Tony Cummings brings the lowdown on the Acquire The Fire modern worship unit UNHINDERED
One of the best American worship albums of recent years is the 2009 release 'Be' by Unhindered. Three different tracks are currently being featured on Cross Rhythms Verticality worship programme and a fourth, the surging fist-pumping "We Will" is currently on the main Cross Rhythms playlist. So who are this time of young worshippers from Georgia? Guitarist and frontman Pat Barrett is clear as to Unhindered's raison detre. "This whole thing happened out of a desire for ministry. Before there was a band there were a bunch of guys in high school who wanted to see God do something extravagant in their community."
The band's beginnings go back to when Pat Barrett befriended Ben Smith (keyboards and vocals) at high school. They honed their skills in a youth group praise band before finding themselves in demand at events around the region from Fellowship of Christian Athletes gatherings to church camps and evangelistic revival meetings. Recalled Pat, "We started a Saturday night worship service once a month and kids from all of the neighbouring high schools would gather together. It was raw, unhindered, intense - people just going after God. It started growing like crazy and we began receiving invitations to perform at other events as well."
College at the University of Georgia proved to intensify the two friends' original calling to lead people into an unhindered worship experience. J R Collins (bass) and Christian Paschall (drums), both of whom had played with the band periodically during their high school years, came on board as regular members. During their second year the band met guitarist, Ashley Dasher, who proved to be the missing link that solidified Unhindered's final lineup.
In 2005 Unhindered released their album debut, the independent 'City Streets' (which included the song "You Are My Creator", revisited on 'Be'). The band's growing popularity at youth events brought them to the attention of Teen Mania Ministries whose Acquire The Fire events were making an impact across the US. Remembered Ben, "They called us to play at an event in front of 5,000 people. It was overwhelming! There was an instant connection with them."
"A few months later they called us up again," added Pat. "They were starting a new worship label that would focus on worship for the next generation. We were really intrigued by that idea."
Teen Mania's label was Ee-Taow Records and signing with the label, Unhindered have played nearly 150 dates a year including Acquire The Fire events, Battle Cry gatherings, Xtreme conferences, Student Life camps and local church concerts and camps, building relationships while building up the body of Christ.
In the midst of their unrelenting schedule, Unhindered managed to record a live DVD/CD, shot in front of 16,000 worshippers at the Nissan Pavilion in Bristow, Virginia, and shortly after hit the studio with producer Scotty Wilbanks (NewSong, Third Day) to record 'Be'.
The band spoke about the album on the ccmbuzz website: "Something that is special about the songs that are on this album is that they cover a broad range of emotions and expressions to God. There are songs of repentance, rejoicing, face-down worship, prayer... you name it... it's on there! Depending on the way you are feeling... that particular song will be the most powerful to you. When we are leading worship, people seem to be connecting to 'Father Will You Come'. There is something about singing 'Glory, honour and power belong to you that really helps centre people's lives on God."
Clearly, Unhindered's focus is a long way from making a best selling CD or scoring high on the CCLi worship charts. They are passionate about connecting people with the living God. Said Pat, "People seem to be growing dissatisfied with the status quo of 'churchy-religion.' After all, the invitation has always been to 'Taste and see that the Lord is good.' When people ask for more... they will get it! I hope that people will begin to open their eyes to the way God sees them. I hope that people fall outrageously in love with God and advance the Kingdom until Jesus comes. True worship will always be, and should always be, centred on God. I see worship in the church becoming more Spirit lead, vibrant and intimate. I see people writing songs from intimate experiences with God as opposed to writing solely for the purpose of selling CDs."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.