Tension. It is a word most folks don’t get a witness on these days. Tension headaches. Hyper-tension. Tension in the Middle East. Tension equals stress, and don’t we all have enough stress in our lives?
Yet it is tension that fuels the music and ministry of worship leader Jeremy Riddle. It is the tension between grace and the law; mercy and judgement; love and discipline. It is the people of unclean lips lifting praise to a holy God. It is God wearing flesh, and God’s imminent return. It is life between the first and second coming of Christ. It is messy and stressful and beautiful and exhilarating. It is the tension between The Now And Not Yet.
“Kingdom theology describes the times we live in as a time of tension in our faith,” Jeremy explains. “During this time we experience many blessings, but none of them in the fullness that we will experience. In the here and now we are more than conquerors, yet even though Christ has defeated the power of death, we are still dying. We are made holy by the blood of Christ, yet we are continually becoming holy. We are caught in the tension of this messy process that is life between the times. It leaves us longing for His return, yet it helps us to deal with the reality of our existence on the earth.”
It is through this lens of living between The Now And Not Yet that Jeremy reveals his most open and honest expressions of worship to date. This collection of twelve songs, hymns, and spiritual songs reaches its arms wide to embrace fellow believers, and stretches its hands high to exalt a holy God. The stirring worship anthem, “Bless His Name”, which is also the project’s first radio single, is a prime example of the heart of The Now And Not Yet. Ironically, it is the one tune on the album Jeremy did not write.
“Bless His Name’ was written by my good friend, Tony Sanchez,” Jeremy smiles. “I love to use it as a call to worship because it encourages the people to consider the mighty works God has done. It is simple, uplifting, majestic. It is a call for people to come and join in praise.”
Jeremy’s 2007 release, Full Attention, burst onto the Christian music scene like the first breath of spring after a long, hard winter. Christianity Today.com noted Jeremy’s “Imaginative, praise-focused lyrics and an equally compelling soundtrack” as just a few of the reasons to award the project 4.5 out of 5 stars. That project featured AC Christian radio’s #6 most-played song of 2006, “Sweetly Broken”, with over 2.5 million impressions. The song was in such demand that it spent more than 40 weeks in heavy rotation on K-LOVE Radio Network’s play list. While Full Attention was birthed out of his return to ministry and was marked by personal, vertical expressions of worship, Jeremy insists The Now And Not Yet is much more message driven.
“I am a worship leader,” he states. “That is what I do. I’ve been on staff at churches and I’ve been a pastor, but mainly I’ve operated as a worship leader. I’ll be honest… it worried me when worship music began to run to the top of the Christian music charts. It seemed that worship started to become a part of the industry with the centre of attention on the artist. But worship has nothing to do with a person. Worship is anything that brings pleasure to the heart of God, and if we really want to please the heart of God, it probably has very little to do with the songs that we sing. Worship is more about ministering to the lost, the least, the downtrodden, the broken, the marginalized people of society; the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the imprisoned, the sick. It was a revelation to me that I could be close to the heart of God if I ministered to the poor. The song, ‘Among the Poor,’ flows out of that revelation.”
Although Jeremy is now a full-time musician, he refuses to make music for music’s sake, and has even had a few choice words about the industry that provides his living.
“The music business, even the Christian music business, is business,” he muses. “Whenever business meets church and spiritual things, it gets messy. But the reality is that churches need money to sustain ministries and resources. It is not something we can shirk. I didn’t set out to build a career in music, particularly in Christian music. I let all of that go a long time ago, and I didn’t want to take it back up again. But I’ve made my peace. I’ve been humbled in many good ways and lost a lot of my more judgmental side. I just want to be faithful, to be a good steward of what God has given me; to not run away from the responsibility.”
For Jeremy Riddle, a big part of that responsibility is in creating fresh expressions of worship that both exalt the Creator and encourage and enlighten the people of God. The songs on The Now And Not Yet reflect this new inspiration in Jeremy’s ministry. The project opens with a bold new declaration about the pivotal event in human history - the resurrection of Christ.
“The resurrection has become a seasonal thing in our Western church culture,” he says, “but it wasn’t meant to be celebrated only one time a year. Everything hinges on the resurrection. It is a massive part of our faith. Without it we are all lost in our sins. It should be an ongoing celebration. As a worship leader, when Good Friday comes around, I can find hundreds of songs about the cross, but on Easter Sunday morning it is a radically different story. There are very few tunes that celebrate the resurrection. I wrote ‘Christ is Risen’ to help fill that gap.”
While the music on The Now And Not Yet maintains Jeremy’s penchant for passionate pop sensibilities, the lyrical content reaches deep into the annals of Christian lore for inspiration. The gorgeous worship aria, “Prayer for the Church”, flows from the Book of Common Prayer. The plaintive, rocking declaration, “Prepare The Way of the Lord”, draws on the Old Testament prophesies of Isaiah. Jeremy was motivated to write “As Above, So Below” after reading the Lord’s Prayer in “The Message”. Although all the songs on The Now And Not Yet are unique in their sound and purpose, the tie that binds them all together is the scarlet thread of worship.
“There are many implications of The Now And Not Yet,” Jeremy muses. “So much of this world is under the reign of darkness, but in the midst of that you have the Church breaking through and setting things right as she follows Jesus and does the same things that He did. As we proclaim the Gospel, His kingdom comes. As we worship, we usher in the kingdom. The Now And Not Yet is a depiction of the tension of time in which we live and worship and walk out our faith.”