Recording artist, author, worship leader, entrepreneur, Joel Engle is a Renaissance Man of sorts, but most of all, Joel is a communicator.
“Wherever I go I want to use my music, my communication skills, my thinking, and my heart to proclaim that Jesus Christ is life. I’ve probably never been the stereotypical CCM artist, and I’ve never fit the regular church ministry mold, either. Yes, I am a worship leader, but I am also an artist who performs songs about life. And I am also a Bible teacher, an author, a speaker, and an entrepreneur.”
In spite of not being “typical," Joel Engle has emerged as one of the most compelling singer/songwriters of this generation. His new album, I Believe In You, makes ample use of his multi-faceted skills to continue the journey of faith, hope, healing, and restoration that he began with his critically acclaimed 2005 release, Made For Worship. Blessed with one of contemporary Christian music’s most distinctive voices, Joel is a writer of rare insight and vulnerability, with songs that run the gambit from intimate worship ballads to sinewy, rock-inflected barnburners.
Joel displays the unique ability to build bridges over those chasms that separate the hurting from the Healer. Indeed, the songs on I Believe In You create a haven of restoration for fragmented souls in this too often fragmented world. And while these songs are intellectually and theologically grounded, they are laden with emotion and birthed from experience.
“If there was one word to describe my life in the past two years, it would be ‘Trials,’” Joel contends, “physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially. When I came into the studio to make this record the only thing on my mind was to create an authentic combination of spirit and truth. This is without question the most authentic record I have ever done. I went in and sang with all my heart and soul, and I think there is passion and fire all over it. But at the same time, I’ve always tried to write my sermons in my music. I think I am a preacher at heart, so this album is filled with big spiritual ideas set to music.”
Having walked through the loneliness of losing loved ones, the emotional stress of the creative process, the rejection of business decisions gone sour, Joel knows first hand the redemptive power of God.
“God had to take me through some difficult places in order to show me his grace,” he muses. “Self-incrimination is an invisible thing. It is pervasive and it is crippling. Yet even in the midst of the trials, last year was a year of creation. I wrote two books and more than forty songs for this new record (fourteen of which made the final cut). I think this is a year of harvest. We’ve been working hard, we’ve gone through the trials and the storms, and now the seeds are coming to fruition.”
Joel’s fearless insight, as well as his ear for authenticity, infuses his songs with a visceral and emotional resonance that connects with his audience on multiple levels. The scope of his remarkable appeal to fans is apparent as he has sold more than 200,000 albums as an independent artist, performed and led worship for an innumerable number of people over the course of his ministry. Joel has also shared the stage with such top recording artists as MercyMe, Third Day, David Crowder Band, Chris Tomlin, Casting Crowns and Natalie Grant.
But rather than fostering pride, these accolades merely serve to reinforce Joel’s conviction that the world needs to witness an authentic God who reaches out his hand to authentically messy people. It is a conviction that is inextricably woven throughout the fabric of Joel’s eagerly awaited project, I Believe In You.
“I want to show people the glory and majesty of God,” he declares. “But at the same time I want to show the struggle of the human side that tries to surrender amidst our failure and weakness. The song, “First Love,” really embodies that experience. It is the most personal song on the album. It is about struggle, about being in a dry and thirsty land; but experiencing the reality of Jesus Christ is what brings joy in the desert. I still get emotional when I hear that track.”
Another song that evokes strong emotion in the Oklahoma native is the title track, “I Believe In You,” with its bold declaration that Christ came to give us life, even amidst the darkness and death.
“Belief is trust, and it is trusting in a Person rather than the facts,” Joel insists. “I’m still in the last vestiges of the trials. I’ve been processing all the things the Lord has taught me. I realize the fear of failure has been a motivating factor in my life, and fear is not of God. C.S. Lewis once said, "If we don’t forgive ourselves, then we set ourselves up as a tribunal that is higher than God. That is a tribunal I don’t want to sit on. I’m learning to walk in the forgiveness of Christ.”
Joel’s reputation as an engaging author, speaker, and live performer has garnered him acclaim throughout his career. In addition to his years of touring with Dawson McAllister student conferences, Joel is the founder of Spin 360, the country’s largest youth worship music subscription service, and has written songs for such artists as Point of Grace, SonicFlood, and Charles Billingsley. His first book The Exchange will be released this spring through Lifeway's publishing division.
Still, it is Joel’s ability to connect with his audience, to see conflict through compassionate eyes, and to capture both the subtlety and complexity of faith that evokes respect from his peers and fans alike.
“I Believe In You is not a concept album by any means,” Joel explains. “But there is a theme that seems to pervade both this record and my life. It is the human experience juxtaposed against the majesty of God. It is quite simply a snapshot of my walk with God.”
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