We sat down with the Bethel Worship couple Jonathan and Melissa Helser (No Longer Slaves & Raise A Hallelujah) fresh off the release of Bethel’s latest release entitled, Revival’s In the Air to understand the heart behind the project and the story behind the song.
WLM: I think a lot of people have some misunderstanding about what these albums are because it really is a collective album from all the various artists that are connected with Bethel Church. You guys are out in North Carolina, Brandon Lake is over there at Sea Coast, Corey Ashbury is up in Kalamazoo, Dante he’s in Atlanta…so talk to us about the vision and maybe the heart behind what these albums are and how you guys stay connected as worship leaders to a church that is thousands of miles away at times?
Jonathan: Yeah, well we’ve been a part of Bethel music since 2014 and that came from a friendship with Brian and Jen. It’s kind of fun because I think we were the first artists that were brought onto the label, though it feels more like being a part of a big extended family more than a label in a lot of ways. But we were the first kind of outside worship leaders brought in that weren’t actually living in Redding, California. So like you said all these guys you just mentioned they’re all not in Redding as well so I think we were kind of their guinea pigs to see if this would work.
WLM: They must have been impressed because they definitely reached out since then.
Jonathan: I think when we first came on, we were like, “Is this gonna work? We’re in North Carolina they’re in California” but because our DNA and our core values were so similar, it really has been seamless in a lot of ways and they’ve been able to service like a music label would service but then at the same time there’s been this deep family Kingdom connection that’s made it work really, really well.
WLM: I think most people are really surprised to find out that you are separated because it seems so connected and your hearts are so connected. How are you guys doing?
Jonathan: We go out at least a couple times a year. Right now we’re a little more limited, as the rest of the world is on travel, but we’re out three probably two to three times a year and then there’s just been organic relationships that have been sustained through co-writing.
Melissa: You know just friendship has really has been the centerpiece of it and I think for me and Jonathan we really love relationship and so I think we’ve just set our hearts that from the time we joined them that we were going to give ourselves to building deeper relationships with Brian and Jen and just the different worship leaders and the house. I would say that even outside of going there we don’t want to just be connected we actually want to have real relationship and it’s been a huge blessing to our hearts just have those kind of deep relationships with people that you know want to change the world
WLM: Knowing that everybody’s separated and yet there’s such a theme to the album how are those songs selected? Are you guys writing? Are you just kind of submitting songs?
Jonathan: I think one of the things about this album the super special is probably a year before we even started fully diving into writing the songs as a church they ask the Lord what the focus for the next album was and the original title of the album was “God of Revival,” which eventually became one of Brian’s songs. But from Bill, who’s like the captain of the ship in a lot of ways in really pioneering and steering us into this beautiful movement that’s happening in Redding, he spoke to us and said, “I want you guys to really start asking the Lord for the songs that the church that they need to be singing five years from now. Don’t think about next week but five years to ten years from now.” So I think for all of us songwriters it really put us in this place of getting on our face before the Lord and asking him what does revival look like? What is awakening? Reformation? So really it was this corporate seeking of what revival is.
WLM: Melissa you sing the title track Revivals In the Air and I was listening to it and you know I think people are really gonna enjoy the upbeat and the fun nature of the song. It kind of has an Irish jig sound to it, just sounded really fun to write and when you guys were recording it obviously transfers through. Talk to us about how that song came and why you went that route with it.
Melissa: It’s actually a really special song to me. I actually took the year off last year because of the chronic illness that I have and so I was actually pretty withdrawn from Bethel. I didn’t tour, I didn’t go out to Redding, and I actually wasn’t writing much at all because I was just resting. In the fall we came to a bit of a crisis moment with one of my family members and we had just started really intentionally praying for breakthrough in his life. It was pretty deep and we had probably been praying really intentionally for a couple months and I was sitting in my living room one night, again I hadn’t really been writing a lot of songs, so I didn’t go into it like, “How can I write a joyful upbeat song about revival?” I was just sitting in my living room and I was actually playing my ukulele which it is a ukulele on the song.
WLM: That’s awesome
Melissa: Yeah I write a lot on a ukulele because it’s easier for me to play with my arthritis and so I was sitting in my living room playing my uke and just praying for my brother and I had my phone buzzed. It was my brother and it basically just said like, “Hey, I made the call and I’m gonna get help.” It was such a beautiful moment and it was really overwhelming for me and I literally just started singing out, which these moments are so rare you know when you write like sometimes songs just come and then sometimes we really have to fight for them and this one was not a fight for song. It was like it just came out of my heart and I literally just started singing, “I can feel redemption on the wind, forgiveness like the tide is rolling in, taking up this space where shame has lived, receiving all that you died to give, let the wind blow.” My kids were in the room, 18 and 14, and Jonathan was in the room and I said, “My brother, he’s gonna get help,” and we all just felt this whirlwind of joy. The next morning I got up and I was pumped to write, I just hadn’t been writing all year and so I was like, “oh my gosh you have to work on this song.” When I picked up my uke again the first thing I sang out was, “Revivals in the air, catch it if you can,” and I stopped immediately and was like, “why did I just say that? I don’t even talk like that, I don’t like it,” I mean it was so cheeky to me. I literally laughed out loud, thinking that was really funny but I felt the joy of the Lord. So I asked God, “What am I saying?” and the Lord just spoke to me and said, “Don’t you realize you’re in the middle of the truest form of revival, which is when prodigal come home.”
Melissa: Depending on your experience the word revival carries a very different meaning and for me growing up in the church some of my most beautiful memories in the presence of the Lord were in revival meetings. I don’t want Revival to be reduced to just a meeting and a starting and a stopping. What does it look like when Emmanuel, God with us, invades our life, invades the 99%. When marriages start getting restored and families are reconciled and our neighborhoods are filled with compassion and love and our cities are infiltrated with lovers of God who want to lay down their life for the broken. I think really the Lord has been reframing the word revival for us.