You know them, you love them, and you just can’t get enough of their unprecedented new album, MERCY & LOVE!Here is a first-hand look into the heart of The Collingsworth Family; with a peak behind-the-scenes of their ministry journey and their very special new record.
Rachel Lynn: It has been just about two months since the release of your INCREDIBLE new record, MERCY & LOVE. What kind of response are you receiving from fans?
Phil Collingsworth(Sr): The response to MERCY & LOVE has been more than we have ever received to any new album we’ve released. We received literally thousands of messages on Facebook, prior to the actual release, as we were releasing new “behind-the-scenes” videos of us recording the vocals in the studio this past summer, every Friday for 14 weeks.
The outpouring of response was very humbling and overwhelming—especially the stories that were shared as a result of the song, “Your Ways Are Higher Than Mine.” Folks opened their hearts and shared some phenomenal things that were happening in their lives. God used those stories to assure us, anew, that we were on the right track with this new album.
RL: Do you have a favorite song on the album?
PC: My own personal favorite is Kim’s idea and arrangement of “Casting Our Crowns/Worthy.”
RL: From “It Runs In The Family,” all the way to Kim’s “We Shall Behold Him,” this project takes listeners on an extraordinary journey, evoking a deeper place of worship with every step. Tell me a little bit about the process of finding and putting together this particular collection of songs.
PC: It most definitely was not an easy process. I started listening to new submissions last December and listened for nearly 3 months before I got it down from around 1,000 submissions, to somewhere around 50 that I had narrowed it to. That 1st level screening is my job, and it’s quite intense, to say the least. Once I have it down that far, I start to pull other family members in for a listen to different selections. Eventually, all 50 that I have it narrowed to are listened to, at some point, by the other 5 members, and they start making selections. Then we begin to try them, in the rehearsal room, seeing what voicing works, who will primarily pedal the song, etc. This process narrows it even further, and during this time, classics are drawn into the mix and tried as well.
It was during one of those rehearsal sessions, that the Dottie Rambo classic, “For What Earthly Reason,” came to my mind, and I threw it into the mix, asking Kim to sing it. The entire group became so animated, LOVING this “new” song (“new” to our kids). We made a decision right there, based on their initial reaction to the song, to include it as a classic on the album. As the songs came alive to us in the rehearsal room, that helped make the final decisions we came to.
Now, the Talley classic, “It Runs In The Family,” did not come to light until we were actually working in the studio and cutting tracks. We kept saying to Wayne Haun, our producer, “We’re still missing that opener with some good ‘spizzazz,’” and he pulled that great classic out of his laptop.
Ironically, Gordon Mote, who was playing piano on the session and throwing in a ton of great arranging ideas, had never heard the song, and it was brand new to our kids as well. This encouraged us to cut it again, as it had been out of circulation for almost 35 yrs.
When the final decisions were made, we all felt good about the 14 pieces we were able to narrow it to, as the final cuts. It was quite a long process this time around, with many, many changes along the process… But when we stood in David Clydesdale’s living room and sang the “Casting Our Crowns/Worthy” arrangement for him, he started to cry.
I knew right then, we had something special in this album.
When we were trying to cut Courtney’s vocal on “Your Ways Are Higher Than Mine,” there was not a dry eye in the studio. Courtney broke down several times, all of us were crying—even Wayne, our producer was crying; as was Adam, our engineer. It was such a confirmation to our hearts that we had made the correct, final selections for this album.
RL: How did you come to the decision on the title: MERCY & LOVE?
PC: The song with the same title—which was written for us by Randall Garland & Rachel McCutcheon—was just straight down the middle of the highway of what we wanted to convey to everyone! We wanted to reach out to folks who do not know the Savior and let them know what an amazing change MERCY & LOVE can make in your life. It has a really catchy, upbeat melody and the lyric is so straight forward, it seemed like it jumped out at us as the central theme of the record…
So, it was a no-brainer!!
RL: In concert, what are some special moments, experiences, or responses you have had while sharing songs from the new album? Is there any song in particular that seems to resonate the most with people?
PC: “Your Ways Are Higher Than Mine” is always a winner, with tons of tears from the audience. “Bring It Broken” was especially well received on our release weekend at The Brooklyn Tabernacle. “The Lamb” almost always ends with the audience on their feet, becoming aware anew at what a sacrifice and what a miracle THE LAMB of GOD is! “Live Like Jesus” brings a ton of smiles to the crowd, as we list all those Bible characters… And it’s such a joy to watch the crowd worship as we close out with “Casting Our Crowns/Worthy”—so much worship!!
RL: Is there a quote, Scripture, or idea you personally hold onto—or maybe even speak over your family—right before walking onstage? Is there a central thought that grounds you before you lead an audience in worship?
PC: We’ve quoted Matthew 6:33 literally hundreds of times, as it is Kim’s favorite verse; a promise to her as a young, scared mama, when starting out with 4 young children on the road, and it has ALWAYS held true: If we’ll seek first His Kingdom, He takes care of all the “things” in our world. Kim said the Lord promised her that if she would take care of the things that mattered to Him, then He would take care of the things that mattered to her. It’s still working, and God’s Word NEVER lets us down. We’ve made it a central focus, so we never walk out on a stage anywhere, without seeking first HIS KINGDOM, and asking God for leadership and guidance, as He knows already who is in those seats and what their needs are and whether they are there by Divine Appointment. We show up for work and pray for a keenness of spirit, to follow His leadership—it’s a HUGE responsibility.
RL: If the Collingsworth Family could sum up their calling with one mission statement, what would it be?
PC: Unashamedly spreading the Gospel of Christ with the highest quality music presentation we possibly can!
RL: What is something you’ve learned in ministry with your family, that you would like to share with other families who desire to serve in ministry together?
PC: Ask God to open the doors where you can be effective for HIS KINGDOM, not your own, and ask Him to shut the doors where you will not be effective—and, give you enough wisdom to know when not to push on a closed door.
RL: Perhaps there is someone reading this interview, who is longing to use their gifting for the Lord but does not know where to start. Or maybe another is discouraged in his or her ministry dreams. What truths might you speak into those lives?
PC: The very best advice I could ever give comes straight from an account in the Gospels. The Sanhedrin were trying to decide what to do with these “renegade” preachers, who would just not be quiet about this man named Jesus. They pulled in Gamaliel, a Pharisee Doctor of Jewish Law, and asked him his opinion on charging and punishing these men. The advice that he gave the Sanhedrin that day is the soundest Biblical advice I could offer anyone in ministry: If it is of man, it will self-destruct—but if it is of God, it cannot be stopped, no matter what foe comes against it. That is the exact measure that I place any decision we make against. My mom would always tell me: Remember, the proof is in the pudding.
In other words, if God is in it, the results will simply speak for themselves.
RL: For 33 years, God has opened up door after door for The Collingsworth Family. He continues to expand your horizons; and you have stepped boldly into new places, presenting the Gospel of Christ with excellence. As you look toward the future, what is your prayer over The Collingsworth Family ministry?
PC: That we would NEVER bring shame to the cause of Christ; that we would be found faithful when He calls us home, and that we’ll have as many treasures (souls) possible to present to Him when we stand before Him someday. It has been an incredible honor to give our lives in Kingdom service.
We’re merely servants, assigned to this particular assignment in the Kingdom, and we always want to show up for work, with a smile, ready to do the bidding of our King! Pastor Cymbala, of the Brooklyn Tabernacle (he’s announced we’re honorary members there now, as we’ve sung there so many times), always reminds his audience: “If you attend a church who has a Superstar for a pastor, you need to change churches. There’s only ONE superstar in God’s Kingdom… and that’s Jesus!”