Tony Cummings spoke to worship leader, songwriter and Bible teacher Philip Renner of RENNER WORSHIP
Considering the incomprehension which still exists between the USA and Russia, it's an extraordinary fact that an American would be in the forefront of Russia's worship and youth revival movement. But this is the case of the ongoing music and teaching ministry of Philip Renner. This extraordinary musicianary has just released the album 'Anthology' under the name Renner Worship consisting of tracks Philip has written and recorded over the years. They are in the English language though in Russia the songs/recordings have been widely circulated in Russian which Philip speaks fluently.
Philip's parents Rick and Denise are missionaries who felt a call to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Russia in 1992. Philip has vivid memories of arriving in Latvia. He remembered, "I was six years old when we moved to Latvia. We believed that was God's plan. My dad told me, 'It's time for us to kiss the ground where God has called us to be.' I looked at the ground and said, 'Dad, it's dirty. Can I give it a blow-kiss?' But that shows the heart of our family: we were ready 100 per cent to do what we did. We lived there nine years then we moved to Moscow, and that's where my walk with the Lord started to become strong. I got involved in music and ministry, became a youth pastor and started doing worship."
Renner became the youth pastor of the Moscow Good News Church planted by his parents. It was while he was there that he began writing songs in Russian which would connect with the growing throng of young people. He was very influenced by the modern worship music which was emanating from the UK Church. He said, "I'm very thankful for Britain because I watched Martin Smith, Tim Hughes, C3, Matt Redman, and I can honestly say those guys taught me how to worship, how to connect with the people. What I believe about worship is you have to be on fire for God, and what you have inside of you has to come out; so if you're not putting the Word and relationship with God inside of you, it won't be anointed worship, it will just be a show. First of all, I saw these guys really had heart. The second thing I saw was how to connect with people in the audience, telling them to raise their hands, allowing them to sing with you; choosing songs that have melody that the audience can take away with them."
By 2010 Renner left the security of the Moscow church and became the first national Russian language touring worship artist teaching youth in churches to help create their own original worship with an emphasis on fasting and prayer. Phillip's songs like "Pour Down Your Rain" and "To Me" (English language versions of which can be heard on the 'Anthology' album) started being sung in more and more churches across Russia.
Renner's albums 'A New Beginning' (2010), 'Into The Deep' (2013) and the EP 'Reflection' (2015) were released under Philip's name though for the 'Anthology' compilation he has switched to Renner Worship. He explained, "There is a full band. It just made more sense to call it Renner Worship because that becomes more of a movement. I think it works well. It's not just about me, it's a team. That's the way we get the Gospel around; that's how we see the sick being healed, people getting saved, the supernatural happening during worship. I believe that's what it's about - not just melody or quality - seeing people get saved. That team is what makes it happen."
Today Renner Worship Music have offices in Tulsa, Nashville and Moscow. In the US he has appeared on such high profile TV programmes as TBN Praise The Lord with host Jason Crabb, God TV and Moody Radio Nashville. But it's his work in Russia which continues to be Philip's top priority. "A lot of people told me I would not be able to come back to Russia, I'd lose my influence. But just the opposite has happened. It's opened new doors. In the last year I've ministered a lot in Russia - places I've never been to and where a lot of people don't go to. I would say that as far as influence and open doors, it's only grown since I've moved to the USA, which is completely opposite to what people told me would happen. So I'm very thankful to God."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.