Dustin Kensrue traded in his heavy rock chords and vocals as the frontman of Thrice for stripped down emotive and powerful church music as the Worship Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Bellevue, Wash. He is releasing his first album, The Water & Blood, on Oct. 1.
Although Kensrue has released solo albums before, this is his first record comprised strictly of corporate worship songs to be sang specifically in churches.
"At Mars Hill music we are really trying to write music for the local churches to sing," Kensrue told the Christian Post. "We want to proclaim and celebrate the gospel in the sense of what God has done through Jesus Christ. We are here because of what Jesus has done. He's called the church into being. There's freedom in that and there's a lot to be celebrated."
Kensrue shared that writing worship music was a bit of a process for him as he always shied away from it in favor of what he was doing with his band or solo projects.
"I originally did not want to have anything to do with it for a long time. I grew up leading worship in my junior high group. I started playing guitar; I could barely play but none of the other leaders and kids could play, so I ended up leading. I was kind of fed up with it and frustrated. I had a real chip on my shoulder about it. It wasn't a healthy response," he revealed.
As a member of Thrice, Kensrue and his bandmates were known for challenging themselves musically as they put out eight albums of varying sound and themes. This time around, however, the call to worship was a challenge issued by God himself.
"I guess God challenged me on that. I told my wife I would never be a worship leader. [God] trained me up to see it differently, and stop complaining from the sidelines. He brought me to where I'm at now," he said.
Kensrue is grateful for all the work he was able to do with Thrice. Being in the band allowed him to portray a message through his music to "impact the broader secular world." The band was never labeled Christian, but it is quite evident in Kensrue's lyrics as to whom his focus and devotion belonged.
He now would have to use his gift for fluid and masterful songwriting and storytelling to capture the might of God, while also creating a song that many voices can sing out together.
"I really think the only difference should be that the music has a different purpose and function. We should be making good art, we should be doing our jobs well wherever we are. The way that we do those jobs should point to the excellency of Jesus," he said. "I really want these songs to be centered around the cross, and [I'm] writing with a purpose that this song needs to work well in corporate worship."
Kensrue also says there is a stigma that comes with Christian music. Some won't listen to it simply because of the label. It is because of this that he is appreciative of his time and ability to reach people while spending 14 years touring and recording with Thrice.
"I ended up having an impact in the broader secular world," he said, regarding his decision to communicate a message through a non-Christian forum. It showed in the music as well.
Thrice songs such as "Like Moths to Flame," chronicled the feelings of shame after Peter denied Jesus, and "Come All You Weary" touches on resting all heartache and burdens on the Savior – and those are just a few.
The importance of the power of music is not lost on Kensrue as he understands the opportunity to now minister to people who may have not ever listened to worship, but will now because of his history with Thrice.
"Music is something that has a lot of repetition ... you hear a sermon once or twice, read your favorite book two or three times, favorite movie ... How often do you listen to your favorite song? Maybe hundreds – a thousand times in a life time. If that song is true and helpful and good, it has a profound impact on the way you see things. Especially worship songs. This is the reason why we need to have great corporate worship songs," he said.
He continued, "I don't want them to just be tools for other worship leaders. I want them to be amazing worship art so that people will want to listen to them, therefore have spiritual transformation."
Perhaps Kensrue's newest song and the big single off of The Water & Blood, "It's Not Enough," is the perfect example of music as art. The song leaves the standard convention of what a worship song is and allows Kensrue to explore a bit more of his roots while opening himself up to the Lord.
"That song was originally going to be a Thrice song that I never got around to finishing. The song should work on either record because it is true and engaging on a different level," he said.
The video is powerful as well. It is a continuous shot of his face as he walks for what seems like forever with a background of events happening all around the world behind him. It is simple and to the point, but gets the message across crystal clear.
"There's something kind of engaging and uncomfortable and inviting by this lopped off shot. I thought it was compelling and would work really well with this song in particular. I think the main point was to capture the face to face to excentsiate the lyrics which adds another layer to challenge the listener of what's going to be talked about," said Kensrue.
He came up with the idea of the video while at the gym. He said he was walking in step with the song while on the treadmill, and the idea hit him.
Kensrue is well known for the emotion and passion he puts behind singing some of his most emotional songs. "It's Not Enough," is no different, and when asked about it he quoted Dr. Bryan Chapell, "If the manner does not match the message, the manner is what we will believe."
In other words, he means, being engaged with the song makes the story powerful because it puts yourself in the characters place. "[It's like] Entering into the story and inviting others into that."
In the foreseeable future, Kensrue plans on continuing to lead worship every Sunday at Mars Hill Church. He also has a couple of musical endeavors in the works.
"As crazy as it sounds, I plan on putting another worship album out within a year. I've got two other records I want to make that are outside the church. One being a follow up to Please Come Home and one being something totally different. I don't know when I'll ever get to those. I have songs for it, I just need to finish them," he said.
He also offered a glimmer of hope for Thrice fans that are missing their favorite band since going on hiatus earlier this year.
"There's definitely a future for Thrice I just have no idea what it looks like or when it looks like. I think it'll definitely be a couple of years before it even begins to make sense. I look forward to the day in whatever form we start doing stuff together again," he explained. "There's just so many factors, I can't say with any certainty or what that looks like. I love playing with those guys, and it would be a blast to do it again and it will be extra fun having had time away from it because 14 years straight is pretty intense."