From all outward appearances, Kristian Stanfill was like a lot of teenage kids growing up in the suburbs in the 90’s in a fairly typical American home. He went to church, loved music, and even taught himself to play guitar.
As soon as the church youth group heard he could play a few chords, he immediately became the so-called “Worship Leader.” He learned songs by DC Talk and Audio Adrenaline, and eventually Passion and Chris Tomlin.
While the upbringing might have been typical, the kid was not. He didn’t just pick up the guitar because it was cool. He picked it up because, even without knowing how to play a single instrument, he had been writing songs in his head for years. He recognized a profound need to praise this God he was discovering, and he learned guitar to give voice to that praise.
Those kids who needed a worship leader could not have known they had chosen someone called and gifted by God to lead a generation. Someone who would grow not just to teach Passion songs to his youth group, but also to tour with multi-platinum selling artist Chris Tomlin and take the stage at Passion conferences and the Passion World Tour, reaching audiences numbering in the hundreds of thousands. Someone who would become the first artist added to the venerable roster of sixstepsrecords since its inception, joining the likes of Tomlin, Matt Redman and David Crowder*Band.
Stanfill’s past is really a story about an almighty God who calls His people to praise. That call has been unmistakable in Stanfill’s life, even as that 15-year-old growing up in the Atlanta suburb of Marietta, finding the connection between the strings of a guitar and the Maker of music.
With the release of Mountains Move, Stanfill’s songs stand ready to give voice to the praise of people and churches all over the world, recognizing the tumultuous conditions we live in today. “These songs are about having faith in God,” Stanfill notes, “and believing that God is who He says He is, no matter what our circumstances are. There’s a beautiful phrase: ‘Let’s stop living according to the size of our issues and start living according to the size of our God.’ That’s really what the record is saying. The situation might seem impossible, really bleak and dark right now, but remember how big our God is. Remember His promises. That gives you hope.”
Consider, for example, “You Will Reign,” from which the album gets its title. It’s one of several tracks that declare the sufficiency of God even amidst great difficulty. The song’s bridge is a powerful comfort: “There is none so able / To mend broken hearts / Heal every sickness / There is none so able / To waken the dead / Light up the darkness.”
“Always,” a song based on Psalm 3, was previewed on a September EP, and its triumphant chorus is already bringing confidence and encouragement to the church. “Say Say” is lighter, a fun and celebratory opportunity for believers to declare their allegiance for the world to hear. “Over All The Earth” and “Like a Lion” showcase Stanfill’s rocking side and will surely have adventurous praise bands licking their chops.
Then there’s “Holding My World,” a tender, beautiful song that rolls like a lullaby to quiet the heart of a troubled soul. “It’s the moment on the record where you take a breath,” says Stanfill. “It’s remembering that God is holding my whole life. He knows my days, my situation, he knows where I am and he’s holding it all in his hands.”
For Stanfill, a highlight in making Mountains Move was the decision to collaborate with some of the best writers around today, including the likes of label-mate Chris Tomlin, Hillsong’s Reuben Morgan, and Jason Ingram, who has won accolades as lofty as SESAC Christian Songwriter of the Year.
“I remember my first day with Jason Ingram,” Stanfill recalls, “when we wrote ‘Always and We Glorify Your Name.’ I went home and thought, ‘I don’t know if I’ll ever write another song myself again!’” Ingram, who also added his production talents to the album, has an impressive record as artist, writer, and producer (Brandon Heath, Bebo Norman, Tenth Avenue North, Aaron Shust). Last year alone he won Dove Awards for Producer of the Year and as co-writer of the Song of the Year (“By Your Side”).
In addition to the new collaborations, Mountains Move is different musically from Stanfill’s past work. “The music is simplified. I think we dialed it back a little bit. In the past, we’ve just thrown everything we had at every song. As loud as we can get the guitars, as many guitar parts as we can throw in, let’s just blow it out. The goal here was to be more disciplined, to let every song be what is it, to give it only what it needs.”
Mission accomplished. These songs are accessible, they will work well in a church setting, and they are infinitely singable, even after the first listen.
So, the Marietta kid who had the “Worship Leader” role thrust upon him has never stopped leading worship. Fortunately, his focus has remained fixed not on the mountains we all might face along the way, but on the God who can move them.