Shelly E. Johnson is the 2012's "Songwriter of the Year" for Lifeway Worship. One of the songs Johnson has penned that is already making its rounds into the worship portfolios of numerous churches across the globe is "Power of the Cross," a track that was first recorded by Natalie Grant and later by Steve Green. Currently Johnson serves as worship leader at First Baptist Woodstock, a 15,000+ member church, north of Atlanta. She has also led worship alongside Beth Moore, Tony Nolan and Andy Stanley. After releasing an EP last year, Johnson is back with a full-length 12 studio recorded worship record, "Your Kingdom Come," helmed by Michael Farren.
We are so honored to be able to catch up with Shelly for this exclusive Hallels' interview.
Hallels: Many of us first came to know you through the song you have written "The Power of the Cross," which has been recorded by Steve Green and Natalie Grant, and performed across many churches. How did you come to write "The Power of the Cross"?
The story behind that song is actually a very LONG story! We will be releasing a video first week of November that shares the entire story. So for now, I'll say this: That song was born out of ministry. When I lived in Nashville, I volunteered at a women's homeless shelter. That morning while leading those women in worship, I saw several of them meet Christ for the first time. I watched them walk from darkness into light. I saw their hearts transformed before my eyes. On my way home that afternoon, I couldn't get their faces out of my mind. I came home, sat at the piano, and that song literally fell from Heaven. The entire song was written in a matter of minutes. It was a gift from God, birthed out of that amazing ministry.
Hallels: Congratulations on the release of your new worship album "Your Kingdom Come." What do you wish to communicate to your listeners and fellow worshippers through this record?
More than anything, my prayer for this album is that these songs would spark COURAGE in the hearts of listeners and worshippers. Jesus has conquered death. And that same power that conquered death now lives within us. We have every reason to stand strong, to be bold, to defeat the sin in our lives. I love the song of the Church because it is a song of Courage. When we worship, we "remind" our hearts how to feel. The world beats us up - the stresses and worries of life weigh us down. We don't "feel" like worshipping. But when we worship, we are reminded of the Power that lives within us, giving us the Courage to move forward, to break chains, to overcome struggles, and to shine a brilliant Light into the world. We easily forget about the Hope we have in Jesus. I pray the songs on this album help people to remember.
Hallels: For our readers who may not have heard the new record yet, how would you describe your style of music?
Powerful. Heart felt. Honest. Where theological Truth meets deep emotion causing an eruption inside my heart that I can't help but burst out into worship. This album in particular has crazy guitar-driven rocking out moments; but then it also has beautiful soaring cello and violin lines paired with classic piano sounds; ambient guitars, and everything in between. There is lots of sonic variety on this album!
Hallels: On this new record, you got to work with Michael Farren as your producer. Michael is not only the lead vocalist for Pocket Full of Rocks, but he has produced albums for Dustin Smith, Jennie Lee Riddle, Finding Favor and many others. What is it like to work with him? And what special qualities do you think he brought to your project?
Michael Farren is a Friend first, and all that other stuff second. Sure he's a BEAST of a singer, songwriter, guitar player, producer, worship leader, and the list goes on. But first and foremost, Michael is an encourager. He's a worshipper in awe of Jesus, and that heart shines through in everything he does -- in how he treats people; how he shepherds those he works with; how he listens; how he counsels. My favorite part of making an album with him was all the side conversations we shared while sitting in the studio waiting for files to upload, etc. All the "down time" where life-giving moments happened, and we got to talk life & ministry. He breathed so much truth, confidence and encouragement into my life during those few months we were in the studio for hours on end. I will always cherish those days, and can't say enough great things about him.
Hallels: I believe you co-wrote all the songs on this album, while you were writing these songs, were there any songs where you felt God speaking to you in a fresh way? If so, can you give an example?
Most definitely. By far, the song on this album that speaks to me the most right now is Track #12, "Overwhelmed". It's a song of gratitude to Jesus, just to say thank you for who He is and everything He's done. That song more than any other song is my heart poured out wide open. So often, I'm asking God for things. But I need to spend more time saying thank you, and living my life out of pure gratitude for how good He's been.
Hallels: With Darlene Zschech, Kim Walker-Smith, yourself, and whole hosts of female worship leaders on the rise, what words of encouragements do you have especially for our female readers who aspire to become worship leaders?
Don't shy away from what God has put inside of you. Because "Worship world" is male-dominated, that can cause female leaders to feel like they don't belong or they don't have as important of a place in the Church. But that could not be further from the Truth. Don't be afraid to whole-heartedly pursue the passions God has put inside you. He put them there for a reason. Your job is to be a faithful steward of them. Work at honing your craft. Work at becoming a better and better leader. Be faithful with whatever God puts in front of you, and trust Him as He opens the doors. The Church is the Body of Christ. There are many different and unique parts that make up that Body. You have a beautiful and unique part to play in serving His Church. God will place you where He wants you to serve - all you have to do is be obedient. Be confident in what He's called you to do, all the while taking on the attitude of a servant, knowing that it's never about you. It's always about Jesus.
Hallels: For our readers who would like to purchase "Your Kingdom Come" or find out more about you, where can they go?
Twitter & Instagram: @shellyejohnson
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