It's not uncommon for worship recording artists to double as worship leaders--or even worship pastors--at their home church. True to form, worshipper Jamie Nunnally is on staff at his church in South Georgia--but he isn't the worship pastor. In fact, he seldomly leads worship at Victory Fellowship Center.
The reason? Because he's the guy who gets on stage after the worship leader. Nunnally is the Lead Pastor at his church, and although he writes worship songs and mentors the worship team there, when he straps on the guitar it's part of his evangelical ministry between Sundays.
Nunnally's heart for the local church, and his experiences there, fueled his brand-new project, God Is With Us, which has the potential to reach far beyond the walls of Victory Fellowship Center. I got to know Nunnally recently, finding out about how his ministry is really multiple expressions of the same calling.
You're lead pastor at your church in South Georgia, and you're also this traveling and evangelistic worship leader. Talk about that dual calling in a sense--or maybe it's one calling, two different expressions.
I'll actually say it's more similar to the latter. It's the same calling. Whether I'm singing a song, writing a song, preparing for a sermon, delivering a sermon, praying for someone to receive Christ, counseling someone about their marriage or situation in their home, it's all fueled by the same thing hopefully in my life--and that's a love for Jesus and a love for others to be connected to Him.
I think we compartmentalize ministries too much and it's natural for us. The apostle Paul says that God's given someone to be prophets and evangelists and teachers and pastors, but it's not exclusive. It's not like I'm a pastor and only a pastor and that's the hat that I wear and don't try and get me to do anything else. These callings are gifts to the body of Christ. They aren't gifts for us. I give a gift away. I don't keep a gift for myself.
Tell me about your musical background and when you started playing, and how you found yourself in worship ministry.
I have an older brother who's two years older and we did everything together, and that included music. My parents recognized that we had some musical ability, and they put us in ukulele lessons. We're not Hawaiian. I don't know exactly what the thought process was, but they put us in ukulele lessons and we both enjoyed it and we enjoyed playing music and learning about it.
Then they said, "Now you can choose your own instruments," and my brother chose piano. I chose drums and then we branched out into other instruments from there, and we formed a Christian rock band--similar to Whiteheart and Petra and DeGarmo and Key--on into college.
Something changed in college. The music that my brother and I performed together was beginning to shift. Instead of horizontal, evangelical, "This is Jesus, accept Him," it became much more vertical and Christ-centered and just worshiping Him. It's one thing to write a song that's horizontal and reaches people and tells them about how good God is, but writing a song that's vertical and actually being able to introduce people to Jesus, that's really where it's at. I was just captured by it.
God Is With Us is the new album. It came out in October. With your singular calling, multiple expressions, are there things that happen in the church and in your life that kind of pour into these worship songs?
Yeah, absolutely. A few of the songs actually on the album were written specifically for our church about things that God was dealing with our body about. For instance, with the third track, "We Pray," we were just going through a season as a church of just really seeking the Lord and just really getting excited about our prayer life and realizing God has chosen to partner with us.
Being a father and being a husband and being a pastor and being a musician, all these things feed into each other. The presence of God is constant. I firmly believe that God is always with us. That's the name of the album and whether I'm watching sports on TV or whether I'm on a date night with my wife, whether I'm doing homework with my kids or whether I'm counseling someone at church, God is there. His presence is there. He doesn't leave us or forsake us and to me the key to all of this is being able to train ourselves to be aware of His presence at all times.
You have a great line in the song "We are Yours": We are an army. Our weapons are the ways of love. Talk about what you mean there.
I could put together the most beautifully composed sermon and if it's not in the language that you can understand, it's really no good. In the same way, as the Body of Christ, we are the ones who have been commissioned to represent Him, to "re-present" Him to the world. If we're not speaking in a language that the world understands, then what's the point? We can be saying things that are absolutely, totally and utterly true, but if it's not said in the right language, it cannot be received.
I believe, and I think this is not only said, but recreated in scripture all over, that the way the world receives Truth is through love. When God chose to speak to humanity, He chose to do it through the person of Jesus. Scripture says God is love. It's not just what He does. It's who He is.
If we're re-presenting God on this Earth, we've got to represent Him in love. There's a scripture I love in James that says the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. We can't yell at anyone until they receive Jesus as their savior. Scripture also says it's His kindness that leads to repentance, so if we're fighting a spiritual battle, we have to use spiritual weapons.
What is your philosophy as a worship leader?
To me, worshiping leading is service. It's the same as cleaning the toilets at church. I'm doing a service for someone else.
When I'm leading worship, it's not just me and the Lord. I have my personal time with the Lord and then it's me and Him, but when I'm worship leading, other people are in my mind. I'm thinking how can I lead them. I kind of see myself as a guide.
If you were going to go climb a large mountain, you would have a guide that would go with you and the guide would entreat you and say we're going to take this path and here's what we're going to do and here's how we're going to do it and coming up next is this path. That's the same way with a worship leader.
Believe it or not, our only focus is not the Lord. When you're leading in worship, your focus is His Bride as well because you're taking them to a destination. I pray that when I lead that I would lead people to the correct destination--that I wouldn't lead them to music, but to a person.
I read that you've recorded with a big name in the Christian music stratosphere--Brian Scoggin of Casting Crowns--playing drums for you. What's your connection to him and the band?
It's really funny how that worked out. My previous album, Hope Remains, I did with Jason Horde, who has worked with a lot of CCM artists. I went to go meet with the engineer, just to talk about the album and what we were going to do, and there's this guy at lunch with us. He looks so familiar to me and I'm wondering how I know this guy. He started talking about playing drums and we were talking about kids and talking about church and really having a blast.
The engineer turns to me and says he's not going to tell you this because he's so humble, but he's actually the drummer for Casting Crowns. I said, "That's how I know you. That's how I've seen you." We met through the production process and Brian is a great guy. Really phenomenal guy. Really enjoyed getting to know him, getting to know Jason and the other guys that worked on that project. It's good to know.
Without knowing the people behind the music sometimes, you're not exactly sure -- like a band like Casting Crowns, is going out all over the United States and representing Jesus and representing Christian music and stuff, but getting to meet the guy behind the kit for Casting Crowns, he's a legit guy. He's a really, really nice guy. Solid heart for the Lord. It's not a gig for him. It's not about music for him. It's about ministry.
So the album is out and what's the response been so far and what's next for you?
So far it's been really favorable. I've got, obviously, a local and regional following that wants to hear the music and wants to do the music. We do some of the songs here in our local church as well. People have been so supportive. It's always interesting hearing what people's favorite songs are, what mixes with their heart the best, so that's cool.
Going forward, it's just whatever the Lord wants. I'm obviously in a position now as lead pastor of a growing church, I can't go out and gig on the weekends all the time. I've got three children and a wife that evidently wants to see me, too.
At this point I'm just praying that whoever comes in contact with the music, that they would be drawn closer to the Lord. If that looks like a bigger artist--like a Casting Crowns or a Third Day or a Newsboys--picking up the songs and doing them, that'd be wonderful.
If it looks like nothing else happens with the music, then honestly I'm happy. I've redefined success in my mind. I used to think success was a certain number of album sales or having your album available in Wal-Mart or something like that. But success at its very core is obedience.
How can we be praying for you?
For me, I just want Jesus, more of Him, more of His presence. For me, balancing--like you mentioned the different hats: being a pastor, father, husband, musician, all these things. By God's grace I can do these and by some really good planning I can do these, but just knowing the balance of what He wants.
I really do have an audience of One. It's all about the Lord and I just want to honor Him. To the degree that honors Him is to the degree that I want to do it.
Executive Editor Marcus Hathcock pursues worship and words. He has been a newspaper reporter/editor a church communications director and small groups guy. He's also been involved in opera, acappella, a CCM group and now is a songwriter and the worship leader at his church in the Portland, Ore. area. Follow his journey at www.mheternal.com.