Q: You grew up in a Christian home. How grateful are you to have come from such a great legacy?
A: I can’t overstate the importance of the input that you get as you’re being formed, being raised, in your home. My dad was a lover of Jesus. He was a Baptist pastor and I was raised in a home that ministered. So, we were church kids – I call myself a pew baby and I wouldn’t trade it! The Word that tells us that the blessings of the Father pass down to a thousand generations. So, I am a product. And then I would have to also credit my father with the products that my kids are turning out to be too.
Q: How did growing up in the Church impact your worldview?
A: I know there’s a lot of church bashing in the world today, but I really would encourage any readers to resist that spirit that’s loose right now on the earth that comes against the knowledge of God. The reality is God loves the Church with all His heart. He gave himself, through Jesus, for it. So, while He can criticize the Church and point out our faults, we must only do it as He leads by His Spirit in us. So, I’m one of those guys that loves the Church and I love my upbringing and I love the emphasis on fellowship and people. Because, while the devil’s trying to pit us against each other with all sorts of divisive issues and trying to get us mad at each other. But for the Father, people aren’t the problem, they’re the point. We have to keep that in mind as we minister in this day and time, that we battle not against flesh and blood, but principalities, powers, and rulers of darkness in high places. So that’s probably the single most important thing my father did for us is teach us how important people are and to love them.
Q: How did you first become interested in music?
A: In the Church! That’s another reason to love, love, love the Church and to encourage the Church to not sacrifice its relevance at the altar of what the world says is relevant. And as a kid, I came up in the kind of an atmosphere, where we made little trios, and little choirs, and little groups, and did solos, and there was a place for that. And so, music came naturally for me. It was really just the path of least resistance. And as I got old enough to try to resist that path, which I did, the Lord hemmed me in. He couldn’t give me many options ‘cause I’m kind of thick-headed! And so, He just penned me in where I only had one option. I have literally sung for my supper my whole life. All the way through college I was a scholarship singer, then I graduated college and have sung for my supper ever since.
Q: Talk about the power of worship and why it’s an important part of who you are.
A: Well, it’s almost one of those things we live within – we don’t do. I like the verse that says, “In Him we live, and move, and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) And I think worship is that large. And unfortunately, we sometimes make it small. It gets small somewhere along the way as we start to try to understand it because we label that time in the service or in the meeting as worship… “Now we’re going to worship.” And I think it’s a sad way to conceptualize worship, because we worship with our lives. So, it’s more of a “in Him we live, and move, and worship, and have our being.” It’s how we behave with one another, it’s how we give. That’s worship. I think it’s all directly related to how much we love the Lord. And the only way you can know that is to know how much He loves you and then live a while, making your mistakes and doing the good and the bad and the ugly… all of it together gives you the context for His love, because it’s just steady and unconditional, the same. And then it gives us the context for loving Him. And then it gives us the context for loving others. Just like Jesus answered the Pharisees with when they tried to trap Him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) So you get those. And then as you’re working that out, worship fits right there. Right? And it comes out in songs, it comes out in hymns, it comes out in spirituals songs, it comes out in giving, it comes out in behavior. “Do you love me? Feed my sheep.” (John 21:17 ) “If you give a cup of cold water in my name, you’ve done it unto me.” (Matthew 10:42 ) All of these things are worship. And so, I think the music part of it is just maybe out of overflow. I like that kind of worship, the overflow worship. And I’m not saying that we don’t have times where we have to be reminded. And a lot of times pensive worship songs and introspective themes can be injected in a setting where you’re singing, doing worship musically, and they bring us to a place of understanding our need.
I think to that end, those are good, but I think they need to be used sparingly, because if you’re not careful, you get in a forlorn state and you get left on your knees, busted, broken, against the wall, the cop’s got you, and he’s going to handcuff you. And the devil wants you right there, he wants you to stay right there. If he can get you there and keep you there, you’re useless in the Kingdom. But the Word teaches us that the Lord is the lifter of our heads. And then we find the joy of the Lord being our strength! So, you put all that together and “a thankful heart maketh merry!” I think the redeemed need to focus on happy, on joy, on strength, on power, on understanding who we are and walking in that kind of victory. Because the other is the language the enemy traffics in.
Q: How did you grow in your love of singing while in college?
A: I went to school at Liberty University and sang on a singing team there that traveled with Dr. Falwell and did. He would speak at large churches and try to drum up interest for the school. And of course, we went and sang! He’d always take a soloist or duet or sometimes a trio around – – He always had to have a song before he spoke, so we did a whole lot of traveling and singing. Loved those days.
Q: You met your wife in college. Tell us about that, and how thankful are you that her father had the wisdom to make you finish college before you could marry?
A: It was a smart requirement. I held that commitment too! I graduated at 10:00am on May 6, 1985, and we got married at 8:00pm on May 6th, 1985. So it was just by the hair on my chinny chin chin! And as far as being thankful, I’m eternally thankful for an absolute saint of a partner to go through life with.
Q: How did God open the door for you to become part of the Gaithers?
A: After we moved to Nashville in 1986, I had been working solidly in the studios for about eight years. Bill has always been wonderful at keeping tabs on new talent and new folks, so in 1994 when they had need of a new lead singer, he began that search. He called a woman who was a contractor for vocals in Nashville who had hired me a lot in the years that I was there. She’s the one who brought my name up to Bill. So I’ll eternally be grateful to Bev Darnel for throwing my name in the pot.
Q: Given what time of year we’re in, how is worship an act of showing thankfulness?
A: Oh my goodness. That would be a definition of worship. It’s that tied to thankfulness. You know, we find that God is the only real judge of worship. He’s the only one who really can judge it because He knows your heart and He knows where it’s coming from. And, what better time? You know, we’re the only nation in the world that celebrates Thanksgiving for the reason we celebrate it. And it was truly formed and initiated in thanksgiving to God almighty, Jehovah God for delivering them safely ashore, safely to a new place – and that’s our story, safely to a new place. He delivered us through Jesus on the cross safely to the house of God. And then we find, on the day He died, the Father tore the veil between the inner court and the Holy of Holies from the top down and said, “Now, come boldly before My throne to find grace and mercy in your time of need.” And it’s in that realization that we should emote and worship. The concept of us falling on our faces before God is really integral and important for us to try to get the weight of what it’s going to be like when Jesus walks in the room and we can tell the difference then. It won’t be like the movies where stormtroopers come through and knock you to your knees with their weapons and sticks and such. When, you know, the emperor comes in the room and “bow before the emperor,” you know, there will be no need for any of that because when he comes in, we will finally really understand face to face the difference in creator and created. And I think out of that realization, we will worship. And the first form of it, I think is going to be quiet and visible, it’ll be literally a position we take prostrate before the Lord. And so, Thanksgiving is the fuel. And to be thankful is the fuel for worship. And it comes out of that. You know, the songs you love the most are the ones that remind you of what He’s done for you, you know? Those are the ones you tend to emote on, you know, tears flow, the volume increases and the shout comes and the gut gets undone because the Holy Spirit’s just moving in you. And then His Spirit, when He inhabits that, that’s when the work of God then starts to be done in milliseconds all over the place. Right? When you’re in those corporate settings, or private setting, when you have that moment and you’re overcome, that’s when your walls come down, you don’t worry about what anybody’s thinking, and you just abandon yourself to thank Him and worship Him. And then He moves in because He’s a giver. And our position in the truest sense ought to be like, you know, the examples of Mary and Martha, we go to the feet of Jesus and we take, take, take. Not in the sense of selfishness, but He is the supply. And it’s actually pride to not go to Him with hands wide open, needing Him. And the best worship is to understand our need and to receive from Him. Because then we worship and minister out of overflow. Now you’re getting something done. Right?
Q: What are you most thankful for this year?
A: Oh, wow. That’s a loaded question. Obviously, these have been two tough years. I’m thankful we haven’t lost any loved ones to the horrible virus. And I’m thankful that we, as believers can be a touchpoint of strength, confidence assurance, fearlessness. We don’t walk in fear, but in love, power, and a sound mind. So, it’s been a beautiful opportunity for two years now, and I think it’ll continue to be, for us to show that you can’t scare us with Heaven – you know, the idea that you might die. Devil, you can’t scare us with Heaven. You’ve got to find a different tactic here, buddy. He overplays his hand a lot and I think that’s what’s happened here. And so the beautiful thing that I love is the opportunity you see in fearful times to offer viable, real answers. And Jesus is the answer for all this stuff, because no weapon formed against us shall prosper. That’s what it says. So I have been just hammering that, not to the exclusion of the pain that this particular medical issue has caused. But it gives you a beautiful opportunity to go give life and hope to those who are scared to death right now. We shouldn’t be the ones running around scared to death. We should be the ones ministering healing and strength and pronouncing the exit of this disease! “Get out. You’re a trespasser. You have no place here. This is a blood-bought child of the Most High!” And maintain it. Not because it’s our philosophy we just came up with, that’s the Bible. We’re not going to need healed in Heavens so “by His stripes we are healed,” is for here. We need to walk in that. So this year has provided that and it’s been real fun to get out and just kindly – because the kindness of God draws men to repentance, I believe in that – kindly remind everyone, you have a hope and it’s in the person of Jesus.
Q: As part of the Daystar Family, you host Gospel Music Showcase and are able to come into people’s homes each week to share some great music. What has it meant to you to be such an important part of people’s day?
A: There are re so many goofy things on TV that you have to switch the channel on. But with Daystar and Christian programming, you can stop and receive and get ministered to. And so, the opportunity to do that and to come into someone’s home weekly with the love of Jesus is incredible. And then they know they’ve got a family, like Daystar that they can reach out to and partner with in prayer that will see them through the challenges in life. And so, I love being able to offer hope and offer happy as well! That’s why we focus a lot on “happy” on Gospel Music Showcase, music that is happy and uplifting and points to the goodness of God. And I love that about this network because that’s at the center of Marcus and Joni’s vision here is to be – it’s in the name “Daystar” – to be light like He is in every day.
Q: What do you hope people take time to remember this Thanksgiving holiday?
A: Well, obviously the first thing we always focus on is the person of Jesus and His willingness to go through all He went through to win us and to do all the work, the performance, He did it all. So, I always liked to focus on that because I’m one of those that, that I’m just bent to want to think I’ve got to do it, you know? I’m one of those and I have to always remind myself, “I can’t do it good enough, so you don’t get stressed.”
So I like reminding myself to be thankful for Jesus for those reasons, “He did it all, relax in it.” And then to be thankful for the people who then put boots on the ground. And I mean, in all different ways to give us the opportunity to live in freedom. I think that’s a real big deal, you know? So those men and women who fought to keep this place free. And then I think third in line would be our families. Yeah, so family would round that out, those three things, and you know, I have to remind myself, because I will find myself worrying. You know, you have eight kids, you’ve cared for both sets of parents, given hospice care to two of them, you get so responsible or you feel the need to get so responsible, I’ll put it that way, because sometimes I think I’m being real responsible, but in reality, it’s rather irresponsible. Because God’s the one that handles this stuff and we can’t. So, I think that’s a good place for me is in that time to just take a step back and let the pressure off yourself and relax into the ability of our Savior and then love Him for what He’s given us. And of course, it’s all around us at Thanksgiving, you know, we always have our families and that’s a big deal.