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Natalie Grant says many American churches are blinded by religion; God’s presence must be made known

Natalie Grant says many American churches are blinded by religion; God’s presence must be made known

Christian singer Natalie Grant believes some American churches have allowed religion and politics to lead them, and her message to believers is that now isn't the time to be legalistic, but instead to press into the presence of God. 

Grant released her 10th studio album, No Stranger, on Friday and says her new music is a collection of songs focused on her revelation that God’s presence is the answer to everything needed in this world today. 

No Stranger is a collection of songs created by Grant and her husband, Grammy Award-winning songwriter and producer Bernie Herms, who produced the record. The 11 songs are orchestral arrangements composed by her husband, who co-wrote half of the album’s tracks.

The singer insists that God shows Himself to everyone who seeks Him. Grant says He is not a stranger to anyone and that is where the inspiration for her album title came from.

The mother of three and cancer survivor said her visible scar on her neck serves as a reminder of God’s faithfulness. Grant's prayer is that through her music, people would be reminded that He is known to them too. 

The new single “Face To Face,” along with the Dove-nominated collaboration with Steven Malcolm titled “Even Louder” and worship anthem “My Weapon,” are all included in No Stranger.

The following is an edited transcript of Grant's interview with The Christian Post where she shared the inspiration for her album and explained why she believes God strategically placed her in a position to create music that can help Christians draw closer to Him amid a contentious political season, racial unrest and a global pandemic. 

CP: Will you share why you decided to release an album during these times?

Grant: It's funny because we didn't record it during this time and I don't think that we would have ever thought, '"There's going to be a pandemic, and the whole world is going to feel like it's turned upside down, and we're going to release music for such a time as this." But now, looking at the message of the music, it's like, we say God is sovereign and then we're always surprised when He is.

This is the longest I have ever gone in my 21-year career between making new music. It's been five years since I've released a record. That wasn't intentional; it was just I had a lot of life happened in those last five years. I've never been a quick creative anyway. But for me, I usually have to fail at life, fall down, Jesus picks me back up, I learn a lesson, and then I write a song about it. There was a lot of that these last few years. So we're writing these songs but what I was writing songs about, I had no idea that God would use them in such a powerful way in this season.

CP: What are some of the topics you explore on this record?

Grant: The whole record, there's one thread, and that is the power of the presence of God. I've been walking with Jesus for more decades than I'm going to admit to you, but a long time. I feel like in the last few years, I have experienced His presence in a deeper and more profound and more personal way, maybe than ever before. It's learning the difference between His omnipresence, which is Him at all places at all times, everywhere at once, and His manifest presence, which is His presence made known.

The Bible talks a lot about how He is near to the brokenhearted, He is near to those who are crushed in spirit. Yea, though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalms 23:4) that we don't have to fear because He comforts us, He's with us, He upholds us.

It's not that He's not near us when we're on the mountaintop, He just doesn't talk about it as much. There's not as many scriptures that say, "I'm with you when you're on top of the mountain; I'm with you when life is amazing." It's that constant reminder that when life doesn't make any sense and it feels like there's nothing amazing, that He is with us. That's how we can have a peace that passes understandings.

For me, that showed itself in 2017. I was diagnosed with cancer, and it was thyroid cancer, so I knew it was the kind of cancer that they were going to get out, and that I was going to survive and be OK. But where the cancerous tumor was, it was pressing against my vocal nerve. So the surgeon said, "Hey, you're going to be OK, but we have to prepare you that you might never sing again. And if you do sing again, your voice isn't going to have the same strength, and you're going to have to go through a long period of rehabilitation, and things are going to look different for you after." And that was a real crisis for me because I've often said, "Singing is not who I am, it's just what I do,” until it was almost taken away then I was like, "No, I'm just kidding. It's totally who I am."

I think the Lord was giving me the opportunity to say, "No, even if this is taken from you, who you are is still intact." And God says, "Who I am, it's still completely intact. Your circumstances don't determine My goodness." 

I think having that experience in a way that I've never had before, that He is near to those who are crushed in spirit, that it isn't Him that's coming nearer to us, rather, it's becoming more aware of His nearness, more aware of who He is, more aware of what His presence means. His presence made known. So experiencing that is really where these songs came from. They were all birthed from that perspective, that fresh understanding. 

So then you fast forward to 2020 and say, "I'm not sure there's ever been a time in my life that people have needed to know more than any other time that He is near to those who are crushed in spirit, that He's near to the brokenhearted. He never leaves us, that He upholds us, that He comforts us." Isaiah says he picks us up like little lambs and carries us close to his heart. Those concepts, has there ever been a time where we've needed that more? As a people, I'm not sure that there has been.

CP: You and your husband are very vocal about where you stand and where your heart is concerning racial injustice and the unrest happening in cities across the United States. Can you talk about making those bold decisions to be vocal and share what you believe is God's heart concerning this climate we're in?

Grant: One of the things for me is that when I thought about 2020, first of all, I heard more podcasts, more preachers, more sermon, we were all going into this season of awesome. Before 2020 became the 2020 we know, when we thought of 2019, we were like, "see ya, I don't even like 2019." Now I feel like I need to apologize to it.

We're like, "We're going into 2020; it's the year of vision because 2020 is perfect vision." It's funny because now we're like, "the train fell off the tracks. This is not at all the perfect vision we were talking about." But the more I've reflected on it, actually, it is a year of things being made clear. God is putting things into focus, and I believe that there are so many people in the American Church that are so blinded by their religion.

Well, look at the people that crucified Jesus; they were religious. They had their rules. They wanted to legislate morality, they wanted to tell everybody how they had to live, and they ended up crucifying their Savior. 

I think that there's this moment that's happening right now and some people are never going to see it, they just aren't. I feel like we are at a moment, in specific to the American Church, where we're so inundated with religion that we've gotten ourselves stuck in the weeds. We've forgotten that, as a people, we are called to soar with the Eagles. We're called to rise above the weeds, that we're called to bring a hurting world up to where He is. Instead, we've gotten bogged down into a place that we were never called to.

We weren't called to politics. It doesn't mean that you still don't stand for what's right, stand for truth, all of those things. But when you allow your political view or your political party to become an idol in your life, that you've mixed up, that you've put Jesus into all of that, yet you look back at Scripture and He never modeled that, not one time. There’s nowhere in Scripture where you can see [that].

In fact, He says, "and the government will be upon His shoulders, and His name is Wonderful Counselor, our citizenship is in another land." I feel like something about this moment in time, we're on like the brink of this beautiful revival, but it's also going to be divided. The Lord's saying, This isn't about being right or left, actually, it's about coming back to Jesus at the center. I feel like that's actually what He's calling the Church to be.

Stop trying to find yourself to the right or to the left, come back to where He's always been, which is the center of everything. For me, I feel more impassioned than ever before to do that. I don't want to be divisive, so we pray every time before we speak up, every time before we're going to make a statement because these are divisive times we're living in, and people want to assign meaning to what you say, even if it's not what you meant. 

So you've got to make it a God-honoring and God-led decision on when to speak. I feel like that's what we've tried to do. At the same time, this is not the time for the Church to shrink in fear. It's not the time because I feel like that's the culture and the climate we're living in.

So many people are afraid to say what they think is right because they'll be crucified for it. They'll lose followers, they'll lose church members, they'll lose respect, they'll lose influence. I think the Lord's bringing things into focus of what really matters, and what really matters is what He called us to, which is to love Him with all of our heart, soul and mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves. 

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