How did you get started in the worship ministry?
I ask myself that same question (laughs).
I grew up in church; my dad is a pastor. So I always grew up around church music. But I think what has really impacted me the most is being raised in an environment where I was around people who were singing about things that they believed in.
Now, as an adult with my own kids, I realised how powerful that is – not just to hear music, but also be around people who are passionately singing music that’s helping them to see the world in a better way, to see God in a truer way.
The first line of “Good Good Father” is “I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think You’re like”. What made you write that line?
That one line is why I wrote this song.
For “Good Good Father“, I was just becoming a father to my kids, and I always thought about how I should introduce God to my kids. You can choose to introduce God as a healer, a comforter or a guide.
And then there are a lot of narratives outside the church that people use, like there is no God, God’s distant, God is angry, God is ashamed of you. We’ve all heard so many of those stories. Some of them are healthy while some are really harmful.
So I started reading the scripture more and more. When Jesus introduced a relationship with God to people, the word he used was “Father”.
Of all the stories being told about God, Jesus thought the most appropriate and important was fatherhood and having a relationship with someone who loves and cares for you unconditionally.
The word “father” or “mother” can be difficult for some people because it’s a relational word. Depending on your own experience with your mother and father, or your lack of experience, it really affects how we view God.
So for me and for many adults, a lot of the journey is how am I going to unlearn some of the harmful stories that I’ve heard and believed in my life about Him.
How do you channel your life experiences into your songs?
Writing has always been a way for me to be honest and help me figure out what I actually feel. I’ve written so many songs that are not good enough to share (laughs). But whether I share them or not is always second to the fact that these were written to help me see God more clearly at the moment I’m in.
For example, on my record, there’s a song called “Into Faith I Go“. It’s a song about change, and change makes me nervous. I’ve always been like that. So the first line of the song is not even creative, it’s descriptive: “I’ve never been good at change”.
Melodies can’t solve our problems, but they can give us an outlet of expression that we can direct to trusting God more.
It’s really liberating to say: “Wow this is hard, I’m losing sleep over this situation. God, can you help me find peace? Is there a place where you can redirect my attention that can help me through this?”
Sometimes there’s a song written for this, but sometimes a song needs to be written because it doesn’t exist yet. So songwriting has been my way of forcing myself to be honest with God, and not hide and pretend when things are difficult.
And it’s then such an encouragement to share those songs with other people. I love it when a song that has helped me has the opportunity to help others as well. That’s one of the best parts of songwriting.
How did you conceptualise each album that you’ve released and what is the theme of your upcoming album?
I’m often thinking and writing with a guitar in my hand or jotting down ideas in my iPhone notes. So usually what happens is when there are enough songs that I’m excited to share about, then it’s time to do an album. And because a lot of times it’s my life I’m writing about, there are certain themes that tend to emerge in certain groups of songs.
There’s a song that I’m excited about that I haven’t talked to anyone yet. “Canvas and Clay” talks about God as not just a Father, but also an artist. I’m starting to think about God as an artist because growth is such a universal human experience. And the older you get, the more opportunities you have to make good or poor choices.
I didn’t have many regrets when I was five-year-old because I was only five. But now that I’m almost 35, there are some things we may never be able to make sense of: Painful experiences, things that we regret, things that we wish we’d have done differently. But because God’s an artist, He can still use that to paint a beautiful picture in our lives.
Knowing this frees me from the expectation that I have to have it all together or see the final picture because I’m not the one holding the pen. I’m the canvas that God is writing the story on. I’m the clay that’s being formed by the Potter’s hands.
It doesn’t mean that we don’t participate in it, but it does mean that there is a bigger story being told that we can’t see. More importantly, it stops me from ever judging someone else because God knows what’s going on in their lives – I don’t.
Wouldn’t it be so sad if someone walked in while the Mona Lisa was being painted and said “I don’t like it. I think it’s ugly. I wish it was done differently”?
So there’s an element of freedom that comes in when you get out of the judgement seat because that’s not where you belong. It allows us to live our lives the best we can, and not judge ourselves or others because the process is not finished yet.
How does it feel like to be signed to Chris Tomlin’s new label, Bowyer and Bow, as a solo artist? How has working with Chris helped you grow both as a musician and a songwriter?
I absolutely love it. Chris has been an inspiration even before I knew him. His songs have helped me connect with God and given me a voice to worship. It has also inspired me to write my own songs.
To now have him not just inspire me from a distance, but also walk with me and guide me along the path I’m now on is such a joy. His friendship has been amazing, and his encouragement in my life has been significant.
One of the things that I’ve been able to learn is just watching him lead worship in a really humongous setting with humility. Chris is recognised all over the world, but he is such a humble person. And he has such gratefulness in his heart for what he has been able to do. I think that’s so powerful.
On the writing side, one thing I’ve learnt from him is persistence. Sometimes songs come quickly, sometimes they take a long time. Chris is such a great writer, and he has such an awareness of words and language that would broadly connect with a lot of people.
He’s a unifying type of person. He’s always thinking of the bigger picture and the wider body of Christ. He’s really inclusive of a lot of different streams and denominations of the church – I just like that. There’s a servant-heartedness in that kind of writing and creativity that’s just inspiring to me.
It can be so easy for people to look at your success and admire you for where you are right now. Do you have any message you’d like to leave for them?
I’m thankful for the opportunity, but I think that even if I wasn’t signed on to Bowyer and Bow, it wouldn’t make me less of a son of God. It also wouldn’t make me less of a songwriter if I were on a different label.
There’s a Bible passage where Peter and John are with Jesus, and Jesus tells Peter something about his life (John 21:18-22). He said: “When you were young, you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. When you’re old, someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”
It was just a prophetic insight as to what Peter’s life would be. And Peter looks at John and asked Jesus: “What about him?”
And Jesus said: “What about him?”
I just love that story because we have the tendency to measure the value of our lives against someone else’s life.
But that’s not how value works. That’s just how comparison works. We can be inspired by other people, but we find our value from a different place.
So my encouragement to you is that you don’t want my life, and I can assure you that you don’t want the other person’s life. Because the life you have right now is a gift – it’s the one that God has given you. It would relieve a lot of stress in our lives if we try to hold the things that we have been given and not try to take the things that aren’t ours.
What can the audience expect during your upcoming worship night?
For everyone who will be there, I’m looking forward to experiencing God together, to say yes to Him and to His plans.
Hopefully, the impact will last longer and we will learn to walk with God and trust Him more even after the night is done.
Pat Barrett will be in Singapore for a one-night-only concert happening on July 24, 2019, Wednesday, at 7.30 pm. Tickets are selling out fast. For more information, visit Assembly Asia.