New Interview With Lifeway; “We almost named the record ‘Strangers Here.'”

REMINDER: The Struggle is streaming on Tenth Avenue North’s website tomorrow at 10 – head on over here around then for the full report, listening, and discussion!

The band sat down with Lifeway recently for a fantastic interview regarding their new album – click HERE to watch the video, and read the full transcript below: On your tour you invited your fans to be a part of the album The Struggle. Tell us about that aspect of inviting fans to be apart of this?

Jeff: One of my favorite bands I listen to had an event where they invited all of their fans to come to L.A. and sing on their next record. We were just thinking about what we could do differently for this record and how we can approach things from a new angle. So we just thought, “Why don’t we go from city to city as we’re touring and invite our fans and friends to come sing on our next record.”

Mike: That way everyone can be involved.

Jeff: Yeah, so we got people from Fargo, North Dakota singing with people from Albuquerque. So we just threw out a Facebook and Twitter message and had whoever wanted to come sing at a church that would host us. Brendon would lead them in a warm up, Mike would teach them the song, and we would just have them sing along to Jason giving them a count. And then we threw them all together when we went into the studio and we were actually able to pull it off.  So they are included in 6 songs?

Jeff: Yeah. We got some sound effects. The only sound effect that didn’t make it was everybody yelling at the same time. But we got them. We got them singing a chord, like an “Ooooh” and there’s one song that starts with a lot of talking.

And the rest of them they’re singing along. So it really brings a personable approach to these songs and makes them more tangible for who was involved and even just a general listener to hear all of these voices. And it was cool, yeah.

Jason: They were pretty fun events, too, because we actually had the chance to interact with fans on a small one-on-one basis. So it’s not like a huge event where you’re rushed to get through. It was good, in a sense, for us to be able to share the stories behind the songs and have a chance to hang out with them, talk with them, hear stories, and meet people. It’s always getting bigger and bigger and more efficient, so you actually don’t get to actually know people and hear stories. So this was great for us at the same time. Let’s talk about the album, “The Struggle.” Articulate how that came to be the title and basically the emphasis of the album?

Mike: Well, there’s a song called, “The Struggle” that we wrote together as a band. Brendon had this little keyboard part. This record is a bit different because we did a lot of the music first. We did it together as a band and then we’d sort of hash through the lyrics together. I always loved that idea.

I’ve heard multiple pastors and speakers say this idea that, “In Christ we’re not struggling to be free, we’re free to struggle.” So it just worked out that we were able to put that in the chorus of the song. Our very first record, or our first record on a label, we were asked what our mission is as a band, and in one of our very first interviews I just said, “I really feel like we’re supposed to articulate truth and the struggle to believe it.”

We were looking at the themes of the songs on this record we said, “Wow, that’s actually running through all of these sings.” There’s an element of going, “Let’s give people permission to feel how hard this is.” Because sometimes Christian music can just be, “This is true, this is true, this is true” and people are like, “I can’t live up to that, I know it’s true, but what about how I feel? How hard it is?” And this is running through the song. Like, “Yeah, this is really hard,” but also calling them, “You’re free to struggle, you’re free to fail.” But you’re also not struggling to be free. Or to say it this way, that in Christ there’s a grace that’s strong enough not only to forgive us, but also to heal us from our struggles. The song “Losing” is already getting a lot of positive response. It’s a song about forgiveness. A lot of the album deals with forgiveness, too. Tell us about the song “Losing.”

Ruben: We got contacted by WAY-FM radio during the release of our last record. We had a lot of people talking to us about the things they were going through, the way that the dark in their life was meeting light. So WAY-FM challenged their listeners to send in stories about things they were going through or had been through. They picked a bunch of them and they sent them to us and we would write a song based on a story or two.

So we started getting these submissions and stuff and there was an overarching theme in all of them, which was: “I’ve been through this horrible thing” or “This awful thing has happened to me and this is how I’m dealing with it” or “I don’t know how to get past this grudge that I’m holding” or “I’m not able to forgive this person or myself for whatever happened.” So instead of writing this one song about a story, we just wrote a song about this general theme that people had. And it seemed like they were struggling with the fact of holding on to something and not being able to let go of it. So that’s where “Losing” came from.

Mike: Yeah, we wanted to give people permission to go, “So why is it so hard to forgive?” We know it’s bad to not forgive because Paul said, “Bitterness is what gives Satan a foothold in our hearts.” Christ says, “Forgive us, Father, as we forgive those who sin against us.” Colossians 3 says, “The same way that you’ve been forgiven, you must also forgive.” So we know that we’re called to forgive, but the problem is that intrinsically we know it’s unfair. We say, “Woah, woah, woah, you wronged me.” We all have this sense of justice, of like, “No, there’s a penalty that must be paid, you must apologize, you must feel the weight of what you’ve done to me.”

But when we look to Christ we realize, if we’re going to forgive, there’s a death involved. If we’re going to forgive it means someone has to absorb the pain of the offense. And that’s the radical thing about forgiveness. God’s saying, “Okay instead of you paying it, which you should, I’m going to receive the weight, I’m going to take the pain, I’m going to take the penalty so that I can give you grace.” And so we’re hoping that this song will give people the permission to feel like their losing, but also call them back to what Christ says as He’s getting nails driven through his wrists, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” If He can forgive the people crucifying him to the cross, and that same power that pulled him up out of the grave lives in us, then surely we also can forgive those who sin against us. That’s a very strong message and a gospel-centered message. Another theme of the record seems to be, “This world is not our home.” There’s a better place. We’re strangers here. There’s a place where life will never die. The idea of the struggle, maybe the pain, causes us to look to this better place.

Mike: We almost named the record, “Strangers Here.”

Jason: I think that when we look at that idea of this world not being our home, you know it’s much easier to endure what may seem like troubles, or hardships, or madness, or chaos. There’s a song called “Don’t Stop the Madness” on the record, too. If we can fix our eyes on a future hope and a future glory, ultimately, this is not our home. That God has a better place for us. He’s making us a city, and we’re fixing our eyes there. It’s much easier for us to then go through the stuff here on earth that maybe we don’t have answers to, that maybe we don’t understand. The things that we struggle with on a day-to-day basis. So, I think it all kind of intermingles, but that’s the hope that we have. That’s the hope that we have to hold on to, to see us through so often. It just feels like it’s going to be the end of us.

Mike: Yeah, that’s how we deal with our present temptation. According to Hebrews 11, like Moses, it says, “He didn’t hold to the pleasures of Egypt, because he was looking forward to the reward,” so he fought the temptation of immediate pleasure with the promise of greater coming pleasure.

Like Dostoyevsky said, in The Brothers Karamazov, I don’t know if you’re familiar with that old Russian novel. People may have heard of at least, The Brothers Karamazov. But there’s this beautiful prose in it where he says, “I believe like a child that in the world’s finale, something so beautiful is coming that will make it possible not only to forgive, but to justify all that has happened to me.” He says that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradiction, all the horrible injustice, all the pain, all the suffering.

If we could fix our eyes on what Jesus is going to bring when He fully brings his Kingdom. It’s going to make it possible not only to forgive, but to justify all of this chaos.

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