Given that it is the birthplace of the iconic worship song, “Shout to the Lord,” it should come as little surprise that Hillsong remains at the forefront of worship music through their various ministries and collectives. Young and Free is the latest offering from the Australian congregation. Committed to relevancy and authenticity in presenting the savior to others, Young and Free represents the voice of a new generation; a generation seeking God, love and purpose. CCM got to chat with Alex Pappas and Melodie Wagner (singers/songwriters) about the movement, the mandate and the music.
How did this latest offspring of Hillsong come about?
Melodie: It’s been quite a long drawn-out process. It’s been pretty natural—not really forced. It all started at a concert last October. We needed new songs for the youth ministry. Songs that would empower… something they could identity with. That’s how the song, “Alive” kind of came about…
What significance does the phrase, “Young and Free” hold for you?
Melodie: Young and free is our mandate. It’s what we believe, generation to generation. It says in the Bible—proclaim a message of Jesus throughout the world. Our prayer is to reach people who wouldn’t normally listen to worship music with this new avenue and new sound.
Alex: Actually, Brian Houston (Senior Pastor, Hillsong) wrote a blog about that—one generation shall declare your work to another. The album and youth ministry and songs have affected our church personally. The mandate is that we are young and free in the freedom found in Christ. I don’t know about you, but in my faith I want to stay young and free.
Given all of the variations of Hillsong bands/collectives, how did this particular group come together?
Alex: We decided to launch the idea for this project just around a year ago. In terms of the key players, there wasn’t any extraordinary addition. It’s the people that serve in our youth ministry on a Friday night who are passionate about seeing the youth ministry grow. We finished doing our praise songs at the end. A pop song came up and they played music as people were walking out. The way the atmosphere shifted in that moment…our current generation crying out for their own sound and their own way to express themselves.
Why do you think young people will be drawn to Young and Free?
Melodie: We love to dance and have fun. The youth will have dance parties and people can express themselves. Just over a year ago, some friends got together excited to write something that was a bit more current and relevant. The response from the youth ministry was immediate—everyone loved it.
Media has never been as accessible. People are being bombarded with modern day message like, ‘you only live once…’ I think that’s why this message of freedom and the idea that church can be fun can be the best thing. This sound and this idea; this concept and new way of expressing worship on the same page is helping people more easily connect with it. The message is coming across clearer.
Alex: Our senior pastors have done a great job adapting to the church’s needs at the time. I think for us, we’re a small part of that. You see United…they were serving the youth of their time… Now, they’re serving the church in many directions and we’ve stepped up to kind of fill that youth oriented gap.
How does Young and Free represent the idea of worship and, in turn, invite people to engage in worship themselves?
Melodie: Worship is not necessarily music. It’s adoration of God. Music is one avenue of doing that. It’s us trying to engage people and guide people… We want to keep the main thing, the main thing. Jesus—He created us to be, serve him and worship him… It’s so important to keep it. When we lose that, there’s no real point…
Alex: Worship has been around all the way back to sounds of Gregorian chants – to what it is today. The message has always been the same. It’s monumental we’ve learned so much from the peeps who have gone before us. It’s just incredible that we get this opportunity to share the message in a new format
Young and Free, as a whole, isn’t a band. It’s not a specific group of people. It is our youth ministry. It’s who we are. Our prayer for the album and songs is that they will impact young people everywhere. Young Christians can show this album to their friends—the gospel would be reaching ears.
For more information, visit https://hillsong.com/en/youngandfree/.