Dove Award winner Travis Cottrell (http://traviscottrell.com) is one of the modern church’s leading worship leaders and songwriters. Travis sits down with show hosts Mark Lowry and Andrew Greer for an interactive conversation about what “worship” means inside and outside the context of music. Fellow worship music-minded artists Michael W. Smith (https://michaelwsmith.com), Sandi Patty (https://sandipatty.com) and Nicole C. Mullen (https://nicolecmullen.com) round out the insightful table talk. Plus hymn historian and best-selling author Robert J. Morgan (http://www.robertjmorgan.com) chimes in and urban-pop duo Seth & Nirva (http://sethandnirva.com) lend their voices to Travis’ song, “The Power of the Cross.”


TRANSCRIPT FROM THE SHOW

Mark: Our guest today is Travis Cottrell. He travels and sings with Beth Moore, but he does more than sing — he leads worship. And what we’re wanting to find out today is what is worship?

Andrew: Yeah, that question, which I think Travis has embodied well in helping to answer that for musicians but also for people who are coming into the congregation to understand what is our act of worship through music and even outside of music. We also have some of our favorite friends who’ve been here at the table, people like Sandi Patty, who we love, Michael W. Smith, Nicole C. Mullen weighing in on the conversation of how they perceive that question. What is worship?

Mark: And we have one seat left at the table and it’s yours, so let’s join the conversation.


 What is Worship?

Mark: So you auditioned for the vocal band when I was leaving, I think.

Travis: Yes.

Andrew: Was it for his part?

Travis: Yeah, I’m a baritone.

Mark: That’s the best part, yeah.

Travis: It is the best part.

Mark: It is. It’s the glue that holds the group together. But you’re doing the praise and worship and you’re kind of a leader in that. From my vantage point, it looks to me like you’re one of the leaders of the praise and worship. You write songs?

Andrew: Do you feel that way?

Travis: You need to get closer.

Mark: Well, why are you here?

Travis: Yes, I’m a worship leader. I’ve traveled and led worship for a number of years. This is actually my 20-year anniversary with Beth Moore.

Mark: That’s been a good job.

Andrew: Well tell me this. OK, so in the culture of today, you think about music and you think about especially how worship music has become a genre. Like now we say worship, and we automatically assume we’re talking about music.

Travis: Right.

Andrew: But how do you as a leader of worship through music, like in the service of worship you are helping lead music to help facilitate worship?

Travis: Right, that’s a good differential to make because worship is broader than the way we use the word, particularly in the industry.

Andrew: Right.

Travis: But in my context, it is music. I’m also a worship pastor at a church, so my context is worship. Now I do try to consider a broader definition for my people that I lead week in and week out.

Mark: What do you mean?

Andrew: So as you’re facilitating…

Travis: Even as I’m facilitating.

Andrew: Through music.

Travis: Worship through the Word, worship visually — every component of worship that’s in the Word, we try to kinda dab into at some point.

Andrew: And embody. So music’s the leader in that for you, but it’s not the end all be all.

Travis: Correct, correct. And even beyond music for me, as a worship leader, my goal is to help people sing. I think that’s something that we lose sight of, you know, we’re not just dishing out our good songs to them and say, “Listen to this great song.” Or “Listen how great we sing or sound.” No, the bottom line as a worship leader is to put something in their hands and put words in their mouths and hearts for them to sing. It doesn’t really matter how good we sound or — I’m starting to get soap box-y, I need to not get soap box-y.

Mark: No, no. Go ahead. I wanna hear it. I got a few soapboxes I’m fixin’ to pull out.

Travis: Oh good, good, good.

Mark: And I wanna know what your soapbox is.

Travis: Well, you know, I just think our job is to put songs in people’s quiver that they can use to express something to God.

“Our job is to put songs in people’s quiver that they can use to express something to God.” – Travis Cottrell

Mark: Exactly.

Travis: And that they can do together.

Mark: And alone.

Travis: And alone, you know.

Andrew: That they take it with them.

Travis: Yeah, take with them. Not songs that, you know… A song may sound great if a worship leader sings it, but if the congregation can’t hit the notes, or can’t grasp the melody, or can’t find some context to respond to God in some way, then I wouldn’t really call it a worship song. I would call it a Christian song. It may be a personal worship song for the worship leader or for someone, and that’s great and that has its place; but for me I always have to come back to the bottom line of my calling is to help people to connect to God by helping them sing.

“…bottom line of my calling is to help people to connect to God by helping them sing.” – Travis Cottrell

Mark: What is your criteria for a great song?

Andrew: For the church?

Mark: You know, for his.

Travis: I don’t know. What is yours? You’re a better songwriter than me.

Mark: Please.

Andrew: One time.

Mark: Yeah, once. But that’s all you need.

Andrew: That is true.

Travis: Which is one more than you. And me.

Mark: What are you looking for when you are going through songs? Because I mean, my soapbox on another topic—

Andrew: Go ahead.

Mark: Is that we’ve left, who is the gentleman we had on here? He wrote the book and brought to our attention that…

Andrew: The Enneagram?

Mark: No, millennials are the first group to leave the hymns behind.

Andrew: Robert J. Morgan, who did all the Then Sings My Soul devotionals and the hymn history.

Mark: And he was on our Dinner Conversations, and I never noticed this or I kinda saw it in my own church, but he contends that the millennials are the first generation to not bring the psalms and the hymns. Like when Isaac Watts came along, they still brought the psalms; and Fanny Crosby came along, they drug the psalms and Isaac with them. Bill Gaither comes along, we haven’t discarded the past. Do you sense that we’re leaving the hymns and psalms behind?

Travis: I don’t sense that in a desperate measure. I do believe, you know, this is just my personal opinion I’m just kind of rattling off from the top of my head.

Andrew: Say what you want.

Mark: Nobody watches this.

Travis: I don’t think we are to a degree that’s dangerous. I think that a lot of us…

Andrew: That it’ll disappear.

Mark: It feels that way to the older folks.

Travis: I know it does, but every generation has had its own musical context.

Mark: Right.

Travis: You know, like, so for Gaither’s early generation, it felt that way to them when Gaither’s music was new. Chris Tomlin is kinda the Gaither of our generation, I would say, and Bill before him. So I think it’s all in context. I think we have a tendency to want what we’ve always had, even in worship.

Andrew: And what resonated with us first, whether it was as a kid or as, you know, like maybe when Tomlin songs are no longer viable in the church marketplace but there’s people who grew up on those songs that was their first introduction to God. When they’re 70, they’re gonna be like, “Where’s ‘How Great is Our God’?”

Travis: Right, and I think we’re made in the image of God and God is Creator, and so I think creating is part of our spiritual DNA. So to leave those who are given the gift of music, and song, and worship to say, “You need to stay mute and we need to keep singing this because it’s what we’ve always sung,” I think that’s unhealthy. I think what God is expressing through today’s worship writers are great. Again, I think the responsibility comes with the worship leaders to offer a palate and offer a diverse offering to their people, you know? And something that they can use to sing.


 Robert J. Morgan, Author, Hymn Expert

Mark: It’s so good to be with Dr. Robert J. Morgan, teaching pastor of Donelson Fellowship. And you are an expert on hymns.

Robert: Oh, I love the hymns. I don’t know that I’d use the word expert.

Mark: Well, here’s a book that sold over a million copies, Then Sings My Soul, that is all these hymns with stories. I’m so excited to have this.

Robert: You know the first hymn ever written — which is recorded for us in Exodus 15 when the Israelites went across the Red Sea, and on the other side they just paused and then they burst into this song — I suppose Moses wrote it on the spot. “I will sing unto the Lord for He has triumphed gloriously. The horse and rider fell into the sea.” So that was about 1,400 years before Christ, so David sang the great hymns and wrote the psalter, many of those songs, about 1,000 years before Christ. The New Testament is full of hymns that were written. Every generation of Spirit-filled believers has to have music. It’s gotta write its own music.

Mark: Interesting.

Robert: And so you did have Spirit-filled believers through every generation. God has never left Himself without a witness. So you had, for example, Bernard of Clairvaux in the monastery writing “O Sacred Heart Now Wounded” and some of these great hymns. You have that wonderful song, probably my favorite hymn, “Of the Father’s Love Begotten,” which we often sing at Christmas. You don’t know “Of the Father’s love begotten, ere the world began to be”?

Mark: No.

Robert: Oh, you’ll love it.

Andrew: Sing it, Rob.

Robert: Of the Father’s love begotten ere the worlds began to be. He is Alpha and Omega. He the source, the center He. I can’t believe that I’m singing to Mark Lowry.

Andrew: I can’t either actually.

Robert: But this is the most beautiful and, in some ways, haunting of all of our Christmas songs, except for “Mary Did You Know?” and the melody is called Divine Mysterium. It’s a thousand years old and the words are about 1,500 years old.

Mark: Wow.

Robert: And so we’ll have to play it for you. I’ll get you a good rendition. You’ll never like it after hearing me sing. It really is beautiful. But these were being written during the medieval time when congregations were not singing; however, you know what was also happening during that time was the church was becoming hollow. The church was becoming corrupt.

Mark: Oh really?

Robert: The church was becoming bureaucratic. The priests were becoming corrupt, the theology was deteriorating, and conditions in the western Church were getting worse and worse until Martin Luther came and said that’s enough of this and he started the German Reformation, which returned Bible reading in the vernacular to the people. It returned hymn singing, and it returned that passion that we need to receive Jesus Christ and be saved by grace through faith. But the failure of the medieval church to sing and to express itself freely in the theology through the singing of the hymns I think contributed to the hollowness, which eventually led to the Reformation. And then Luther helped us start singing again. He brought music back to the church.

Mark: So out of all these hymns that you’ve studied, that is your favorite hymn, that one? How did you pick one?

Robert: Well, I would think that depends on the day.

Mark: OK.

Robert: Yes. “Of the Father’s Love Begotten,” it’s hard to love a hymn more than that one.

Mark: Really?

Robert: But my other favorite, which also comes out of the medieval period, was written by Saint Francis of Assisi. It was called “Canticle to Brother Sun.” You know Saint Francis loved nature.

Mark: Yeah.

Robert: And he took one of the psalms and sort of paraphrased it into this “Canticle of Brother Sun,” which has been translated and versified in English as our hymn, “All creatures of our God and King, lift up your voice and with us sing, alleluia, alleluia.” Do you know that one?

Mark: I do.

Robert: All creatures of our God and King. It is just so triumphant and happy, and so really my two favorite hymns come out of that medieval period when, ironically, the church was not allowed to sing.

Mark: Interesting.

Robert: But you could not silence the church because Spirit-filled people have got to write their own music. And this is what I tell people who complain about contemporary Christian music. I say, “You know, I love the old hymns and I don’t wanna lose them, but we also have got to love the new music because if there is ever a generation that does not write its own music, then Christianity is dead.” And what I try to tell people in churches, they don’t listen very well, but this is really my principle: The older people in our churches badly need to sing contemporary Christian music and the younger people in our church badly need to sing the old hymns. And if we can get the older people energized with new music and we can get the younger people solidified with the old hymns, then we’ve got inter-generational worship. We have got what I think Ephesians 5 is talking about with hymns, songs, and spiritual songs.

“I love the old hymns and I don’t wanna lose them, but we also have got to love the new music because if there is ever a generation that does not write its own music, then Christianity is dead.” – Robert J. Morgan


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Music in Worship

Andrew: Why is it so powerful in the corporate setting? Why is music such a powerful tool? Because maybe that’s why worship has become defined as music in some ways because music is one of the most powerful.

Travis: Right, and it comes from the Word of God. I mean, our model for everything is in the Word, including worship, especially worship. You know, people are marching around walls and declaring the power of God in song and God is announcing the birth of His Son and what does He use to do it? A choir, you know? So I think we take that model and there’s just something innately powerful like worship. The presence of God wins. It wins everything.

Mark: It unifies people.

Travis: And it unifies people, and so sometimes we complicate it, you know? A lot of times I think we complicate it too much, but just the bottom line is we go to those verses that tell us, “If I be lifted up, I will draw everyone to Myself.” You know, “Where two or three are gathered, I will be there.” And then of course the psalms like you mentioned, so powerful and they tell us what to do and we do it.

Andrew: Growing up, I don’t remember a lot of sermons, at least like I can’t repeat them back to you. I may remember an idea, there may have been a small, little revelation and I was like, “Ooh, that’s a good nugget.” But I can totally recite the songs. I mean, I can recite the verses without even the melody. And I would offer that maybe I wouldn’t have been introduced to God in the same way without music.

“…I wouldn’t have been introduced to God in the same way without music.” – Andrew Greer

Travis: Agreed. I think something else that’s interesting, and you can get this on camera, OK. You are younger than me. I wouldn’t say a whole generation…

Andrew: Twelve or 13 years is a generation.

Travis: But those of us who are our age, you know… This is going off on something. I don’t know. You’re gonna edit this out I think.

Andrew: Probably not. We love it when people say that.

Travis: I think another thing that those of us who grew up in church are… There’s something at play and that is the ability to sing, we grew up where music education was a huge part of our school, so in the education system I went to music class, I think, every day in elementary school. I think we had it every day. I can’t remember. Maybe it was once a week. Either way, it was more than they have it now, which is none. And so, we’re learning music in school, then we’re going to church and what are we doing? We’re reading music for every song and it wasn’t that the songs were lower then. Everybody complains that the songs are higher now. Well, and some of them are. And that drives me crazy.

Andrew: But when you look at old hymns there’s Ds and Es.

Travis: Yeah, and what you’re learning to do in school and in church is to sing a part that is relative to your vocal range. So you know, you’re in 7th grade or 8th grade and your voice starts transitioning, those of us whose voice did.

Andrew: I knew it was coming.

Travis: You’re learning how to navigate that and you’re looking on the paper at these hymnbooks, and so we’ve taken away music education in schools. We’ve taken away the music in churches as a result of that I would say. I would say the beginning of the fall was taking it out of the school systems. And so now we’re stuck with no music knowledge in the average worshipper, so that’s all having a play in what we remember, how we learn songs, and how we sing them, and if we’re able to actually sing them. Are y’all tracking with me?

Andrew: That totally makes sense.

Mark: The difference though between a worship song and a song like I tend to write, it is the worship songs are horizontal like, no, what’s this? Vertical?

Travis: That’s vertical.

Mark: Vertical, and the others are horizontal, right? They’re like from me to you or they’re about God, you know? A lot of the ones I write are about Him rather than to Him.

Travis: Right, right.

Mark: And so the worship, when it came along, it started… There were some occasional ones in the hymnal that sang to God.

Travis: Right.

Andrew: There’s a lot of storytelling in hymnody.

Mark: A lot of storytelling and a lot of longing for home, a lot of heaven songs, and I think when I’m in church and I’m standing there, because they stand a lot now. I remember when we’d sit and sing. And where I’m reading some of these songs and I’m wondering how did it get by? It’s poorly written, the rhymes aren’t good, it’s like the old joke, 7-11, you know?

Andrew: So you’re saying there’s not songwriter prowess anymore? Like there’s not that astute…

Mark: Are they churning them out?

Travis: They are. See, I vacillate back and forth with that kind of ideology because I’ve had that same experience, but I don’t think you can tell anyone that every generation hasn’t had that same experience.

Mark: Oh yeah, Fanny Crosby wrote 3,000 songs and five survived.

Travis: Right, right.

Mark: So time will tell which one of these songs will last.

Travis: Time will tell. And again it goes back — I say it all the time.

Mark: If it sticks, it’ll be here.

Travis: Right.

Mark: If it doesn’t, it’ll fall away, but let’s not forget the ones that stuck.

Travis: Right.

Mark: Like the ones that were great. We don’t have to bring all of Fanny Crosby’s stuff forward, but my gosh, let’s don’t leave “Blessed Assurance” behind.

Travis: A hundred percent. Again, the worship leader is the gatekeeper. You know, it’s their responsibility.

Mark: The young people need to know those songs.

Andrew: But I think they do more than we give them credit, as well. I would debate that it’s not being left behind at all.

Mark: I hope not.


Music Informs Our Theology

Andrew: One, I have a love for hymnody. Now I’m on the older end of who we’re talking about, but I still experience among people who are in their 20s and even teens who have significant experiences with hymns. And I think that’s because, I mean, there’s a significant experience with God in it? Do you think that music informs our theology?

Travis: A hundred percent. Absolutely. OK, when you find yourself in a trial, when you find yourself where you need something from the Lord, like, “God, I need a word.” You know the Word says, “I’ve hidden your Word in my heart that I may not sin against You.” The Word says, “I’m a stranger on earth. Do not hide Your commands from me.” You know, the Word says, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet.” It tells us. So we hide our Word, but how do we remember things? More than anything, like you said, we don’t remember the sermons. I don’t remember the geography that I learned in 1984, but I remember Huey Lewis and the News. I remember Phil Collins. We’ll tell you about them later. And so absolutely, you know when we get into those situations in life, we go, “When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace. In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.” Right? That’s what we go to, and that’s why it’s important.

Mark: Well, and Jesus went there on the cross. Psalm 22, I think it is He’s quoting. “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” And back in their day, they didn’t read and write, they would sing them, and they’d start off like I can go, Amazing grace how sweet the sound. The congregation: Amazing… They do that in the hills of Kentucky still. Tony Campolo is the one that brought this to my attention, that He’s on the cross and He starts quoting Psalm, that everyone there knew it. All the people knew that because it’s like the way they did it back then. And that is prophesying of course of what’s happening on the cross.

Travis: Powerful.

Mark: Maybe He was singing from the cross.

Travis: We don’t know.

Mark: We don’t know.

Andrew: Maybe He was singing, Because He lives…

Mark: No, He wasn’t singing that.


Travis Cottrell singing “The Power of the Cross” with Seth & Nirva

A lonely hill, A lonely hill
A rugged tree, A rugged tree
Time stands still, Time stands still
And waits for my answer, And waits for my answer
This sacrifice, This sacrifice
Is calling me, Is calling me
Into a life, Into a life
Of total surrender, Of total surrender 

The power of the cross is moving in my life
‘Cause the power of Your blood has saved me
The power of the cross still draws me to Your side
‘Cause the power of Your love has changed me
Oh, let my life be lost in the power of the cross 

Lord most High, Lord most High
Hope of men, Hope of men
You are mine, You are mine
My Redeemer and Savior, Redeemer and Savior
And all my days, All my days
My days are in Your hands, Are in Your hands
And all my praise, All my praise
Will be Yours forever, Will be Yours forever
The power of the cross is moving in my life
‘Cause the power of Your blood has saved me
The power of the cross still draws me to Your side
‘Cause the power of Your love has changed me
Oh, let my life be lost in the power of the cross 

Where mercy was great and grace was free
Where pardon was multiplied to me
Where my burdened soul found liberty
Hide me in the power of the cross
Where mercy was great and grace was free
Where pardon was multiplied to me
Where my burdened soul found liberty
Hide me in the power of the cross
Where mercy was great and grace was free
Where pardon was multiplied to me
Where my burdened soul found liberty
Hide me in the power of the cross 

The power of the cross is moving in my life
‘Cause the power of Your blood has saved me
The power of the cross, Your cross
Still draws me to Your side
‘Cause the power of Your love has changed me
Oh, let my life be lost in the power of the cross, In the power of the cross


Power of Worship & Music to Unite and Divide

Andrew: It seems like there’s an ability to unify with music. Like we have a lot of divides. Culturally speaking, we have a lot of divides, so those enter our church too because as people, we are part of culture who come to church. And it seems like music has the ability, even in a non-spiritual context or a non-church context, to me it seems like music has a great power to actually unify, to bring together. Have you seen that in worship leaders? Have you seen divides, divisions, those kind of things begin to dissipate just through the course of music?

Travis: Yes, I do think, you know, it’s dependent upon the Holy Spirit and your leadership’s dependence upon the Holy Spirit because worship and music also divides. And I think that’s a scheme of the enemy. You know, I think the enemy, who was a worship leader before he was banished from heaven, knows the power of worship. And so where has he in these recent years of change, and recent I mean from the 90s on, where has he sought to divide churches so often?

“…the enemy, who was a worship leader before he was banished from heaven, knows the power of worship.” – Travis Cottrell

Andrew: Sure, music.

Travis: It’s music. So the very thing that could provide so much division is actually, just like you said, what’s meant to unify. And it can, and it will, dependent upon the Holy Spirit and leadership’s submission to it is what I believe.

Andrew: Leadership submission, that’s interesting ’cause we were talking about it actually — I think it was when Sandi was here, we were talking about like what do you do because she’s in this new wave of—

Travis: Sandi?

Mark: Patty. [Laughs]


Who is Worthy to Lead Music

Andrew: She’s in this new wave of being some kind of, you know, part-time leader, church kind of thing, and a worship leadership thing, and we were talking about so what do you do? Submitting to the Holy Spirit, submitting to Christ, that’s an every day thing, that’s a continual lifestyle decision, but there are weekends, there’s a Saturday night where I screw up or there’s a week where my life is not in line necessarily with God and His plan for me or whatever, but yet I need to be in the seat on Sunday to lead worship. That’s my responsibility. What do we do with that rub? Does that make sense? I mean I could involve myself in shame, and I could say, “Well then I’m not worthy to lead God’s people in music because I’m still screwed up in this area, this area, this area.” But do we still have a place to… I mean, we’re all…

Travis: We do. We have to be obedient. I mean, we walk in obedience to our calling even when we don’t feel like it and especially when we don’t feel worthy. I mean, who is, right? There is a rightful understanding of the mercy of God and the level ground of the cross, or none of us could ever do it, could muster up, “Oh Lord, I can’t do it.” But there’s a greater “Yes” on the other side of it. You just kinda push through, you know? I talk to my young worship leaders in my life a lot about that because they are so idealistic, you know? Millennials are so idealistic and things are a lot plainer to them, and so I have to just go, “You know what, sometimes there’s a greater ‘Yes’ on the other side of your obedience.” You get up there and you lead those people as best you can, and God will deal with you accordingly.

”We walk in obedience to our calling even when we don’t feel like it and especially when we don’t feel worthy.” – Travis Cottrell

Mark: What do you see from them that is, you say, “There’s a bigger ‘yes'”? Like what are their dilemmas that they’re facing right now? Are they changed through the years?

Travis: No, not really.

Mark: Or are they all the same?

Travis: No, not really, and I was kinda thinking about exactly kinda that thing that you’re painting, like when you don’t feel worthy to serve. And they’re going through things you know that young people go through that are sometimes a little different than older people, sometimes not, but just dealing with their own inadequacies and their own failures and their own insecurities.

Mark: Point to David.

Travis: Right.

Mark: Point to David.

Travis: Exactly. He’s the best.

Mark: Yes, he murdered and adultery.

Travis: And he’s a man after God’s own heart.

Mark: Yes, Psalm 51, he came back and God said, OK. Still, He never changed His mind about David.

Travis: Do you remember — don’t include this — but do y’all remember that project My Utmost for His Highest that Brown Banister did?

Andrew: Yeah, I remember it.

Travis: And Gary Chapman sang that song “After God’s Own Heart.”

Andrew: Yep.

Travis: That’s one of the best songs ever.

Andrew: Oh yeah, it’s an absolutely gorgeous song that I think Michael wrote, I think.

Mark: I haven’t heard it. I’ll have to listen to it.

Andrew: Oh yeah, you should listen to it. And then it’s Gary. I think it’s Gary…

Travis: It’s Gary, and Michael Millett sings a little duet.

Mark: I love Gary’s voice.

Travis: Remember Michael Millett?

Andrew: Oh yeah, and he’s singing that harmony part on it?

Travis: The most amazing background singer ever.

Mark: Gary is a great singer too.

Travis: Yes, he is.

Andrew: Yeah, he is. You talk about soul. So we all have a place, like I think there’s probably been many people who have reserved themselves or taken themselves out of the ring of possibility to lead in church in various ways, that may be in a pastoral way, that may be in just a simple service way because, “I’m not worthy.”

Mark: Well they got better stories too. Who would you rather hang around, the prodigal or his brother?

Travis: Right.

Mark: I mean, the prodigal came home with great stories.

Travis: I know.

Mark: The brother always hung around the house.

Travis: I’ve been the brother so many times though. Sometimes that brings the worse shame of all when you look around and go, “I was so self-righteous.”

Mark: He didn’t get to go to the party. He stood outside. That’s how that story ends. He was faithful and missed the party.

Andrew: So what’s your dirt?

Mark: I guess my point is we’re all really both of those people.

Andrew: Yeah, at some point in time, we have been.

Travis: Absolutely.


Sandi Patty – Spiritual Act of Worship

Mark: Now you are the…?

Sandi: Well, I have an amazing privilege now in this new season of my life to be the artist in residence at our church in Oklahoma City. And basically what I get to do is what I’ve always wanted to do and that is teach.

Mark: Really?

Sandi: I really did. I started out in college wanting to teach and then met Bill and Gloria, and they said come do this tour and I was like, “OK.” Now 30 years later. And so I’m getting to really speak into the generation that’s coming behind about practical things, about spiritual things, about relating to an audience and what does that look like.

Andrew: In the context of worship?

Sandi: Of Sunday morning worship, but just in general, your whole life. I mean worship in and of itself is not limited to music. Music can be worship, but worship is how we live.

“Music can be worship, but worship is how we live.” – Sandi Patty

Mark: Right.

Sandi: Romans 12:1-2, “I urge you brothers and sisters to present your bodies as living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. This is your spiritual act of worship.” It’s who we are and how we live and how we walk every day of our lives.

Andrew: Which impacts the way we sing, the way we play, the way we plan.

Sandi: All of it.

Mark: And you said there are 12 words.

Sandi: Because there are 12 words all throughout Scripture between Hebrew and Greek that talk about worship. In the English language, we have one word. It’s so limited, but there’s 12 different words that talk about worship and only three of them have to do with music. The rest are our body posture, our heart posture. There’s one that does have to do with instrumental music, one that has to do with a sudden eruption of song out of the joy in our heart, but it all is inward driven. And so that’s one of the first places that I like to start is just say if you think Sunday morning is your journey with Christ, it’s got to be how you are Monday through Saturday, and then you bring that to what you do. You bring your story on those words that you say.

Andrew: We’re not going to live perfectly even if I’m trying to live out a heart of worship and try to understand who God is and pattern after that. How do we then represent ourselves, or that may be the wrong word, every Sunday or for the service? Is that just an act of surrender? Is that just saying…?

Mark: You mean you screw up on Saturday and worshipping on Sunday?

Andrew: Right, yeah.

Mark: We do it all the time.

Andrew: Right, but how do we…? I think there’s a lot

Mark: Well you just don’t be so hard on yourself.

Sandi: That’s one, that’s absolutely one thing.

Andrew: Still show up.

Mark: You just don’t ever forget you’re a sinner.

Sandi: You still show up and you still press into what is true, whether you really are feeling it or believing it even in that moment.

Andrew: Sure.

Sandi: Do you know what I mean by that? Because there’s times Monday through Saturday I will have conversations with God that are not very pretty. I wouldn’t want people to hear, but you often say about the psalms, you know if there had been Prozac, what do you say?

Mark: If David had Prozac, we’d never had Psalms.

Sandi: Exactly.

Mark: He was up and down, up and down.

Sandi: But what I love about the psalms is such a beautiful picture of speaking in the moment how we feel. And sometimes, when my brother was diagnosed with cancer and passed away, I just literally said to God, “You know what? You’re really bad at your job today.”

Mark: Ooh.

Sandi: “You are really bad at your job.” And to just hear Him go, “You know what? It’s not an easy job.”

Mark: Aww.

Sandi: And I don’t mean that flippantly because it grieved Him as much as me, but the freedom to be able to say that and bring all of that authenticity then, when you are leading music in a worship setting. That to me is you just have to be authentic.

Mark: It’s honesty, right?

Sandi: It’s honesty, and David models that. I mean, that’s the most beautiful model of what authentic worship looks like.

Mark: And repentance, Psalm 51, when he repented and God still said about him, “He’s a man after My own heart.”

Sandi: I love that.

Mark: Don’t you love that right there?

Andrew: Maybe real communion or the most authentic communion comes through honesty and our vulnerability.

“The most authentic communion comes through honesty and our vulnerability.” – Andrew Greer

Sandi: I think there’s a lot of it.

Andrew: That is communion.

Sandi: Because you know what, it’s not for God. He already knows how we feel.

Mark: Oh yes.

Sandi: It’s for us to be able to trust even our ugliest thoughts, like “You’re really bad at your job today.” “And I’m really sad,” you know?

Mark: I heard some preacher say that years ago, “Has it ever occurred to you that nothing has ever occurred to God?”

Sandi: Oh wow.

Andrew: Has it what?

Mark: Has it ever occurred to you that nothing’s ever occurred to God? And that’s when we get home, I worry I won’t be able to tell Him a joke. He’ll already know the punch line.

Andrew: Who are you gonna entertain now, Mark?

Mark: You know, I love the idea of telling God a joke one day.

Andrew: That’s such a level of knowing-ness that I think we crave for with our relationships.

Mark: But He’s my Father. And a healthy father is delighted when you’re delighted.

Sandi: A healthy father, yes.

Mark: And is sad when you’re sad.

Andrew: Every time with my dad. It’s like to be there beside us, not necessarily to just repair—

Mark: And we only get 80 years to get this right, right? And we’re almost done. You’re not, but.

Sandi: We’re closer to the 80 and you’re not.

Mark: I mean, we’re closer to home.


Being Faithful With The Life in Front of Me

Mark: What season are you in right now? Do you think this is a season or do you think—

Andrew: An older season?

Travis: Do you deal with that all the time?

Mark: Not for long.

Andrew: Do you notice his position at the table? He doesn’t want to look at each other.

Mark: You’re 40?

Travis: I’m 48.

Mark: 48? You look good for 48. Well, I don’t know what 48 is supposed to look like really.

Mark: And you have children?

Travis: I have three kids, yeah. One’s in college, two are in high school.

Mark: One wife?

Travis: One wife. It’s our 25th year anniversary.

Andrew: Ooh.

Travis: Twenty-five years wedding, 20 years with the Beth Moore ministry.

Mark: Well, you can do what you’re doing. There’s no age limit on it really.

Travis: Well, you know, it’s funny. I always tell this joke, and it’s not original. I don’t remember where I got it, but it’s not fair that pastors are like fine wines and worship leaders are like Cokes, you know. They get better with age, and once you open us, we’re like a 10-year plan or something before we lose our fizz.

Andrew: But I would say like in just observing you, you have a certain timelessness in the style of your leadership, like Cindy and I have talked about this, is very unique in the sense that it has seemed to always be pointed to serving the church, not necessarily serving a career as far as a musical, commercial career, though you’ve had elements of that, etc., come in and out and will continue to that really. That must be the core of your calling.

Travis: Yeah, you know, I think I just love people and I combine that with this whole separate idea that’s kind of connected but kind of not. I love people and also I’ve never been a vision-caster. Like I don’t know what I’ll be doing in 10 years. I don’t know what I’ll be doing in five years. In all of these years that I’ve been doing this, I’ve just done what was in front of me.

Mark: That’s it.

Travis: Just try to be faithful in what’s in front of me. And does that lead to this? I don’t know. I mean, it may or it may not. I mean, I’ve had more failures it seems than successes in the industry’s eyes, but at the same time, it’s been a ride I wouldn’t change for a million dollars. I love it. And I love where I am immensely, you know? I love the chance to be with this church family that I love week in and week out. That was something that in the first 20 years of living in Nashville, even though those were great years and God gave me some great things to do, I really was missing the chance to pastor people from week in to week out. And that’s been a real blessing. It’s been a blessing for my family, for my kids, my wife to do that. But then even beyond that, just the ministry with Beth, to be able to kind of see and kind of measure out what God is doing all over the country through her ministry, and just in, I don’t know how to say what I’m thinking. Just like what worship looks like in a very wide cross-section of denomination and age, and race, and to be a part of that for the past 20 years, it’s just been such a blessing. I just wouldn’t change a thing for it.


Michael W. Smith, A Natural Worship Leader

Andrew: This is an honest question. Like I feel like you’ve kinda been mantled, whether you receive this or not or feel it or not, as kind of in gospel music as the premier worship leader, you know, or worship artist, however you want to term it. Do you feel mantled with that, and if so, do you receive that? Do you like that? I mean, you know, or does it feel like sometimes an obstacle to making and creating the music that maybe you wanna do at times?

Michael: No, I feel like it’s over me, and I hold that lightly as well. I can’t deny it. I mean, I’m not saying that I’m any more important than anybody else, just saying I think there’s something there, and it feels so natural and there’s no striving when I’m leading. So there’s that side of me, and it’s important and it’s something I’ll do the rest of my life.

Andrew: I’ve always had this thought that if you think about it, you know music is, if you play an instrument on acoustic level, is just manipulating the sounds that are already resonating throughout the earth as if the earth is singing. So do you think there’s something special? When we plug into that, you know it’s as if the earth is already worshipping God and we plug into that. Could that be part of what is so unifying about singing together? Because if you think about, go beyond worship music, go to a U2 show. I mean like there’s an element of experience, not everyone may point to who I say God is as their experience in that moment, but there’s a very spiritual experience happening when we sing together.

“There’s a very spiritual experience happening when we sing together.” – Andrew Greer

Michael: Definitely, yeah.

Andrew: What is it about singing together that connects us compared to doing anything else? You could go play board games with everybody, you know?

Michael: It’s astonishing for sure. It’s a lot of bodies, man. It’s a lot of people singing together. I just think God honors that, and especially if you’re real unified and everybody is sort of dialed in, large gatherings, I think moves mountains. Things change, but you know what? Things changed when David played his harp for Saul too. It’s all really the intent of the heart. Two things that I go on, what’s your motivation and how’s your posture? The two big things right there. If you’re dialed in on those two things, I think anything can happen.

Andrew: Is there something, that could be an exercise, a discipline, a prayer, a quote, that has helped you through the years to remind yourself to be… I mean, how do you achieve that level of humility to really be able to open up and minister, to lead in service of worship, but when there’s so many platforms? I mean it is a platform-oriented profession.

Michael: I just pray Scripture. I got my go-to Scriptures, you know? “Search me, O God, know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts.” “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” “Cast me not away from Your presence.” All those. Psalm 139, I’ll just quote Psalm 139 just driving down the road. I find out that those are really my most powerful prayers, really. And then sometimes you just groan. Sometimes you can’t find the words and you just go, ‘Oh God.’ You just can’t, and I think those are prayers. I mean, He knows what I’m trying to say. Maybe I don’t, but it’s just, “God, I just, I long for You and I know there’s a destiny on my life and I don’t wanna miss it.” There’s too much at stake. I don’t wanna miss it.


Dinner Conversations Sponsorship Message:

Mark: Dinner Conversations is presented by Project Beautiful, and we love them. They told us the other day about those five girls over in Nepal, was it?

Andrew: Yeah, in Nepal.

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Andrew: That’s right. They intercept them and then they educate them about the gospel message too, which I think is one of the wonderful things. So after they have already extended this tangible hope of bringing them home, they then offer this eternal hope. And so we are asking that you partner with us, that our Dinner Conversations family comes alongside Mark and me. Go to projectbeautiful.org/dinnerconversations, and for $30 a month, three lives a year are rescued, are intercepted from modern day slavery before they ever get into human trafficking, being trafficked like these girls in Nepal. They are intercepted and educated. So for $30 a month, three lives a year. Go to projectbeautiful.org/dinnerconversations. We have a special gift for you there as well that we’d like to offer just to say how important this is to us and how important we hope it becomes to you.

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Nicole C. Mullen – Worship is a Lifestyle

Andrew: When we say worship now, like in evangelical circles or just church circles in general in the 21st century, we immediately have come to define and associate that with music, right? But that’s only skimming the surface. I know that’s a big word, but how would you in your life from your experience with God define worship?

Nicole C.: Wow, and I’m gonna go back to Romans 12 again, and Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore I urge you brothers in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship.” So our spiritual act of worship is not necessarily the style of music or the tempo of a song or if we have guitars, if we have orchestra in it, or if it makes me cry or not. Really, our spiritual act of worship is to offer our bodies, our self to Him. And so, you know, all through the Scriptures worship entailed a sacrifice, and so for me to say, “I am not it, but You are,” I choose to go low, not just in my being but in everything that I am. I choose to decrease that You might increase. I choose to be invisible so that You might be seen in everything I do. Worship is a lifestyle. When I’m driving in the car, when I prefer somebody instead of me taking that spot, you know? When I choose to remember that it is not about me, but it’s about Him and so, “Not my will, but Thine be done.” That is worship. Now we can include music in that and music can be a conduit to lead us into worship, but music itself is not worship. And I think we have to be careful because sometimes we want to worship worship. We wanna worship the feeling that worship brings us or gives us, and to me, that can be dangerous because we start seeking. It becomes flesh because it feels good.

Andrew: Right.

Nicole C.: But real worship doesn’t feel good. Real worship is a sacrifice. It hurts the knees. It hurts the forehead, you know? Real worship puts me in positions that I wouldn’t wanna necessarily be in. It makes me forgive, you know what I’m saying? That’s what real worship does. I’m offering everything I have as a sacrifice that’s not dead, but on one hand it is but is still living, but is dead, but it’s living, you know? So He said that’s our real spiritual act of worship, and we have to do that, like Jesus told the woman at the well. The Father is looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. That entails the essence of what worship is, the breath of life, you know? And according to truth, the truth of who Christ is and the truth of who we are, it’s a combination of the two.

Andrew: It’s like an intersection.

Nicole C.: It’s an intersection.

Andrew: So take it to music. So why do you think, and this is just your perspective, opinion, why is music such an important aid in our service of worship to God? Or even, you talk about these postures about literally how the experience of worshipping God will posture us in humility and will put us on our faces.

Nicole C.: Because it’s a powerful tool. Music is very powerful. Music can sway the mindset, the mood. It can sway what you think about certain things. It can open up the spirit to another realm, good or bad. You know what I’m saying? So it’s a powerful tool. It’s what David used to chase demons away, so music is a demon chaser, or it can also be an invitation to demons, you know? So you have to be careful as to how it’s used, but when it comes to worshipping the Lord, it is a conduit to have people open up their hearts to say, “Yeah, I want more of You, Lord.” So it is very important I think. We as Christian artists, or artists that are believers, I think we carry a great weight, and it’s a great privilege to be able to encourage people in worship, to invite them into worship by what we do.

“It’s a great privilege to be able to encourage people in worship, to invite them into worship by what we do.” – Nicole C. Mullen


God’s Spirit in Worship & the Creativity in Music

Travis: I don’t think there’s ever been a greater time to be alive as a worshipper. I mean, I think we could find some weaknesses and we could find some holes in this or that, and they’re all experientially-based, you know? But the end of the day is I think God is moving. I think He’s pouring out His spirit on the area of worship and the creativity in music. I do think it’s important to hold onto that which is good that’s gone behind us. That’s how we learn and we don’t repeat mistakes, for one thing. But I think it’s exciting for all of us in all our particular genres and callings, and I mean, don’t you find it just a beautiful time to be alive and worship?

Andrew: Yeah. Well, and I think culturally speaking because of what we’re experiencing, and I think in regards to the Gospel and being disciples, we’re experiencing more of a having to actually express our faith in certain terms. It’s not just a cultural thing that this is what to be a Christian means, and I think music is such a powerful and helpful tool in expressing that in a way that invites people into the conversation.

Mark: I miss the hymnal.

Travis: Well, I’ll get you one. We’ll put “Mary Did You Know?” in it.

Mark: It already is.

Travis: That’s why you miss it. He’s trying to sell hymnals, y’all.

Mark: No, but don’t you miss it? I remember going to church, picking it up, “Turn to 232,” and we’d all read, and I know it’s better now that it’s up there because you’re not looking down while you sing. But you know, my dad used to say, “I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but I know what I like.” And I told him one day, “You like what you know.”

Travis: Right, and at the end of the day, worship isn’t about what we like and don’t like.

Mark: Right.

Andrew: It’s not a preference thing ever.

Travis: Right, right, it’s not. So I mean, I love it. I love this day.

Mark: Gloria made the comment one day that the problem is walking into church, you immediately start worshipping, is that before they got into Psalms they got through Kings and they told stories of how the Lord brought them through, and then how can you not praise Him? How can you not worship Him? I think we’re missing some maybe, I’m just throwing this out there, some testimonies before we go into the worship? Like let me tell you what the Lord did for me this week. I haven’t heard that in years. At my church, they had a little testimony time.

Andrew: At very minimum, how about Scripture to open up the service that tells the story of our forefathers and our ancestors that got through it.

Mark: And why we’re grateful.

Travis: Right.

Mark: Because how would you feel if your son came, “Oh Daddy, praise you. Daddy, praise you, praise you, Daddy, Daddy, praise you,” and never said why?

Travis: I would go, “I love you. You wanna go to Walmart? Ten minutes, whatever you can fit in your basket in 10 minutes you can get it.”

Mark: But seriously, or if he just said, “Thank you, thank you,” and never said why.

Travis:  Right. Well, and the Word says we overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. So that’s part of it. You know, there’s a scriptural mandate for us to proclaim the worth of God, so that’s where we get the word worship. Worth, worth worship, worth-ship, and so something happens. I acclaim it to the character of God, that as you proclaim His worthiness, you cannot siphon out the character of God from who He is. You can’t siphon out His love, His goodness to His children, and His faithfulness. So even as you proclaim His worth, you end up testifying. You know, a lot of people say, “Well, songs are too much about us.” Well, you know, we do need to do a better job about singing songs that just proclaim His worth, but we can’t help but testify. Number one because it’s a biblical mandate. Number two, it’s how we overcome in the word of our testimony, but also, number three, the character of God forces us to because it’s such a good character. And so we say, “You have done this for me. I was here and now I’m here. And I was this and now I’m this and it’s because of You, not because of me.” So I agree with you. Our songs need to encompass all of that, even as we proclaim His work.

Mark: It’s hard to get all that into three minutes though, isn’t it?

Travis: It is. Yeah, it is.

Andrew: But that’s where the creativity and the skill and gifts come in.

Travis: It is, and we think of it as a journey. Like we’re not gonna cover everything in this little worship set, but we’ve got next time, we’ve got the next time. So, no.

Andrew: Our church has started singing, The blood of Jesus speaks for me. And then they go up the octave, Yeah-da-da-da.

Travis: I hope it sounds better than that. [Laughs]

Mark: Did you write that? Oh. Oh, this is… Wait for it. He really likes you, and you’re sweet to put up with this. [Laughs]

Andrew: I do like you. I mean, you’re, you know… I feel like this is kind of a project for me. I’ve been wanting to relate to older generations, and so I feel good about this relationship.

Travis: I’ve been waiting for a vibrato joke.

Andrew: See, so my vibrato can swim right through his, I know.

Travis: As if you could make a single joke about vibrato.

Andrew: His is like a wide, old hollowed out ocean.

Travis: His is like an assault rifle. [Laughs]

Mark: And he likes to sing.

Travis: I know. It’s a problem. [Laughs]

Mark: To learn more about Dinner Conversations, go to dinner-conversations.com.

Andrew: And don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel. That’ll allow you to get a new episode every week. Like us or don’t like us and leave a comment, good or constructively criticism.

Mark: And if it’s really, really, really mean criticism, we can delete you.


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