Music at Mars Hill: John Mark McMillan’s Proclamation of Hope
Music at Mars Hill is a weekly column by Luke Larsen that seeks to find God amidst the newest trends in both mainstream music and independent music.
When I listen to Economy, the newest release from singer-songwriter John Mark McMillan, one word comes to mind: hope. Taking on the heavy issues of economic recession, hopelessness, and fear, McMillan writes on how God is our ultimate hope in both this life and the next. But in what has become synonymous with releases from McMillan, Economy doesn’t just name-drop the big issues of our day to maintain relevance. Instead, he dives in with a lyrical prowess and sincerity that is hard to find in Christian music these days.
McMillan found his fame when his song “How He Loves” became a widely popularized song to sing in churches across the country bacl in 2009. Since then, though, McMillan has been writing music that often finds itself not fitting into any of the prescribed circles the industry has created for itself. Unafraid of crafting new metaphors for Christian understandings of God and faith, McMillan has been one of the consistent voices in Christian rock and worship music that refuses to dilute the message or the music for the sake of being widely accessible. In fact, even when McMillan sings about topics like sin atonement, in the context of the album, the metaphors really begin to hit close to home (God “paying our debts” really begins to take on a new meaning).
But if McMillan’s previous album, The Medicine, often existed in the realm of lofty theology, Economy feels like a dipping down into the dirty streets and alleyways of life. On the Springsteen-influenced opening track, McMillan sings, “The devil’s dealing dirty in broken hearts and counterfeit currency/The living isn’t easy when a heart’s regret can tax the air you breathe.” It’s lines like these that take the kingdom of God message and see what plays out when it takes up residence in the actual world we live in.
Describing a world in which the financial and political system we have for so long depended on — or even had faith in — are becoming undone, McMillan offers us a chance to fully trust in God instead: “Daylight comes to meet you on the road/Like a prodigal son, a prodigal hope/That you gave up on when you were young/Yeah, but daylight is coming on.” In the wake of a world and an economy that is desperately trying to survive, it is perhaps more apparent than ever that we live on “the edge of a darkness.” To many of us, our situations and our country’s situations might even seem impossible to overcome. But in Economy, McMillan reminds us that daylight is always just around the corner and that we should be giving God the glory throughout it all.