Kings & Queens
There aren’t many things in the world as powerful as music. A song can hold the power to stir people’s hearts and touch people in ways they didn’t expect. We all remember moments where a song on the radio brought us to tears or united us with someone we loved. To this day, the opening chord of “Heart of Worship” makes me tear up without hearing a word. Norah Jones’ “Come Away With Me” instantly takes me back to the purity and joy of my wedding. Music is powerful, it is the soundtrack to some of the greatest emotional moments in our lives.
Every once in a while, music will do more than just move us emotionally. When music points to something true, something bigger happens. Songs can carry ideas that bury deep in our souls and change us, little by little, into something new. Music has been the soundtrack for rebellions and revolutions, it has carried the message of freedom for slaves, it has birthed new cultures and new nations. When truth and emotion are combined in a song, the result is powerful and life-changing.
It is my hope that Kings & Queens is a collection of songs that do just that. These songs were born from an idea that has changed my life. It is a marriage of truth and beauty, and I hope that people will walk away different for having listened to it. At its core lies a question that has always seemed to puzzle me, “Is the gospel only about what happens after we die, and if so, what’s the point of life in the here and now?”
If you grew up in the church, like I did, you’re no doubt very familiar with hearing “the gospel” preached in many forms and fashions. My father was a pastor, and ever since I can remember, I heard someone teaching about our need for a Savior and Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross. We would sing hymns about the blood of the Lamb and His saving grace. When things got really crazy, we would sing a little bit about heaven. It always seemed like the older people in the church really enjoyed that, but I didn’t quite get it. I understood sin and redemption, I understood sacrifice and “eternal life,” but why the long wait for heaven? Was the whole purpose of life on earth just to sign other people up for the campaign before we die? Was the whole purpose of the gospel just to provide a way out of this place? Everyone was so focused on the gospel being the key to the afterlife. It seemed like the more spiritual you were, the more you were ready to find a lifeboat and get out of this sinking ship we call Earth. Something about that story didn’t connect with me.
Thankfully, there’s more to the story. Thankfully, the gospel is larger than just sin and sacrifice. Thankfully, God has a plan for the here and now. When I finally began to see the big picture, the story of God that began in creation and is working its way forward to completion, it changed everything for me. Suddenly, heaven wasn’t a lifeboat, it was a kingdom that was actively advancing in this world. More than that, it was something we can pray for and participate in, something we could reach forward and bring into this world through the power of the Spirit. Suddenly, life in this world had a whole new meaning and purpose. We’re not simply called to sign people up for the “roll called up yonder,” we’re called to bring heaven wherever we walk, in whatever we do. We are called to see his “kingdom come and will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” The story is complete and powerful, what started in the Garden is being finished now, and we get to be a part of it.
The first single from the record, The Solution, came from a desire to express this idea through music. I’ve heard many songs that reinforce the idea that I heard growing up, “this life is not our final destination, so let’s just deal with it until our time comes.” This song was my attempt to write a song with the opposite message, a message that compels people to dig in their heels and make a difference in the world we live in. We may not be in our final destination, but as part of the Church our role is to live as though heaven were here already. We need to be part of the solution to the problems we see. We need to bring love, justice, mercy, and peace while we live in “the in-between.”
Even the title of the record is a reference to the importance of viewing this world through the lens of the kingdom of God. The song, Kings & Queens was born from walking with close friends through an incredibly difficult season of life. I watched as the aftermath of sin brought lives and relationships crashing down. It was tragic and painful, but God was still at work in it. In the midst of the heartache, God was breaking up hardened hearts and creating new ones that were “poor in spirit,” hearts that Jesus said the kingdom of heaven actually belonged to. When you view this world through the framework of the kingdom of heaven, everything gets turned upside down. The Kings & Queens aren’t the people you expect, maybe not even the Christian heroes we hold in high regard. The real heroes are the last and least, the ones we overlook as insignificant or even judge as sinful.
I have the privilege of working as the Music Director of North Point Community Church, an incredible church home in Atlanta, Georgia. A huge part of what I do every week is lead worship, and the desire to lead my church in worship is definitely reflected in many of the songs on this record. I began writing the song Here and Now during a message our pastor, Andy Stanley, was giving about why we exist as a church. The thoughts of who we want to be kept coming to mind, a place where “freedom reigns,” a “people full of grace.” As we’ve sung the song, both in our church and at various conferences and events around the country, it has been my hope that the song would remind people that our role as a church is to carry love and mercy to the world around us, to bring heaven into the here and now.
Many of the songs on the record are like Here & Now, worship songs meant to be sung through the church in a corporate way. But several songs are worshipful in a different way, songs that are meant to be experienced personally and connect with who we are as individuals, songs that reflect the beauty and mess of life. The song Brighter Days came from the most difficult lessons I’ve had to learn in my marriage. For years I’ve learned the hard way just how my sin and selfishness has wounded the people I love most. It has been a long road, but eventually I was able to learn that the struggle is where life gets richer, that “pain is not the enemy,” that God placed people in my life like my incredible wife to grow me into the man God originally intended me to be. This song is a celebration of the hard times and all that comes with them, and a hope that something new is on the horizon.
Over all, Kings & Queens is a snapshot of my life as it stands today, messy and in process, yet beautiful and captivating. It is equal parts corporate worship and personal reflection, joy and pain, today and tomorrow. Through all of it, I hope the message of will connect deeply with people, and encourage us all to bring the beauty of heaven in the here and now.