Bart and all the guys in MercyMe are long-time friends of youth ministry… we first started working with them at the Oklahoma Baptist Youth Evangelism Conference in the late 1990’s. All of their albums have been in Youth Leaders Only and we are glad that their new project is as well. Here’s what what they have to say about LIFER.
We have had a ton of people ask us about the meaning of the bars on the cover of the new album LIFER. We briefly mentioned this on social media, but thought we’d mention it here as well. The three bars represent three different “facets” of LIFE.
Welcome To The New is a bit of a stylistic departure for you as a band. What brought about this change?
Bart: Our approach on this album on all levels was that we wanted to be “new,” no pun intended. The producers we’ve used before are some of our favorite people in the whole world, but we wanted every aspect of making this record to be a stretch for us with a “new” approach. Our producers, Ben Glover and David Garcia, have worked on projects like Toby and Mandisa, and although we’ve been fans of their work, they typically wouldn’t be the guys we would normally go for. But we love the fact that where they come from is not where MercyMe comes from. And they came in and stretched us in different directions to where it was uncomfortable at times, but the result was incredible. That’s what we wanted.
The video for “Shake” seems to be the most fun you guys have ever had in a music video. What was the experience like on set?
Robby: We hadn’t made a real music video in years. So, it was fun to finally have an idea and make it come to life. We blocked off downtown streets in Huntsville, had a remote controlled octocopter camera, and over 100 extras including some choreographed dancers — so it was a blast. We are all just a bunch of goofball dads, so we wanted to show that Christians could have fun and have a good time. We wanted to encourage others to get up and shake because we have a reason to.
You said in an interview that you were burned out musically until speaking with a friend of yours who is a youth pastor. Can you tell us more about that exchange?
Bart: I grew up with a legalistic background, and even though I knew about grace, there were always three more things you could do to make life better. But, of course, I’d do ten. I was an overachiever. That’s why I started a band; if we weren’t giving God our best, He wasn’t happy with us. About two years ago I felt that so many things were just hanging by a thread. I was doing everything to try to succeed because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. So I wanted to be really good at it and thought that God would be pleased. It didn’t make any sense until a youth pastor from the first church camp we played 20 years ago spoke the truth of God’s grace to me. He explained that there’s nothing I can do to make Christ love me any more or less than He already does. He said, “Because of the cross, you are a brand-new creation with a new heart and mind in Christ.” And I thought, “Wow! That’s something I never heard growing up. There’s no way I can sabotage this!” The Gospel now seems brand new to me, and that grace message is the whole theme behind the album Welcome To The New.
Bart recently wrote an article for Time Magazine about grace titled, “Dear Religion, I Quit You!” Could you break down what that article is about?
Bart: A lot of people are scared of this grace message. We’ve had people comment that I don’t care about sin and that we have a license to sin freely. But I hope that people don’t take that away from this. My point is that sin has no right to tie you down and to make you think that you’re not worth anything. When we say, “Be careful, he’s saying it’s okay to sin freely,” we’re actually giving sin power by thinking that it can keep us in check, and that it has the ability to matter. I’m not saying to sin freely. We all struggle with sin. But, last time I checked there is no expiration date on grace. We are redeemed, righteous, and holy because of the cross. We are not bad people trying to be good; we are holy people who struggle with the flesh. And that’s going to continue. You’re going to have times where you win some and you lose some, but it doesn’t change who you are in Christ.
How can youth groups be praying for MercyMe?
Mike: We’d appreciate prayer for this album and it’s message to really connect with people. That we’d be able to share the same freshness we feel like we have from God right now with our fans and with people who may come across the album and not even be MercyMe fans. That it just wouldn’t return void. Nathan: Also, for our families as we travel.
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