By Melissa Riddle-Chalos When you spend your formative years, moving every couple of years to a new place, a new church, watching your Baptist preacher-father burning out of the ministry, seeds are planted in a boy’s heart.
For Chris McClarney those seeds—full of the potential for disillusionment and doubt—grew a garden of gracious gifts: the desire to serve others; eyes to see the deeper lessons in our hard-knock lives; a fundamental belief in the goodness and faithfulness of God; and the words to bring those realities together in song.
Now, with the August 10th release of Defender, Chris McClarney delivers one of the most soulful modern worship collections in recent years—a triumphant proclamation that God’s got his sleeves rolled up and he’s working it all out for our good…even if we can’t see it.
“That whole Job story is often misunderstood,” Chris says, just a few short days after flood waters ravaged thousands of homes in Nashville. “God didn’t do bad things to Job. All the horrible things: floods, Katrina, earthquakes, economic fallout, tough times… God has not forgotten us. He’s not mad at us. He’s got great plans for us. His love and grace are endless.” And who could possibly deliver such a truth as convincingly as one ordinary guy who has experienced it.
Picture Chris, a young husband and father of two little girls, tucked away in a tiny church office, preparing for worship at a small, but growing congregation. He’s wandering through the book of Romans, concerned about a friend who is going through a rough time. By Wednesday night, while leading worship, he finds himself singing Romans 8:28: ‘All things work together for my good / You make all things new…’
“I sang it for a really long time,” Chris says of the song that would eventually become “Your Love Never Fails.” “Something was right about it; it felt like everybody there needed to sing it, to feel it… so it stuck.” Months went by and Chris wrote a few verses, rehearsed it with his church band.
Like many songwriters, Chris felt that God wanted him to record some of his songs. “I thought maybe that was just my own voice in my head,” he said, “So I told God, ‘If this is from you, you’ll provide the money… I’m not going into debt…’ A couple of days later, a guy emails me, saying ‘I’m supposed to give you money. What do you need it for?’”
Within a few days, a very large check arrived. In the meantime, the church sound guy had ‘bootlegged’ the rehearsal recording of “Your Love Never Fails,” which wound up on MySpace and BOOM! Jesus Culture records it and takes it around the world.
Within a matter of months, “Your Love Never Fails” lands in the Top 100 on iTunes’ Christian chart, the top 10 iTunes CD Introducing Chris McClarney heads into production, the phone starts ringing and McClarney signs with iconic UK worship label, Kingsway Music. And just like that, the impossible becomes reality.
And so, with 15 years of worship leading under his belt, 30-year old Chris McClarney’s insightful way with words and his authentic, bluesy voice began achieving a certain recognition. Not that recognition was ever the point. “God’s either in it or not, and there’s nothing you can do about it… I can’t help but think of the story of David,” Chris says. “God anoints him to be King, but he doesn’t do king things or go to king school, David goes back to doing what he’s always done. Tending sheep….”
Recently named a “Top 10 Artist to Watch in 2010” by GospelMusicChannel.com, McClarney’s first full-length CD, Defender, is packed with songs inspired by real life among the sheep, the lessons learned and the truth of Scripture.
“Your Love Never Fails”—a ‘simple song of gratitude’ released as the first single in May 2010—continues to impact people worldwide with its powerful message of God’s unwavering faithfulness. “Many of us are currently facing an immediate, dire need for God to come through in a big way,” Chris says. “The truth: God has not forgotten you, He is closer than you could ever imagine, He is still the same today as yesterday, and His ultimate goal is ‘that you might have life, and life abundantly.’”
“Defender” the title track, was inspired by a difficult ‘he-said-she-said’ situation that sent Chris back to the Bible, looking for answers. He landed in the story of Jehosophat. “He’s surrounded in battle,” Chris says, “and he puts the singers at the front of the army, the marching band—of all people!—which would’ve been completely ridiculous in real life, but God wanted it that way. And God fought that battle for them. He was their Defender, just as He is ours.”
“The song says, ‘We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are fixed on You.’ There’s just something about saying ‘God is our defense.’ When we say, ‘The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and are saved,’ it takes a lot of pressure off. We need to say it, to proclaim the truth of who God is, not just because we need to hear it, but because times are tough and because God’s promises are real.”
As he’s watched God do impossible things in his own life, Chris McClarney has learned to stay on his knees, relying on the promises of God and focused on what matters most.
“Sure, there this part of me that wants to be a rock star,” Chris says. “I would never do anything to push that. I’ve been real hands off, surrounded myself with people who remind me that I’m a regular guy. There’s nothing special about me… It is what it is. There’s nothing more important to me than following God and being a husband and a dad. If anything ever interfered with that, I’d lay it down. What’s gonna matter is that my two little girls know they’re loved.
“When it’s all said and done, I hope I’m like Mary Magdalene who ‘wastes it all,’ who gives every precious gift over to God.”