With over a million plays on You Tube, the title track from your new album Living Hope is clearly resonating with people. Noting that Brian Johnson has been leading this song at Bethel since he co-wrote it with you, "Living Hope" is also speaking to congregations. Before you became known as Phil Wickham the recording artist, you effectively grew up leading worship at your home church and other congregations in Southern California. The context for this record is different in that you are once again leading worship at a church and many of the songs reflect your response to being an active part of a worship team. Can you trace the steps
of how this happened?

  There's a church called Harvest Christian Fellowship, and the pastors name is Greg Laurie. He's an amazing evangelist, and he does this thing called the Harvest Crusade every year at Anaheim stadium. Millions of people have responded to the Gospel through Greg's ministry. Growing up in Southern California, I've been a part of those events for a long time. I remember being at the first one when I was five years old and my parents actually sang at it. So, full circle, I am now the worship leader at these events. About two years ago, the church asked if I wanted to be a part of the normal worship community gathering at their services. After some prayer, I agreed.
  So, about two times a month, I lead worship at Harvest Christian Fellowship. I thought it would be cool to be home a little more, to team up with Greg a little, but then, this really special thing happened in my heart where I started loving the people and this community and I started to want to write songs for the community. For the first time since I was in high school I was one of the regular worship leaders for a local church. My whole life since I graduated from high school has been traveling and on the road and touring and being a worship leader for the greater church. But having a community in mind when I wrote "Living Hope" or some of the other songs on the record, I wondered if it would work at Harvest. The writing process of this record went from, "What is my expression and what is God showing me?" to, "What is God doing in our local church, what songs are we looking to sing, what kind of scriptures are we going over?" and it was so refreshing and life-giving.
  We've probably been doing nine of the songs on the new record at Harvest for the last year, and they've been tried and true. To have a group of people where I could bring in these new songs and see what worked and what didn't, was so good. This record, more than any other, is a corporate worship record. It's been so cool to have these new songs for our church; songs like "Living Hope" and "Christ is Risen" and "Great Things" among several others. I can't wait to see how God chooses to use these songs outside of my local church. If there was anything different about writing and recording this album, it was that it was more of a community effort than a personal, artistic effort.

The YouTube video for "This Is Amazing Grace" came out on November 13, 2013! That song is still #3 on the CCLI Top 100, and with the exception of "The Lion and the Lamb", it is the only up-tempo song in their top ten. Looking from 'the inside out' as the songwriter, be it the words, melody, tempo, and/or the anointing, why do think this song continues to speak to
so many people?

  In a way, I feel like you just answered it. The words, the melody, the anointing - that thing that's outside of our control where God just chooses to breathe. The story of that song is such an accident, and I love that about it. It's not a 'wake up from a dream with words and melodies on my tongue just singing out in a spiritual realm and writing'; it was the opposite of that. It was just me and my buddy hanging out in Nashville talking about the grace of God. We were supposed to write a song but we ended up hanging the whole time. So, with about fifteen minutes left we wrote this quick chorus, and the chorus of "This is Amazing Grace" just flowed out.
  I didn't think twice about it. We wrote the chorus and the bridge and kind of had the melody and some random verse lyrics. I forgot about that song, and three years later someone sent me the MP3 of me singing that song with an acoustic guitar into my computer. It was Jeremy Riddle from Bethel Church, and he said, "Hey, we're recording an album later this week and we're looking for one more song. We think this is it, do you mind if we rewrite some of the verses and put it on our new record?" Honestly, I was like, "I can't even remember writing this song, so thank you for even wanting to use it. Do whatever you want."
  So, it was a really roundabout way of God using this little moment with two buddies in Nashville years ago. Not trying to write a hit or write a song that our churches would sing, but just in response to kind of getting blown away by the grace of God. I liken it to the story of the five loaves and the two fish where this boy has these five loaves and two fish, and there are 5,000 men there plus women and children who haven't eaten all day. The logical thing to say is go and let them feed themselves, send them off to town so they can get something to eat, but Jesus has another idea. This little boy brings the loaves of bread and fish to Jesus to offer some to him, and Jesus links arms with this boy to meet the needs of this whole crowd. Alone, that little boy with his offering would have been barely enough to feed one family, but when tied to Jesus that offering was multiplied and overflowing, and I feel like that's what God wants to do with us. He wants to link arms with us and take the little things that we have to meet the massive needs of our church communities. We can't do it on our own, but if we do stuff unto Him to bless His heart, He can take those offerings of purity and multiply them beyond what we thought was possible. And that's what I see in "This is Amazing Grace
".

"Living Hope" was co-written with you and Brian Johnson, and no surprise it is a beautiful song. Akin to receiving a special gift on Christmas Day, as a songwriter, musician, and worshipper, how much are you waiting for 'the one' to come along, and is there any kind of internal tension as you're waiting for it to appear?

   I definitely haven't passed that level of humanity, You are kind of always looking for those songs with that unexplainable intangible 'x-factor', 'extra-anointing', or 'God- breathed' moment, and that's the chase - to find those songs that are like "Wow!" There have been songs where I thought, "This is so special, I can hear churches singing this" and then it's one of the least popular songs on the record and it falls to the wayside. You just never know in the long run what that intangible anointing, what God is going to breathe into a song beyond your own influence.
  The more you write, the more you get this instinct where you go, "OK, we stumbled onto something that is unique. It doesn't feel like we're just trying to write a song anymore, it feels like there's an extra amount of anointing and Holy Spirit in the moment." You learn to recognize and chase after that. The search and the challenge to find that and the digging it takes. Those moments of excavating, like someone looking for dinosaur bones when you just see a toe sticking out of the dirt and think, "We might have just found something special here!"
  Once in a while songs feel like that. It could even be just one line, one idea, or vision that God puts in your heart. You know what the song is supposed to be, the truth that it's supposed to carry, and have a clear vision for the end result.
  In every song that has stood the test of time for me, there is always the moment of Holy Spirit inspiration. I call it the anchor of the song. This part of the song will never die or be rewritten. This is the part that the whole song is going to revolve around. Then I try to bring it to life for everyone else as much as it is alive for me in that moment. For every song... there is a certain amount of "We've stumbled on something really special here, let's keep running towards it!" and also, "This isn't quite right. This verse isn't quite right, let's rewrite it. Ok the chorus isn't as good as the verses now, let's rewrite that!" I think there are equal amounts, if not more, perspiration than inspiration. 
  The more you write, the more your instinct grows to know when you have something special. That's what makes me want to sit down at the piano, it's what keeps me writing. When you stumble into those moments they're so unique and special and far between, that it's a constant chase for that moment and that new idea and new way of viewing God. In the back of your mind you think that it could be something that your church will roar out and sing, and I try not to quiet that voice, I use it to propel me forward and to keep going down that road, "What is in this moment that is making me feel that this could be a song that people connect with?"

What is your favorite Bible verse and why?

  There's an amazing one for every season! Lately, I've been resting in this amazing truth in 1st John where it says, "See what great love the Father has lavished upon us that we should be called the children of God." I think there are some beautiful songs that have come out recently - "Good Good Father" and "Who You Say I Am" - all talking about our identity. I love that. I think this is the biggest identity verse in the Bible maybe. That we're not born as humans, as children of God we're born as love by God, born as a part of His creation. Being His child is something that God has purchased for us on the Cross, and a thing that we can freely step into. It's a free gift, and it takes stepping into that gift for God to look at us as Thanksgiving dinner / Christmas morning family, you know?
  He welcomes us into his house, not as guests, but saying, "I want you to be heirs of everything I own and everything I am; you come into the family with Me and be a part of this family that is going to bring the Kingdom of God to earth." There is so much to unpack in that verse, but ultimately just that God would call himself our Father and that He would look at us as His children. And maybe it's because I have four kids now, but that verse just exploded in my heart.