GRAPEVINE, Texas — As an increasing number of influential Christians publicly renounce their faith, artist Elias Dummer is using his music as a medium to encourage the Church to become a safe place for people to ask tough questions.
“We’ve created this environment in Church where people are discouraged from asking difficult questions, or the reality of the answer is brushed over or swept under a rug. So they feel like the only time they get to ask these questions is on the outside of church walls,” the 38-year-old worship singer told The Christian Post.
“We’ve got to do something about that. We can say, ‘Here are the basics that every Christian believes,’ and the rest of it we can talk through and work through as the Church.' At the end of the day, our unity is to a person in Jesus. That’s crucial for us to remember in all of our dealings. It will allow us to have a better relationship with thoughtful questioning and great discussion.”
Dummer, who co-founded and fronted one of Canada’s most acclaimed worship bands, The City Harmonic, is gearing up for the release of his latest solo album, The Work Vol. II. The album grapples with issues facing Christians around the world, from finding community amid the pandemic to following Jesus well, despite some of the "blatant hypocrisy" seen within the Church.
"I'm really asking, 'What does it mean to follow Jesus well in a world that is tired of the hypocrisy of the Church? And how can the Church speak to the world and even be itself, having so long lived with this kind of hypocritical wrestling?'" he said.
“It’s an album asking a lot of questions, frankly, but coming to an answer in having the trust and confidence that Jesus is who He says He is and that He does what He says He will do. And I still absolutely believe that,” the father-of-five said.
A self-described “Anglicostal,” Dummer said that growing up in the Church, he was always open-minded in his ability to think critically about the faith he professed. His latest album was birthed out of his own period of “wrestling with God” amid the chaos of the pandemic.
But at the end of the day, the "Less of Me" singer emphasized he hasn't "encountered a story or a person as compelling or has the ability to speak into my life, mind and heart like Jesus."
“This story of surrender, grace, repentance, forgiveness and faithfulness — I think it’s unparalleled in the world. I can't think of a better way to spend my life than to help bring others to know the fruit of knowing God. It’s not something I do perfectly, ... but it's certainly something that I continue to be passionate about," Dummer said.
"I’m finding that there are just so many boogeymen and scarecrows that we associate emotionally with the Church," he said. “A lot of people who are wrestling with what it means for their trust in something they love to collapse. If we're going to write worship songs that speak to the world, we better at least be grappling with the reality of where people are at.”
Though deconstruction isn't inherently wrong, it becomes dangerous when "reconstruction" never happens, Dummer said.
"The point in questioning our assumptions is to find answers — not to obsess with questions," he explained.
“Part of being faithful in our relationship with Jesus is being faithful with everything we've been given to do," he said. "I want to create and write songs that are authentic to where I'm at. Hopefully, they can give someone the words to pray right where they're at.”
In July, Dummer released “Expectation,” the first single on his sophomore solo album. The song, he said, speaks of coming to God with both “burning with desire and a little bit of frustration.”
“It’s about what it's like to come to God with doubt and hurt, clinging to faith by a thread. We've all been there,” he said. “No matter what it is we bring to church, we can worship with incredible hope and expectation that God is with us, that the Holy Spirit meets us as we are. We can rest and stand and move forward on what God has promised for us.”
Before The City Harmonic disbanded in 2017, Dummer helped pen the band's chart-topping hits including “Holy (Wedding Day),” “Mountaintop” and “Manifesto.”
In 2019, Dummer released his solo debut, The Work Vol. I, and was named Breakthrough Artist of the Year at the 2020 Covenant Awards. His debut single, “Enough,” spent 26 weeks on Billboard’s Christian Airplay chart.
The singer told CP that from planting a church in Nashville to creating music, his entire ministry has been centered around the idea that what Christians do in worship matters. In fact, it’s one of the primary ways God edifies, disciples and instructs His people.
“Worship is fundamentally a discipleship thing. It is what we do together that forms us. It's one of the ways that God changes us, and there cannot be a disconnect between meeting God and becoming more Christ-like in what we do,” he stressed.
“I feel a great burden as a writer that what I write needs to be coherent, needs to be Christian, and needs to be anchored well to the traditions of the faith,” he added. “Music in church forms us and forms our theology in a way that is, I think, really poorly understood.”
Dummer described his music as “vulnerable and human” — and expressed hope that his songs encourage Christians to strive for unity. Through The Work Vol. II, the artist allows listeners to grapple with questions of the faith while pointing to the One who ultimately has the answers.
“I hope that this album is honest — not just to myself first, but true to the Gospel I’ve been given to preach and live," he said. "I hope it helps people to encounter God and feel as though they can have a faith that is passionate, reasonable and ready for the real world.”