by Melissa Riddle Chalos
*Reprinted with permission from Hoganson Media
In 2009, a couple hundred people came together in the heart of downtown Atlanta to establish a different kind of church. A next generation-kind of church that hearkened back to something ancient, New Testament even. “We felt like God wanted a fresh expression of church,” Grace Midtown pastor Matt Reynolds says of the journey. “Something that required faith and risk in partnership with God… Something so simple you could tell that God was in it or not—no lights, smoke or lasers to hide what wasn’t there.”
Seven years later, Grace Midtown consists of almost 50 house churches—small gatherings of regular people who meet in individual homes—in and around metropolitan Atlanta. “People are skeptical of the organized church,” he says, “but people really want to connect with God, a community, and to be part of something Spirit-led.”
It’s out of this house church movement that HOUSEFIRES began. But there’s more here than a church worship band. “The name captures what is happening. It’s bigger than a certain style of music, and it’s much more than an expression of one church. It’s an expression of what God is doing in ordinary places, in ‘houses on fire’ all over the world.”
Set for release on August 12, 2016, HOUSEFIRES III perpetuates the organic root and sound of the unique worship community, perhaps best known now as the birthplace of “Good, Good Father,” a modern classic anthem popularized by Chris Tomlin that has spread like wildfire worldwide.
From the passionate call to worship of “Filled With Your Glory” to the benediction of “This Is Where I Belong” this is as much an invitation as it is a collection of songs created to celebrate, commemorate, and ultimately to be present in the God-moment.
House church pastor Nate Moore explains the group’s approach: “What we’ve said from the beginning is that we want to go after moments… We have a set list and songs to fall back on, but really the heart and core is to engage and facilitate God moments, breathing active moments, to create enough space to where God can speak and move and anything can happen.”
Theologically astute, lyrically refined, intimate and joyful… but at all times fully ‘in the moment,’ HOUSEFIRES III reflects the near-intangible warmth of live worship unencumbered by any agenda other than to create space for the Spirit of God to move.
“Naturally, we tend to write about God and the worship of God in ways that are applicable to normal life,” says Kirby Kaple, who serves as worship leader, songwriter and graphic designer for Grace Midtown. “It’s not too spiritualized, not hard to understand. In some aspects, the way you’d have a normal conversation sitting across the table or in a living room… We tend to be a little happy… All of us really enjoy the Lord, we’ve been though hard seasons, but collectively we have this joyful thing, with the presence of God….”
A perfect example of the collaborative, communally expressive nature of HOUSEFIRES III is the pensive ballad “Build My Life,” one of 12 contagious tracks on the album. Grace Midtown worship pastor Pat Barrett’s spontaneous expression found its legs while the group was on tour in Scotland and was finished in Colorado with co-writer Matt Redman.
Worthy of every song we could ever sing
Worthy of all the praise we could ever bring
Worthy of every breath we could ever breathe
We live for you
“On and On,” one of the band’s favorites, sprang from a conversation the community had about what Scripture says about God’s love and whether it’s even possible, humanly speaking, to take it at face value.
And if I clothe myself in shadow / Would I fade away from view
Even if I fall to the deepest darkness / Love surrounds me still
“The whole idea that ‘even if I make my bed in hell, you are there,’” explains Kirby, who can be heard on the recording, “it’s almost offensive to say that can’t be right, but it is. The song is about the paradox of his love and what that really looks like in my life. Even in that dark place, he will find us there.”
“Yes and Amen” is an impassioned anthem that declares the character of God, demonstrated through his faithfulness in our lives… to heal, to restore, to deliver.
Faithful, You are / Faithful forever You will be / Faithful, You are/All Your promises are yes and amen
“The heart of that is that He’s the fulfillment of every dream in our hearts,” says Nate, who leads the song on the recording. “The beginning and end of every day, we rest in His faithfulness that He does fulfill his promises, everything He says is true. This is our confidence that He is who He says He is.” The energy and excitement in the room explodes in the chorus, a fitting response to the truth of the lyric.
In these and all the songs on HOUSEFIRES III, there’s an undeniable spirit and compulsion in the sound… “We’re all on a journey discovering God together,” Kirby adds, “so we’re sensitive to what God is saying in the space, in that room, with those people and their specific circumstances… to the holiness of the moment.”
In other words, “It’s less about our songs and more about what God has been speaking to us as a community, as a whole,” says Tony Brown, who co-wrote “Good, Good Father” with Barrett. “It has to be more deconstructed, a lot more raw, and a lot more Spirit led.”
And time and time again, as momentum has built from HOUSEFIRES’ 2014 debut, it’s this raw transparency—stripped down, under-produced and Spirit-led—that draws worshipers and yet-to-be worshipers alike into the sacred space.
“These songs speak to the fact that your life, your ordinary, everyday life is holy and sacred,” sums up pastor Matt Reynolds. “And you can experience God in every ordinary moment of your day.”
HOUSEFIRES III releases globally amidst acclaim this Friday (Aug. 12) through The Fuel Music and is available to preorder now on iTunes. Additionally, they will also be taking their new songs and worship favorites on the major market Outcry Tour beginning today (Aug. 10) in Jacksonville, FL.
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