Music/My Culture Reviving the Church: An Interview with Laura Toggs from Hillsong Young & Free by Jay Martin There’s a fun and exciting sound coming out of Sydney, Australia that is doing much more than just making some noise and getting kids dancing; it’s getting them praying too. Hillsong Young & Free, a youth-focused worship group from Hillsong Church, is giving the young church a stimulating new sound to worship with. With a mix of upbeat, electronic dance music and slower, beautiful ballads, all with the focus on Jesus alone, the group is both breaking down barriers and topping the charts too. The group’s first album, We Are Young & Free, was released in 2013 and debuted at the top of the Billboard Top Christian Albums chart and broke the top 25 on the Billboard 200. Their follow up EP, This Is Living, also topped the Christian Albums chart and featured Grammy-winning rapper Lecrae on the lead single. Their latest album, Youth Revival, was released in February 2016 and is filled with 13 tracks of pure energy and praise that will stick with you long after you unplug your headphones. According to Laura Toggs, a worship leader for Hillsong Young & Free, Youth Revival is all about “a real, authentic freedom and love that is only found in Jesus.” The sophomore album from the group, recorded live at Hillsong Church in Sydney, is already seeing success far beyond just normal Christian outlets, with an impressive video premier on the homepage of MTV.com for their first single, “Where You Are.” Toggs, who leads Young & Free with her husband Peter, says they have high hopes for what the album, and the group, can accomplish as their Jesus-centered message continues to spill outside the church walls. “Our hopes are that we will see something truly significant happen in our generation and that Young & Free makes a mark on the pages of history books. I look back at time periods and how they were marked by movements, and maybe we are a little audacious, but imagine if that’s what our generation was remembered for, for being ‘young and free.’ We truly are believing to see a youth revival take place in 2016.” We had a chance to ask Laura some more questions about this revival and Hillsong Young & Free! Where did the first inspiration & idea for a teen-focused worship group for Hillsong Church come from? Giving young people a voice to express their worship has always been valued and part of the vision of our church… HIllsong Church. Our worship has existed for 30+ years and has always had an aim at all people but especially captured the attention of young people. Hillsong United was formed almost 20 years ago from within our youth and then about 5 years ago when my husband and I became the youth pastors we knew that we wanted to give our youth right now a new identity – the name Young & Free came first and then after that the idea to give another generation an opportunity to write songs and have a voice was a very natural progression… I think perhaps it is ingrained within us to do so. So long story short… It’s no new idea… But It has been incredible to see so many new young people rise up with gift, talent and hearts to serve God. What are your hopes for teens as they listen to and pray with this new album, Youth Revival? I pray that their hearts connect not only to sound and words but something much greater – the presence of God. Each of these songs are so personal to our team, they are their stories written in lyrics and melodies… and to me… They represent not just themselves but everyone. I hope that young people have fun and can be free but also they they’re compelled to draw closer to Jesus. How have you personally been impacted by a song or lyric off Youth Revival? I love each song for different reasons. One lyric that comes to mind right now is from a song titled ‘Only Wanna Sing’ and the lyric is “I can’t imagine why I would do this all for hype, cause it’s all to lift you high”. I’m so proud of Aodhan King for writing this lyric because it compels us all to to think about what we’re singing about, what we are dancing for… and the WHY! We are all guilty of being caught up in a moment of hype but when you make the conscious decisions to place Jesus at the centre of your worship & praise, the music and dancing, the lights and fancy screens etc. Well, that is worship. I always wanted this song to be amongst the first of the songs on the track list for that very reason. To position THE WHY behind it all… And that is to give Jesus all the glory. How have you been able to keep the focus on Jesus throughout the rigorous process of developing your sound, recording, performing, etc.? To be honest – we knew throughout each step of the process how desperately we needed him. I don’t think any of us were so sure of ourselves or any song that we thought that we could do this on our own… and so that caused us to dig deep and depend upon God throughout each step of the process. We knew that we wanted the Holy Spirit’s touch on it and so the whole thing was bathed in prayer. What are you seeing in teens at your concerts, camps, and other events that gives you a sense that there is a big revival underway in today’s young Christians? Honestly, we see a youth revival. I see it as young people from all different backgrounds and walks of life are turning their lives around completely and devoting themselves fully to Jesus. I see it in young people who are being transformed from the inside out. I see it as young people are choosing to immerse themselves in things that are of noble cause. And I see it not just literally but I see it prophetically. I see a youth revival sweeping across the earth in a way that will mark history books and make an impact in this generation for such a time as this. What would you say to a teen who is wanting to grow deeper in their faith but is still hesitant to dive in? When I was 17 I was a hesitant young person… And I’ll never forget receiving a postcard from my big brother who was touring Canada at the time. I remember it because it has a picture of a moose on the front and on the back it had really simple words “Laura, always put Jesus first and never settle for second best” … for some reason… those words stuck with me. I chose to trust Jesus with my life and I have NEVER regretted it. You never come 2nd by putting God 1st. Give your life to him completely and watch how he can do immeasurably more than you could ask for or even think up on your own. Ephesians 3:20. He is the only way, life with Jesus is fun, adventurous and He looks after us throughout every moment of every day and every season. Youth Revival is available for purchase now on both iTunes and Google Play and can also be streamed in full on Spotify. Pick up a copy today!