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“What are you doing to raise up the next generation of leaders?”
This is the question someone posed to Christy Nockels in the Fall of 2013, catching the worship leader completely off-guard. It was a pivotal question that ended up sparking a new season of mentoring for Nockels and birthing a fresh batch of songs that formed the set list for her first live solo album, Let It Be Jesus (sixstepsrecords).
“It was like a defibrillator on my heart. It was like someone shocked me alive,” describes Nockels, recalling the conversation. “I so wasn’t ready for that question.”
Nockels—long known as one of the best voices in Christian music—has spent the last 20 years leading worship for thousands around the globe. She’s been part of the Passion Conferences since its inception in 1997, writing, recording and touring alongside some of the most well-respected names in modern worship, including Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Kristian Stanfill and David Crowder, among others.
The conversation prompted Nockels to start dreaming again about how she could use her individual gifts to not only glorify God and usher people into His presence but also disciple other worship leaders. “I’ve always considered myself a worship leader—that’s always been something that’s been in my heart. Even when I’ve written and recorded more singer-songwriter type songs, the heart has always been worship,” she says. “The important thing is that I always try to do what’s authentic to the season that I’m in.”
While her first solo project, Life Light Up was more pop-centric, 2012’s Into The Glorious was stripped-down, reflective of a time of introspection and deeply-rooted growth for the singer. Now, Let It Be Jesus showcases Nockels in her element—leading corporate worship.
“When I start writing, it’s a mystery to me what’s going to come out—what kinds of melodies, what kinds of lyrics,” Nockels says. “This time around, it was all very much stuff that could be corporate, all kinds of songs [where] I could lead people.”
Her husband, Nathan—an award-winning producer and songwriter—suggested she record the new songs live. “As soon as he said that, all the tension around recording the songs just started dissipating,” Nockels shares. “If you’re gong to be leading people in worship and wanting them to engage and sing along, it made a lot of sense to go ahead and put these songs in that setting.”
The live recording took place at Passion City Church in Atlanta, Ga., where Nockels has led worship regularly for the past several years. Close family, friends and Passion City Church “door holders” (aka volunteers) gathered for an intimate evening of worship.
“So many really great people who just cheer me on [were there], and a lot of them are actually people who pray for me on a regular basis,” says Nockels. “So it was a room full of people who were really tracking with me… I just wanted to capture a night of us all being together.”
The final cover artwork beautifully depicts the essence of the evening as it reveals Nockels kneeling, head bowed, her long brown hair covering her face—the beauty of the singer herself eclipsed by the beauty of Christ.
“[The photographer] sent me six or seven album cover options, and as soon as we saw the one of me kneeling, everyone was just like, ‘That’s it, and the title needs to be Let It Be Jesus,’” Nockels affirms. “If I’m honest, just that phrase alone, ‘Let it be Jesus,’ would be true of how I’m looking at my life. It’s the theme of my heart right now. Not to say I’ve arrived, but you do reach a point where you’ve lived enough life where nothing else satisfies—truly, nothing else brings joy like Jesus does.”
The title track was written by Tomlin, Redman and Jonas Myrin and originally recorded on 2014’s annual Passion record, Take It All, but it quickly became the album’s centerpiece, despite the fact Nockels didn’t write it. “As a songwriter, you have to let your pride be crushed a bit and be like, ‘OK, I didn’t have anything to do with this song, and this is going to be a big moment on my record,’” she admits. “It’s become an ‘adopted daughter’ in my life. I can’t imagine it being something that I’m not singing right now.”
“Find Me At the Feet of Jesus” and “Who Can Compare” were also outside cuts—both tracks seemingly tailored for Nockels’ brilliant voice.
The singer co-wrote the album’s remaining eight tracks, including lead anthem “Freedom Song,” which she penned with longtime friend Jorge Mhondera in her living room. “I love when a song will come out of a relationship—a friendship that you have with someone,” she says, noting that many of these songs flowed naturally out of relationship with friends or her husband.
“Everything Is Mine In You” was written with Ellie Holcomb after the women swapped stories about friends enduring difficult seasons. “This is my favorite song on the record, hands down,” Nockels says. “We really wanted to write this song for women, especially women who are in a time of waiting…this idea that pushes you out from your circumstances and into what is true.”
“Jesus, Rock of Ages” was written with Nathan at home on her piano. The song provided a special moment during the live recording as Nathan joined her on-stage with his guitar to sing a stripped-down version of the cut together, commemorating 20 years of marriage and ministry.
Concluding track “Wonderful Name” was also birthed in her living room as she and Nathan wrote with David Crowder. The song proved to be the perfect ending to the recording, with the room cheering for the Name above all names. It’s fitting considering this is the sole desire of Nockels’ heart. “No matter what happens in my life, Jesus is the name I will proclaim. That’s just what I want my life to be about,” she says.
It’s a theme she carries into every facet of her life—from mentoring to mothering. Off-stage, Nockels is mom to Noah, 14, Ellie, 12, and Annie Rose, 7—a role she cherishes. “I love the season that we’re in with our kids right now,” she says. “Everything is now a conversation—shepherding their hearts. Everything is a teachable moment, and so you mentally and spiritually have to always be on your toes.”
In addition, Nockels is realizing her dream of pouring into other women on a regular basis. Until recently, she’d never taken time to consider that she’s one of a small group of female worship leaders with a large platform, putting her in a natural position to mentor other female leaders—a task she’s taken to heart through Worship Circle, an online coaching program founded by North Point Church worship leader Todd Fields. The program enables Nockels to mentor a small group of female worship leaders from all across the country for six months at a time.
“I don’t ever wake up thinking I’m any kind of forerunner,” she admits. “I’m [normally] making peanut butter and jellies, [but mentoring] has been one of the most fulfilling things I’ve gotten to do.”
As a result, she hopes Let It Be Jesus will become a resource specifically for female worship leaders. “That’s my prayer for these songs—that they will rise above and be songs for the Church,” Nockels offers. “At the same time, I’m getting to be a part of resourcing worship leaders, especially women, with some new songs that will hopefully be a fit wherever they’re leading.”
Two decades, three kids and hundreds of songs in, Nockels feels like her experiences have only led her back to the one thing that truly matters. “After 20 years, I always joke that I’ve been on every continent, except Antarctica, leading worship,” she says, “and yet, after all this time and after everywhere I’ve been and the things I’ve gotten to see, Jesus is still the treasure.”
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Christy Nockels - Your Grace Amazes Me - Music Videos
Christy Nockels - Your Grace Amazes Me
Live from Passion
Christy Nockels Albums
Here for YouJune 2012
- Waiting Here for You
Into the GloriousMarch 2012
- Already All I Need
- Be Loved
- Ever Lifting
- For Your Splendor
- Healing Is in Your Hands
- How I Love You
- Into the Glorious
- Love Can Build a Bridge
- Sing Along
- Waiting Here for You
- Your Love Is Moving
Life Light UpJune 2009
- By Our Love
- No Not One
- Life Light Up
- Song of the Beautiful
- You Are Able
- A Mighty Fortress
- My Master
- In Your Hands
- Marvelous Light
Q & A for Young WomenJune 2006
- Q & A for Young Women, Pt. 1
- Q & A for Young Women, Pt. 2
- Q & A for Young Women, Pt. 3
- Q & A for Young Women, Pt. 4