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Travis Cottrell’s worship matches up with Beth Moore

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–On a Monday morning in 1998, after the second-ever Beth Moore Living Proof Live event, the women’s events department at LifeWay Christian Resources received a fax from Beth Moore.

In big handwritten letters, Moore had written: “It’s a match!”

The “match” was Travis Cottrell, who had been the worship leader. Today, after well over 100 Living Proof Live events, Cottrell’s worship is synonymous with the conferences.

Cottrell remembers having doubts about leading worship for the popular Bible teacher and author. “Why don’t you get a woman?” he asked Faith Whatley, who was then coordinator of women’s events at LifeWay, which sponsors of Living Proof Live. “But they had an idea that the balance of personalities would work. They nailed it.”

His first event with Moore, in Dothan, Ala., drew more than 3,000 women, far beyond the pre-conference estimate of 400 in attendance. “I loved it instantly,” he said, noting that he hasn’t missed a Living Proof event since. “I wouldn’t have ever dreamed this up for myself. In the beginning, I felt like at any moment they were going to thank me graciously and give the gig to some very capable woman.”

Cottrell, a native of Boone, N.C., attended Appalachian State University for two years before transferring to Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., to study music and embark on the road to fame and fortune. As he tells it, God had another plan.

Following graduation, Cottrell worked at a music production company and began to write songs. His first, “It’s Only Thunder,” was featured on Larnelle Harris’ “I Choose Joy” album. He then published “Waiters,” a youth musical about waiting on the Lord, which became the year’s best-selling youth musical.

Leading worship for youth at Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, Cottrell began to understand God’s story for his ministry. “Watching them fall in love with Jesus helped me realize that I was called to lead people to that place of intimacy with Christ,” he said.

When Two Rivers needed a fulltime worship minister, Cottrell stepped into the role of leading the 6,000-member church in worship. A short time later, he found himself leading worship for Moore’s Living Proof conferences.

Regardless of venue size, location or event, worship must always begin with an authentic heart before God, Cottrell said.

“Beth’s heart … her true love for Jesus is so contagious,” he said. “She loves those women; it’s what her events are all about — loving the women and pointing them toward the cross. Because of that, there’s always warfare when we put ourselves on the front lines. It’s not like we’re frontline missionaries in dangerous locations, but look at what’s happening in society today — the wounded hearts, broken relationships.

“Leading groups to experience Jesus through worship is just incredible. Because of that, we always have to have our hearts right before God because we can’t waste that time that we’ve been given to minister to them.”

Cottrell believes God ordained his partnership with Moore to maximize the multi-generational reach of the ministry. Cottrell’s ability to bridge the music of different generations is just one reason his worship style is popular. At events and on his worship albums, he regularly blends contemporary worship with traditional hymns.

“You never know what the worship background is in a particular geographic location, but God always gives direction,” he said. “It’s never scripted; God always keeps us on our toes. We’ve got silver-hairs and green-hairs at our events,” he laughed, describing his worship style as “where Gaither meets Crowder.”

“God is creative and likes to be worshiped in creative ways and He calls us to grow in our worship,” Cottrell said. “He did not stop being creative when Handel or Bach or Fanny Crosby died. He continues to shape music and shape how music expresses our worship differently in each generation.

“We have been placed right at the heart of a new season in worship and ministry,” Cottrell added. “This is a transitional generation of worshipers who are redefining what music sounds like, what music we sing and how we sing it.”

Cottrell said he would be thrilled and completely fulfilled to lead worship for Living Proof until he is old and gray.

“I love Beth Moore so much. I always tell her that I’m her George Beverly Shea,” he said, laughing at the thought. “She sometimes calls us Jethro and Ellie Mae, because the hillbilly factor can’t be higher with any other duo — she’s from Arkansas and I’m from North Carolina.

“To serve the body of Christ in this way is such a blessing,” he said. “I would love the privilege of serving with Beth for as long as possible. I don’t know why He’s given me such joy.”

Cottrell, his wife Angela, and their three children -– Jack, 9, Lily Kate, 6, and Levi, 3 — live in Franklin, Tenn. “They are my place of rest,” he said. On weekends when he is not traveling, Cottrell can be found “singing in a deep sea of tenors in the choir at Thompson Station Church [south of Nashville] and loving every minute of it.”

Cottrell has produced nine Living Proof worship albums with LifeWay. The most recent, “The Lamb Has Overcome” — recorded during the Living Proof Live special event for minister’s wives in Chattanooga, Tenn., in March — is the third live recording.

Known also as an arranger and producer for various Christian publishers including LifeWay Music Group, Cottrell was nominated in 2006 for a GMA Dove Award for his Easter musical “Redemption: The Power of the Cross,” his second nomination.

Cottrell also has several solo projects and recently signed with Indelible Creative Group and is working on a solo album. Cottrell’s song “Alive Forever Amen” from his solo album Alive “Forever” (Integrity Music) was recorded by Christian artist Warren Barfield and is featured on the “WoW Worship 2006” production.

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  • Russ Rankin