A New Song

by Caitlin Gipson ’01

Most evangelists use the spoken word to convey the Gospel message. Some use music. Bryan Taylor ’03, MM ’06, embraces both. With renowned worship leader Tommy Walker, he recently wrapped production of The Book of John in Song, a project that marries narrative and song to reach more than 280 million people.

Taylor, who served as producer and drummer for the project, first met Walker as a senior at APU. “He came and led worship at one of our chapels,” said Taylor. “I admired that he wasn’t trying to hype everyone up, rather he was just sharing the Gospel through song. Later, when I needed to do a senior project for my bachelor’s degree in music, he agreed to meet with me.” That meeting turned into a mentoring relationship and eventually a gig when Taylor joined Walker’s church and began to play drums on his worship team. Since then, Taylor became the executive director of Tommy Walker Ministries, and he manages the details of ministry efforts that span continents. “We have traveled the world together attending music conferences in Russia, Australia, and the Philippines, and I’ve been repeatedly moved by Tommy’s evangelistic and altruistic spirit,” Taylor said. In Manila, Philippines, they witnessed children living in the city dump, sorting through garbage, so Walker helped start Breakthrough Academy, an organization that provides these children with books and an education, which has now seen many of them graduate and go on to college.

Their most ambitious project yet, The Book of John in Song, began with a prayer. “Tommy asked God, ‘What do you want me to contribute at this point in my career?’” said Taylor. “He asked Him for something huge.” The answer to that prayer came in the idea to write a new song for each chapter of the book of John. Over time it grew, morphing into The Book of John in Song, designed for use with the YouVersion Bible study app. The devotional combines each chapter of John with a new 200-word introduction written by well-known ministry leaders such as John Ortberg and Joni Eareckson Tada, and a new worship song inspired by the chapter, written and performed by Walker and many other gifted ministry partners.

Given their heart to reach the lost, it comes as no surprise that Taylor and Walker envision The Book of John in Song as more than a devotional for Christians. “Our hope is that this will provide a new kind of evangelistic tool,” Taylor said. “The book of John is frequently used for evangelistic purposes, so we are hoping that this will provide a new way for Christians to share God’s Word with non-Christian friends, and a new opportunity for non-Christians to interact with the Bible.”

The partnership with YouVersion provides the opportunity to reach an unprecedented number of non-Christians. The app boasts more than 280 million subscribers and more than 1,000 translations of the Bible. “When I pitched the project to YouVersion in Oklahoma, they had a map on the wall showing the many nations where the Bible is being read—with Iran as one of the fastest-growing countries in daily Bible reading,” Walker said. “With the proliferation of smartphones, The Book of John in Song has the potential to reach a massive unreached population with the Gospel.”

Taylor played a pivotal role in turning that potential into reality. As producer, he managed a multitude of details like hiring musicians, booking the studio, arranging the music, and working with the sound engineer to make artistic calls after each recording session. “Bryan has done an amazing job,” said Walker. “He is one of those rare artistic people who can also organize a project of this scope.” Taylor attributes much of that ability to his music education at APU. “My APU music professors taught me that music was about more than just my instrument—they shaped my knowledge of different styles of music, my ability to make charts and hear vocal and string parts, and my understanding of how a song comes together as a whole. These skills proved invaluable during this project.” So invaluable, in fact, that Taylor sought out other APU alumni with similar training to participate in the project as musicians, vocalists, and readers. That collaborative effort embodies the spirit of unity, serves as hands and feet to the body of Christ, and gives life to the words of Psalm 40:3: “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him” (NIV).

Caitlin Gipson ’01 is a freelance writer, marketing consultant, and search engine optimizer in central California. [email protected]