Elevation Worship Interview
Growthtrac founder Jim Mueller recently chatted with Chris Brown of Elevation Worship, the worship ministry of the North Carolina-based Elevation Church that has become well-known for its powerful, Spirit-led original worship music. Chris, along with his wife, Beth, talk about their ministry, their marriage, and their family in the following interview.
Jim: Your album There Is a Cloud has been out for a while. What kind of reaction have you had to it on tour?
Chris: You know, it’s been a lot of fun. The album seems to have been received really well. We’ve had a couple of tours since the album released and have seen people catch on to songs such as “Do It Again,” which is a big faith anthem.
How did you get the concept for the songs on this album?
Chris: It came out of a sermon called “The Seed Is On Schedule,” that our pastor, Steven Furtick, preached a couple years ago. His message was about being in a waiting period, about what life is like when you feel as though you’ve been sowing seeds but not seeing any growth from what you’ve sown. It was about trusting God—trusting that whatever you planted and gave over to God will come forth in its time. We started writing a song around that idea, and it became the theme of the whole album.
Is there a future tour in the works?
Chris: Outcry 2018 is scheduled for this spring. We’re excited about it. Stay tuned for details . . .
What does your songwriting process look like?
Chris: A messy birthing process! It’s collaborative and ever-evolving; there are lots of voice memos on the phone, mumbles and hums, text messages back and forth between writers asking, “What do you think about this?” Beth can attest that there are many Friday nights or Saturday mornings when I’m hacking out a melody or piecing something together written a year ago. Our pastor Steve is quite involved. We’re always collecting ideas for songs. I heard somewhere along the way that the more options you have, the more creative you’ll be. So we never throw out anything. It’s surprising how ideas always come back around.
The song “Come to the Altar” started probably a year and a half before the song was actually finished. It was based on the idea of my life being altered. I had the melody, but the idea itself was complicated for a worship song. We tried for months to build around it and it never went anywhere. Then, eighteen months later, our pastor said, “What if it’s not this complicated thought, but it’s just ‘come to the altar’?” That thought triggered a whole different direction.
I think a lot of songs get set in motion that way. Some songs are written in a day; most aren’t. Most take place over months and months.
Our number-one priority will always be to write songs for our church people. We don’t have a vision for writing for audiences beyond our church. We honestly feel the power and anointing come from us writing in our context. God’s going to use the songs however he chooses, but at least we feel we’ve written songs that we know were not aimed beyond our local church.
We’re young and we’ve never done this before, and we never imagined ministry looking like this.
How does Beth influence your music?
Chris: She’s laughing.
Beth: I help influence his songwriting by keeping our two children—Joah and Adelaide—quiet so he can write!
Chris: Sometimes when there’s chaos in the house, Beth sees me get off the couch and go to the piano and she knows that’s a cue.
But Beth is such an integral part of our church life and our worship and songwriting ministry. I feel so fortunate that as our ministry’s grown, as the songs have garnered a bigger platform and the travel’s picked up, I’ve never once felt Beth hasn’t been supportive of what the ministry is requiring of me.
We’re young and we’ve never done this before, and we never imagined ministry looking like this. We never set out to try to be a part of a ministry that would be sending me out traveling. Beth’s support is absolutely vital.
Beth: We share the same vision, the same goals for our family.
How does touring impact your family?
Chris: Nearly every time I leave, whether for a shorter trip or a longer tour, we talk to the kids about how cool it is that Daddy gets to worship with people in another state. We say things such as, “Isn’t it amazing that people around the country are singing the songs we sing in our house and in our church on the weekend? Isn’t it amazing that Daddy gets to minister to them?” We try to frame the travel in that context.
Beth: Right. God sees our smallest offerings. And as a stay-at-home mom, I’m playing a part in that. My part is valuable, and I want our kids to know that their part in this ministry is just as valuable. So we get excited to send Chris off. It’s as though we’re commissioning him. It’s the way we honor God.
Chris: I’m definitely a homebody, an introvert. We both are! So when I’m headed out on a longer trip and the kids and Beth stay home, it’s hard to leave. There’s also this part in me that feels bad because my life for the next 20 days is going to look like a vacation compared to what Beth has to deal with at home. God bless her!
How do you keep your marriage fresh?
Chris: We try to have regular date nights. Sometimes it’s more regular than others. For instance, this fall was rather busy, but we do get away for time to talk and reconnect. We’re fortunate we have family the next state over . . .
Beth: Thanks, Mom and Dad!
Chris: . . . so we’re able to get away once or twice a year, maybe take off three or five days for a vacation, just the two of us. It’s been about every two years we’ll take a week away.
I’m also going to counseling right now. I’m learning some things about myself that are spilling over into our marriage in a positive way. I come home able to tell Beth about interesting things that come up during a session. I feel it keeps our marriage fresh because it helps us discover more about the other person.
Beth: Looking at our calendars so we know what to expect has been good for us to do. It’s very practical. Maybe we’ll see that we need to plan a date or a little vacation after a busy season.
Chris: It’s about expectations—talking through them on the front end. We’ve learned to talk about what we expect from one another, about our life rhythm. It’s been very good for me. I’ve enjoyed the process.
I want (our kids) to understand that the whole purpose of leading worship is to serve the church.
What do you want your kids to know about worship?
Chris: That worship is designed to be authentic. I grew up in the church; my dad was a worship pastor. My parents did an amazing job of not putting any crazy expectations on me from the church. But I still picked up certain habits of thinking worship needed to look a certain way, or that I needed to act a certain way. I would love for our kids to see me not only modeling authenticity on the platform, but certainly off the platform. I want them to know the power of being honest with God, of being vulnerable with God. I don’t want them to feel that they have to be a certain way or worship a certain way, or that worship is boxed in.
Beth: Our son recently accepted Jesus into his heart. Chris did a really good job of talking to him about what that means. And Joah has said he wants to be a worship leader when he grows up. Of course we would love that—but we want him to follow where God leads him. But Chris was good about explaining to him that being a worship leader is not about being on stage, but about being authentic. Chris explained that the reason he wanted to be a worship leader is that he wanted to give God his worship and adoration and praise. It was fun to see our seven-year-old son’s wheels turning.
Chris: We talk with the kids about serving. I want them to understand that the whole purpose of leading worship is to serve the church. It’s helping people connect with God in a new way. I don’t want my kids to grow up thinking the best way to serve God is to serve on a platform.
Beth: You can serve the Lord as an act of worship just by an attitude you have. Your attitude can be an act of worship. What we choose to do in our home is an act of worship.
What is God saying to you these days?
Beth: Our pastor’s wife, Holly, wrote a marriage study called Becoming Mrs. Better Half; it’s really about our responsibility to God.
I remember standing at the sink one time, washing some dishes—not my favorite thing to do [laughs]—and watching Chris put down his coffee mug. I felt real hot and thought, What does he think, I’m just going to pick that up? It was something so small and silly. When we first got married, I would have been like, I just love to wash your dishes! [Laughs again.] Over time, the mundane things become things you can choose to be offended about or grateful for. And I think this is where we choose to bend our attitude into worshiping God.
This even applies to when Chris is touring. I could choose to resent all the things I have to do. But I’ve decided that’s not who I want to be and that’s not who God calls me to be. If we really want to be like Jesus, we’re going to choose to be thankful in the small things instead of resentful.
That applies to the church, too. I’ve seen instances where someone’s allowed a root of bitterness to grow because instead of choosing to be grateful or to love someone, he or she chose to be hurt or resentful or offended. That leads to separation. It’s always going to be a struggle because we’re sinful, but I choose most of the time not to be offended.
Anything you’d like to add?
Chris: Beth already mentioned it, but I agree. It’s important not to lose a sense of gratitude in your marriage. It has done wonders for us. When you start to tolerate what you used to celebrate, things start getting off. I’ve got to keep a perspective of gratitude, because it’s the best way to ward off any other roots that are trying to take place in our marriage or in our home.