A Conversation with Dan Dean of Phillips, Craig and Dean

worship

Randy Phillips, Shawn Craig and Dan Dean have been working hard for more than 13 years, turning up regularly to prove themselves faithful through a musical ministry that has won them scores of faithful fans — not to mention 18 No. 1 singles, several Dove Award nominations and sales near the 2 million mark. Known for their ability to write songs the church loves to sing (including “Mercy Came Running” and “Crucified With Christ”), this trio brings an experience and maturity to today’s modern worship movement, enhanced no doubt by their “day jobs” as pastors.

Dan I’ve been enjoying the music of Phillips, Craig and Dean for over a decade now, I think I have all of your albums, but I have to admit I don’t know which one in the group you are. We know you’re Dan Dean, but can you help our readers know how to identify you?

I’m the best looking guy on the cover (laughs).

That’s what I thought (laughs).

I’m the only blond in the group — blond mixed with a little gray. I’ve been asked why my name is last, and I say the bible says ‘the last shall be first’. (laughs)

So, why is it Phillips, Craig and Dean? Why that order?

I don’t know. When we first got together there was debate about names and if we should use our names or create a new name. I remember one of the record company execs saying ‘you need something that feels like Cosby, Stills and Nash’, so I really think they looked at the feel, rather than the sequence. It just rolled off the tongue better that way. But again, knowing Randy, he might have had something to do with this (laughs), a little payoff money on the side.

Many of us know that you, Randy Phillips and Shawn Craig are full time pastors. For most pastors I know, it’s tough enough just doing that job. How do you balance being a pastor with being a professional musician?

When the group started fourteen years ago I was the worship pastor at our church. When we were doing 130 dates a year I could accommodate that schedule because the responsibilities were not nearly so great.

Then five years ago I became senior pastor at my church in Irving (Texas). Since then it’s been much more difficult to maintain that schedule. We’ve curtailed our traveling to about one-third of what we did previously.

And our churches have been very flexible; they understand this is a “God thing”. So my staff has learned to not be as dependent on me, which frees me up for the music. It’s not an easy thing, but we have marveled at how few dates we’ve needed to cancel due to the various things that happen in church life. Through the grace of God we’ve been able to do it.

How does your record label feel about you curtailing your travel? Usually that affects record sales…

I’m sure there are things they don’t say to us that they’d like to say (laughs). For example this week our record company wanted us to be at GMA week on a Sunday, they felt it was important we be there. Spring is probably the greatest growth track, speaking of Growthtrac (laughs), for a church. It’s a big time for church growth and we just couldn’t get away from our churches that particular Sunday.

Jeff Mosley (INO Records) understands our position and he respects that. So it’s not anything new here, it’s just part of our lives and we adjust accordingly. With the release of this album (Let the Worshippers Arise) we went on a three-week promotional tour, so we do accommodate.

If someone put a gun to your head and forced you to choose between your role as a pastor and a contemporary music artist, what would you do?

I think for all three of us that would be a fairly easy decision to make. We love the music and it would be hard to give up, however, we have said from day one our priority is the local church. That is a decision we made on day one. I love being a pastor, it’s a challenge, but I love the people.

Hopefully, I’ll never need to make that decision. I’ve been at my church since 1988. And Shawn and Randy have been at their churches longer. It’s a joy — sometimes a bit overwhelming — but God has given us the grace to do it at this point and we continue to do so.

Your style on the first several albums is what I would call a power vocal performance group. But your last two albums — along with your latest album, Let the Worshippers Arise — had more of a worship focus. What prompted that change?

This is something we always wanted to do, simply because we all lead worship in our home churches. This felt like an extension of our ministry, it flows out of who we are. When we tour, we’ve always had a time of worship where people join in and now that is done to a greater extent.

We’ve been big fans for many, many years. My wife’s favorites were the two albums prior to Let the Worshippers Arise, and I know she’ll love this one too. When I was talking with her about doing the interview she said, “Tell them they’re my favorites”. She’ll put the songs on her car and worship…

That’s what we long for. One of the greatest compliments is to hear someone say they do our music in their church. It’s a wonderful thing to know that we’re blessing churches.

How would you say this album is different from the last two worship-focused albums?

First off, a lot of things are the same: Same producer (Nathan Michaels), the style is the same. There are a few innovative differences.

Randy had a song-writing contest on his television program, The Awakening. He promised the winner they would get to perform their song on his show. The winning song was Let the Worshippers Arise and after hearing the song we decided we needed to put it on the album!

We tried to find songs that were not necessarily original, but songs that maybe people hadn’t heard yet. Where as on our last two albums, we a lot took songs — like Open the Eyes of My Heart that had been around for a while — and we re-recorded it.

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The first single, You are God Alone, was written by Billy Foot a friend of ours. The song had been recorded, but I don’t think many people had heart it.

There are some songs that are very recognizable. Wonderful Merciful Savior has been around a while.

That’s a great song.

Yes it is.

What music do you personally listen to?

It’s an eclectic mix. I listen to praise and worship more than anything else. I like Hillsongs and I love Chris Tomlin. I love Matt Redmon’s music and Tree63. And confession time: I have a little country music in there.

I couldn’t tell from your accent that you might like Country (laughs).

Tim McGraw is in my selection — Live Like You are Dying is a great song. I love Rascal Flatts because I love their harmony. And then occasionally I just listen to soft jazz.

I thought you were going to say Usher, JZ, or Fifty-Cent…

(laughs) No, I can’t say I listen to them a lot. I think it’s a generational thing. Though I’m not a fan, I do respect the creativity and their ability to communicate.

If you would, tell us about the car accident that affected you and your wife.

On New Years Eve 2002, my wife and I were involved in a very violent collision. I was going about 55 miles-per-hour and a van pulled right in front of me off a side road. The miracle really started the night before.

My father-in-law had a dream that my wife and I were in a car accident. In the dream I was killed and my wife was seriously injured. He woke up so disturbed that he got out of bed prayed and interceded for us. We believe those prayers spared our lives.

The second miracle occurred when a lady happened to be ten feet from our car and got to my wife and kept her still. My wife had already opened the door and was trying to get out. That would have been disastrous. We later discovered that she suffered the same fracture Christopher Reeves suffered — she had broken C2 in her neck and her back at L1. We were told that if she had moved, she could have easily died.

2003 was a rough year. She spent four months immobile in a hospital bed and then physical therapy. It was quite an ordeal. But I’m happy to say she fully recovered — no paralysis. It’s an amazing miracle. We are so blessed.

How did that affect your husband and wife relationship?

Long term, it brought us much closer together. On a short-term basis, it was an adventure that neither one of us had ever walked through. I have to admit, there were days where I emotionally disconnected — I didn’t want to, but I think it was a matter of survival. I had to shake myself several times and say ‘You can’t do this’ and I’d pull myself back. It was a long hard thing to walk through.

My wife is a totally different person today. Both of us have learned to how to appreciate life more and learn that some things don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. We’ve made a commitment to each other and our children that those things that are secondary that we have no control over, we’re not going to worry about.

I don’t talk about this very often… Before PCD got together, at about year ten of our marriage we hit the wall. If you had talked to me at that time, I would have said there is no way we’ll survive. It was a very dire situation. I thought I would be forced out of ministry, there was no hope, and our marriage was collapsing.

We were married very young. We just thought it was a cool thing to do. Our parents encouraged us to be married. We never even knew if we were compatible (laughs).

Back then I shared our hardship with my pastor and his advice was don’t tell anyone. So we didn’t. For ten years we struggled and stumbled. But in year ten God led us to a wonderful Christian counselor — she totally turned our lives around. She put tools in our hands, helped us to work on our marriage, and simply listened to us. We went from a hopeless marriage to a loving, hopeful, God-centered marriage relationship.

I’m saying this to encourage people to get help. Don’t go at it alone. Especially men. Men often turn their backs on problems. They tend not to discuss these things or seek accountability. There are some wonderful people and great tools out there — such as Growthtrac. I’m going to use Growthtrac for some folks in my church.

Copyright © 2005 Growthtrac.

Check out Phillips, Craig and Dean’s website at phillipscraiganddean.com .

About Jim Mueller

bio-jim-muellerJim is the founder, with wife, Sheri, of Growthtrac Ministries as well as Program Director of GrowthtracRadio and the architect behind growthtrac.com. Jim holds a B.S. in business management and is a facilitator for PREPARE/ENRICH, the most widely used customized couple assessment tool. He has authored numerous articles, interviewed leading relationship authors and Christian artists, and has contributed to Dr. Les Parrott’s book, The Complete Guide to Marriage Mentoring. Jim has worked for more than 15 years to help premarital couples and married couples build and maintain healthy relationships.

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