was the plus for the home that I grew up in: My dad was a pastor, so we had to go to church. We were at church any time the doors were open. We were the music, we were the Sunday School teachers and more. When actually somebody should have been teaching us! (laughs) But we had to step in to fill the gap, which was alright.
It's different for me, I'll leave the house and go on the road, and my kids are in school and they've got the normal routine. The everyday life of a child that is normal at that age. It is very important to have those one-on-one moments with your child, and what’s more, I've learned that it's very effective in parenting. We learned the works of God, the work in ministry, but the cool thing is now that I know that side of it (and they do get to experience that on the road with me sometimes), I've learned that it's the one-on-one thing that counts, or when everybody grabs each other's hands and prays. If you got a problem, then you talk it out and you say, “Okay how do we handle this?”
Or when one of my kids prays for someone, I realize Christ is at work in my family, that faith is present there. My daughter was getting ready for a cheerleading competition and one of the girls got sick. And in a cheerleading competition, if one person is missing, then the whole routine that they have practiced is gone. So they were all nervous about it and my daughter walked over and she said, “Let's all pray for her.” I'm talking about like at six or seven years old, she's saying let's pray for this girl and so the whole cheer team is over there praying. That's when I knew that Christ was real in our lives. That what we are teaching, that what Christian school and church is teaching is working and that what she has accepted and believes in is alive!
Even though our lives are totally different than what it was growing up in the church, her traveling full time with me on the road, that's how I knew it is still alive. You've got to know it in every day life, in what you do and in all those types of problems that Christ is present, and so it is truly cool to watch faith come alive in their lives.
FC: I appreciate your honesty there. Let's switch gears a little bit and talk about the new record, it's called Love Is Stronger which comes out in March. When you go in and begin the process of putting together a new album, what does that look like? For instance, where do you begin with that process?
Jason: We got together and kind of wanted to talk about direction and what we wanted to target and who we wanted to help us do that. I think one of the keys for me was learning how to let go and let people that are skilled and crafted at what they do help me hit that right target. You can practice and practice, but if you are not doing certain things right, then you are practicing the wrong way and so it doesn't matter.
I think it was key for us we went in and said these are the targets we want to go after, now who can help us hit that mark. We started choosing different ones, different producers and we had three different producers on this record and that's kind of where it began, where we begin on the record.
FC: A couple of these producers are new right? That you haven't worked with before?
Jason: Actually I've not worked with all three of them. Ed Cash, Wayne Haun, and Jay DeMarcus, from Rascal Flatts, produced six.
FC: That's great. So what is behind the title, Love Is Stronger?
Jason: A lot of the lyrics in the songs deal with how we get through situations, and how we help others, and also what helps us get through times like that. The song called “Love Is Stronger” is one of my favorite cuts on the record, and that's hard to say because I love them all--every lyric on this record. But that is one of my favorites, and I just felt that was kind of the direction for this record.
FC: The song, “What the Blood Is For”—Wow! What a powerful song. How do you approach a song like that? I'm not sure who wrote it, did you do write that song?
Jason: No, I didn't write the song. Two men by the name of Ronnie Freeman and Tony Woods wrote that song. How real is that song? It is just as real as can be…
FC: That's my question, when you sing that song how do you—in a rhetorical sense--how do you keep yourself from just falling apart? I was just blown away by the words and the power of that song. Unbelievable!
What the Blood Is For
I’m a mess today
I followed the desires of
My foolish heart into the dark
Feeling far away
Need a couple of days
To work real hard to hit the mark
To get myself back in good with You
Oh what a waste, what a losing game…cause
That’s what the blood is forIt cleans the dirty man I amMakes it possible to standBefore You LordCause that’s what the blood is for
What if I fall
One more time
Or soon forget
That You’re the light
Where I am free in perfect peace
And what if I can’t get my act together
That’s what the blood is forIt cleans the dirty man I amMakes it possible to standBefore You LordYes, that’s what the blood is for
It’s Your blood that compels me
Holds the power to my victory
It’s still speaking, You Lord to me
That’s what the blood is for
That’s what the blood is for
It cleans the dirty man I am
Makes it possible to stand
Before You Lord
That’s what the blood is for
That’s what the blood is for
That’s what the blood is for
It cleans the dirty man I am
Makes it possible to stand
Before You Lord
That’s what the blood is for
Ronnie Freeman and Tony Wood
Universal Music – Brentwood Benson Publishing (ASCAP) // Lehajoes Music (ASCAP) // Sony/ATV Cross Keys Publishing (ASCAP) // Songs From Exit 71 (ASCAP)
Jason: It is so real--where we are and how people feel, you know… like, How can I fix this? or Where can I go? and, well, it's just by the grace of God. You've got to grasp onto that or you'll never live in Victory because we, as humans, boy, we make a mess of things, don't we? It's totally grabbing a hold of the mercy and the grace of God, and believing it, you know, that it works. That's what the Blood is for. It’s because of that that I am able to stand; it makes me alert.
FC: Real quick, going back to the record here… There are a couple of duets, and a couple of guest appearances. You have Joyce Martin, Michael English and Kari Jobe. What was it like singing with those guys? I am assuming you've sang with Mr. English and Miss Martin before, but how about Kari Jobe?
Jason: My time with Michael English—both with the Gaither Vocal Band and his solo efforts—and with the Martins were a huge influence in my life growing up. Those were the records that you just waited in line to get. I couldn't wait to get my hands on them. Couldn't wait to hear what the next thing was, what it sounded like, or what they did and pick out my favorites and listen to them vocally. So I was very, very excited about the songs they cut, and the records, and so now I get to do that and I have always just been very excited about that.
On the flip side with Kari Jobe, now that's ... I had never heard a voice like that, ever. I remember the first time I heard her; I was just blown away. It was something that she wasn't just one of those voices where you just listen to how high she sings or something. It wasn't that. It was just the touch of God that is on her voice, and the anointing that is on her life that is just ... she sings in such a real place and I just don't know how to describe it. I am so honored that she would come and sing with me on this record. I was blown away and still am every time I hear it. I'm like, really, I can't believe this really happened. (Laughs)
FC: Jason, what kind of music do you listen to today, that lately you've been listing to, that makes you go, Wow, this is some really good art!
Jason: There is so much good stuff out there today. You know I love what tobyMac always puts out. Such great pieces; he is just so talented. And I listen to a lot of different stuff. I'm more of a guy that just likes the feel of good music, whatever style it is. It’s what I draw from and I just love it. I think tobyMac’s new record is great, and I love Kari Jobe's record, and oh my goodness, there are just so many great, great artists out there. The Vocal Band has just put out a brand new project, which is wonderful. My brothers have just put some new stuff too. Aaron has a new project and it's going great. I'm producing one of Adam's records and I'm excited about that also. I'm just wrapped in music all the time, I just love all of it.
FC: Are you a book reader?
Jason: You know what, I've just really kind of gotten into that a little bit.
FC: What have you been reading lately?
Jason: I've been reading a lot of Andy Andrews. I really like his books. I also, I just picked up a book that is an old book. It is really neat. It is about the Jubilee Singers, that was based out of Nashville and it's the Fisk University and it's about a group of African-American singers that toured around the globe and sang just about everywhere. I picked this up, I found it at a bookstore, and it's a real old book, an antique. Also, there is a writer that wrote hymns ... well, not really hymns just kind of lyrics and poems. He was a slave. He wrote about some of their lyrics—his name is Dunbar. I like history, so I loved the Jubilee Singers, that's just a really cool book and I'm just getting started in it. I guess I like a lot of different things.
FC: Sounds neat. Now I have two random questions to kind of wrap things up. Are you a coffee drinker or Red Bull drinker?
FC: Coffee? Is it black or is it a king of frou-frou type of coffee?
Jason: No, you know, I have moments where I like a little cream and sugar, but then there are moments where I just like black. My trainer tells me it's black, so… you know how that goes. (Laughs)
FC: Last question, Jason Crabb. Just how Southern are you?
Jason: How Southern am I? (laughs)
Jason: Oh my goodness! I guess if people really only knew, they would probably never come and see me. (laughs again). No, I absolutely love the Southern style living. I'm kind of a—oh, I don't know what you would call it--a hybrid, I guess. I love all of it. Fried chicken, the fried pork chops, I'm in the woods a lot, and I love the outdoors. I even like to hunt a little. That’s just the way we grew up. I grew up in the swamplands of Kentucky, with coal miners and different ones and that's pretty much who I am. But then again, you know, I love nice cars (that I don't have!) and the finer things in life as well. But if it ever came down to it, give me the rocking chair, the front porch and a cup of coffee and I'm in a good place.
FC: Sounds good. Jason, thank you so much for taking the time. Man, I really appreciate it. I love the new record. I've loved your family for a long time. I love all the records. I have them all. I think they're phenomenal. Jason, you're a great singer, don't ever lose your voice, man. Sometimes when I think that you're hitting those notes, I think, Dude, it's going to pop one of these days--his voice is going to go.
FC: I thank the Lord for you and for your gifts, and I am so thankful that you use it for Him and not for yourself. Blessings to you my friend.
Jason: Thank you so much. I give Him thanks and praise every day for allowing me to live this life and to get to experience the goodness of it, and what He is and what He has done for us. To be honest with you, from where I came from in life, I'm going, How am I getting to live this? How am I getting to do this? Thank you for allowing me to get to present your love and your dreams for our lives, Lord. Your desires for our lives you know, and it's just so, I am just overwhelmed every day and that's the truth. I'm thankful for it. I really am. Bill & Gloria Gaither - Until Then [Live] ft. Jason Crabb
Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Performance
Jesus, Friend Of Sinners
Track from: Come To The Well
[Beach Street/Reunion Records]
Take Me To The King
[Tillymann Music Group]
Go Get It
10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)
Track from: 10,000 Reasons
Track from: I Win
[Verity Gospel Music Group]
Best Gospel Song
Go Get It
Erica Campbell, Tina Campbell & Warryn Campbell, songwriters (Mary Mary)
[Columbia; Publishers: EMI April Music, It's Tea Tyme, That's Plum Song, Wet Ink Red Music]
Cheryl Fortune, James Fortune & Terence Vaughn, songwriters (James Fortune &
FIYA, Monica & Fred Hammond)
Track from: Identity
[Light Records/eOne Music]
I Feel Good
Phillip Feaster, Fred Hammond, Jonathan Miller & Calvin Rodgers, songwriters
Track from: God, Love & Romance
[Verity Gospel Music Group; Publishers: fHammond Music/Bridge Bldg Music/CJMS Music/Music Feast Productions/Jonathan Miller Publishing]
Aaron Lindsey & Marvin Sapp, songwriters (Marvin Sapp)
Track from: I Win
[Verity Gospel Music Group; Publishers: Universal Music-Brentwood Benson Songs/Marvin L. Sapp Music/Ardent Media]
Donald Lawrence, songwriter (Bill Winston & Living Word Featuring Donald
[Source Media; Publisher: Quiet Water Ent.]
Best Contemporary Christian Music Song
Jesus, Friend Of Sinners
Mark Hall & Matthew West, songwriters (Casting Crowns)
Track from: Come To The Well
[Beach Street/Reunion Records]
10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)
Jonas Myrin & Matt Redman, songwriters (Matt Redman)
Track from: 10,000 Reasons
[sixstepsrecords/Sparrow Records; Publishers: Thankyou Music/sixsteps Music/worshiptogether.com Songs/Said And Done Music/Shout! Publishing]
When Mercy Found Me
Jeff Pardo & Rhett Walker, songwriters (Rhett Walker Band)
Track from: Come To The River
[Essential Records; Publishers: Sony ATV Music, Ships In A Bottle/Simple Tense Songs]
Jason Ingram, Matt Maher, Matt Redman & Chris Tomlin, songwriters (Passion &
Track from: White Flag
[sixstepsrecords/Sparrow Records; Publishers: sixsteps Music/worshiptogether.com Songs/Vamos Publishing/Said And Done Music/Valley of the Songs Music/Sony ATV Timber Publishing/West Main Music/Windsor Hill Music/Thankyou Music]
Your Presence Is Heaven
Israel Houghton & Micah Massey, songwriters (Israel & New Breed)
Track from: Jesus At The Center Live
[Integrity Music; Publishers: Integrity's Praise! Music/Sound of the New Breed, Regenerate Music]
Family Christian: Chris, congratulations on your new album. What can people expect to hear on Burning Lights?
Chris Tomlin: Hopefully, they will find songs that are more than just the latest flavor—but they will hear the heart, the passion, the fire, the joy, the majesty, the surrender, the truth, and the triumph in every listen.
FC: The first single from the album draws from II Kings 6. Tell us a little about the connection between that story and the song, “Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies).”
Chris: My friend Matt Redman says it best, "Worship is about seeing. We sing in response to what we see.”
In II Kings 6, there is an enemy army surrounding the town of the prophet Elisha. Elisha proclaims to his servant, "Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them." He then prays for the eyes of his servant to be opened to truly see what is going on around them. The Lord opens the eyes of the servant and he sees the mountains filled with horses and chariots of fire (angel armies)! Truth is, we live in the same reality. There are enemy armies constantly at our doorstep, and many times, we live in a state of fear. I hope and pray this song can build faith in people to know the truth that "those who are with us are far more than those who are against us."
FC: On that song, the lyrics, “The One who reigns forever, He is a friend of mine,” feel very personal. What inspired this line?
Chris: I love this line. What a concept and truth to grasp. The creator of the heavens, the maker of every living thing, the One who sits on the throne of an everlasting kingdom calls us "friend." Every time I sing this line, I can barely contain the thought of it.
FC: What else would you like listeners to know about this album as they worship the Lord with these songs?
Chris: In the end, it’s about the heart of the song. Does the song move people or not? "I'm just a shepherd boy, singing to a choir of burning lights.” And I’m asking everyone to sing along.
FC: As you contemplate a new year, is there a passage from Scripture that the Lord has been speaking to you about lately?
Chris: I would easily say the passage from II Kings 6 I referenced earlier. My prayer for my own life: "God open my eyes to see the true reality...give me a fearless heart."
FC: In your travels around the world leading worship, can you recall a particular story that has really impacted your life or ministry?
Chris: The ministries of Compassion International and Watoto have truly blown me away. So many people are doing amazing work for the kingdom of God. Sitting in the shanty of a little boy named Julius in Uganda—it was just him and his grandmother, everyone else in his family had died (mostly of HIV). He had the disease as well. Through Compassion, he was receiving the medicine to keep the deadly disease away. He was five years old and so full of life and hope. And to know he was just one of the countless that this ministry and others like it are touching.
I have been humbled every time we have traveled around to these other nations and experienced the passionate worship of Jesus.
Sitting down with the DiMarcos feels a little like staring at a lit match: they’ve been struck by something that’s ignited them, they’re passionate about speaking truth and they’re full of potential. We recently sat down with Hayley, Michael (and their sweet little daughter) to discuss the journey that brought them together and to where they’re headed…
Michael & Hayley DiMarco
Family Christian: We like to begin our interviews with a little background. Where are the two of you from and how did you meet?
Hayley DiMarco: We’re both actually from Oregon, but we met when I was living in Nashville and he was living in Washington state. We met on the internet.
FC: Through a service?
Michael DiMarco: Yes, hotchristianwives.com (laughs).
Michael: Yes, but don’t give them free advertising—until they write us a check (laughing).
Hayley: Yes, so we both grew up there and then he started working and moved to Bellingham. And I went to work for Thomas Nelson in Nashville. I started there just as a lowly sales person, helping in the sales department, and then started working on their teen brand. That’s when the Extreme Teen Bible and all of that stuff was just starting. This is kind of an interesting story because it started selling really well. Ya’ll up here really liked it. And the buyers up here were like “What else do you have for teens?” So all of the publishers at Nelson, seven of them, started to get together around a table, and I was there, and they started talking. And I said, “We should create a brand.” And they said, “Oh that’s interesting.” And then I said, “I want to be the brand manager.” And they said, “What’s that?” because they had literally never heard of it.
Michael: Which is subtext for “you’re hired.” Before Hayley got to Nelson, she was with Nike in Portland, helping them create sales tools and stuff like that, so they listened to her.
Hayley: Yes, so that is what I came from, it was what I was trained in. So I wrote up a job description and showed it to them. They said “That sounds good. Why don’t you do it?” So then I became the brand manager for the Teen Extremefor Jesus brand. And we did pretty well. After two years, we sold $9 million worth of product (just in that brand). So that was pretty successful and it let people know who I was a little bit. So then I was looking at a lot of the content and thought some of the products that were coming through could use a little help. So I started rewriting some of this stuff and pretty soon started writing it and it started selling better than the other product that we had for teens. And so I thought maybe I should start doing this on my own; maybe I should go out and write exclusively.
Hayley: So I left and I shopped eight titles, which was kind of shocking to go out and say “I want to write eight books.” And so every published looked at me like “What? We’ll do one of them.” But Baker said, “We’ll take them all.” So I said, “Let’s go!” And that stared with Dateable, and it just kind of took off. And so right when Dateable was launching, we met on the internet. I always joke to everybody, but I did a kind of “executive” search. And some people look at me like I’m a dangerous woman, and some people admire me. I wanted someone that would work with me. I didn’t want to see him in the morning and at night, I wanted him all day.
Michael: This is a cold, calculated love (laughing). She couldn’t pay well; the salary was affection and a promise to grow in her cooking skills.
Hayley: So I saw his profile and he was working for Logos Bibles Software, he was speaking, he was traveling. I was like “Oh, he could travel with me.” He was writing. He had an active blog. And so that was kind of how it all came to be and how we met online.
FC: So Michael, you were in Bellingham at this time?
Michael: Yes, I was working for Logos Bible Software – traveling around, making presentations at seminaries and pastors’ conferences and churches, training ministry leaders like Kay Arthur at Precept and her crew [on] how to use the Bible study tools for their research and writing as a time saver and things like that. So, I was traveling 10-15,000 air miles per year and Nashville was one of my ports of call. So I actually signed up for the whole Christian dating service as just kind of a joke—a joke between me and God because I felt like I had lived a pretty wild life in my twenties and into my early thirties. I was finally good with not dating anyone and living for Christ through my job, but felt convicted. I didn’t want to, but I felt God was leading me to look for someone that was a believer and was living out their faith for the first time in my life. So, I thought as a joke, I would joke with God and I signed up for a free 7 day trial for the service. And I was amazed that I didn’t do anything and all these nice Christian women started emailing me. I was like, “Whoa!” I wasn’t ready for that. But I got all these matches and they were all like 50, 60% match. And on the eighth day of my seven-day trial, I get an email with an 83% match, and that was Hayley. And so God’s sense of humor returned to me, and I had to pay to contact [her].
Hayley: But I was [still] in my free trial. I never had to pay!
Michael: Yes, she was still in her free trial, so we overlapped within fourteen days at least. Because I did a lot of work with Precept, that’s how we got to meet. Had a horrible first date—it wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t good. I decided to dump all of my past on our first date just as a big disclaimer.
Hayley: Which didn’t bother me... I didn’t care about any of his sordid past. But I just cared that he didn’t let me talk. He talked the whole time! (laughing)
Michael: Well, I had a lot to get out and a short amount of time. Our second date was actually at ICRS (Internation Christian Retailing Show) when she was promoting Dateable in Orlando in 2003. That’s why we’ve been back to ICRS every year. Not so much to have meetings, but just as an anniversary. (There’s something about Kerusso t-shirts...) We got married New Year’s Day 2004. I was still working for Logos, but now I was commuting from Nashville. She was very sneaky. I was like a frog in a frying pan. I was keeping Hungry Planet stuff separate. That was hers. I had my deal. And she would bring me book cover comps from the publisher and say, “I don’t think I like this,” or would just play the damsel in distress thing with writing, editorial, branding.
Hayley: I wasn’t playing. I just needed your help.
Michael: What? You weren’t playing me? Miss Executive Search? (laughing) So, I ended up quitting my job with Logos and tackling the branding, marketing and design side of things, and then she drew me into the writing side.
FC: So, do you either of you have Christian upbringing?
Hayley: We were Lutheran, if we were anything. We went [to church] for Christmas and Easter. I always loved Jesus. I think I went to VBS and stuff like that, so I always loved Jesus and believed he was the Son of God and all that. But I went to a Catholic high school and they taught me a lot what you had to do to be saved, and I couldn’t do it. I had to be too perfect. So by the time I was in college, I was sad because I didn’t think I was saved.
Michael: Immersed in moralism.
Hayley: Right. So I was driving limousines in Portland…
Michael: Oh wait, wait, wait. Before you get to that, you have to tell them about the weekly evangelist…
Hayley: Yes, okay, so literally every weekend I would watch Jimmy Swaggart… all through high school and college and [I would] accept Christ every weekend. I thought I had to do it every weekend, because during the week I would mess up. I wasn’t a bad kid. I wasn’t doing drugs. I just wasn’t perfect. And I wanted to be perfect, so I just kept accepting Christ. By the end of college, I was like, “Ugh, I’ve been doing this for like eight years and I still don’t fell like anything has changed.” So I was driving limousines and I decided I was going to get a little more wild, which to me was cussing and stuff. I was thinking of drinking, but I had one drink. So this boy I liked that was a limo driver said to me—because I told him I was a Christian—he said, “If you’re a Christian why do you cuss like a sailor?” And I said, “I just figure if I’m going to hell I might as well have fun on the way.” And he was like, “What? What are you talking about?” And he said a weird statement which probably doesn’t relate to what I was thinking, but he said, “Don’t you know that once you’re saved, you’re always saved?” I must have told him about Jimmy Swaggart. And I was like, “What?” And he had an old Bible that had writing all over it, and he opened it up and showed me Romans 10:9, “If you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth, you will be saved.” I stood up and I put my hands on my hips and I screamed, “What? You’ve got to be kidding me! I am 27 years old and no one has told me this?” I’d been begging people to tell me this. If I had just known that, my life would have been different. And that was it. That was my conversion. That was my acceptance. That was it. So he gave me the Bible and said, “Here, you need this,” and he laughed. I read it from cover to cover in three months. I lost my job at the limo place because I was leading Bible studies and converting everyone. And the owner was a Jew. He used to come and talk to me and say, “What are you doing?” and I’d say, “The Bible says this, this, and this.” I’m telling everyone. And he’d say, “Just a minute,” and he’d call his rabbi. He’d come back and tell me and I’d say, “No, no. The rabbi’s wrong,” and I’d show him in scripture. And he’d go back and talk to the rabbi and pretty soon he just said, “I’ve got to lay you off,” and he got rid of me. That was the point where I decided I’m going to tell the world this because they need to know. I shouldn’t have had to wait so long. I’ve got to tell them. And that was the fire behind having a teen brand because that was around the age where I was lost. I have to tell these guys. They want to know. I know they want to know. Who doesn’t want to know? They all do whether they know it or not.
Michael: I was raised in an old school religious home too—Catholic. For me, it was all about being a good boy. My mom wanted me to be Pope and I liked girls too much so that wasn’t going to happen… (With a side-eye toward his daughter) and someday we’ll have a child that I will truly love (laughs). I’m just dreaming. But it could happen.
Daughter: It already did happen. (Punches Michael in the stomach)
Michael: Obviously, we home school because we’re so good with kids. Aren’t we!? (laughs) So, that’s how I was raised. I was raised to be a good boy. I was the youngest of six kids in an Italian-Irish family. No passion, no temper. I grew up trying to be a good boy. Instead of watching Jimmy Swaggart every weekend, I went to a Young Life group just because all the cute girls went to Young Life. (Daughter laughs) So uh, not many filters in our house. So there was a brief gospel presentation with crazy singing and a skit. It was probably the worst gospel presentation ever, but it made sense. And I said, “Oh, personal relationship with Jesus, that’s something I haven’t heard at church,” and I thought, “Oh yeah, that makes sense.” And literally in like ten seconds, bow your head and everybody pray. And it was just kind of a quick prayer to get to the snacks. I prayed the “magic prayer,” and then I went and had snacks. I really didn’t tell anybody, but then started attending a Baptist church in Eugene—a great church. The college pastor there at the time is still there after like twenty-five years. Unfortunately, kind of like Hayley going to college and not processing the gospel right, I just saw it as [just changing from] a Catholic to a protestant moralism, “Well now I’ve gotta practice this, do everything right while I had a personal relationship. And living that kind of moralism leads to destruction and weakness. So in college I basically lived a double life. I said one thing but lived another until right after I turned thirty-two. It was in my early thirties that my life had devolved into a secret life. Part of the secret private life was gambling. It was where I went to escape the life that I had come to hate in public. It involved me getting arrested from work for stealing. And it was in a jail cell where there was an old, tattered—it was so cliché… I love God’s sense of humor because just like the dating story, I looked at this old, tattered Bible sitting there, and I’m just like, “Really, God? Really? I don’t want to have one of these cliché moments. I don’t want to have a Chuck Colson moment.” So I pulled it out, opened the Bible and it opened up right to 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if any man is in Christ he is a new creation. The old is past away. Behold, the new has come.” So the cool thing was, from right there, I knew I was a new creation. I wasn’t perfect. I wasn’t striving to be perfect. So, for me, that was totally new. And so within six months, I basically said, “I want a job where I can learn more about God and His Word. So within four months, I had an entry level job. I went from making really good money in my prior career to getting an entry level, hourly customer service job at Logos Bible Software answering phones and technical questions because I got a free copy of their scholarly library that was worth like six hundred bucks for their Greek and Hebrew tools. I did that during the day, and then I studied at night and they moved me up to doing what I did when I met Hayley. It’s been incredible.
FC: Let’s talk about Hungry Planet. What is it? Hayley, you started it first, right?
Hayley: Yes. It started with me when I was at Nelson as I kind of “assessed” the state of youth publishing. I felt like it was a little bit anemic. I thought, I can either stay here at Nelson and build this brand or if I left, yeah I want to write, but maybe I can get out and help other authors, publishers and stores even. So I came up with this idea of Hungry Planet that would be just kind of a—I don’t know what I was calling it at the time—but, I started contracting to help ministries and publishers and anyone who wanted help reaching that audience that we had started to reach so well. I was looking for authors that might not get a voice because they wrote for teens, which wasn’t a huge market at the time. And so that was the beginning of it and at the time I worked a few initial titles like Dateable. Since then, when Michael has come on, everything was in the beginning of changing and it’s kind of just morphed. He can tell you a little about that.
FC: So the premise behind it was basically to help build awareness, or it was more of a gathering place for those authors?
Hayley: No, I wanted to build an awareness. I wanted to build a category. I felt that when you walked into a store, there were so few titles to choose from. And a lot of them were adult titles with “for kids” stamped on there.
Michael: Or stuff that looked like it was designed in 1992. There are other quality titles that come out in the youth category, but they tend to gravitate toward either the student/teen edition. Like Not a Fan Teen Edition. Great book and it’s selling really well, but once again it wasn’t created specifically for teens from its genesis. And that’s what we’ve wanted to do. The other titles that have been good and have succeeded in the marketplace are generally personality driven or amazing story driven. Not amazing story-telling, but for instance an amazing testimony like Bethany Hamilton. Great content. Great story. Very touching story of God at work in her life through tragedy. But that’s pretty much what you have there, and you don’t really have any authors or content creators that are dedicating their lives to creating content just for that market. Well, there are a few. But to answer your question about Hungry Planet, I think that I would explain it as there’s the content creation side and then there’s the B to B side, which is consulting with churches, businesses, publishers, retailers or ministries about connecting to youth through the written word and visual stuff. Like, I consulted as a marketing consultant for Teen Mania for six months for their Acquire the Fire tours and things like that, so even teen ministries that seem to have it figured out, if they hit kind of a rough patch, we’ll come in and do that. Even titling and branding, David Kinnaman’s latest book You Lost Me, I titled that book for him. He has a pretty funny blog post about going through the titling with the publisher and me calling him and saying, “Hey, I have a title for your book.” He hated it, and he was like, “then I loved it.” So it’s kind of two-fold. We want to do more on the consulting side and helping ministries and retailers and publishers, but the funny thing is we found that it’s a chicken and egg sort of thing. There’s not a lot of market for it. Or it’s a smaller category. But on the content side, we’re proving that it can be profitable, it can be successful. We had five of the top ten on the July CBA bestseller’s list. We’ve got the top three, and five of the top ten, and two in the top fifty of all Christian titles with Devotions for the God Girl and Devotions for the God Guy. So, we’re doing it, but the thing is we don’t want to have all of that success to ourselves. It’s an important category. At times we feel like we’re Don Quixote, charging at the windmill—literary reference—but it’s a worthy pursuit, and all the while our readers are aging out of the teen years. Not emotionally, but physically (laughing). So, we are doing more and more adult titles now.
FC: Great segue. So now that your original core age-group has begun to grow up, how has that transition gone? Are you strategically writing for those aging into adulthood, or are you just feeling like God is moving you in that direction?
Michael: Strategically we made the decision a couple of years ago to start writing all of our youth books so that adults could read them. So, number one, we did that. There are men’s groups and women’s groups at churches that are going through God Guy and God Girl because they bought it for their son or daughter and started to read it as a good parent will, to look at the content. And they’re like, “Oh, this is good.” So, like, Hayley’s going to speak at a church where their women have been going through Devotions for The God Girl as their daily devotion. We intentionally did that because we dipped into the waters of the adult market a few years back and what we kind of already suspected is true, it’s way more competitive there. The funny thing is in the adult market, it’s all based on platform. Like whom you’ve heard of. There’s good storytelling, there’s good writing there, but most of it is “Who has a big church? “Who has a radio ministry?” And we don’t have that. Even through social media, if you remove all of the duplicates between all of our Facebook and Twitter followers, we’re probably looking at a reach of 500. Literally! (Laughing) If we were coming out with a book right now with no backlist and go to a publisher they’d say, “Well, it’s a really good idea and yeah, it’s a needed topic, but you’ve got no platform.” It’d be like, “Are you a youth pastor anywhere?” “No.” “Okay, well how many Twitter followers do you have?” “Well, I’ve got about 400 or so and I think some of them are just spam that follow me, or they confuse me with some psychologist in New York named Michael DiMarco.” So, literally, our success has been based on—and this is why we’re huge fans of Christian retail is because you all get us, we think, and put our books on the shelves and a lot of times they’re face-out. We try and create books that sell themselves, but in the Christian Living section, that’s a huge area to not have a platform. So what we decided was, “Okay, in order to keep doing books that we believe in and the topics we believe in, we’re going to start our youth books so that adults can read them.” So that way we can reach adults through the books that we sell in the youth department. Now we’re starting to see some movement and Die Young has been a good indicator of that because, it isn’t selling at the same rate as God Girl and God Guy, it had a really good launch. So we’ll see if it has legs, but that’s the intentionality that we’ve gone through.
FC: So let’s talk a little bit about Die Young. What’s the premise behind it, the thought process?
Michael: (To Hayley) Do you want to talk about the human laboratory?
FC: To preface this, we should say that the videos that you guys did…
Michael: They’re bad, aren’t they?
FC: No, ha! There are moments where you guys share some rather vulnerable things.
Hayley: There’s a lot that goes into our books, but that’s kind of where our books come from. We allow our life to be a petri dish for God. Our life explodes a lot. We have a lot of explosions, and in each one of those we’ll talk it out as far as, “What is God trying to teach us in this individually?” So Die Young came from that concept that we are two human beings who are going to clash, and what God wants us to do is die to ourselves. Not to keep the argument going. Not be comforted. Maybe sometimes we don’t even work it out, but the impetus behind the book was just this notion that if you can die to yourself, there’s no longer anything that can harm you, nothing can attack you, nothing can destroy you—because you’re just living for Him, and He cannot be destroyed or stopped. We’ve just had to work that out in our marriage because when we were first married, as we say in the book, I bought plates at the dollar store and threw them against the wall to get rid of my anger, and he got a punching bag. We didn’t know what to do. We were living for ourselves. That’s the average American, we live for ourselves.
Michael: The whole thing of ‘deny yourself and pick up your cross daily and follow Me.’ Picking up the cross is not a triumphant visualization. It’s not a ‘pick up your overnight bag because we’re going on an adventure.’ It’s a death march. And that’s what we’re called to do. We’re asked to joyfully do that as well, that it’s a joyful act to die to ourselves. A three-letter version of the word self is sin—that self is steeped with sin. One of the confirming books that I have to give a shout out to, that didn’t breathe into this book but was confirming that we were onto something when we were conceptualizing and started to write was when David Platt’s Radical came out. I had met David when he was still at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in their homiletics department when I was traveling with Logos Bible Software. When I saw that book come out and that it actually resonated with people, I was like, “Okay, so there is hope for this” because we really feel like the concept of dying to self, dying young, which means dying to yourself anytime before your actual physical death, is young. So if you’re 77 and you’ve decided then to die to self, that’s young enough. We felt like this was the underpinning, the foundational principle underneath everything that David was writing about in that book. Without dying to self, why would you go? Why would you care about unreached people groups? Why would you care about that instead of the American dream? It’s a death to ourselves and our self interests that really gives life to the Great Commission.
FC: As you guys write books, are you writing them as a result of change in your own life or are you writing them because you are seeking change?
Hayley: Yeah, I think that’s exactly right. I think it’s because we’ve seen something. It’s like, you can see through the ice. I can see a little light and so we start to research and study the topic because we’ve experienced it, even momentarily perhaps.
Michael: I think it’s a three-stage thing. We’ve discovered some need for it; we’ve exercised some mastery of the topic. And then once we exercise that mastery and we’ve done the biblical research on the topic and also the internal, spiritual research, we realize we don’t have this mastered at all. We’re so far away from it. It’s like, “Oh there’s this problem, here’s the solution.” And it really is a solution, but then in finding the solution, we realize we’re nowhere near close enough to dying to ourselves, nowhere near close to unstuffing our life of the idols in our life and things like that. So it’s like that progression that Paul takes in the New Testament in his epistles—chronologically he calls himself the least of all apostles, and then the least of all brothers or believers, and his last reference that’s similar to that is when he calls himself the worst of all sinners. And so, did he backslide through all of this? No, he just has a greater realization of his sin and a greater realization of his need for Christ and the gospel. So I think that breathes into how we write our books. Like, the worst part is doing interviews on Die Young. We already did that. We already wrote that. Now we have to dig this up again. (laughs)
FC: So in your process of going through life right now, whether it’s at a conference or Hungry Planet or writing a book or seeing a book launched, you guys have the ability to not only speak to the church, at least here in the west, maybe outside the U.S. as well. What do you guys think about the church right now?
Michael: I don’t know if I have a public answer for this. That’s an interesting question. Platt wrote a lot about the American dream. I think his observations regarding our love and pursuit of the American dream are spot on. But I would go from that sniper position to maybe more of an atomic bomb position. I think it’s not just the dream, but specifically for the U.S., it’s our feelings of entitlement to the pursuit of happiness which is etched in our founding documents that is wholly un-Biblical. I think every Christian should have a declaration of dependence, not independence. I think the church would be smart – and I’m giving this out for the public domain, some pastor, some other author can write it, I don’t have any problem with that – I think we need a declaration of dependence on Christ. We should not be entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I think we all should declare our dependence of death of self, servant hood, not liberty, a bond servant to Christ, who bought and purchased us with His blood. So we belong to Him. We don’t belong to ourselves. And the pursuit of holiness, instead of the pursuit of happiness. That’s our underpinning as far as all of us as Christians should be pursuing. The most common thing we see within churches is muscle memory to the contrary, but a heart that resonates with this idea. I think when people hear these ideas, they’re like, “Yes, that resonates.” We have a culture that has created muscle memory to the contrary. We visit a lot of churches. With the disclaimer that this might not be the right heart, we might be at fault here, but one of the first things I personally, I think Hayley does as well, is when we walk into a church, we say, “Where are the prostitutes and tax collectors?” And if we see those in a church, that encourages us. And I’m saying figuratively, not like they have a section cordoned off with signage, near the narthex. I think we have slipped into “church as country club” mentality or social club. I think the church is doing a really good job of taking care of our own and a lousy job at defining who “our own” is. Lousy is probably too strong of a word for print—a less than stellar job.
FC: Ok, one last question. What artists do you listen to? What kind of music, Hayley, are you listening to?
Hayley: I prefer worship music. I like Kari Jobe, she’s my favorite.
Michael: An unknown band out of Buna, Texas, (like tuna spelled with a B), called the Micah Tyler Band. I think local radio is giving them some play down there. They’re really good. They’re working on their first studio album right now up in Nashville where we’re at. Great guys.
FC: And you? (Speaking to Michael) Who are you listening to?
Hayley: He’s eclectic.
Michael: I tend to listen to artists that come up in the news for whatever reason. I tend to listen to people that I know personally, like the Micah Tyler band because I know the guys and I know their hearts, so there’s a connection there. I listen to a lot of old stuff from when I was growing up like when Robin Gibb died, I had Pandora on and had the Bee Gees channel streaming. In living in Nashville, I listen to a lot of country music. We were listening to 70s and 80s music on XM driving up from Nashville.
FC: Well, we can’t say enough good about what you are doing for your genre and the Kingdom. We really appreciate the time you’ve taken to sit down with us today. Here’s to many great books and years to come!