Chart-topping seven-time Dove Award-nominated singer/songwriter and worship leader Todd Agnew has unveiled his latest project, a 16-track collection of new songs, as well as unreleased, remixed, and favorite tracks from the vault.
The new collection, appropriately entitled From Grace to Glory: The Music of Todd Agnew, released on May 26, 2017 from Ardent Records.
Serving as a scrapbook of sorts, From Grace to Glory is a musical chronicle of Agnew's journey of faith and ministry. It is a time capsule of moments, both profoundly intimate and exuberantly bold, that captures the essence of walking out the gospel hand-in-hand with friends and family, through good times and hard times. It is the journal of one man's transformation from a young singer/songwriter to troubadour theologian.
Q: Todd, what a privilege to do this interview with you. You have just released "From Grace to Glory," which is a retrospective collection and more. So, in looking back at your career thus far, what are some of things/events you are most grateful to God about?
I think I am most grateful that God has allowed me to be a part of what He is doing. I mean, I'm glad that I've made some wonderful friends, played some amazing places, and done so many incredible things. But the highlight has never been an individual event. Instead, it's that I have gotten to be involved in what my God is doing. So I'm grateful for how He has worked in my life over these years and that I've gotten to watch him work in so many others.
Q: Being a musician and with touring demands, many people feel the strain of being away from home so much. What were some of the challenges for you over your career as a Christian musician?
Well, when "Grace Like Rain" came out, I was single, so I didn't feel that strain as much. In fact, I was probably more comfortable on the road than I was at home, which is probably its own dysfunction. But after getting married and having kids, traveling definitely became more complicated. My wife and I would sit down every six months or so to talk about how my travel schedule was working with our home schedule. We made adjustments over a number of years to refine that balance.
Q: You've recently enrolled yourself as a student at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS). Why did you feel a need to go back to school?
I didn't feel any need to go back to school. But when my wife was offered a promotion at work that would bring us to Dallas, DTS came into the conversation. In Austin, I had been a part of a Worship Leadership Development program for young worship leaders. I had been convicted that most of what I shared was experience or maybe a verse or two. My time in the ThM program at DTS has allowed me to work on a full biblical theology of worship that I hope to use in training worship leaders.
Q: I have read that it's through your DTS classes that prompted you to finish your new song "Glory to Our Great Redeemer." Tell us more about how the song came about.
I had read a book years ago that asked a question about why we use so many metaphors about what happened at the cross. We say that we were pardoned, forgiven, adopted, ransomed, redeemed, rescued, and many more. The author asked which one was really accurate and why we used the other ones. So a couple of years ago I began work on "Glory to our Great Redeemer." But I got four lines into the song and realized that I had already used four different metaphors. So, I put the song to the side. I didn't want to write something until I felt that I understood it. In my time at DTS, I took a class on Soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) with Dr. Scott Horrell. We had an assignment where we went through the Bible looking at how God explains what happens in salvation. I found that we use so many metaphors for it because GOD uses so many metaphors for it. It is too vast a truth to be simplified into one metaphor. God faithfully paints the truth over and over, adding to our understanding. I immediately returned to the song and finished "Great Redeemer."Then, I had Dr. Horrell check it, just to make sure I hadn't screwed anything up.
Q: "Grace Like Rain" is perhaps one of your earliest and biggest hits. Looking back at the song now, has your understanding of God's grace deepened or changed?
I think the main thing that has been added to my understanding of grace came in those years of talking about it every night. I realized that God does pour His grace on us, but He also pours His grace through us. We are not just containers, grabbing as much as we can and then stagnating. Instead, God continues to wash us off, to fill us up, but then to be gracious to others through us. That is also His kindness and grace to us, including us in His work.
Q: And you have partnered with "Grace Like Rain's" co-writer Chris Collins to pen the new song "Nearer Home." Tell us more about this new song.
The worship staff at the Austin Stone Community Church went on a songwriting retreat one weekend. For one of the writing sessions, Chris and I were paired together. Chris is one of my best friends and we have written together over the years. This time, he brought "The Journey," a prayer he had found in The Valley of Vision, an old Puritan prayer book. We both loved it and it flowed into a song really quickly and easily. That was one of the easiest songs I've ever written.
Q: This new collection also includes some rarities, most fascinating is your take of U2's "When Love Comes to Town." Are you a U2 fan? What prompted you to do a U2 cover?
I love all kinds of music, and U2 is obviously a classic. Then when they combine with Memphis' own B. B. King, it's even better. I've always loved that song, and honestly I don't remember why we picked it up originally. But we started playing it live and it was a loved part of our set. Then, Sparrow wanted to release a U2 tribute album, raising money and awareness of the AIDS crisis in Africa, partnered with World Vision. So someone connected all the pieces and we got to be a part of that record. But a decade later, as we were putting this compilation project together, that song was a natural highlight to include.
Q: After this "best of" collection, what's next?
We haven't nailed that down yet. This semester I'm writing my thesis to finish my Masters. Then we will probably look toward the next record before I start PhD work. I know a couple of songs that will be on it, but the rest of it will probably come together over the next year.