Graham Kendrick Reflects on Writing with the Gettys, His New Album & His Longevity in Ministry

Graham Kendrick

Veteran worship leader and songwriter Graham Kendrick is back with a brand new album. This is his first album since 2013's Worship Duets. Keep The Banner Flying High is a collection of songs that stir the listener to keep pressing on, keep praying and keep telling the story.

Q: Stuart Townend once said that in a 100 years' time we will still be singing your songs together with those of the Wesley's and Isaac's. One of the songs that many churches are still singing today is "Shine Jesus Shine." After all these years, what do you think of this signature song of yours? And would you change any part of it today?

A: I am very proud of it and amazed at how God has used it around the world for over thirty years. Wherever I go I meet people who tell me how it inspired them in their early faith or sustained them through difficult times. It's not a children's song as such but to this day new generations of children love singing it. Any popular song has seasons and can be wear a bit thin if it is over used, but it has survived remarkably well.

Would I change any part of it? No. I would never claim that my songs couldn't be improved but I think I would be foolish to meddle with it after it has become so established and familiar. It seems to me that God often uses a song as a vessel to carry a message or an impartation of grace. A vessel may have imperfections - like a chipped communion cup, but the glory is in the content it carries.

Q: You have a brand new album out, which is your first since "Worship Duets" in 2013. What happened in between these two records?

A: Writing and recording are only a part of what I do, and I've been leading worship, teaching and travelling as usual. Creatively I've never stopped writing and Keep the Banner Flying High represents what I consider the best of the past five years of song-writing.

Q: While you were making this new album, what were your hopes for this record?

A: Of course, I hoped that it would contain high quality songs that glorify God and build up the church. In particular I hoped that it would help believers to do in our day what the apostle Paul was so passionate about in his when he wrote to the Philippian church about his determination to press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of him.

Q: If you were to play your new CD or downloads/stream now and you were to choose only one song to play, which would it be? And why?

A: It would be the title track Keep the Banner Flying High because it expresses the spirit and attitude of joyful perseverance that we need to complete the work he has given us to do.

Q: One of the songs on the record finds you co-writing with the Gettys. How did this songwriting session begin? And what was it like writing with them?

A: Some years ago I was struck by the simple phrase 'My worth is not in what I own' and sensed a 'big idea' in waiting. It is a theme I have explored before in songs, in fact one of my earliest performance songs is called 'How much do you think you are worth', but here it came again and I saw a congregational song in potential.

I made several attempts over several years to let loose that big idea, but during a writing session with Keith and Kristyn Getty I bounced my seed idea off them and the process gathered speed. The song went through numerous drafts and redrafts, but eventually it settled.

Writing with them always ups my game because they want songs that they can really be excited about, in content, melody and harmony, that work for them personally in their particular range of style and genre and at the same time are eminently sing-able for congregations who have a rich hymn tradition or want to establish one. It's always fun too with plenty of humour, and anecdotes especially now that they have finally caught up to my wife and my status as parents of four daughters!

Q: You have also made a conscious effort to develop new talents to write and sing with you on this album. Why is it important for you to nurture new talents?

A: Actually, the co-writes have often flowed naturally out of relationships, for example Ben Trigg and Jake Isaac were in the same church movement as myself and my family, but a generation below. As young teens both of them from time to time would play in the worship band with me, so it has been particularly meaningful to write songs together.

Why is it important to nurture new talents? Ideally it should be just what the church routinely does in every area, music being just one of them. Often our insecurity or self-importance can tempt us to be protective of our roles but if we learn to delight in other people's success, especially those younger than us, our encouragement will make them blossom and flourish. I would also say that it is creatively refreshing for me as well!

Q: You have been affectionately called the "father of worship music." What's the secret to your longevity and faithfulness in our Lord's work?

A: Actually, that gets misquoted - it was Matt Redman who some years ago used the term 'a father'! I am just one of many who sought to serve their own generation in the world of worship songs and now try to serve the next as well. What's the secret to longevity and faithfulness? I'm not sure there is a secret and it's all by grace anyway! But if you want to know some of the values I have tried to live by, I'll give you three P's: prayer, perspective and perseverance. Prayer, together with Bible reading and feeding on good Biblical teaching is spiritual oxygen. Perspective is vital, focussing on what really matters, on eternal consequences. Seeking accountability from spiritual mentors and friends helps enormously to that end. Then there is perseverance - essential because the world, our sinful nature and the devil, the three arch-enemies of every Christian, are ever present to oppose or seduce us. 


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