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Plugging into the local church

Randy Phillips is one-third of the contemporary Christian music trio Phillips, Craig and Dean. All three of the men are full-time pastors of Pentecostal churches (Phillips pastors Promised Land church in Austin, Texas, with his father). Phillips spoke with Joel Kilpatrick about his music career and staying plugged into the local church.

Evangel: Talk about your background.

Phillips: I grew up at Louisiana camp meetings. All of our fathers were Pentecostal preachers. That’s where I first got the bug to sing. My father evangelized, and we’d travel with him and sleep in Sunday school rooms. Over the years I’ve served my dad in different capacities.

Evangel: With the opportunities your singing career has given you, why do you stay full time at the church?

Phillips: The local church has always been my heart. I’ve had many opportunities to go elsewhere, but I felt I needed to be here. When this group took off, it crossed my mind to do music full time, but the three of us never entertained it seriously. We know we are supposed to be in the local church. That’s where our future is. It’s where God has placed us. The singing is an extension of that.

We do only midweek concerts so we don’t miss Sunday services. We miss Sunday maybe two or three times a year. We don’t do many Saturday concerts, even though that is the biggest night. I’m sure that has affected folks’ having us, but that’s how we do it.

Our churches heavily influence our writing. Many songs are inspired by a real person, situation or sermon.

Evangel: Did you ever struggle with mixing entertainment and ministry?

Phillips: I don’t struggle with it at all. I think music should be entertaining. If it’s not, nobody will listen. I feel like once you get people enjoying themselves, laughing and having a good time, then they are open to the deeper things you want to present. We strive for a balance of ministry and entertainment. Our lyrics are deep. Not a lot of fluff.

An ideal concert is when all of us are hitting a good rhythm in our singing and talking. We’re interacting well and the audience is reacting — easy to laugh and cry, quick to worship. When audience and artist are on the same page, that makes for an incredible night.

Evangel: What do you sense people wanting in the churches you visit?

Phillips: They are wanting a real experience with Jesus Christ. Many of the people we minister to have been Christians for many years. The dailiness and busyness of life dulls and numbs the soul and entangles us with distractions. Eventually you lose the freshness and passion you once had. We pray that our concerts, in that window of time, will rekindle the fire and move people to a passionate place in Christ.

Evangel: How does the Lord minister in your concerts?

Phillips: He surprises me all the time. Being from Pentecostal backgrounds, we have a program but we don’t have to stick to it. That comes from years of being a pastor. We try to capture moments rather than sing some songs and wave good night. The moment always shows up, but on different songs. Whenever the Holy Spirit moves in, we stop and seize that moment and let the Holy Spirit do His work. There have been many times when we planned to sing more songs but didn’t. We put our mikes up and go into the audience to pray for people. We’re amazed how He uses some of these songs.

Evangel: What would you say to encourage people who think they have a musical gift?

Phillips: Many people don’t want to pay the price of laboring in obscurity until their gift becomes tested and tried. They ask, "How can I be a contemporary Christian singer like you?" What they’re really asking is, "How can I skip steps 1-10 and hit the stage?" You can’t. You open yourself to God and ask if He has really given you a gift that will edify and improve the church. Then you start at the local church level.

Ninety-five percent of the aspiring singers I talk to are not involved with the local church. My advice is this: Let your gifts make room for you at the local level, and God will elevate you to higher levels. That’s the way it happened for all three of us.

Second, Peter says to humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God and He will exalt you in due time. We tend to want exaltation right now, but the process is to humble yourself. He won’t exalt you until you’ve been humbled. Get under the workload of the local church. Help the youth pastor. Play songs for the congregation. They’ll let you know real quick if your gift is ministering or not.


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