If you’ve darkened the doors of any contemporary church service within the last five years, chances are you’ve encountered the haunting and poetic lilts of Christian worship artist John Mark McMillan.
On Friday, Jan. 16, McMillan visited Regent University where more than 900 members of the Hampton Roads community gathered for its free Night of Worship (NOW) service. Prior to the event, McMillan shared several thoughts on what God has taught him about His followers and the creative-process of music.
1. When it’s “good and pure,” music is simply one person trying to share his or her life with another person.
“Art is about expressing who you are,” said McMillan. “And when other people see that, hopefully there’s an overflow of connectedness.”
That’s what McMillan sets out to do as he writes and creates music, cultivate connectedness. For him, it’s about drawing people, opening a space for fellowship, and creating a common ground for people with differing worship styles and attitudes.
2. Worship varies wherever you go.
“Even church people are so different,” said McMillan. “All of these believers have different postures and different ways of doing what they do.”
But, in spite of that, he’s also learned:
3. Humans have a few core values in common.
“Ultimately when all of your needs are taken care of, we all want relationships, fellowship and intimacy with other people,” said McMillan. “Everyone wants to know and be known from the day they’re born to the day they die—that’s one thing we all share.”
4. You’re not going to be who you are right away.
As McMillan reflects on his life on the road so far, two words come to his mind: “chill out.”
“There’s this thought-process that you have to be everything you’re supposed to be at one moment in your life,” said McMillan. “That’s a lie, you’ll never achieve that.”
His latest motto is that it “takes a long time to do anything important.”
5. Discipline is a “beautiful and awesome thing.”
Although he used to hate the word in itself, through his years as a worship artist, he’s learned that discipline isn’t something to run away from. In fact, it’s the doorway to everything good in the world, within reason.
“When I was young it was a terrible idea to me, it was like being in prison,” said McMillan. “But now I realize I could do much with my life if I could just control my actions in little ways on a daily basis: If I ran more, I could sing longer. If I was better with my money, I’d have more to offer other people.”
But the most important thing McMillan has learned throughout his music career is what he’s discovered about himself:
6. Connecting with others is a passion.
This is what drew him to perform at Regent in the first place.
“There’s not necessarily a great strategy where we go [on tour], we just go where we’re wanted,” said McMillan. “We connect really well with different groups of people, especially the college-age, and for me it’s what I do. It’s what I love. Any opportunity I get to do that is a great day.”
Regent University’s Night of Worship (NOW) performances are free and open to the general public. Each month, the university invites popular Christian music artists to lead the Hampton Roads community in reflective songs and fellowship.
February’s NOW will feature a compilation of local worship artists.