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Q&A: MercyMe’s Bart Millard discusses Southern Baptists & worship music

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–MercyMe’s Bart Millard grew up in a Southern Baptist church in Greenville, Texas. The 29-year-old singer and songwriter is one of three Baptists who make up the five-man band and he says the irony isn’t lost that one of the nation’s most popular praise and worship groups is predominantly Southern Baptist.

Millard, a staff evangelist for the Highland Terrace Baptist Church in Greenville, discussed the praise and worship movement within the SBC during an April 24 interview.

Baptist Press: How does the denominational makeup of MeryMe impact your ministry?

Millard: We all think it’s pretty funny. Out of the five guys, three of us grew up Southern Baptist and the other two are charismatic. When we go to their churches and perform, it’s a no-brainer to get them to worship, at least outwardly. It’s awesome to see how they worship.

Baptist Press: And yet you are a member of a Southern Baptist church?

Millard: We believe that God has called us to remain in a Baptist church, especially me personally. My church sings old hymns but every now and then the music minister might try to sing a contemporary song, like an Andre Crouch tune. We still have the choir and the senior adults sing on Sunday night and the guys wonder why I still go to church there.

Baptist Press: What’s the answer?

Millard: I’m like, why not go to church there? There’s nothing wrong with that style of worship as long as we are in the presence of God. I realized that along the way we’ve lost the focus of what to stand up for.

Baptist Press: Was this something that you learned in the church?

Millard: I learned it from my grandmother. She is the godliest person in the world. She and my grandfather started a little Baptist church in Greenville. She’s our biggest fan but she hates our music. She couldn’t understand a word. But she knew it was of God so she was all for it. She is that lady in the church who didn’t care if the song was a contemporary or old hymn or if the pastor went over or under or boring or whatever.

Baptist Press: Why do you think she had that attitude?

Millard: She couldn’t fathom that God allowed her to be in his presence so often. When I grow up I want to be like her.

Baptist Press: Do you sense a change in the way Baptists worship?

Millard: There is a movement of worship taking place in Southern Baptist churches. I am extremely excited about it. As far as denominations go, the Bible says we will all worship in spirit and in truth. Our drummer, who is charismatic, says he came from a background that is full of spirit, but lacking in truth. He says there is no depth to what they do. Everything is emotionally based.

Baptist Press: How about Southern Baptists?

Millard: I laugh because I come from a background that is deep in truth, but sometimes we lack the spirit. We can be some of the most boring people in the world. Praise God there is a time that we are seeing things coming together in worship. It’s going to be a very dangerous thing when that happens. I can’t imagine a greater time to be a worship leader in the Southern Baptist Convention.

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