The global impact of songs like “Revelation Song”, “Forever”, and “The Cross
Has The Final Word” speaks to the extraordinary ministry that Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes share together as husband and wife. At the same time Kari and Cody are ‘embracing the ordinary’ as members of their local church. They don’t get special parking, green room treatment, or anything like that. Instead they’re just doing church like you and I do, and loving it.
We caught up with Kari and Cody shortly before the release of their new single, “Cover The Earth” to discuss worship, family, and church. If you’re impressed by the gift that rests upon their shoulders, you’ll be even more impressed by humility with which they share it.
[WM] There are some very special things about your story, so before we talk about the “Cover the Earth” single, I’d like to start off talking about family as it relates to ministry – are you good with that?
[Cody Carnes] Yeah.
[Kari Jobe] Yeah, totally.
[WM] Kari, the backdrop behind your last record The Garden had a lot to do with the heartbreak behind the still borne birth of your sister’s daughter that coincided with your and Cody’s first pregnancy. But that was not the first time your family walked through this kind of tragedy. Kari, in a video I came across on YouTube, I discovered that you were actually a miracle baby. Can you share a bit about your story as well as how your family has leaned on one another and your faith in the face of tragedy? Cody, I’d love to hear from you as well.
[Kari] That’s right, yeah. I haven’t really gotten to share much of that part of my story so I think it is really special that you ask me that. I think what’s special is that my Mom didn’t make that a big thing when I was a kid, because I think that would have been something that was an identity thing.
She actually didn’t tell me until later in my life that there were major complications while she was pregnant with me. I’ve grown up in a family who just trusts God, and my parents have really taught us as a family to take God at his word and that He’s a healer, He’s faithful, that He’s good.
So I think when my sister walked through this situation, that’s why I felt like the wind got knocked out of my lungs because I just didn’t see it coming. And I still do really trust God and really feel like He’s faithful. I went through a season with that experience where I asked, “Really? Are you really faithful? Because this doesn’t feel like you are, this feels like you blinked for a minute and took your eyes off of our family.” And that’s just me being really raw and honest, it just was really tough.
But God really just used it actually for all of us, to help us dig deeper and rally around each other to still declare the truth of the word of God even when our emotions weren’t there. Eventually we really started to see God at work in that situation and Him making it turn into something really beautiful. It’s still sensitive, it’s been three years this month actually, her sweet little birthday is in about a week and a half. So this is a really sensitive time of the year for our family still. We went and heard the heartbeat today of our new baby, and I got teary eyed because I remembered that three years ago it was a whole different scenario for my sister.
I think the whole scripture, that things happen to good and bad people, it’s not like we’re Christians so nothing bad is ever going to happen. I think deep down I just maybe believed that was how it is, but it’s not, and what’s beautiful is God really broke that in my life and I realized I just have to trust Him no matter what it looks like. And I have to keep my eyes on Him because He’s going to show that there is something beautiful in something really terrible. My sister now can say, and she’s told me this, “Kari I really feel like God taking James Ivy to heaven has been more of a gift to me than I would have even known had she stayed on earth, because my relationship with Jesus completely changed. I actually have a real relationship with Him now and I talk to Him all the time because He has my baby in heaven and it just changed my whole perspective on my life.” And that’s one of the beautiful things, that’s one of those things you just say, “Okay God, you do work in mysterious ways through all kinds of pain”. That’s just been really sweet.
I think for me personally it took all of the Christian-ese out of my life, if that makes sense. It made me just have a really real relationship with God. Not just halfway having conversations with Him, but having very real honest conversations, and He would talk straight back to me so real in that season and it’s just been really sweet since. I kept that openness and that raw friendship with Him. I think it’s really beautiful to come out of a season like that.
[Cody] I think that in times of tragedy, God brings you closer. Obviously, He has the power to keep us all from it and I think He has the heart to not want to see us go through pain, but I think He knows that that pain ultimately brings us closer and reveals characteristics of God that we don’t get to see otherwise.
In that season, we heard a good friend of ours say, “You don’t get to meet the comforter unless you need to be comforted”, meaning there are characteristics of who Jesus is that are so good that you have to go through something hard to need them and to see them. We really got to meet Him as a comforter, and as the person who brings peace, and we got to see that for what it really is. I think for someone going through tragedy, just look for Jesus. Look for who He is and look for Him in ways that you’ve maybe never seen Him before. Those are the things that really get you through it. Also in a strange way, as she said about her sister, in a strange way it makes you thankful for it. You think that would never be a possibility when you’re in it, but at the end of it you’re like, “Man, I just felt the presence of God, and I know Him in a deeper way now.” And that’s a good thing.
[WM] I understand, you met while serving on the Gateway worship team. Cody I love seeing you playing away and worshipping on so many of Kari’s videos. Can you describe what it is like to get to do ministry together as well as some of the things you do to carve space for personal time as a couple and a family?
[Cody] I think it’s really special that we get to do this together since the beginning. We met at Church and we led at Church, and that led to her inviting me to be in her band. We developed a really close friendship that way. I was in her band for a few years and from the beginning, even before we were dating or married or anything, we were worship leaders together and we built this kindred relationship that way.
So now to keep doing that and really, we’re doing the same thing that we were doing all those years ago but now we get to be married and have our son with us on the road, it’s just a dream come true for us both. I think it’s what we both dreamed we would have in a spouse. It’s so fun to be doing that. We’re a part of each other’s albums and we’re writing together. We’re always getting to just spend time together and really just ask God what He’s saying and lead people in worship, it’s such the dream.
We do have to carve out time, and that’s hard sometimes because we love what we do and often have a lot to do, it’s very easy to slip into work mode all the time and talk about work. But we’re just trying to get in that rhythm of, “Today, let’s turn our phones off…” or, “Today let’s have a Sabbath and not work and focus on family…” those times are really amazing and sweet. If we’re in the rhythm of having that time, that’s when our life is really firing on all cylinders. We really just try to put our family first, our son first, and then everything kind of falls into place after that.
[WM] In the natural, it would be easy to look at you guys and think, “Christian power couple…” but that’s so not who you are. At the same time, there is a significance on your lives and the people you are connected with either as writers, tour mates, or people who are in Ministry like Christine Caine. There are lots of people who struggle with identity and feelings of insignificance, but the reality is that we are all singing the same songs, we are all ministering out of the same Holy Spirit, and we’re all serving under God’s grace. What are your thoughts about the juxtaposition of losing one’s self to become more Christlike vs. the emotional need to feel significant, if for no reason other than to believe that we’re making a difference.
[Cody] That’s a complex question but I think I’ll try to answer it as best I can. What we’ve seen from the other side of that is that the Instagram posts and the videos can make it look more significant or more important, it’s really just the same. When we lead our congregation it really is the same as anyone leading their congregation.
[Kari] You have to be obedient to serve where God calls you.
[Cody] That’s really all that we’re doing. We’re serving where God called us, we’re serving in our Church, we’re serving when we get asked to come lead an event or conference. You know, in all the stuff that we do, I would say this, the richest moments of our life leading worship are at our home Church. I think that if we didn’t do anything else that would still be the most amazing and valuable thing. I think God really just blesses us at times.
If you’re leading at your home Church, whatever that looks like, that is where God is calling you. That is the place where you are known, and you know these people, and you are part of their journeys. Kari and I have that same thing and really we love that more than anything else. It’s really not different from that. I was at a Church plant with thirty people for a couple years in Arizona. Our home Church now in Nashville started the same way in a basement in someone’s house. We’ve been at all of those stages as well, so every season is kind of sweet and special.
[Kari] I just want to add as well, God says in his word, “Those who plant in the house of God will flourish…” and when we plant where God tells us, we’re always going to flourish. I think that the number one thing that steals from people being able to see the fruit of what’s happening right in front of them is comparison. I fell pray to that too, I had to take a pretty significant break on social media for a few months. My parents were like, “Hey you haven’t posted for like two months, right?” and I was like, “Yeah.” I started realizing that everyone else’s story and everybody else’s obedience for what their called to was really affecting my joy. I’m in a season of rest, and so I need to be resting. I love serving at my Church and I was just comparing my life to other people who look really successful right now. It’s so funny, your success cannot be measured by other people’s standards. Success is measured by us being obedient to the voice of God and the calling that He’s asked us to do.
There are some pretty incredibly famous people in heaven whose names we don’t even know here on earth right now, who are doing things that we might not ever even know the impact of what they are doing. Maybe it’s homeless people, maybe they minister to people in prison, maybe they’re a mom and they stay home and that’s what God’s asked of them right now. It doesn’t look anything like it would for someone else. But they are just as successful in their lives by obeying the Holy Spirit by just doing what they are called to do.
[Cody] I love that God’s reward is at the end of our lives, as the Bible tells us, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” I think that speaks to the best thing that we can do, just serve where God’s called us to serve, be obedient to what He’s told us to do. And that’s really what He’s asking of us. We get the reward at the end of our lives. It’s not, “Well done, you did this massive thing…” which we think is important because we can compare ourselves so easily. Rather, “Well done my good and faithful servant, you did exactly what I had you to do and you impacted all of these peoples’ lives.” That’s really what our focus has to be on.
[WM] Ironically, at the Belonging Co, you guys are part of a start-up Church. You’re getting a chance to be part of creating the DNA, the sound, the culture. This must have come as somewhat of a surprise, so what are some of the unexpected joys about doing what so many of the people who read this magazine are doing – building something that actually reflects what they put into it?
[Cody] We love the Belonging so much, we really love what’s happening there. We have been a part of it from the beginning… really unexpectedly. It’s been a Church for about five years now and started in our Pastor’s basement.
[Kari] Sounds weird but it’s not (laughs)!
[Cody] Yeah, it does sound weird (laughs)! It started in the basement, and they would have people over and it grew and grew to about a hundred people. But they kept saying, “We’re not starting a Church, we don’t really know what’s happening here.” Eventually they realized how weird it sounded for people to invite their friends and be like, “It’s in this person’s basement, but it’s not really a Church, we don’t know what to call it.” It sounds like a cult, we need to just call it a Church (laughs).
From that beginning, we’ve been a part of it, we’d come with friends when we were in town and then we moved. It’s been really special, it feels like one of those moves of God. That’s all you can describe it as, it’s so powerful and real and such a rich community of friends in this season of their lives. Friends that do what we do, it’s a lot of people who are artists and writers and worship leaders. So just to have this community around us and at our core we just love each other for what God’s doing in each other’s lives. We really are getting to know people. People are getting to know us and that we really are not ‘what we do’, so it’s been amazing.
I don’t know that we have a lot of challenges, we aren’t on staff and that’s been a really special thing because we’ve been on staff at Church. I’ve been on staff at Church for the last eight years, and Kari for the last fourteen years. So this is the first time that we’re literally just volunteers. We don’t get paid and we lead about once a month. The other times we just go to Church and it’s awesome. But we’re super involved and I think the Pastors would consider us leaders in the Church. But we just get to serve and it’s been really special to be able to do that and to invest our time and our energy to just build this Church in Nashville.
[Kari] One of the things you said that kind of made me think was the challenges at this stage. I think one of the sweetest things for me, and it’s not a challenge, it’s just really cool, is that I love just doing Church and being a normal human. Like my child will start crying and I have to get up and take him out of the room. Or I go and check him into class. We’re just with our community and doing Church like normal. I just love that and needed that in my life. To just feel like I’m at Church with my friends. Something that the Belonging has been really adamant about is helping to change a culture.
[Cody] Taking the celebrities out of Christianity. You know?
[Kari] We don’t have special parking, we just show up to Church. We go in the front door, we check our kids in, we say hi to people, we’re just right there in the middle of Church with our friends. And Canyon’s running around being crazy in the back sometimes and I’ll have to slip out with him. We’re just doing life and doing Church and there’s nothing famous or elite about it, it’s just literally doing life with people.
I think that’s been really beautiful for me in this season because when I get to go out and minister I don’t feel like it’s any different than just being at my home Church. I feel like it helps me to just be really raw and real with people. Because people are going through so much stuff, you know?
When you’re just rubbing elbows with people that are doing real life, and they’re not in ministry per se but they’re just trying to obey God in their own lives, it just does something to kind of keep it real. If those are the people we’re writing for and the people that you lead worship for… if you’re not doing life with them, then I think it’s hard to really lead them well. Shepherds with sheep, they do life with the sheep every day. They know their sheep, they sleep there with the sheep, and eat with the sheep. If they didn’t do that, if they had someone else do all of that and they just showed up once a week, they wouldn’t know the sheep. I think to lead you’ve got to know the sheep, and that’s what we’re getting to do at the Belonging.
[WM] “Cover the Earth”! So I love that it’s kind of a duet and that Kari, you start off in this ‘traditional Kari Jobe’ intro and verse, and then Cody, all of a sudden you’re rocking the bridge like, “The dudes have got it here!”
[Kari] Yeah, he takes over (laughs)!
[WM] So, it’s kind of a one-two punch, and it’s a little unexpected. How did the song come together and did it start out as a duet?
[Cody] One-two punches as much as we can! The way that that came about wasn’t really that we set out to make a duet. It came out that way because I wrote that bridge in Church unexpectedly one day back in December. We were leading a different song but I just kind of went into this section spontaneously and singing it, and I remember it just kind of moved the room. I thought that was kind of cool. I just need to remember that for a song. I came off stage after that set and grabbed my phone and made a voice memo.
While I was doing that I felt God say, “That’s the bridge to “Cover the Earth.” which was a song that we’d being doing the chorus in Church for a few months before that. That chorus in our Church was just catching wind and moving. So when God said that was the bridge to “Cover the Earth”, I thought that was really interesting and went home and put the two together and it just felt like the puzzle piece.
When we got to arranging the song the bridge was in my vocal range and the chorus was in Kari’s, so it was like why don’t we do this together? Obviously, we love leading together so it just made a lot of sense. We love songs that we can lead together, even in Church songs like “King of My Heart” and “Open Heaven River Wild” or some of our stuff like “Closer to Your Heart”, there are songs that we love doing the duet and leading together. I feel like a lot of Churches could benefit from that as well. You’ve got a guy, you’ve got a girl, including both in the song I think is a really special thing to do. But that’s kind of how it all unfolded and came about that way.
[Cody] Yeah, I’m going on the Heaven tour with Mosaic MSC, Mack Brock and Local Sound, which I’m so excited about. That idea has been in the works for about a year just between a lot of us trying to work out how we can go on tour with friends and do this. Man, I’m so excited that it’s finally here, it’s going to be such an amazing night of worship and creativity and just a lot of fun.
I’m also opening for Rend Collective on their Good News tour, which I’m so stoked about. They’re good friends. Rend actually opened for Kari on her Majestic tour back in 2014, which I was playing on, so we got to tour together back then. Now that I’m getting to tour with them it’s kind of a full circle thing. I love them so much and what they do, and I’m super excited to be a part of it.
[WM] Kari, speaking of significant relationships, you competed on the American Bible Challenge game show and donated the proceeds to Christine Caine’s A21 Campaign. You’ll also leading at one of her Propel Women Activate 2018 conferences. Can tell us about that relationship?
[Kari] Honestly she’s just one of my best friends. She’s incredible, I feel like God brought her into my life as a leader to really pull things out of me and tell me. I think it’s really important to have people in our lives that say, “Hey, you might not see this about yourself but I see this, and it’s incredible and you need to be doing it…” and God used her in that capacity in my life. I met her ten years ago. Actually, our son Canyon, we named after her and he has one of her namesakes in his name, her last name, Caine, is one of his middle names. They’re just an incredible family to us. She’s just been an incredible mentor and now a really good friend. I’ve always been so impacted by her with the whole A21 thing as well.
Five years ago, when she started sharing about human trafficking it was just when people were starting to learn what that was and it was appalling. This is actually happening in our day and age? I just remember wanting to do whatever I could do to help, and she would invite me to come lead worship at things she was doing, which really helped open some doors for me in my life. She was really kind to share relationships that she had and invite me into different things she did. Now we’re just really good friends getting to do ministry and life together. I’m very thankful for her.
[WM] As worship leaders, can you tell us about the musicians who back you, and what their role has meant to you and enabled you to do?
[Kari] I am so grateful. I wouldn’t even be able to name all of the musicians over the years who I’m grateful for. From the studio stuff that guys have played on, to playing live, I’m always so grateful for someone.
On the practical side, coming to worship ready and being really good at their craft. It helps me as a leader worry about the music. I just get to lead and be strong and do what I do. That’s always so helpful. And I love guys that can take something and can hear these melodic hooks that I would have never in a million years heard, that has changed a lot of my songs over the years. “You Are For Me” wouldn’t be what it is today without the piano line that it has. Some of my guys have added things on the guitar over the years. The guys have had to reinvent “Revelation Song” more times than we can count just to keep it fresh (laughs). I’m always so thankful for, not just musicians, but musicians who do really well with their craft and can create something new and not just play something they’re heard. It’s always really helpful and keeps things fresh.
[Cody] Yeah, and I think it’s always good when guys play with their heart engaged and it’s not just reciting. Which is obviously good, you need to have that down and be playing the right chords and things like that. But just playing from the heart, putting you heart into what you’re doing. If you’re a Church that likes to flow, like we are, when a band will just take something and make it their own and just run with this thing that they’re feeling in their heart, when the drummer just kicks into something and we can all go with him because we can all feel God is moving and can just go. I love when the guys aren’t all just timidly watching what we want to do. But they’re worshiping and feeling what God wants to do in the room, that’s the most powerful thing when they’re driving that.
[Kari] As a leader we really try to include our team, they’re not just our backing musicians. We’re like, what do you think God’s saying today and what do you feel in your heart that God wants to do today, or what has God been saying in your life? We really do life together so that it’s not just us up there doing music, were up there together to create a moment of movement and worship, not just a song. That’s really powerful.
[Cody] I think we always say, “I’m so excited to lead worship, with you, today.” We see everybody up there as a worship leader, we’re all leading worship together. I think having that perspective of having some ownership that you can hear from God and take it somewhere, I think it just throws in that fluidity with your team.