Bart Millard and his MercyMe bandmates began writing some of the songs on their latest album in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, long before the nation was divided over issues that now dominate the headlines.
Millard, though, believes the album’s release in 2022 had been God’s plan all along. Titled Always Only Jesus, it is the 11th studio album by MercyMe and urges Christians to keep Jesus — and only Jesus — at the center of their lives.
Of the album’s 10 tracks, about half were written during the pandemic.
“It feels like we just stumbled on to a very important record,” Millard told me. “It’s perfect timing with an album titled Always Only Jesus when we’ve got a divided body of Christ that needs to be reminded of the one common denominator we should all have. And so it was definitely a God thing. It was kind of weird.”
MercyMe is in the middle of a 19-city fall tour. In December, MercyMe and Chris Tomlin will embark on their joint winter tour.
The album’s title track references a Christ-centric theme (“every breath I’m breathing will be filled with praise”) as does the album’s first radio single, Then Christ Came, which testifies of Jesus’ power (“You are the one I was made for”). That latter single is rising on Billboard’s Hot Christian Songs and Christian Airplay charts.
“We have friends that have kind of drawn some pretty harsh lines in the sand and become very passionate about certain things,” Millard said, referencing hot-button issues. “… Some of them were like, ‘Man, how do we recover from this?’”
Millard said he has seen friendships “severed” during recent years.
“[It’s] heartbreaking,” he said. “… And now that we’re kind of going back to normal, you either have some [people] pretending it never happened, some walking it back or some trying to explain, ‘Well, this is why I said this.’ … But the one thing we do know is that we all have to be able to agree that we are still pursuing Jesus.”
Millard compares the pandemic-driven divisions to divisions between denominations that are split over tertiary issues.
“I can disagree with you. And it happens a lot. It’s why there are so many denominations. We all feel like we’re doing our best to honor the heart of God. I’m okay with that. But the big part of that is honoring the heart of God,” Millard said. “So we all thought: Doing our part is making an album to remind people that it is about the heart of God, it is about Jesus. If you’re gonna address the elephant in the room, you can argue and fight and all that kind of stuff as much as you want. But we have to be able to come together and agree that yes, we are still pursuing Christ.”