Why did you want to spend two years in Atlanta to help start a church?
We’ve loved being around the Passion movement for the last decade, and have shared much life with those guys—leading and traveling together, dreaming up songs together, so many good stories along the way. When we heard Louie and Shelley [Giglio] and Chris were planting a church, there was no way we weren’t going to hop across the ocean and join in the fun! It was a great adventure for those first couple of years, but we felt the pull back to our homeland and life and ministry here. We ended up moving to Brighton, the most unchurched city in England—a very different kind of challenge!
What attracts you to church plants, and what was your role in Atlanta?
We’ve been around for the planting of a few new church communities, and it’s always such a faith-filled adventure. They’ve involved different sizes, styles, expressions, and cultures, but with all of them it’s been amazing to see Jesus building his church, and to realize that the gospel of Christ really works. If you put his hope, love, and glory on display in a relevant way, you’ll see it change, save, and transform lives. Who wouldn’t want to be part of something like that?
You had two kids born in the U.S., and both needed critical care. Tell me about that.
Jackson and Levi both had some breathing difficulties when they were born, and ended up in the ICU for a little while. Those moments are never easy to navigate; you’re expecting sheer joy in that season and then you get some struggle thrown in with it. But isn’t that so much of what life is like on this journey of faith? So often it’s battle and blessing all mixed up into one. But the longer you walk with Jesus, the more you realize just how utterly faithful he is, and I hope that conviction comes through in some of the songs we’ve been writing. It’s no coincidence that some of the most fruitful songs we’ve written have flowed from some of the hardest moments of our lives—like “Blessed Be Your Name,” “You Never Let Go,” and now “Never Once,” they all came from seasons of intense struggle and confusion.
How would you describe Passion City Church?
Louie is the last person to claim that PCC was some brand new innovative expression of church. But having said that, I think that Louie, Shelley, Chris, and the team are all creative people with a big worldview, so that’s going to add some spice. I think perhaps the unique thing about PCC is that it was a local community being planted from an already existing global movement. Usually it’s the other way around.
What have you learned from two years immersed in American culture?
I love the optimism in so much of the USA church. Sometimes we Europeans can be a bit more cynical or embarrassed to dream and live big. I think American optimism mixed in with a kingdom of God mindset is a wonderful, explosive mix. It reminds me of Psalm 18, where the writer is convinced that he can rise to the occasion: “With my God I can do this thing … I can do that thing.” I see that a lot in the USA church, and I’ve found it really inspiring.
What has been your focus since returning to the UK?
We’re now at St. Peter’s in Brighton—a recent church plant by Holy Trinity Brampton, a London church. One of the major landmarks in Brighton is St. Peter’s, this huge cathedral-like building in the center. Until a year or so ago it was increasingly rundown and empty. But now with this new church community, it’s starting to fill up again and be that “city on a hill” it was always meant to be. We are so excited to be jumping into the adventure as we’ve for a long time had a heart for that city—the most unchurched city in England. We’d love to play a tiny little part in its transformation.
Why is your new album called 10,000 Reasons?
It comes from a lyric in the title song: “For all Your goodness I will keep on singing: 10,000 reasons for my heart to find.” We’re never short of a reason to worship Jesus; his goodness and glory are flying at us steadily and speedily from every imaginable angle. So if we wake up one day and can’t think of a reason to exalt him, there’s something wrong with our spiritual outlook. I hope the album itself is flowing with reason after reason for the worship of God. There’s not really one over-arching theme; there are songs of the cross, songs of the holiness of God, songs of his faithfulness, songs about eternity, songs of how he gives us a bright future.
Why did you decide to do a live album, instead of a studio album?
There’s something about the singing worshipping church which is just so distinctive—it’s the people of God, in the presence of God, pouring out the praises of God. Honestly, there’s nothing quite like that dynamic on the face of the earth, outside of the worshipping church.
Pick a song or two and tell the story behind it.
“Never Once” is about the constancy and faithfulness of God. I began to write it in Atlanta on my first visit back since our family returned to the UK. Our house in Atlanta hadn’t sold, and the song started out in the empty, echoey kitchen—just me, my guitar, a few chords, and some very solid truth about our God. Transition is always tough, and I was thinking through the journey of the last few years—all the joys and struggles. I had a very real sense of God’s immense kindness and faithfulness over every page of my life. Jason Ingram and Tim Wanstall, two great friends and songwriters, jumped in to work with me to finish the song.
“Holy” is an attempt to paint a big picture of God, focusing on how worthy he is. My friend Jonas Myrin initiated this song. He’s a Swedish guy with a great melodic sensibility and a pretty amazing grasp on the poetry of the English language, considering it’s his second language! But most of all he has a big heart for worshipping God. On the day we wrote, this we were in a little English chapel near my house, composing all day. Jason and I had both ducked out for an hour or so to call our families and check in on home. We assumed Jonas was also taking a break, but arriving back at the chapel, he was still at the piano, and singing out the foundation of something that seemed so special. We were glad to join him in helping shape and develop the song. But it’s one of those songs where the moment I heard those opening bars, I had a strong sense that were being entrusted with something special. As it turns out I think this song became the centerpiece of the whole album in many ways. There was a wonderful response when we led it at the recording.
How do you feel like you’ve grown as an artist over the years? Any regrets?
There are a few lyrics I regret, but I’m not telling you which ones! Seriously though, I don’t take lightly the craft of congregational songwriting. We’re putting words into people’s mouths, and therefore their hearts and minds. So in a good (or bad) way, we are actually at times shaping the way someone thinks about God or approaches him. That’s an awesome task. You have to become more than just a musician writing some nice tunes to make Sundays more jolly.
When you start presenting songs in your local church, you are in effect a pastor, a teacher—maybe even a prophet or evangelist. Scary! The thing I’m learning more than ever is that teamwork is essential. Every song on the new album is a co-write, and I know that all of the songs went to a different place because of that. Working together we can spur each other on to create harder, dig deeper, and therefore I hope, go further.
You have a new book coming out in August, Mirror Ball. Please describe it in a nutshell.
The book is about living a big, bold, and bright life of worship. I hope it helps people get a heightened view of the amazing God we serve, and then propels them into a new confidence of who they can become in him.
What’s the difference between songwriting and writing a book?
I love working with words. Songwriting is interesting because ultimately you’re trying to say something in the most concise way possible. The aim for me is “simple but not shallow”—so it can be easily learned, but hopefully contains some important God-truths. Writing a book, on the other hand, you get a little more space to reflect and unpack a theme. But I find that what both disciplines need is the ability and diligence to shape, mold, re-form, and edit. Often we give up too early. Creativity is always a mix of inspiration and perspiration.