Since his major label debut seven years ago, singer-songwriter Phil Wickham has produced a versatile worship catalog serving as a soundtrack for mega corporate congregations as effectively as poignant moments of personal reflection. Furthering his commitment to write songs that motivate Christians to connect with God, his latest offering, The Ascension (Fair Trade Services), derives its title and tutelage from the ancient Jewish peoples’ tradition of using music as spiritual preparation during their pilgrimages to the Holy City. Here the late twenty-something music staple and first-time father tells CCM more about writing and recording with worship in mind.


What was the inspiration behind the title and track listing of The Ascension?

Phil Wickham: A couple times a year the Jewish people would gather together in the holy city of Jerusalem to worship God. As they walked up the hills to the temple, they would sing and worship with “songs of ascent” to prepare their hearts in excitement and remembrance of what God had done. This is a beautiful picture of the people of God ascending together in anticipation to be in the presence of God.


Going over the story of my life since we released Response a couple years back, my wife and I now have two little girls, Penelope, 2, and Mabel, who was born in July. God has used our girls to spur our hearts closer to Him and to long for more of His presence. We don’t want to just fill out a list of what it means to be a Christian. We want to run into the presence of God daily. To go deeper… So I wrote these songs about wanting more of Him. I want this record to spur people’s hearts, as it did mine, to grow closer to the heart of God.


You have had quite a bit of commercial success. But most of us think of Phil Wickham primarily as a worship writer. What is the driving motivator in your songwriting?

Phil: I never pasted a certain set of rules up on my wall to follow. I write from my heart. And there is nothing more satisfying to me as a writer, musician and artist than writing songs used by people who follow Jesus to worship and remember Him. This has been my heart since I was leading worship for my youth group in junior high. I consider it an honor and massive responsibility. And I love doing it.


Do you ever hear stories from listeners who have received a new understanding of worship through your music?

Phil: Yes. It is so cool to get to be a part of people’s lives through their stereos. And to hear all the stories from people where [through music they discover] God is with us. That He cares. That He is involved. And that our lives are not dependent on who we have been, but who we are in Christ… It’s a real, breathing relationship. For those light bulbs to go on in people’s hearts and minds through the truth in the music I write is beyond amazing. I am so humbled.


With so many modern worship critics out there, what is your take, as a worship leader and songwriter, on the musical landscape of the genre?

Phil: I hope every writer is writing as creatively as they can. If that is happening and they are walking the will of God, then what might be boring and bland for some might be absolutely life changing for others. But what I’ve learned over the years is the detriment of a critical spirit. Many times the simple stuff is what reaches the most people. Most people don’t have a music degree. They simply care about getting through the next day. And if a song speaks into that, it seems to me God can use it all if we give it to Him to be used.


In my songwriting, I think about what is the best possible way I can say the things God has put on my heart, sing about them and then create them on record. We put our heart and soul into these records. We try to hold ourselves accountable to reach higher than the easiest rhyme. I hope every one is doing that. If they are not, that’s a bummer.


Having experienced the birth of both of your daughters since the release of your last record, how has fatherhood impacted your life and music?

Phil: You can prepare for a lot of stuff in life. But once we had Penelope, everything went out the window. You learn things for the first time. You go into survival mode sometimes. You learn to forget about yourself, especially when you are cleaning up throw up from some restaurant floor. [Laughs] It is crazy when something that brings so much extra responsibility is so full of blessing and joy and so right.


Having a family has enriched us on all levels, including our spiritual walks and lives with Jesus. That maturity permeates The Ascension. These are the best songs I have ever written. I said what I wanted to say and accomplished what I wanted to accomplish. There are no regrets. I’m so proud of how it turned out and how everybody worked so hard on it.



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About The Author


Andrew Greer is a multiple Dove Award-nominated singer/songwriter, respected author, and co-creator of the innovative Hymns for Hunger tour with Cindy Morgan, raising awareness and resources for hunger relief organizations in hundreds of cities across the country. On tour, Andrew has shared the stage with folks like Amy Grant, Brandon Heath and Andrew Peterson. His songs have been recorded by artists like Jaci Velasquez, Seth & Nirva and Nic Gonzales (of Salvador). And his first book – Transcending Mysteries – co-authored with Ginny Owens, was published by Thomas Nelson in 2015. Andrew is also host of CCM Magazine’s “Features on Film” series, featuring one-on-one conversations with some of music’s biggest artists. For more information visit: or

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