Tony Cummings quizzed Canadian songsmith and worship man ANDREW MARCUS about his ever expanding ministry
Canadian singer/songwriter and worship leader Andrew Marcus recently got noticed by Cross Rhythms Radio listeners when his "Darkness In Disguise" from his latest album 'Emptiness Speaks Volumes' got considerable airplay. So who is this versatile Canadian songsmith from Surrey (the one in British Columbia)? He certainly has an unusual background. "My parents were both born in different parts of Egypt; however, they met in England and were married in Canada. I have been so blessed to be born in such a beautiful family. Everyone in my family passionately serves Jesus Christ wherever they go and it has been such a beautiful example of what Jesus' hands and feet should look like here on earth. My sister is four years older than me, married and almost done her Ph D in molecular biology. My parents are both involved in business and accounting; in fact, if you ever need to do an article on God-anointed accountants you should interview my parents, they have some incredible testimonies of how God is using them to pour Jesus into their clients! My passion for music is still quite new which is really exciting. I have only been passionately playing music for about three and a half years. It all began when I had a personal experience with the Lord. . ."
Even though Andrew was raised in a Christian family he wasn't always going God's way. He said, "In my high school years the Enemy distracted me with people, situations, hobbies and everything else he could think of. I came to the realisation quickly after graduating that I couldn't get saved automatically because my family was saved. Being a Christian wasn't in my genes (having a sister in biology I got to learn a lot about genes and DNA). A relationship with Jesus Christ didn't come from a particular gene combination that I could adopt from my mother or father because they were saved, it was a personal decision. . . a decision I realised after graduating that I just had to make."
He continued, "Up until this point, the only experiences I had at church were not voluntary. My parents would beg me to come to church with them and I would always try my best to get out of it, but when I ran out of excuses I had no choice but to go. I remember the part I disliked the most was worship (I find it is so funny that a few years later God called me into the music ministry). I remember pretending that my stomach was hurting so that I could go to the bathroom and just sit in a stall, anxiously waiting for the music to stop so I could go back in and doodle on my bulletin while the pastor delivered his power packed sermon. It wasn't until I decided to head down to a church in Langley British Columbia on my own when things started to change. Now that I look back I realise it was totally the Holy Spirit that guided me to that church. I actually don't remember how I got there and how I knew where to go. I remember sitting in the back corner in the balcony in awe of the presence of God during worship. It is not that the presence of God was in one church and not the other, it was the fact that he specifically directed me by His Spirit to that church to meet with him. I realised in that moment that obedience unlocks anointing. By being obedient to the Holy Spirit in going to that church in Langley, he met me, he revealed himself to me in a way that I've never experienced before. I remember towards the end of the sermon that morning the pastor said, 'I want you to think of all your talents and offer them to the Lord. . .' Before I knew it my hands were in the air and I told the Lord, 'Father use me in the area of music. . .' I couldn't believe that I said that. Until this point I have never touched a guitar, a piano, I'd never written a song and I'd never had a passion for singing. I quickly put my hands down because I was so shocked and the service ended shortly after that.
"A few days later I got an email from a guy who I had never met and he was explaining that he wanted to teach me guitar. I had no idea who this guy was at the time and I found out that he got my email address from my mom. What really shocked me was the last line in that email: 'I don't teach for the money, I only teach people who want to use their talents to glorify God.' I couldn't believe it! He looked familiar when I went for my first lesson and I realised he was a musician from the same church I visited in Langley! God put everything together and after my fourth Wednesday lesson he was blown away with how fast I learned (not to give glory to myself, it is just more evidence of the Holy Spirit at work). I've come to realise that there were so many musicians there that could have been used in the congregation but he chose me. God doesn't look at our ability, he looks at our availability. I was available to be used by him so he chose me. It had nothing to do with my skill level. I always imagined him looking at us, asking other people if they wanted to be his hands and feet in the music ministry. After he noticed that people didn't respond or clearly said no to the call he said, 'Fine, I will just get that guy in the back who knows absolutely nothing and I'll just have to teach him quickly. . .' I continued to attend that same church after that morning service except now, instead of dreading going to church, I was showing up early to watch the worship team rehearse and I would worship in the pew by myself during their practise. I would attend all three services, always learning something new. It was such a beautiful season."
A few weeks after Andrew started to attend that church he woke up a little late and realised he'd be late for the music rehearsal. He remembered, "I started to panic. I put on the first pair of pants my eyes saw (skipped my morning shower) and ran out the door. There was a different pastor speaking on King David and he was talking about how David used what God gave him to beat Goliath. He didn't use anything fancy, just his stones that he grabbed and a sling from his pouch. Then the pastor asked the congregation, 'What has God given you to use for battle? Why don't you reach into your pouch and see. . .' I looked around while everyone listened; I realised that my modern day pouch was probably my pocket. He said it again to drive his point home, "Reach into your pouch and see what God has given you. . .' So I reached into my pocket and as soon as I felt something the pastor said, 'Now take that. . . stretch out your hands and offer that to the Lord.' I pulled my hand out of my pocket and began to weep. In the middle of my palm was a guitar pick. I stretched my hands to the heavens and thanked the Lord for the beautiful gift he had given me for his glory. My passion for worshiping the Lord through the art of music grew rapidly after the Lord specifically hand picked me to be involved in his music ministry."
In Okanagan Andrew become involved in a church plant and particularly music ministry. He explained, "There was a small church in need of a youth pastor initially and I jumped at the opportunity to get involved. So I packed my bags and moved to a basement suite overlooking the water. God's beauty surrounded me day and night and it was so hard to not be in awe of his presence. As I was helping out with the youth movement there I started getting involved on the worship team and I began to connect with amazing musicians. When I connected with the pastor of the church my first thought was, 'How am I going to prepare a new sermon every week for these kids!' It is amazing what happens when we step out in faith; the Lord meets us, and equips us. God doesn't always call the qualified but he always qualifies the called. Again, I realised that obedience unlocks anointing! He spoke a new message every week and the kids were not the only ones getting blessed, I was too! The Lord brought amazing friends and mentors during that season to help me as I began my journey in the music ministry as well. I had a lot of alone time when I was there, so I spent a lot of time in God's Word and on the floor practicing guitar in my tiny living room. I began writing songs as I spent time alone in the Lord's presence in my little basement suite. It was the first time writing music when I was helping at this church in 2007."
Towards the end of 2007 Andrew started thinking about recording some of the worship songs God had given him. "I remember skimming through the local paper and I saw an advertisement for a recording studio that was about 30 minutes away from the basement suite I was renting. I had no idea who the producer was but I felt led by the Spirit to give him a call and arranged a time to connect with him and run through my songs. I didn't know if he was a believer but for some reason I just felt led to work with him. So I wrote all the songs in about a week and a half with all the guitar parts and I was ready to record. I had 11 songs prepared and the day I was suppose to go meet the producer and start tracking he called me and had to cancel. I was so upset because I was just so excited to record for the first time (I'd only been playing music at this point for a matter of months). I remember just sitting on my floor with my guitar and the Lord led me to Romans 8:18-25 and the subtitle of that passage was Future Glory. I started to strum on my guitar as I read this passage: 'For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. . .' As I continued to read I continued to strum and sing. I wrote the entire song in about five minutes (again I take no credit for all that had happened in that moment, it was all orchestrated by the Holy Spirit). The next day I brought that song to the studio and that was included in the record. In fact that song ended up being the favourite by most listeners!
"When I met the producer I was a little curious to see what he'd think of the songs (especially because I did not know if he was a believer). His name was Malcolm Petch and I found out soon after meeting him that he was a worship leader at a large church in the Okanagan and he recorded and worked with David Ruis, Norm Strauss and Graham Ord (they all served at the same church at the time). God just brought us together and I got a chance to connect with Norm and Graham as well. What a blessing to connect with such beautiful people. Since it was my first time recording and I had only been playing music and singing for a matter of months the recording process was very new and somewhat uncomfortable. I remember that was when my friendship with Tim Hughes first started as well. I emailed him asking for some counsel during the recording process and it was such a blessing. We continue to connect every now and then; in fact, he also gave me some words of wisdom while recording my latest record 'Emptiness Speaks Volumes' as well. Now that I am more familiar with recording and playing instruments I am shocked that it only took two days to do all instruments for 'Salvation And Glory'. Since it was my first record it was not the best quality and my musicianship is not where it is at today (not that I'm saying I am a phenomenal musician now), but regardless it was all done for the glory of God! I do plan to re-record a few of those songs including 'Future Glory', 'I Know You Love Me', 'I'll Run To You' and 'Delight' in the near future."
Although Andrew continued to have a passion for worship ministry the Lord took him to what he called "a new season in writing" and he began working on non-worship songs that were to form the basis of 'Emptiness Speaks Volumes'. Andrew spoke about the song "Darkness In Disguise" which went on to become a Cross Rhythms turntable hit. "The song was written in a time when I was just meditating on our human nature and our struggles with sin. I was just thanking God for the gift of salvation and at the same time I was thinking of the Enemy's schemes, wondering why I often fell into them knowing very well that it was wrong. So I started thinking that when he tempts us with sin he makes it look appealing and attractive but at the end of the day it leads us farther from an intimacy with our Maker. The Enemy 'moves through the troubled sounds. . . seeking to destroy all the grounds. . .' and he distracts our minds with his schemes and traps.
"I didn't have a girl in my mind when I wrote the chorus but it was used more as an image to describe how the Enemy works. The Enemy has a way of making things look so beautiful in the flesh (like the Turkish Delight candies in Narnia), but the result of falling into his trap leads us away from Jesus Christ. I started meditating on the birth of sin with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. They were roaming the earth freely and had such an intimate relationship with their Maker when they were living without sin, and then the Enemy came, tempting them with a beautiful fruit that had such promising results (like a smile that takes your breath away). After they fell into the temptation and ate the forbidden fruit God said, 'I will surely multiply your pain in child-bearing. . .' (Genesis 3:16). 'Like her mother she births pain. . . driving you driving you insane. . .' and we know the Enemy is the Father of all lies as we clearly read throughout the Scriptures and experience in our daily lives. 'Like her father she's all lies. . . living a life of darkness in disguise.' The song is bouncy and fun (at least in my opinion) and has such an attractive vibe; however, the words and the story it tells is a 'darkness in disguise'. I wrote this song to remind us how the Enemy works. We need to not listen to the fun music, or see the beautiful smile the Enemy presents but rather look deep at the root of it and see if it bears fruit to enhance the Kingdom."
Another standout on the album is the final track "It's All Washed Away". Said Andrew, "I remember we had a total of 10 songs on the album and we were done all tracking except vocals. I remember getting really discouraged when we were tracking vocals that we actually had to cut the day short because my performance wasn't up to par. I was playing a show that night at a coffee shop and when I was getting ready I was just feeling really bummed out. I remember telling my mom how bad of a day I had in the studio and as I went downstairs to my room she started to pray for me. She prayed that the Lord would speak to me and minister to my heart before my gig. I sat downstairs and as I was discouraged about a lot of things (from my past musical experiences in the studio) the Lord said to me, 'Andrew, don't let your yesterdays rob your tomorrows.' I could almost hear him singing it over me! You know, the Bible says in Zephaniah 3:17 that 'The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.' In that moment the Lord was singing his truth over me so I quickly got my guitar and started strumming and within minutes the Lord gave me three verses and a few different choruses to choose from! It was such an incredible moment in the presence of God. After I wrote the song I told my mom and she almost cried because her prayer was instantly answered. I quickly got ready and made my way to the gig."
Andrew continued, "At that show that night I asked if I could share that new song with the group. I told them the story behind it all and at the end of the show everyone said they enjoyed that song the most. I called my producer right away and sang it to him over the phone and he loved it so we recorded it as the last song on my record. I really felt like it summed the entire record up. We see darkness in disguise that surrounds us, we see it and sometimes fall into it. Like described in the song 'Yet I Wait' we realise that we wait for sin because of our flesh. . . it brings us joy but causes us tears, yet we wait for it... Then God sends his son Jesus Christ and he tells us, 'My son, my daughter, don't let your yesterdays rob your tomorrows, don't let your hurt and shame fill your heart with sorrow but rejoice for the Kingdom of Heaven is near. . .'"
The songsmith is currently writing a book detailing the stories of every song on 'Emptiness Speaks Volumes'. He enthused, "I am really excited to share with the world how these songs were birthed and the beautiful power of our Lord Jesus Christ. The book will also include lyrics from the album, chord charts and a free download card with some acoustic versions of some of the songs."
Despite the power of 'Emptiness Speaks Volumes' it was churches wanting a worship leader, not coffee houses wanting a singer/songwriter, who began calling Andrew. He said, "After releasing my new record I found myself leading worship more than playing actual concerts. As I look back at my very short musical career I realise that when I released my praise and worship project I was only doing concerts and coffee shop gigs and once I released my latest album I have been getting more and more opportunities to lead worship at churches, worship events and conferences. I realise that makes absolutely no sense but I feel the Lord is always using me to 'hit two birds with one stone'. My desire is to reach out to all people, and the Lord knows my heart. If I am serving in the church I want to make music that can go beyond (which is my current situation) and if I am heavily involved in the mainstream music industry playing at concerts and coffee shop gigs, I want to be pouring my music into the Body of Christ as well."
Today the Lord is opening up more and more doors for Andrew's worship ministry. He recounted, "I just returned recently from leading worship at a conference in Whistler at the TELUS Convention Centre. God moved in such a beautiful way it was so powerful. God has been doing some amazing things at the past few conferences I was blessed to lead at. We have been seeing people literally getting instantly healed during worship and finding a new passion for Jesus Christ. . . and all the Glory goes to God! He is the only one who heals and transforms. I am just so honoured and blessed to be in the middle of it all! I got to play lots of shows during the Olympics in Vancouver and that was a blast! I played at one coffee house in Richmond and I connected with a Pastor who attended the concert and over a period of a few months he referred me to a church looking for a worship leader. I had an interview and got the position and ever since then I have been playing less concerts and leading worship more. Our church currently has six services (about to launch the seventh service soon) so my weekends have been extremely busy. It has been such a blessing and I am so honoured to be at my church serving however I can. This summer I do plan on organising a few tours which is exciting. I plan on coming to your area God willing so hopefully you (whoever is reading this) can make it out!"
Andrew is currently working on a new worship EP. "The project has been turning out far better than I could ever imagine and I am very excited to send it to churches across the nations. Like my previous record 'Emptiness Speaks Volumes', every song has a story of how it was birthed. There is one song on the new worship EP entitled 'You Carry Me' that was birthed at a retreat last year when I was in Bible College. We were all asked to meditate on Zephaniah 3:17 which I quoted earlier: "The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will quiet you by his love and he will exult over you with loud singing. . .' We had one hour to meditate on this passage so my original plan was to go to an isolated place on a mountain and just spend time with the Father; however, our original plans don't always match up with our heavenly Father's plans. I was going into my cabin to get a jacket before I hiked up the mountain and something caught my attention. . . my roommate's guitar. I walked into the room, closed the door and sat on the bottom bunk bed and strummed his guitar.
"I remember I kept meditating on the fact that the Lord sings over me. I so desperately wanted to hear the melody that he was singing over my life. So I waited in his presence for the Word says, 'The Lord your God is in your midst. . .' I didn't want to leave that room until I heard the Lord singing over me. I wanted to hear the melody, write down the words that he put in my heart and then sing it back to him. So I strummed and waited and before you know it the Lord started birthing ideas in my heart for a song and he hummed this beautiful melody over me. Within minutes I wrote the song out on a little paper and for the rest of that hour I just worshiped him and sang it back to him over and over again. I am really excited about that song. I will be sending this album out mainly to churches across Canada, America and the UK with chord charts for the sole purpose of being a worship resource for the body of Christ. I pray he uses it all for his glory. The album will also be available online as a resource for worship leaders and church music. How it will be distributed is still being finalised."
Another thing Andrew is becoming heavily involved in is record production. He said, "I am currently working with several Christian artists in my studio on their new records. My goal is to not only put out my own music that I believe is from the Lord but to also help other artists who are hearing from God get their messages out there too. My desire is to help get as much God anointed creative music into the world as possible! The world needs to hear about Jesus and music is an excellent tool. My life was transformed through music and I pray that the music God puts on my heart will be used by him to transform lives from here to the ends of the earth."
As if leading worship, recording mainstream music, writing books and record production wasn't enough, Andrew has also started a ministry in the local area called Sparrow's Bus Ministry targeted at the homeless. Andrew explained, "A group of us go out in my 1976 Volkswagen van and we spend time with the homeless people in our community. We feed them, fellowship with them, pray for them and we give them bags filled with blessings (socks, a Bible, food and other basic necessities). It has been such a beautiful ministry so far and I look forward to continue going out on the streets every week. Wow. . . as I think about all I am involved in this season and my dreams for the following year I realise it is going to be a busy season! It can all only be done by the grace of God and by the power of his Holy Spirit. I am constantly dreaming and planning things that I honestly cannot do in my own strength so at the end of the day I am constantly giving God all the glory."