As a recording and touring artist, Travis’ meteoric rise is nothing short of phenomenal. Nominations in three categories for the 2018 GMA Awards, join the list of Grammy nominations, #1 spots on Billboard, and seven award sweep at the 2017 Stellar Music Awards. In late September, Travis will step back out on the road for a series of tour dates as part of the 2018 Passion nights with Louie Giglio and Elevation Worship, and Hallelujah Here Below, also with Elevation Worship.
Crossover is the name of Travis Greene’s latest disc, but this is not the kind of crossover most people associate with a recording artist. This crossover refers to stepping into to the land filled with God’s promises. While God has called all of us to take this journey, not everyone makes it, and that is one of the things that Travis is out to change.
Travis is not afraid to roll up his sleeves and do some heavy lifting and embrace change head on. In 2016, he and his wife Dr. Jackie Greene founded Forward City Church in Columbia, South Carolina. Seriously folks, if you’re looking for some best practices how to present your church to the world, you need to check out the Forward City web site and Instagram feed. Their Annual Report is conspicuously placed in the primary navigation on their web site, screaming out, “Click me, you know you want to!”. And sure enough, like everything Travis does. that page pulls you in with vision and culminates with a call to action to engage their culture. If I lived in South Carolina, I’d be beating down the door, guitar in hand, begging for a chance to serve there. This is potent stuff folks, so please, please show this to your web and social media teams!
So now that we’ve filled in a few blanks about what Travis has been up to, it is our pleasure to introduce our readers to Travis Greene!
[WM] Travis, l love the way you use the word rhythm to describe your life. Making sure to stay in synch with the rhythm that God has set for your career, ministry, and family. What are some practical steps for aligning one’s entire life to God’s rhythm?
[Travis Greene] First of all, being obedient – what did God tell you? I think that’s the first important thing, what has God placed in your heart. The Bible says that he will give us the desires of our heart, and I think that’s been misinterpreted to mean He will grant us our wish list. What that’s saying is, that if we’re in good standing with Him and we are walking with Him, He will place the right things to desire in our hearts, giving us the desires that need to be in our heart. Whatever your calling is, whatever you’ve been created for, that has been placed in your heart, and for me that is the only way to be in the right rhythm with Him.
The Bible says, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.” He would never call you to a place that He can’t keep you in. So how do you balance it out? How does the life of a Lebron James look easy when we know there is no way that it could be easy to do that much? The only answer for it is grace. I get asked all the time how I wear as many hats as I do, and it’s only by grace. If God calls you to whatever it is in a particular season, He can put enough grace in you, more than is natural, to make it appear easy even though we know that it’s not. He gives you the ability to fulfill the assignment, and that is the only correct rhythm to live in.
[WM] What advice do you have for those seeking to discover that special thing that God has set aside just for them. That special communion with Him where he reveals the hidden treasure He has waiting on the other side of ‘their Jordan’?
[Travis] I have two answers to that, and I’m going to plagiarize my wife on the first one. She says, “Feel fear and do it anyway!” I think that oftentimes we feel like fear is a warning from the natural world, maybe I shouldn’t do this. In the spiritual world it’s not, it’s just a part of it. Fear is that first cousin of faith, it’s that cousin that always irritates you but is still family so it’s still going to be around and you’ve got to tolerate it. Fear will always come knocking at your door. You can open the door, greet it, feel it, but definitely don’t let it in. You don’t want to let it in and be hanging out with it. So that’s the first response I would give anyone – feel fear, but do it anyway. I don’t care if you’re scared or not, do it anyway.
The second thing in conjunction with that is that you’re not waiting on God – God’s waiting on you. A lot of times we believe that if things haven’t started happening in our life – if the door isn’t wide open, if the money isn’t readily available, or the degrees aren’t in our resume, that maybe that means “not yet.” With God, that’s not what it means, it’s the opposite. If everything lined up, then it wouldn’t require faith. I preached at Forward City recently about the story where David took it upon himself to count his men, and he got into a lot of trouble with God for doing that. But we do the same thing, we want everything to add up. We need it to calculate perfectly before we step out on faith, but faith never adds up, faith is always risky. You’re going to get to the Red Sea and even though all you see is the Red Sea, God sees a street and He’s waiting for you to step into it for it to open. So, you’re not waiting on Him, He’s waiting on you.
[WM] I notice you use the word harvest, perhaps in place of prosperity. Can you tell us about that?
[Travis] I’m not a big “name it and claim it” type of guy, I just feel like that whole notion has been a bit overused. I do believe God wants us to be blessed, and I do believe God wants us to be successful. But, I believe He is the one who gets to define what being blessed and being successful looks like. I think oftentimes we chase what we think success is according to our ‘American dictionary’. Success is not what the media says it is, what television says it is, success is simply being in the will of God, doing what God has called you to.
He will give you the resources to fulfill the assignment, whatever that is. Harvest is more ability, resources, it could be connections, it can be whatever is necessary to complete the assignment – that’s that we’re here for. We’re not just here to sit back and be spoiled kids – we’re here to do the work of the Lord. That’s what harvest is – an overflow that allows you to be able to do what it is you are called to. Peter casts out a net out, and has more fish than he can count. The Bible doesn’t say he opens up a fish market, the Bible says he leaves there and does the work of God. We could fill in the blanks and say, the overflow allowed him to pay off his debts, or allowed him to set his family up – so many things that could have happened with that. But we do know that he left that boat and spent three years following behind Jesus.
I love the word harvest because its synonymous with the word fall, and I think that’s the opposite of where our minds go when we think of harvest. We think of collection and collecting what God has supplied, which is accurate but only up until a point. Up until 1500 AD the word harvest was swapped with the word fall, and fall is the separation of things. In the Bible harvest was the threshing of wheat, so that was a separation of something. So, before you get excited about entering into a harvest, you need to understand that harvest is a separation – literally allowing God to extract what’s not useful anymore. So sometimes in our lives, whenever we’re entering a season of separation, it’s a clue that we’re about to enter a huge elevation. God always shifts us before he lifts us. He loves us too much to take us to a place where we could be destroyed in, if we don’t have the right things around us. That’s why I use the word harvest so much, because I’m constantly evolving, and God is constantly stripping me of things, of mindsets, and of relationships that were necessary then but could be to my detriment now. Much like the tree and the leaf, the same leaf that supplied energy and life to the tree in the spring can take life away from it in the winter. That’s why there’s the season of fall, a season of separation.
[WM] I’ve nick named you ‘Mr. CTA’. So much of what you do, especially on Instagram has a great call to action. You have a degree in Business Management, how much did that contribute to what you’re doing now?
[Travis] I’d say it has had little to no impact on what I do. I did it because you’re supposed to get a degree (laughs). I learned more watching my mom than I did listening to a professor. The biggest thing that school did for me… two months before I graduated in 2006, one of my music professors (I was getting a minor in music) asked me what I was doing after graduation. I said, “Well, I’m going to get my MBA, my masters, and work in corporate America, I’ll probably move to New York.” And she said, “It sounds like you’re just buying time!” I said, “What?! What do you mean?” She said, “What’s in your heart? What are you passionate about, what do you enjoy; what would you do if no one paid you to do it?” I said, “I love to inspire people and I love music, so I guess minister in music.” She told me, “For the rest of the semester you have no other assignments other than bringing in brochures from churches you would love to work at and people you would love to reach. That’s your work.” This wasn’t a Christian school by the way, it was Georgia Southern University.
So that’s what I did for the rest of the semester, I just brought in stuff and was like man, I love this! I brought in pictures of tour buses and studios. She forced me to dream, to get out of the real world, and go to never-never land. That was the biggest turning point for me in school, and that’s why I’m so passionate about my call to action – to tell people don’t stop being a kid, don’t stop dreaming, and pull that diary back out. The Bible says to write the vision and make it plain. So, write down His vision! What is God saying to you? Dream again, go after it again, and engage your future. That’s our call to action, to engage culture and move up stream.
Culture is all around us, it’s undeniable, it’s the rhythm of a generation and it’s what defines an era. There are only three responses you can have to culture. You can conform to it, you can complain about it, or you can confront it and I believe that’s what we’re supposed to do. There’s supposed to be some tension in our life. To move up stream and to confront the cultures of this world to create the narrative of what this world is and what this society is and community is. As believers’ it’s up to us to move up stream and become the change we want to see. So that’s my call to action for everybody – become your future. Don’t wait on it to show up, go after it and become the change that we want to see in the world around us.
[WM] On your personal YouTube channel, you share your testimony of getting saved after falling out a fourth-floor window. But that was not the first time you got saved, as I understand you were actually stillborn. Per the four-story fall, your mother spoke words of life over you and boom, here you are! One of the things I absolutely love about the Forward City Instagram feed is the words of life you speak through your feed. It’s in your DNA, both personally and spiritually, can you speak to that?
[Travis] That’s what my heart burns for and almost brings me to tears to even think about. There are so many people who are walking dead, just getting by, just doing life. Of anything I believe I’ve been sent to this world to do, it’s to encourage people to live and live life abundantly. That’s not by pursuing things, it’s by pursuing purpose.
I think the biggest tragedy is to be driving the nicest car, having the biggest office, having the most amazing 401k and savings account – and being miserable. How tragic is that? You’ve got everything you could ever want, but you’re not fulfilled. Fulfillment only comes from living within the will of God. I would rather have nothing and be fulfilled than have everything and lack purpose. That’s why you still see so many millionaires who grab a gun and take their lives. Even though you would love to have Benjamin on a piece of paper, when times get tough, Benjamin can’t talk, he’s dead.
You need something more, you need the spirit of life, you need Jesus. He’s alive and there is enough of him to fill any lacking thing and any void. That’s all I am, man, I’m just a big sign that points that says, “Hey! There’s another way!” and that way is Jesus. That’s what I’m trying to do with my life, man. There’s joy in a life of Christ that can’t be replaced by possessions.
[WM] You’ve received numerous awards and accolades for your musical contributions. I’d love to know, at the end of the day, which accomplishments mean the most to you and why?
[Travis] Family. My wife and my two boys, who are both a miracle. I met my wife in 2007 – she patiently tolerated my immaturity for four years before I asked her to marry me. She’s the joy of my life and we have two boys. Jayce is four years old, and Josh he’s one. Jayce is a miracle. My wife’s water broke halfway through her pregnancy and the doctor said that there was no way he was going to make it – but God performed a miracle with him. For me, just being able to see him and have my baby boy be a part of my life, there’s nothing more fulfilling than that. They are my greatest joy, my greatest accolade, and my greatest achievement. I feel more joy on the couch watching them play than I feel on a stage in front of thousands of people. My family is everything.
[WM] And speaking of your life, what were you doing at 6:00 a.m. this morning?
[Travis] Praying. “No days off” is kind of a theme that the Lord gave to me and my wife at the beginning of the year. So every Tuesday and Thursday we meet, pray, call down heaven, and pray God will guide our city in the right direction. There are a lot of doors open, but every good opportunity is not a God opportunity. I just want to be in line with what God is saying concerning us and what we’re doing.
[WM] “Intentional” has over 28,000,000 views. How did that song come to life and how long did it take to come together?
[Travis] The word intentional was just a word I was using in prayer – it was something I would just call Him. It was our thing – He would just remind me that He is intentional. If I needed him and I was in prayer, that’s what I’d call him, like my nickname for him, “God, you’re intentional”. So, it was a thing for us for probably a year or two. Romans 8:28, it’s always been my favorite scripture – I always wanted to do something special with that verse, but if I was going to do it then I wanted to do it right!
We were in rehearsal one day at church back in 2012 or 2013, and the song just kind of came out randomly in the midst of that rehearsal. The band started playing, we were all just kind of jumping around and it was just sort of ministering to us. I immediately started singing it publicly. It just evolved over time, adding more and more to it. The “I don’t have to worry” part was added in a sound check. I was just singing the beginning of it over and over because it was just electric. And whenever we sang it churches would just explode. And we sang it everywhere! We were singing it for two years and then finally we recorded it. It had a life of its own.
[WM] As I’ve been listening to your music, I keep hearing lots of different styles including a hint of Dancehall Reggae. Kirk Franklin referred to you as “the future of Gospel” – where do you see Gospel music going and what are some of the things that God is speaking into your heart about being a part of that?
2017 Stellar Awards featuring Jonathan Butler, Travis Greene, Jonathan McReynolds, and Israel Houghton
[Travis] For me, I think the only way that Gospel and/or CCM will survive in the next five years is through the power of collaboration. I think you see it in different genres already, the world is not black and white anymore, it’s HD. This is a new generation that’s coming up and for them, they just don’t see it the way we see it. They don’t want ‘either/or’ they want ‘both/and’.
Florida Georgia Line is one of the biggest Country acts right now, and one of their biggest records has a Hip-Hop beat in the back of it. People don’t want ‘either/or’ anymore, that’s why you’re seeing collaborations with Country and Hip-Hop. It’s just kind of a melting pot of music. That’s what people want, they just want good music and they don’t want to have to be boxed in.
If you listened to a kid’s playlist now you’re going to hear Hillsong, you’ll hear Lecrae, it’s just everything and everybody. That’s what I think the future is – continuing to kick down walls and to engage culture to become relevant to the world around us and not to the world of fifteen years ago. It’s changed drastically, and the body of Christ has got to catch up and we’ve got to move up stream. I believe that’s happening.
I’ll be on tour this fall with Elevation Worship and with Passion. With those two bands, we’re going to grab people from both sides of the tracks and place them in one room. I think this needs to happen and is happening with guy’s like myself, Tauren Wells, and others. I just think we’ve got to continue to bridge the gap and to take down the walls of racism and religion in order to lift up a unified sound. I think that’s what God wants, so that’s what I’m trying to do.
[WM] “Do it Again” is one of my favorite songs, so hearing you step into the Elevation Worship world and bring what you bring was particularly exciting for me as a music lover and as a worshipper. What was it like, to step in and bring what you bring to what Elevation is doing?
[Travis] I love it! The first half of my childhood was in a very urban community surrounded mainly by mostly blacks, and then we moved to a very caucasian community and I became the only black guy. Early on growing up there was Troy, who was the only white guy in the class, but then I became Troy when we moved. So, for me, that’s what I’m used to – I’m used to collaboration. I’m used to different ideas and preferences that have all been thrown in together. That’s how I was raised. So that’s what excites me the most.
I had already taken ownership of that song because I had been performing it live for a while – I just loved the song. When I got the call about the idea for the record I just said, “Oh yeah, this is mine; I’ve got this song!” before any other conversation happened. We just had a great time doing it. Those are my dear friends at Elevation and I think that’s just the first of many collaborations that we will see.
[WM] You followed a bit of a traditional trajectory of serving as a youth pastor before becoming a senior pastor. What are some words of life you’d like our readers to share with the youth pastors in their churches?
[Travis] Authenticity man, I get asked that all the time, “How do I stay relevant? How do I get kids to come? How do I encourage the kids I have?” I think one is to stay away from the need to compare. 99% of youth pastors are going to have a very small budget. You’re not going to have the same budget as some of the churches that you look at and follow on social media. So that’s the first thing – being okay with that.
I didn’t know it, but I did this research that says millennials desire community more than, “Lights, camera, action!” They don’t really need a YouTube concert, they just want community. They want people that will listen, that they can know and grow with. That’s why I say authenticity is the answer – being true to who you are and that alone breeds relevance because God anoints the authentic and not the pretend. I just say to be who you are, and to love them where they are.
For any youth that you have the privilege of doing life with, don’t become such an adult that you don’t understand never-never land anymore. I love the movie with Robin Williams where he grows up into an adult and he has to re-learn how to be Peter Pan. I think that happens with adults all too often. We grow up and we forget what it’s like to be young, and I think that’s the magic of being a youth pastor or children’s pastor – you have to be young. Of course, you want to give them advice, you want to mentor, but give them a shoulder to cry on. I think as youth pastors that’s the gift and the privilege we have in their life, being real to them and just being understanding and living their life with them.
[Travis] Yeah, I have an endorsement with them. I met with them and had the red guitar made and it’s amazing. It’s a piezo and allows me to play both acoustic and electric with the same guitar, so it’s really cool. They’re really great guys, and it’s just an amazing company. I also have an endorsement with a small guitar company called Gopher Wood. Their acoustic guitars are out of this world. It’s probably the best acoustic guitar I’ve played. They’re stellar, and they’re a Christian company so that’s super cool too.
[WM] For more about Travis, including his upcoming tour dates, please visit www.TravisGreene.net.