Hillsong LIVE worship leaders' Reuben Morgan and Ben Fielding build their hope on Jesus Christ and the group's latest album, Cornerstone, testifies to that. This, their 21st album, peaked at No. 3 on the U.S. iTunes overall album chart in its first week of release showing the reach of the well established worship team from Australia.
Recently, Morgan and Fielding shared how the 2011 shooting massacre in Norway contributed to their song, "Cornerstone", how God gives them strength in difficult trials and why they share their worship with the world. Here are excerpts from that conversation:
Hannah Goodwyn: The title track for Cornerstone was born out of the 2011 shooting massacre in Norway when Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people. How did that come about?
Reuben Morgan: Last year when that happened, I was in Sweden, actually. I was in Scandinavia, and I was leading worship at our church there in Stockholm. As you can imagine, everyone was just really shaken by the event. It's the kind of thing that turns the place upside down. Everybody is related or knows somebody that is affected.
So I got together with a couple of my friends, and we were talking about it. We just wanted to write a song that was going to help church respond to people coming to church, respond to what had happened, and just be able to make a bit of sense of it.
We wrote ["Cornerstone"], and basically because that hymn that says "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness." That just felt like the right thing to be singing. The new chorus that, "Christ alone, Cornerstone, weak made strong, in the Savior's love," to me that's just when everything is shaken and nothing seems to make sense, we really need to just be building our lives and putting our faith and our trust in the Cornerstone, the Foundation and it's Jesus. To me, there's nothing else you want to be singing in a time like that and projecting that Christ is the foundation even when everything looks uncertain.
HG: Cornerstone, the album, seems to ask listeners who they turn to for strength. How does Christ show his strength in your life?
Ben Fielding: I love how the scriptures say that, "No foundation can be laid other than that which has already been laid," and that which is Christ Jesus. I think that for my life, since I became a Christian, I've known that the principles of God and the teachings of Christ. You can really build your life on them and you can rely on the truth of who God is and the way that He's taught us to build our lives.
I've come through to see in my life where my faith has been put to the test, where myself as an individual and my family has been put to a test. We've prayed at times, like I went through a season not long ago where we had a member of my immediate family who was really sick for years. We prayed as a family and believed together to see them healed, and it took years.
Now in retrospect, having come out the other side of that, you can look back and see how God was faithful to things we weren't even necessarily praying at the time, but bringing great people around us and speaking peace to us, speaking life to us in that really difficult season. We weren't seeing the answer that we were praying for until now, but still to know God's faithfulness and to know that He cares and He loves us, even in the times where it seems like He's distant, we know that He's close.
RM: In times when you need to know God's strong in your life, often it is sort of a trial, it's a season where there's a struggle and that you're believing for something. I think that that's what I found, and that's when I really needed to dig into the Word of God and really be able to think about it and to pray it and to meditate on it, and to speak it, and to sing it. For me, that's where you really are able to build strength into your soul, and to keep convictions. Often those times when there might be fear or where there's doubt, you don't necessarily feel like God's close, you don't necessarily feel strong, but that's when we really can take a hold of the Word and you really do find that the Word is a comfort and a strength.
HG: Tell me a little bit about Cornerstone's first radio single, "Hope of the World" and how it came to be.
BF: "Hope of the World" is a song that we've been singing in our church now for a little while. I love that song because it's really actually, again, kind of sticks to that same sort of theme that "Cornerstone" does, that we've got hope in what Christ has done, and it's a complete work that He's done.
The chorus paints the picture really well. It's basically a Gospel message that Jesus takes the pain away. The chorus pictures Jesus on the cross, arms open wide, standing, his invitation to all humanity to come to Him. So that is an extremely hopeful message, that it doesn't matter how to pray as we see where we are or how far we've traveled from God that Jesus still offers the same hope, the same salvation to all of us. Again, the bridge of the song says "all I need to do," it's such a simple thing to sing, but again it just speaks to that thought that when we're weak, He's strong. We actually find sufficiency in who He is not in who we are.
HG: On these live albums, you are essentially recording a one-night worship service. But, it's something that you're putting together for people around the world to experience over and over again. Tell me about the process of putting something like this together.
RM: The most important thing for us is that we stay true to who we are, and that's we're a local church. Our first call, I guess, as songwriters is to be writing songs for our church and songs that speak the truth of who He is. I love that truth is better than trying to collaborate. Authenticity is about how close we are to the message that we're confessing and singing. As long as our songs of worship are true, and they're full of scripture, full of the Word of God, then they'll help people.
We try to capture as writers what's happening within our church community, and we try to write the things that God's speaking to us. Then as those songs go out from our church, and hopefully impact the lives of people far-reaching, that what impacts them is the truth of who God is and how good God is. His message of hope is what impacts the lives of people far more than even just a melody or anything can. It's the message that the song carries.
HG: Are there times when you're doing a live concert like this where you almost forget that that's what's happening, that you're recording it?
RM: Yeah, that's the hope. For us, these nights are a real big highlight for us in the life of our church. It's just a big worship night, basically, and we gather together, all of our church together in it's called the Allphones Arena, which is basically our biggest indoor arena in Sydney, and we just basically hit record.
From my perspective, you do carry the responsibility of knowing that you want the whole church to come and have an amazing night and connect with God, but also that this has a reach. There's a responsibility of what goes with that, as well, that a lot of people listen to these songs and these albums all over the place, from the most remote town in different places in Africa, to Europe, to South America, to wherever. You do carry that. At the end of the day, it's a worship experience and it's about us getting together … in the name of God. I really believe in this praise. It was a great night; and the album has really captured that.