If you were to ask any creative—a musician, a painter, a graphic designer, an architect—what compels them to exercise creativity as their profession, most of their replies would probably center around one word, “people.”
The heart of art has always been relational. Yes, it is aesthetic. Art is beautiful to behold. But it is not just a trophy on a shelf designed to elicit reaction from distant observers. Art has hands and feet. It moves in close to provide people a mutual ground; to inspire communities to connect and to ignite redemptive conversations among people of faith across the world as we, together, seek God amid the many mysteries of life.
Quite simply, art changes lives.
Mark Wagner, a respected singer/songwriter, seminarian and creator of STORYSONG, a movement connecting people to Jesus through the art of storytelling, is one such artist who understands the power of artistic mediums in creating physical, emotional and spiritual change in the lives of communities across the globe.
On the OrphanSong (Lucid Artist) project, the movement’s latest artistic endeavor available exclusively at Family Christian and benefitting the poignant work of STORYSONG, some of Christian music’s most known mission-minded musicians—TobyMac, Newsboys, Jamie Grace, Jars of Clay, Nicole C. Mullen and Mark Schultz—join Wagner in his melodic plight.
As you read his first-person feature on these pages of CCM Magazine, the socially and spiritually sensitive entrepreneur explains the potency of marrying story and song. Here, Mullen and Schultz join me in this conscious conversation:
Motivated by Music: Q&A with Nicole C. Mullen
CCM: You contributed the song “My Shepherd” to the OrphanSong project. Give me a little background on the song, how it is lyrically important to you and how you hope it influences others?
Nicole: I wrote “My Shepherd” based on the favorite Psalm 23. In it, King David, who was once a shepherd and a giant killer, reminds us of a great promise. David knew first-hand what it meant to protect and care for sheep. When the lion and the bear came to destroy what was entrusted into his care, he risked his own life, went after them, and conquered them both. In the same manner, it is written, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want,” or “lack.” This is what He does for me. He is my protector and provider. He keeps my heart safe from enemies seen and unseen and takes care of and tends to my needs.
I have been able to sing this song with believers all over the world. My heart has been overjoyed as we have worshiped together while declaring in our circumstances, to our foes and in our own hearts, that God is who He says He is—our Great Shepherd!
CCM: How can music motivate us to love God and others better?
NCM: Music has the ability to sway hearts and opinions. We have all experienced this in life. It was even true back in biblical times. Music should be used as a tool to encourage people to act and live in a loving way. Ways that incite behaviors of loving the Lord and loving your neighbor as yourself. This is what I have endeavored to live by.
CCM: How has music motivated you?
NCM: Music affects us spiritually, emotionally and physically because its origins are Heavenly—even though some forms and uses of it have been twisted. This is all the more reason that we who are blessed enough to be sacred carriers should shine the light brightly and let it not be dimmed by compromise. The world needs to see and understand the God that we have met and know through Jesus is a God who loves. And love does! But without the light, people will stumble in darkness.
For the past two decades, when I am not on a stage or doing artist-related activities, a lot of my time and resources have been poured into youth mentor and discipleship. We have small discipleship clubs (“Babygirls” and “Champions”) here in Tennessee, in Belmopan, Belize, and a model in the country of Zambia. I have seen music and its influence may earn us the right to speak into the lives of others, but the real work and heroes are in the trenches living it out day by day.
CCM: Music has this unique ability to bring together people from all walks of life. How have you experienced the unifying power of music in your own life and career?
NCM: I have been blessed to travel to many countries and worship with different cultures. Every time I sing before a non-English speaking audience and I begin to sing songs like “My Shepherd,” “Call on Jesus,” and “Redeemer,” I’m amazed that suddenly we are singing the same song, in the same language, at the same time. What a beautiful moment of unified musical harmony it is!
About Nicole C. Mullen: Nicole is a wife, mother, singer, songwriter, speaker, and a successful businesswoman as well as a minister and mentor. She has been recognized with two GRAMMY® Award nominations and seven Gospel Music Association Dove Awards, including two Female Vocalist of the Year honors, Songwriter of the Year and Song of Year in 2001 for “Redeemer.” Mullen founded and operates the non-profit organization Baby Girls Club, a mentorship program for young girls and tours the world with Team NCM, a discipleship program for aspiring singers, dancers, artists and actors. For more information, visit NicoleCMullen.com.
Music and Mission: Q&A with Mark Schultz
Andrew: OrphanSong seeks to raise awareness about the importance of providing international orphans with education. You contributed the hymn “Doxology.” Why did you choose to record this hymn? And how does it fit the music and mission vibe of OrphanSong?
Mark: I think of this hymn has a kind-of “call to worship.” Doxology literally means, “a praise to God.” I can’t think of a more genuine way to praise God than to take care of His children. In the book of James we are called to “look after orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27 NIV), what James calls “pure religion.” It’s important to remember that taking care of orphans isn’t just something for Christians to check off a list, it’s a form of worshipping God.
CCM: How has the marriage of music and mission impacted your career and your personal life?
MS: Music and mission have always been one and the same to me. My music is a way to witness to the world, through stories and melodies, of the amazing love of God. As an adopted child myself, taking care of orphans has become one of the more important outward parts of my music ministry. And, while I don’t remember being adopted (I was just two weeks old), being raised by a loving adoptive family has impacted every part of my life. It’s also brought me closer to the awareness of how we’re all adopted by God. We are literally His children. No matter our worldly family situation, we are all children of the King. I want people to embrace that and feel the truth of that in my music.
CCM: Music is a mysterious medium with the power to connect and motivate people profoundly. Have you experienced that spiritual power through music in your own life?
MS: There is something spiritual about music’s ability to touch our hearts in a way that other things can’t. I know for sure that when I’m writing a song I love, I can feel God’s presence all around me. To me, some of my songs have felt like God just dropped in my lap and I had very little to do with them. So, I think music may be a way that God speaks to us, calling us to higher things in ourselves and a greater mission in the world.
About Mark Schultz: As one of Christian music’s favorite singer/songwriters, Mark has sold over 1.3 million albums and garnered 10 No. 1 singles. He has landed the top spot on Billboard magazine’s Christian Adult Contemporary Songwriter list and has been featured on “48 Hours” and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” His 2005 release, Mark Schultz Live: A Night of Stories & Songs, was certified Platinum and earned Schultz his first GMA Dove Award. In 2014, Mark released his first album of hymns, simply entitled, Hymns. For more information, visit markschultzmusic.com.