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In the midst of their newly released album, Always Only Jesus and a 19-city fall tour, MercyMe recently spoke with Christian Headlines about the heart behind their 11th album. “I think we just need someone to keep singing about Jesus, whether it’s contemporary Christian or worship or whatever,” the band’s lead singer, Bart Millard said. “You might be able to make the case of, well, ‘We may not need the [CCM] genre.’ But what we do need is to just keep talking about Jesus – providing hope to people.” He also spoke about how the message of Christian music is what differentiates it from secular genres. “Eddie DeGarmo years ago, he said what’s funny about the Christian music genre is [that] every other genre is defined by the style of music – country, jazz, whatever,” he said. “But Christian music has all of those in it. It’s the lyrics that define the genre. There is country [Christian music] … hip hop, we have it all. But it’s the lyrics that sets us apart, which is really interesting.”

He said the lyrics and the message are what give his band meaning when they start a new album. In 2001, the band released their first album, which included the popular song I Can Only Imagine, which has since spawned a movie based on the history behind the song. Millard said one thing he can’t imagine is not sharing the Gospel. “I can’t imagine just singing in a bar or just singing about pop stuff that, to me, wouldn’t have as much meaning,” he said. “The gospel changed my life years ago. Somebody asked, ‘Why did you sign up for Christian music?’ I was like, I don’t think we signed up for it. It’s just kind of who we are.” He admitted that the band can’t get to the second verse or bridge without mentioning God in some way.

In speaking with The Alabama Baptist, the band spoke more about their hope to bring more unity to Christians as a whole. About half of the songs on the album were written during the pandemic when the band saw friendships and churches struck by division. Millard spoke about the timing of the album saying, “It feels like we just stumbled onto a very important record. It’s perfect timing with an album titled ‘Always Only Jesus’ when we’ve got a divided body of Christ that needs to be reminded of the one common denominator we should all have. And so it was definitely a God thing. It was kind of weird.” Millard stated that the band hoped to encourage Christians to come together under their faith in Jesus and to set aside arguments over tertiary issues. “So we all thought, ‘Doing our part is making an album to remind people that it is about the heart of God, it is about Jesus.’ If you’re gonna address the elephant in the room, you can argue and fight … as much as you want. But we have to be able to come together and agree that yes, we are still pursuing Christ.”

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