Like so many college students have during the course of their studies, The Glorious Unseen’s frontman Ben Crist also struggled with that one big question while attending Nashville’s Belmont University: What am I supposed to do with my life?
If figuring that out wasn’t already complicated enough, Ben was in the midst of a breakup with his first serious girlfriend, while his home church was enduring an equally excruciating split of its own. Left without a community of believers to connect with and desperate desire to connect with God, Ben began to feel disoriented.
In the midst of the chaos, there was some unexpected good news, though. After finding out that his former youth pastor started a Sunday night small group for anyone seeking community, Ben wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but gave it a chance anyway.
Meeting in a living room with 10-15 people, the experience certainly wasn’t church as usual. But something authentic was happening there that forever changed the course of Ben’s life. In fact, because of that little Sunday night community of believers, Crist wound up becoming a worship leader by accident.
"When I showed up, everyone was just really honest—really authentic in direct pursuit of God,” Ben says. “There was no fluff. No schedule. No agenda. We didn’t pass an offering plate. It was refreshing because we were just getting together to connect with God in worship.”
As the word got out about what was happening, these unconventional meetings frequented by the hipster contingency. lovers of hardcore, skateboarding enthusiasts and everyone in between eventually moved to a larger location in downtown Nashville. And later when the group’s regular worship leader eventually moved on, Ben was appointed the new worship leader, something he’d only done occasionally in a small group before.
“I’ll never forget the first night I ever led worship. I was scared out of mind, but excited at the same time,” Ben shares. “All I remember is that I poured out my heart in worship, but I was a little self conscious because I didn’t think my voice was very good. My previous musical experience was mostly in hardcore and emo bands. But I felt like the Holy Spirit showed up, and it was a really intense night with this brutally honest worship.”
As Ben grew in confidence as a worship leader, he began penning his own praise songs. “I thought, ‘Well, I have this musical outlet, and people kind of like it, so I’ll write something of my own,’” Ben shares. “When I first wrote those songs, I didn’t sit down with the intention of writing a congregational worship songs. I just wrote what was on my heart.”
But when Ben played one of his new songs for a guy who attended their makeshift church, he encouraged Ben to play it for everyone right away. “So finally I decided to play that first song, and everyone really connected with it,” Ben remembers. “The type of worship we were doing was different from everyone else out there because we had such a different audience. And before long, I had six or seven songs that I eventually recorded only to distribute among the people of the church.”
Ben’s music wasn’t about to have a small audience for long, however. Once a representative from Tooth & Nail, stumbled upon a copy of the EP, he knew this was worship music that would resonate with a unique audience.
“Personally, I grew up on Delirious. It was the first worship music that really touched me in a heavy way. I was like, ‘Woah, this incredible. It’s so intense.’” Ben recalls. “Delirious really gave me a new vision that worship can really be cool. And with these songs, I felt like this was music that even kids into Underoath and hardcore music could worship to. That’s where I found my musical niche.”
Now under the moniker of The Glorious Unseen, Ben and his band, which includes guitarist Ryan Stubbs, bassist Ben Harms, drummer Jon Todryk and pianist Patrick Copeland, have written a new collection of authentic reflections on the ups and downs of the Christian life.
“I have to sing what’s honest to me,” Ben shares. “And that’s exactly how I write the lyrics. I’m not trying to write corporate worship songs—just my honest thoughts to God, and somehow when that comes out, it’s worshipful.”
Summing up the theme of the album is the hopeful title track, “The Hope That Lies in You.” Serving as a battle cry of optimism in our increasingly pessimistic world, Ben wants to encourage listeners to not to live in fear and isolation—even when the media is saying everything is a disaster.
“If you sit and listen to the news, it’s very, very depressing. You feel like you don’t even want to leave your couch because there is no hope outside,” Ben says. “It gets us in a mode of isolation. But when we’re out there worshipping, everything is alive. God is alive—and moving. So I envision this song as a reminder of the hope that lies in us as believers—and the hope that lies in God.”
Building upon this idea, “All Around” also serves as a poignant reminder that even when everything around us may seem like it’s crashing down, we’re still alive in God. “There are times in our lives when He’s the only one we can lean on,” Ben shares. “When we’re not allowed to rely on anything else, this is when we grow closer to Him.” Also serving as an anthem to the questioning soul is “Heavy Hearted,” the album’s first single that juxtaposes a happy, melodic sound with pensive, thought-provoking lyrics. “Whether we’ve grown up in church or are relatively new in the faith, we all feel like we’re under God’s judgment sometimes—whether that’s accurate or not,” Ben shares. “Maybe we feel like God doesn’t like us. Or that He’s disappointed in us. Heavy hearted is how we feel when we’re struggling or dealing with various addictions we go back to time and again.”
Yet in those heavy hearted moments, Ben wanted to remind listeners that there’s still Hope in the midst of them. “When we forget about our addictions, the problems we’re having and our cyclical sin, God is taking us back in the midst of this stuff,” Ben says. “It’s ultimately a celebration of God accepting us as we are—even in these heavy hearted moments. And I love being able to sing that because I’ve been there.”