Why isn’t the Church singing?
This is the question worship leader and Integrity Music recording artist Travis Ryan started asking. The question was sparked after he began reading countless arguments about personal worship style preferences and after experiencing passionless praise within his own congregation.
“We’re comfortable. We can so easily be complacent, and that can show itself even on a Sunday morning,” Travis concedes, adding, “Who cares about your theology if we live a stale life.”
Travis often compares fans’ reactions to seeing their favorite sports teams out on the field to the sometimes dead worship experiences in churches. “When it comes to Sunday morning, we are singing to the greatest Creator, God, who has made the heavens and thought of the earth and breathed it into existence. Why is it that our worship is actually more similar to a funeral than it is to a soccer game?” he observes. “When you see the King of Kings for who He is, you see the worship of heaven happening. Our worship should look the same… I believe the Church isn’t singing because they don’t see Jesus for who He truly is.”
This belief became the impetus for his full-length project, Until My Voice Is Gone, produced by Michael Farren as well as Grant Pittman and Travis’ brother, Brandon Collins. The album is the follow-up to his 2012 debut, Fearless, and 2015 EP, You Hold It All, and was recorded live across two nights with his home congregation at LifePoint Church, right outside of Nashville, Tennessee. “The songs really take you on a journey,” he explains. “It’s a set list we’ve done at LifePoint, not once but numerous times. These songs have really become the lifeblood that flows through our congregation.”
A prolific songwriter, Travis insists that he’s only a steward of his songs. “I don’t consider any song I write to be my song,” he contends. “When you write a song, I believe that the Lord is already the One who’s singing it. It says in Zephaniah 3:17 that He’s singing over us. I believe that we’ve got to listen really closely, and then we pen His song.”
Perhaps this philosophy is most evident in the story of “We Believe,” which Travis wrote for his church, along with fellow worship leaders Matt Hooper and Richie Fike. The track was recorded by Newsboys and went on to become a No. 1 smash hit at Christian radio. No stranger to the CCM arena, Travis has opened for everyone from MercyMe, Steven Curtis Chapman and Jeremy Camp to Delirious, The City Harmonic and Paul Baloche. In addition, as an in-demand songwriter, he’s co-written with some of Christian music’s finest, including Matt Redman, All Sons & Daughters, Phil Wickham and Tim Timmons, among others.
“We Believe” sets the tenants of the Church to music. “It’s the Nicene Creed, the Apostles’ Creed—it’s just foundationally what we believe as a church,” Travis explains of the KLOVE Fan Award winning and Dove Award nominated worship anthem.
Celebratory anthem “Your Love Set My Soul On Fire,” written by Travis alongside Dylan Thomas, Jordan Merritt and Brandon Collins, also follows suit, recounting the truth these four songwriters stake their lives on. “We just wrote the gospel,” Travis explains of the track that he debuted at his church’s youth camp where it became an instant hit with the students. Soon after, he introduced it to the congregation at large and began to see transformation take place.
“We had a dance party on Sunday morning,” he says. “You can’t help but dance—to get off your seat—because of the life, the freedom that is felt.”
Cornerstone track “You Hold It All,” which Newsboys also recorded for their blockbuster release, Love Riot (Fair Trade Services), remains a pivotal part of the new collection as well. Beyond commercial appeal, this song—and others on Until My Voice Is Gone—has already had a profound impact on numerous members of LifePoint and particularly on Travis and his family as they walked through a devastating miscarriage and his mother being diagnosed with brain cancer.
“The Goodness of the Lord” was a song also born out of loss and one that Travis never thought would make the record. It was written five years ago as a tribute to his late grandfather. As his grandfather’s health diminished, Travis brought his guitar and began to sing hymns over him in his hospital room. As he strummed the chords to “It Is Well,” he began to reflect on his grandfather’s legacy. A man who had been a rebel his entire life, his was a story of genuine life change. Two years prior, he had given his heart to the Lord, and Travis had the honor of being part of his baptism.
“My grandfather, he was the storyteller in our family,” recalls Travis. “We, as kids, would just love to sit and listen to Grandpa Bill. So, as I was writing, I thought, ‘What was my grandfather’s story… what would he want to be sung about him?’ The truth that God is good.”
After his grandfather passed, he sent the rough chorus written by his bedside to his friend and fellow songwriter Richie Fike, who added the verses. Travis sang “The Goodness of the Lord” at his grandfather’s funeral a few days later. As he and Farren began to dig into his back catalog for songs to record for Until My Voice Is Gone, they rediscovered this special cut. With his mom’s cancer battle as an added inspiration, Travis changed the bridge to “When my future has been stripped away, My God is on my side.”
“It was interesting to see how God, who gives us all songs, was not done writing that song,” Travis offers. “He wanted to finish it with my mom and use that moment of her cancer to bring to the surface a lyric that needed to be written.”
God’s faithfulness has been evident in the life of Travis’ church as well. Powerful cut “You Never Give Up On Me” is a testament of the Father’s unrelenting pursuit of His children and the result of a season of healing at LifePoint Church. When a staff member came forward and confessed a moral failure, he was asked to step down from his leadership role. However, instead of shunning him, the church took a different approach—one of Christ-like compassion. They walked with this man and his family through a long, challenging journey toward healing and restoration.
“Most churches today, when a moral failure happens, they just run away, and they claim God’s faithfulness until it begins to get ugly,” Travis maintains. “But grace is messy. It’s a messy, messy thing, and we’ve got to show it to the world.”
Throughout the process, Travis encouraged this fellow church member to put his emotions on paper, to document God’s work in his life knowing that, one day, his story might minister to others. Those thoughts would eventually become “You Never Give Up On Me.”
I don’t deserve Your goodness / You welcome me with Your kindnessYou found me in my darkness and my shame / I don’t deserve Your mercyYet You cover me in Your glory / You saw me and You loved me just the same
The congregant began working to rebuild his marriage and over a year into the process, he and his wife actually led worship at a recent LifePoint service in celebration of all that God had done in their lives. The first song they sang? “You Never Give Up On Me,” which Travis calls a “beautiful story of redemption.”
It’s a story woven throughout his own life. Today, Travis and his wife have three children: Hudson, 7; Jude, 4; and one-year-old Scarlett, their baby daughter born after the couple suffered the miscarriage. This fall, they’ll add a fourth baby to their family. His mom has undergone a series of cancer treatments and is slated to finish her final round of chemo by the end of the year.
Throughout the beautiful and tragic circumstances of his own journey and the unfolding narratives of his friends and family, Travis knows his God to be steadfast. He only hopes the songs on Until My Voice Is Gone stand as a shining testament to His faithfulness and give the Church reason to sing.
“There’s so much redemption that is yet to be heard through some of these songs,” he predicts, having seen God already use them tremendously in his own life. “At the end of the day, God’s not going to say, ‘Congratulations, Travis, you’ve recorded five albums. Welcome to heaven’,” he concludes. “I hope He says, ‘You were faithful with what I gave you.’ And I believe these songs are an important part of that.”
Twitter & Instagram: @travisryan