I had the pleasure of interviewing Stuart Townend today. Stuart is based in Church of Christ the King, a Newfrontiers church in Brighton, UK, which is also home to Phatfish, Paul Oakley, and Terry Virgo.
Here is an abridged and adapted version of that interview. The entire interview can be accessed at the end of this post and is well worth listening to in its entirety. Stuart was a joy to interview and clearly passionate about worship and doctrine.
How are you finding the conference?
Do tell us a bit more about your song, In Christ Alone.
It was the first song Keith Getty and I wrote together. Keith is a fantastic melody writer. It was his music that inspired me to take my lyric writing seriously and convey the truths of the Scriptures in a poetic way to help people retain the truth. I have been humbled to see how it has been used. I get more comments on that song than all the rest put together. It was a timely song, written around the time 9-11 shook our foundations. To be able to sing at that time “No scheme of man can pluck me from his hand” was important.
What makes a worship song good?
Having focused on the cross of Christ, it’s important to ask, “What does that mean for me? What’s the foundation of life?” It’s not just, “How does it make me feel?” Rather, it should be—“What is the unchanging truth about my life based on the unchanging truth about God and what he has done? What has God said about me or us or the Church?” Those things are unchanging truths that don’t depend on whether I am having a good time or a bad time. They are about me, but they are really about God and what God has done in me. Worship is not just about singing songs that make me feel better. In the middle of whatever I am facing, God is with me. Worship should be exciting, but founded on the truth of the gospel. Our feelings are a by-product of the glorious truth we are celebrating.
Do you think there is still as much disagreement among Christians over music as there previously was?
I don’t think there is. It’s a shame that some think lively worship has to be the modern stuff. People have been getting excited for centuries. But songs that were divisive have now been embraced. There are, however, some churches out there who are singing songs that contain theology that they actually wouldn’t preach.
Indeed! In Christ Alone has also caused some controversy, hasn’t it?
Yes, some people breach copyright law by changing a particular line. Some people will not use the song. But the problem with that is that some people are saying we shouldn’t preach or sing about a core element of the gospel. I cannot make sense of the whole Bible without the concept of wrath.
Listen to the full interview by subscribing to my new podcast or download it here. For more information, visit Stuart Townend’s website or read the interview Newfrontiers Magazine Online did with him in October of 2007. You can also legally download music, lyrics, and mp3’s from Stuart Townend at the Kingsway website