by Jen Rose Yokel

On Sunday mornings, the members of Elevation Worship are another church band. They show up early to serve their community in Charlotte, North Carolina, even as their songs find room in hearts and voices all around the country. On other days, for a working band like this, the experience of taking their songs on the road is still a pleasant, humbling surprise for Chris Brown, one of the lead singers and songwriters for the band.

“I don’t think I’ll ever get over the fact that people beyond our church walls are paying to come,” says Brown with a laugh as he reflects on their successful fall tour. “I think people in our church would feel the same, like, ‘We come to church every weekend and hear these songs for free. Why in the world would we ever pay for this?’”

But people indeed showed up this fall to sold-out shows in New York City, Pittsburgh, and Dayton and many stops in between. Elevation’s songs of hope, renewal, and trust in God’s promises are learned by fellow church bands on Sundays and played on radio stations across the country. It could be easy to get caught up in the hype and success, but when it comes to writing songs, everything starts small. In fact, Brown knows exactly who he’s writing songs for. “Rick Parker on the second row of one of our campuses. He’s there every Sunday morning at 9:30, and he’s your average guy. He loves the Lord. He’s got a family. He has a cleaning business.”

Rather than aim for what would sound amazing from a big arena stage or chasing the sounds of popularity and streaming success, the members of Elevation write for their local church first. They are trusting that the same songs that might help a specific person like Rick grow into deeper faith will find their way to a bigger audience, wherever they’re needed.

Now that the fall tour is done, Brown says they’re back home, doing what they do best: leading the members of Elevation Church every Sunday, trying new songs, and helping people grow closer to God. Once the Christmas season is done, 2019 is already shaping up to be another big year for the band.

Currently, the band is in the studio working on a follow-up to Hallelujah Here Below that re-imagines some songs from the live record, perhaps including a couple of new songs, and they also have some Spanish translations of their songs in the works. Then it’s back on the road in January for another run of East Coast shows, and a trip out west in the spring to hit as many cities as possible with the new music.

In the end though, the intense touring is about so much more than sharing songs or promoting records. From New York City to Birmingham, Elevation Worship is all about leading people into real encounters with Jesus. “This isn’t a concert in the sense that the people coming out are intended to just listen to a performance,” says Brown as he reflects on the purpose of touring. “When we design these nights, we only have one aim: to sing together and have a fresh encounter with God. We see the same hunger that we see in our church in any city we happen to be in, and we see people still having very specific moments with God. In a lot of ways, it feels like home when we go out. I don’t think it’ll ever get old.”

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