John Mark McMillan On The Perils Of The Modern Worship Industry

Prolific Christian songwriter John Mark McMillan has just released his latest album ‘Mercury & Lightning’, and it’s a bit of a departure from what he usually does.

After penning one of the most popular worship songs in modern times (‘How He Loves Us’, which is now sung by churches around the world), McMillan has taken a step back to write honestly about the spiritual journey he’s on.

The songwriter recently told Relevant magazine, “I had a little bit of a crisis of faith during recording this record. [It was] like, ‘OK, so I’m really struggling here, and I’m trying to write this record… I feel like I know the record that everyone wants from me, but I have a hard time honestly making that record right now.”

While affirming that he would still call himself a Christian, he added, “People are looking to me for answers, and I have way more questions at this point.”

McMillan explained how had an epiphany one day when he was out shopping for a Bible, seeing the multitude of branded options on offer. He saw Bibles designed for ‘hipsters’, ones with more sensible covers, and the usual brightly coloured teenage options. Different translations were obviously being marketed to different types of people, and he says he was put off some translations simply due to the packaging on them.

He explained the same type of marketing is now happening in worship music, saying, “All of a sudden there’s a lot of money in worship music. It makes you wonder like, if you know a certain song is going to do better because it says a certain thing, but you kind of would rather say it a different way, but you’re going to say it this way because you know it’s going to do better, what does that do to our spirituality?”

“Don’t you wonder if we have a responsibility to be a little more honest [in] what we do? I don’t know that we always realize how commerce plays into the conversations we’re having. I do feel like worship as a whole has become a little bit less interesting, and I think that a lot of it has to do with how successful it’s been. Nobody is listening to music to challenge the way they believe. Really what they want you to do is affirm their lifestyle.”

He then talked about the need to “separate commerce and art” and make sure that he wrote something that reflected his personal journey honestly, even if it challenges his listeners.

‘Mercury & Lightning’ is out now. Watch the video for the album’s thought provoking title-track below: