By Michael Foust, Crosswalk.com
Perennial chart-topping Christian artist Phil Wickham doesn't hold back when asked about his new album's title, I Believe.
He says he wanted to plant a flag for Christ in a world where society is growing more dark and where even a few professing Christians are walking away from the faith. "I believe there's one way, and it's Jesus," Wickham told Crosswalk. "And I'm not going to be ashamed about it."
Crosswalk recently spoke with Wickham about his album, songs, tour schedule, and thoughts on the deconstruction movement. Here are five questions, with his answers lightly edited for clarity.
What message are you trying to send the church with this album?
I felt very called, very excited, very impassioned to write songs that explain simply who I believe God to be, who I believe we are in Him, and what I believe He has done with us and for us.
There's something so powerful in plainly saying, "My life changed and continues to change the more I align myself with Jesus." And I believe God hears me, and I'm going to see Him one day. I need a Savior because I'm a sinner. And no other religion offers a Savior like Jesus, and no other religion sent a God to die so that I don't have to. The whole story lights my heart up. I've seen God heal people. I've seen addiction stop the moment people have asked God for help. And I can't deny that it's real. And I just want to tell as many people about it as possible, because I think it's for everyone. That heart is what the record is saying.
I Believe is a simple song, but in a world of deconstruction, it kind of makes a point.
Was that on your mind when you were writing it?
Yes. One-hundred percent. I think He's the way, I think He's the truth, and He's the life, and no other story lights my heart up like the story of Jesus. I [understand] people trying to work out their salvation and stuff. But I just wanted to be a voice amongst it all, saying, "Hey, I believe there's one way, and it's Jesus. I believe that He died on the cross for my sin, and He rose again so that I can live forever. I believe in the hope of heaven. I believe He's preparing a place for me. And I'm not going to be ashamed about it. I've found so much abundant life." And so that was definitely written in response to a lot of personal and external things that have come my way.
Tell us the story of your song This Is Our God.
That story started on a tour, which many of my songs do. On tours, it's so cool because you get to be with a bunch of other artists and musicians and the band, and you're seeing the church firsthand from city to city. It's just an inspiring thing. And every night, I'm preaching the gospel. Every night, I'm singing about Jesus. My soul has been so filled with reminders of His faithfulness and who He is that halfway through any tour, songs just start pouring out -- during soundcheck or spontaneous moments on stage. Brandon Lake and Pat Barrett were on the tour with me. And it was during the soundcheck and just in the middle of all that I started singing "This Is Our God" -- I started singing the chorus out of nowhere. And I saw Pat and Brandon, and they were like, "What is that?" And I'm like, "I don't know -- is it good?" They're like, "Let's finish it right now." And so we went back to the back room, and we got the rest of the chorus and some of the verse.
I knew we might have something special. And then later on, I was in a co-write with Mr. Steven Furtick, pastor of Elevation Church, and Brandon, and he gave me verse ideas. And then out of nowhere, this old set of lyrics I had from years before -- maybe four years ago, I'd written them down, never had a melody [but] hey just popped into my mind.
How do you balance family time with touring? Your family lives in California.
For that, I prefer to be on the East Coast [because of the time zone difference]. When you get offstage [on the East Coast], the kids are going to bed, so I can always say goodnight to them and talk to my wife. But when I get offstage on the West Coast, my wife's already asleep, so we can't connect as much.
Did your parents come out of the Jesus Movement?
Yes. They were baptized in that same Cove [seen in Jesus Revolution]. That Lonnie Frisbee guy -- he led my dad to the Lord. And my parents were in this old band that was traveling around. And then, my parents went on to be the worship leaders at Chuck Smith's church for 14 years. I was dedicated by Chuck Smith when I was a baby. And so that's very, very much my history.
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.