Tony Cummings brings us up to date on the globetrotting worshippers PLANETSHAKERS
The extraordinary rise of Australia's Planetshakers movement would make a chapter in any history of the modern Church. Planetshakers, which began in Melbourne in 2000 and grew into a huge international ministry and a megachurch under the direction of pastors Russell and Sam Evans, has in recent years produced a series of best selling modern worship albums. The focal point of the conferences in the Planetshakers band which this year alone will tour nine states throughout the USA as well as visiting 17 countries including India, Germany, Poland, Korea and Malaysia. Planetshakers' latest album 'Endless Praise' was released this month. Sam Evans, lead worshipper of Planetshakers, told journalist Melissa Riddle Chalos, "From the beginning, the idea of a movement was never in our vision. We were just being obedient to God every step of the way. Of course we had faith and expectation, but as God began to break all the boundaries we had, to reach our city and our area, we've begun to see God use Planetshakers to win the nations of the world, and we're moving with it, taking this message and encounter with God, to see the Kingdom of Christ come to earth as it is in heaven, to see a great harvest of souls."
Released by Integrity Music, 'Endless Praise' features 14 original songs. Its producer Joth Hunt said, "We're always trying to write from a fresh perspective, to say something new. We'll write toward Pastor Russell's teaching on a given topic, but often it's just in the flow of the Holy Spirit, which is the greatest way to do it." In everything, he says, the goal is to support the vision of the church and give voice to how God is moving among them. "Our songs have to be full of power and life," he adds. "Scripture shows us that the kingdom of God is full of joy and life, so that shapes our approach to the music."
Cross Rhythms last spoke to Planetshakers back in 2002. Since then each album has seemingly sold better than the one before, the live projects 'Reflector' (2002), 'Open Up The Gates' (2002), 'My King' (2003) and 'Saviour Of The World' (2007) were all major sellers in the international marketplace. The Planetshakers movement was badly hit in 2008 when the revelation that Planetshakers' pastor, musician and songwriter Michael Guglielmucci and composer of one of Planetshaker's most successful ever songs, "Healer", had in fact faked a testimony about dying from cancer and in subsequent newspaper interviews admitted that he had had a secret pornography addiction. However, Planetshakers recovered from such disturbing revelations and albums like 'Deeper' (2009), 'One' (2009), 'Even Greater' (2010), 'Nothing Is Impossible' (2011), 'Heal Our Land' (2012), 'Limitless' (2013) and now 'Endless Praise' have continued to feed the world Church with inspiring worship songs.
Speaking about their 2013 album 'Limitless' Sam Evans in many ways summed up the relentless growth of Planetshakers. "'Limiteless' came out of the vision that Russell Evans was declaring over our church, 'with God there are no limits and he can do anything.' Out of that inspiration came songs and declarations that were in agreement with that vision. During the conference God began to stir people's faith to believe for far greater things."
Similarly, speaking about 'Endless Praise' Sam said, "God's just using us to remind the Church of the joy and celebration and passion he desires. In a world that looks for happiness in all sorts of things, there is such great power in our praise - power against the forces of darkness, depression and heaviness that people live under. We want to break through that with praise so that people experience complete freedom in Christ."
For Sam, one of the most intimate tracks on the album is the ballad "Made To Worship". She explained, "We had a moment at the conference. The atmosphere was electric, we were in awe of the presence of God, and one of our singers began to sing in the spirit, 'I will bless the Lord at all times. . . we were made for healing, we were made for worship.' I don't know how to describe it, but listening to it again [months later], I just cried, remembering how amazing the moment was."
Especially meaningful to Joth Hunt is the final track, the only studio-recorded song on 'Endless Praise' and one that will be recorded live on the next album. "Leave Me Astounded", written by B J Pridam, is a piano-driven prayer for God to reveal himself as never before, to "leave me astounded, leave me amazed/Show off your glory, let Heaven invade/We're waiting with worship, we're waiting with praise for the almighty Presence of God to invade."
The live DVD that accompanies 'Endless Praise' was shot with the state-of-the-art Sony Red HG camera, bringing new visual dynamics to Planetshakers' visuals. With 26 albums and years of touring behind them, Planetshakers show no sign of running out of zeal. Enthused Sam, "We read testimonies sometimes of people listening to our albums being healed and restored. Our worship has declaration to it. We declare the power of God's Word over these situations in our lives. It's not just something you put on in your car; it's a tool to praise and worship God, a doorway to breakthrough whatever you're going through, a way to see there's going to be an answer to prayer. Whatever God uses this music for, above all, our prayer is to see his kingdom manifest in people's lives."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.