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“Allow us to do things we’re not capable of.”
I vividly remember the Holy Spirit leading me to pray this before Citizens sat down to do the pre-production on the Citizens LP earlier this year.
At the time, I honestly had no idea what that even meant or would result in. We definitely wanted to make a great album, but at the same time, we knew that the album itself couldn’t be the primary focus or pursuit.
The fundamental mistake that many of us who seek to create art in the church can make—one that I have made countless times—is to think that we have something to offer that is comparable to the gospel. In fact, the gospel cannot be outdone.
Our job as musicians, specifically when it comes to writing, is to let the Spirit speak into our hearts, whether that be through the Word, prayer, or even conversation, what he wants us to say, and let the music be a tool to underscore his truth. Without first surrendering ourselves to God’s leading, whatever musical feats we might have been able to record would have been in vain, and whatever impact the music might have had would not have lasted.
Now that the album has been out for almost six months, I can confidently say that the Holy Spirit delivered on that prayer. I often cannot believe the opportunities God has given us, whether that having “Made Alive” played all across the world on Christian radio, or getting to play festivals with thousands of people.
And while I am thankful for those opportunities that have come with the album’s success, none of those things can even compete with the stories God has written on the hearts of so many people as result of the gospel being proclaimed in our music, stories like these:
- One girl wrote to say that the Holy Spirit used “Made Alive” to minister to her in a very anxiety-filled moment when she was wrestling with the fear of losing her salvation, and found confidence in knowing that it was Jesus who saved her, not her works.
- Another guy came up to me one time after a service telling me that he had a night that week where he was under a lot of demonic attack, specifically feeling really tempted to lust. In an effort to combat that temptation the Holy Spirit reminded him of the song “Jesus!” and while lying in his bed he began to sing it aloud.
- I met a young guy a few months back who had stage III cancer. He explained to me that God had been using “Oh God” to remind him constantly of his promise, that even in the midst of unimaginable pain, uncertainty, and suffering, that God remained near and sovereign.
- A lady told me that recently she and her eight-year-old son were baptized together, and when she came out of the water, the band was playing “Made Alive.” She said that song has become an anthem for them as new creations in Christ.
- I’m so thankful for the worship leaders who have emailed us just to say how much our songs have helped to transform their corporate worship gatherings. One church, which is located in one of the most dangerous cities in Mexico, shared with us how much the Holy Spirit has used “Oh God” to bless and encourage their growing congregation in the midst of extreme adversity.
- Many parents have wrote to thank us for the way our songs are leading their kids in the worship of Jesus, while also asking us to record another album soon because their kids will not allow them to listen to anything else. (Being a dad myself, I love hearing those stories. It’s far better for kids to want to listen to music that explicitly declares Jesus and can teach them theology, rather than songs that point them toward unsatisfying pleasures.)
All of that being said, none of this can be claimed as our band’s work, and we wouldn’t want it any other way. If it were the other way around and I did somehow think that we were the primary instrument in bringing about transformation, I can only imagine the dark places my heart would go to.
All of this is a boasting in the work that Jesus has done. That is the only thing it can be. God has chosen to build his church through a number of ways; I’m thankful that he chose music as one of those ways.