MercyMe: Spotlight on Worship
By Tim Branson
The 700 Club
BART MILLARD: We try to do everything that we can to make
Christ the center of attention. Our goal is to kind of broaden the definition
of worship. I know that God has always used us as a forefront for people to
draw closer to Him and get into His presence.
ROBBIE SHAFFER: I think more than anything, the way we write musically
and especially lyrically just kind of comes from an overflow of our lifestyle.
TIM BRANSON (reporting): MercyMe is a group of unlikely musicians
whose song "I Can Only Imagine" thrust them from obscurity into the frontlines
of Christian, worship music.
JIM BRYSON: Stylistically, people say pop/rock, or rock/pop. It is
pretty much along that vein. We used to think we were Cajun/country, but not
MIKE BRYSON: We used to think we were a rock band until we started
touring with bands like Audio Adrenaline.
JIM: Were the AC poster boys.
BART: Were like the Tom Jones.
TIM BRANSON (reporting): The band formed in 1994 when singer/ songwriter
Bart Millard teamed up with guitarist Mike and keyboardist Jim Bryson. The
trio later added Robbie Shaffer on drums and Nathan Cochran on bass. They
became the classic, struggling band. Their goals were sometimes less than
JIM: to eat, to pay the bills on time, and not have the gas shut off
when we come home, which happened.
TIM BRANSON (reporting): Six years and six records later, MercyMe
remained virtually unknown. But that changed with the release of a song that
swept through the Christian music market: "I can only imagine." Bart Millard
wrote the song in 1999, eight years after his father died of cancer. He was
inspired by some of his fathers last words.
BART: He used to always remind me that I was kind of getting the wrong
end of the deal because I had to stick around here. I remember right after
he died everyone used to tell me, 'If your dad could choose, hed rather
be in heaven than here.' As a believer, I understood that, but as an 18-year-old,
it was pretty hard to swallow.
TIM BRANSON (reporting): "I can only imagine" hit No. 1
and could even be heard on secular radio. Fueled by the songs success,
their debut album, Almost There, went gold in less than a year. In
2002 the song earned the band three Dove awards, including Song of the Year.
MercyMe doesnt see themselves as primarily a rock band, but as worship
leaders. Their success has brought an added sense of purpose to that role.
NATHAN COCHRAN: It has definitely made us more aware of probably why
we should do what we do. We have always had a mindset of everything we do
glorifying God, but because now it is on a bigger level and were right
in front of peoples faces all the time, were making efforts to
make that much more sure that our hearts and our minds are in the right place.
ROBBIE: People are asking us what our secret is, and there is not
really a secret other than weve just been very faithful with what God
has given us. Were going to continue doing that because if His glory
isn't received out of anything we do on stage, we shouldnt have been
there and we shouldnt have been trying. Our job wasnt completed.
TIM BRANSON (reporting): The bands popularity continues to grow.
Their second CD, Spoken For, has done nearly as well as the first.
But the bottom line for MercyMe is not record sales or awards
it is, and always has been, about putting their focus on God.
MIKE: [Our goal is] to do things that are going to lift Him
up and glorify Him and not bring attention to ourselves as much as we do to
Him in whatever success we have, on whatever level it is. I think for MercyMe,
as long as we constantly remind ourselves of that and embrace that and look
to the future of where Gods going to take us, I think thats one
of the biggest aspects of worship we can do.
BART: I am just sitting back and trying to take in the idea that the
God who created everything around us, He didnt call the mountains or
the forest or the ocean to spend eternity with Him, but He called us. It will
boggle your mind. I mean, you could spend the rest of your life pondering
that a God that is so huge would be crazy in love with us to the point that
on the day of judgment, Christ would step out and say, 'This is mine.'
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