In 2013, Tooth & Nail Records announced a partnership with Seattle’s Mars Hill church. The church would help provide the label with records from Citizens & Saints, Dustin Kensrue, King’s Kaleidoscope (now on BadChristian), and Ghost Ship. One of these bands, Ghost Ship, released The Good King as their debut record (that you can now get for free on Noisetrade for a limited time). Many wondered what would become of these bands following the very public dissolution of Mars Hill stemming from controversy surrounding Pastor Mark Driscoll. The good news is that these bands emerged and are still putting out great music. I recently spoke with Ghost Ship’s Cam Huxford about their upcoming record’s theme, going through hardships, and the Mars Hill split.
But before you read the interview, check out this new track from Ghost Ship entitled “Adoption”.
Gabe: So I hear you guys are working on a new record…
Cam: Yeah! We just finished it!
Gabe: Really? That’s great! Your last record kind of focused on Jesus as our king. Does this record have a particular theme?
Cam: Yeah it kinda does. It’s kind of interesting what the progression was. Yeah, our last album we were focusing on…it was a proclamation of who God is as our King. This record is really coming out of the past few years of where I’ve been at personally in my walk with God…Going through different hardships and things. It ended up being a lot more of a personal record. It’s still geared toward corporate worship. It’s not so personal that it can’t be sung in church. It’s just really focusing on the fact that God loves us. That’s just been the thing for me these last few years. That’s what I keep coming back to.
I actually think when we were writing the last record I was having a really easy time thinking about God as a sovereign king but I was having a hard time thinking about God as a father who loves me. And that’s why so many of the songs on the first record have a tension. I was reading through Job and so many of those songs came from trying to understand God’s goodness. I could understand his sovereignty and I could understand He’s big and powerful really well. But I was having a really hard time understanding that He’s close and He cares for us. So a lot of those songs were coming out of the tension of not being able to wrap my head around that.
This upcoming record is coming out of a season of feeling God’s love in the midst of hardship. And we just really wanted to proclaim that out of music. We wanted to proclaim that God loves you and that He is a good father. So yeah, this record does have a really strong theme. I’d say that the theme is: God’s love for us. Actually, a lot of the songs come from the writings of the Apostle John on love. 1 John 4 is probably the most famous passage on love that he wrote. And that passage is kind of where he lands on love. It’s interesting because he was the oldest disciple when he died. And he was one of the closest to Jesus. He was one of Jesus’ best friends. And he got to live longer than a lot of the other disciples. The other guys were martyred earlier. And after living his life, where he landed was: God loves us. That’s amazing!
So all of these songs are trying to proclaim a Biblical definition of God’s love. What I see in Scripture is that love is defined as self-sacrifice. And I think that’s one of the things this culture just doesn’t understand. Laying down your life for someone else is what it means to love someone. And writing an entire record about God’s love felt weird to me. Because so much Christian music is about God’s love. Not to be negative on what other people are doing with Christian music. But I feel like it’s a trend to talk about God’s love a lot but they don’t necessarily define what that love actually is. And there’s a lot of passages where the Bible actually defines love. So coming out a season of hardship, I just wanted to sing about God’s love in a way that people can see it clearly.
Gabe: What is it about hardship that seems to bring people closer to seeing God’s love? It might be a time of disappointment and you might even get mad at God but it still seems to bring us closer.
Cam: I don’t know what it is about the hardships. But I do think that is the only reason why God puts his children through hardships. Because He knows it will bring us closer to Him. A lot of times we as Christians ask “Why does God allow this to happen?” But I’ve thought a lot about this now that I am a father, I have 3 kids. Why would I let my kids experience pain? There is a reason for it. If you didn’t want your kids to experience any pain, you wouldn’t let them play sports because they could break something. And if you didn’t let them experience pain, they’d be really weak. You’d have to keep them away from a lot of stuff. Obviously, that comparison breaks down at some point but…I think the only reason God lets us experience hardship is He knows it’ll bring us closer to Him.
And I’ve seen that in my own life. It really is the times when your back is up against the wall and everything else has failed you…it’s then when you lean on Jesus and see that He is enough. Those are times in my life when I’ve built my faith more than any other time. I definitely experience God’s grace for me everyday and I definitely see his goodness through the grace that he shows us…But in those hardships I can see that He is faithful and steadfast and unwavering. That’s the things that have built my faith.
I think of James 1 where it says “Count it joy when you meet trials of various kinds because the testing of your faith will produce steadfastness.” That’s a Biblical truth that I’ve definitely seen in my life. Why is he telling us to have joy in the midst of pain? And I think He knows that the most joy you can have is when you are close to Him…
And another thing about that passage is it doesn’t say “Be joyful because of these trials”… It’s not saying to be happy that bad things are happening. But you can have joy despite these trials that you’re having because Jesus is with you in the pain. That’s another thing that I’ve seen: He is with us in the pain but he doesn’t necessarily always take it away. And that’s another thing that a good father would do as well. A good father would be there for you when you’re going through pain even if that pain can’t be taken away. And that’s the thing that is unique about God’s love…He has always been there for us. One of the huge ways that He loves us is just by being with us.
I’ve experienced a lot of pain in the last year or so but I have also experienced a lot of joy. And I definitely have more faith than I did a year ago. The trials have built my faith. So a lot of these new songs are about that love. They are kind of like the Psalms of lament. So many of those songs start with lament but end with a celebration of who God is. We can talk to God through our pain and He will listen. And it’s great how Psalms can come out of those difficult circumstances. It’s just amazing that God is with us in our pain.
Gabe: It seems like there is a lot of people in my generation that has gotten jaded towards the church. They may have had a bad experience and that impacted them the rest of their lives. With the Mars Hill split, did you have a “crossroads” moment where you doubted what you were doing?
Cam: Well, I didn’t have doubts about keeping doing what I’m doing. I do feel strongly called to being a pastor. I definitely have felt called to being a shepherd. I never doubted the calling to being a pastor. But I did kinda start to wonder if I was going to be able to endure longer. I wondered if that whole situation would end up grinding me down so that I couldn’t do what I was called to do anymore. Being called to be a part of Jesus’ global church in Seattle…That has been a difficult thing over the last few years.
It’s almost like a civil war situation. It’s definitely a battlefield. And we’re all ministers of the Gospel. We’re all called to disciple and care for each other. There are seasons of ministry that can be seasons of fruitfulness and then there are seasons that are just really dark. For me, these last few years have been full of so much heartbreak and broken relationships. The beauty of Jesus’ church is that it will persevere through anything. The bride of Christ is an amazing thing and it will persevere against all odds. But for us believers that are a part of the church, we can do things that are a loss to us. It can hurt the church and it can hurt unity among believers. There’s been a lot of that in Seattle. The whole thing with Mars Hill was, in the aftermath, there was a lot of disunity between believers. But, what’s really been cool, is seeing Jesus miraculously unify His church. It’s so cool. An example of something practical is…13,000 people were going to church at Mars Hill. And when that church ended, all 13,000 people scattered. But now that the dust is settling, there are a lot of brothers and sisters that I have that go to different churches but our unity has remained intact. I think this split could end up being a unifying thing for the church in the end.
One of my favorite songs on the upcoming record is from Ephesians 3. I co-wrote it with Zach Bolen from Citizens & Saints. It talks about how the glory of God can be shown through what he does in the church. The mystery of the Gospel is revealed by what He is doing in the church. It’s been really cool to keep coming back to that in the midst of some crazy years of church turmoil. Jesus’ church will always be beautiful even though it is made up of sinful people.
Gabe: Anything else you’d like to mention about the new record?
Cam: We are putting out an EP in June and the full length record will come out in August. We are continuing our partnership with Tooth & Nail records as well. It really is a joy for us to get to write songs about Jesus. I’ve just really enjoyed getting to write through music about who He is and what He has done!
Gabe: Cool! Thanks Cam!
Cam: Thank you!