Darren Mulligan Reminds Us That God Is Always At Work And Writing Our Story, Even When We’re Not Willing To Recognize It
If there could be a poster boy for a contemporary Christian version of the American dream, Darren Mulligan, front man for We Are Messengers, would likely be it.
“[Ever since I was] a young boy, I wanted to write music so that people would understand what was going on in my heart,” says Mulligan. “Now at age 36, I get to [release] an album [containing] fourteen songs that tell people exactly what is going on.”
Mulligan’s journey from childhood dreams to studio and stage realities have come from as far away as the sea that was crossed which now finds the Monaghan, Ireland native living in Nashville “Music City,” TN. In fact, Mulligan would admit that even from a very young age, he was facing an ocean’s depth of challenges, “I couldn’t go to bed at night without thinking about dying, or imagining some of the darkest things possible,” he says.
It’s uncertain where this shift actually occurred in his life. Growing up in a devout, cultural Catholic region of Ireland—probably something that could resemble, say, living one’s formidable years in the buckle of the Bible Belt—Mulligan went from staunch religious upbringing to virtual atheist by the time he was legally old enough to spin a motorbike or enjoy a pint. “In my later teens I was just sad—even morosely sad,” he admits.
Back to the poster, and the dream. Like in so many Hollywood-type scripts, a striking and noticeable change occurs when “the girl” enters and suddenly becomes the center of the story. Her saving, redemptive character “rescues” the wayward hero and helps to right his ship. “I connected so deeply with Heidi because she [was able to relate to] the same sadness I was experiencing,” says Mulligan.
At the time, and at age nineteen, little did he know that meeting a seventeen year-old Heidi, still searching for spiritual answers in her own right, would be a crucial genesis into their eventual transformation—and would give Mulligan a life-mate that would stick around for better, and even way-worse. “I had just come off studying philosophy at the university and I was certain I was smarter than this ‘God’ they had been talking about. I was just an arrogant, prideful, silly young man.”
Aimlessly after riches and fame, Mulligan departed Ireland, his relationship, and took his music—along with his presumptuous heart—to the United States as a member of a heavy metal band in the year 2003. All the while, empty voids perpetuated deepening wounds. And yes, like many other unfortunate American tales, fortune hunting led to thrill seeking.
Heidi, on the other hand, stayed home and eventually found eternal salvation.
Not long after Heidi’s spiritual breakthrough in 2007, Mulligan returned to Ireland broke, and brokenhearted. For the first time in their relationship, Heidi was truly happy—but after three-plus years of endless searching and promiscuous living, Darren was miserable. Still searching, and with nothing to his name and little prospects, Mulligan proposed. “So, I think out of desperation, I asked her to marry me,” he disconcertedly concedes.
Despite now experiencing a difference in alignment with Mulligan, and the “better advice” of her born again peers , Heidi’s answer was still a “Yes.”
Knowing God was still at work, Heidi never gave up on Mulligan’s salvation. “She took to praying for me with another lady from her church. They prayed that I would come to know Christ, and that one day I would write Christian music,” says Mulligan.
Through this, God began to speak, making His Own holiness and Mulligan’s sin very apparent to Darren. “Everything I had ever done came flooding back into my mind,” he remembers. “I felt like my bones were rotten, and that my skin was crawling with dirt and uncleanliness. I couldn’t help but know that this ‘God’ the preacher was talking about was real, and I am a dead man walking.”
Oftentimes, the American dream/Hollywood story lives into a cliché. With the hopes of actually fulfilling one, Mulligan’s wife prayed on behalf of her beloved, that he would ultimately be cast as leading role in, “Be careful what you pray for…” However, this was a careful prayer, not one to be lost on ingenuity, but one that Heidi and those surrounding Mulligan certainly wanted to come to fruition. After one Sunday night at church, God had particularly rocked Mulligan’s world, and that evening he chose to fully love the Savior he had hated for so long.
Now betrothed, the newlywed’s growth in grace became a journey full of beautiful new birth, but for Mulligan, it also resurfaced times of great pain. Almost a year into their marriage, he was convicted that he needed to confess his moments of infidelity that occurred during his first stint in the U.S. Fresh into experiencing the high’s of God’s ultimate gift and the reconciliation of his relationship with Heidi, the struggle was real for Mulligan. However, God provided a moment of clarity that was quite stark—He reminded him that God knew every single thing he had ever done, and now it was time for his wife to know.
“She told me that she forgave me, and that she loved me,” Mulligan recalls in humility. “For the first time, I truly knew of what the cross meant and how Christ loves us.” This forgiveness, these revelations…they shook Mulligan.
His spirit-led confession was the first of many steps of faith that would eventually lead Mulligan to where we have now been introduced to him, fronting We Are Messengers.
A notable first came when he gave of his time to sing at a local youth revival. After a move of God, He seemingly increased a “one-time singing opportunity” for Mulligan into a regular touring gig, leading worship around churches in Ireland. Then in 2013, Mulligan quit his job, started a food bank, and began preaching. In the span of nine months, his ministry experienced over 1,000 people giving their hearts to God.
The next year, Word Entertainment got wind of Mulligan’s work and in the form of a recording contract, God increased their territory one more time. “It was hard to leave Ireland [again]. In the days before we left, we just cried and cried,” says Mulligan, remembering how difficult this step of faith was for their family. “But that day we walked onto the plane, we stopped crying because we knew God was sending us out.
“For us, the gospel is a call to leave and to go.” Despite adjustments and certain sets of hardships that come from moving an entire family to a new country, the call remains the focus and the heart behind Mulligan’s ambition. “What we remind ourselves is that we are on mission,” he says happily. “When people come alive in Christ, we get to celebrate that as a family. Christ says, ‘Give yourselves away,’ and as a family that is what we do.”
Mulligan is continuously on the go. In addition to an ever-growing touring schedule, his band We Are Messengers, got the opportunity to perform as the opening slot on the most recent Winter Jam Tour Spectacular. Mulligan even found his way into the recently released This Is Winter Jam movie, an event that was seen in theatres across the country on April 19, 2016.
For Mulligan, a man once seeking name recognition and fame for personal glory, these opportunities only provide wind in the sails to furthering the desires that lie within the meaning behind his own band’s moniker—the message of Jesus Christ. In fact, much of the self-titled debut album (We Are Messengers, Apr. 22, 2016, Word) listens like a real, honest, face-to-face conversation with Mulligan himself.
Experiencing this collection in its entirety, one could wonder if part of Mulligan’s method to his message-madness is to create an intentional dissonance, heightening the awareness of our own sin nature. “When I sat down to write all of these songs, I sought to be honest about how I feel and who I am,” spelling out his plan of vulnerability, “Then, I am going to explain how Jesus meets us in that place—in our humanity.” Merely reading these words won’t capture the intensity and conviction with which Mulligan speaks—he is intensely in love with Jesus, and if given the opportunity, he will let you know about it!
To speak with, or even just see Mulligan perform (whether as an acoustic solo act or with We Are Messengers), it is immediately apparent that his heart’s aim is to always put Jesus on display. “Point To You,” an anthemic standout on the album, supports this claim. “I’m going to point everything back to You because I cannot keep Your glory for myself,” Mulligan boldly states. “I can live in Your glory, rejoice and rest in it—but everything that is beautiful, pure and good I am going to point that back to You.
From that transformational post-church-service night to now, Mulligan’s heart begs the question that drives everything he does. “How am I going to impact people with something that is real, truthful, and that honors God?” Mulligan poses the question to us, as if he has yet to even pen a word or record one strum from his guitar.
And perhaps he’s now stealing a little nostalgia from his American dreaming days? That age old and seemingly endless pursuit of it—why it doesn’t begin or end with a set of fourteen songs, a record deal, and a move across the Atlantic. The message—written on his heart before he even knew it was there—and tirelessly living to speak of it with anyone who will listen.