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Author Archive | Marcus Hathcock

Brock Gill: Whatever It Takes

Over the past 20 years, Brock Gill has astounded audiences around the world with his edgy, daring, unique performances as one of this generation’s leading illusionists.

From a prime spot on Winter Jam–one of the world’s largest touring stages—to appearances on such high-profile platforms as America’s Got Talent, Fox News Channel’s Fox & Friends show, the GMA Dove Awards, outreaches led by Franklin Graham and Luis Palau, and the three-hour Discovery Channel special, The Miracles of Jesus, which took him to Malta and Israel as the lead investigator of Christ’s signs and wonders, Gill has entertained the masses while sharing his passion for the gospel.

It’s been a wild ride so far, but while Gill is fulfilled by the past two decades, he’s not by any means satisfied.

“I think that it’s easy to get comfortable in life, and you can get in a rut quickly,” Gill says. “I don’t ever want to be in a rut. I’m a risk taker; I’m an adventurist. I love adventure and I love new territory and pioneering new things that have never been done before.”

This fall, he brings that pioneering spirit as the main speaker, sharing the message of salvation–as well as some mind-blowing illusions–to the first-annual Big Church Night Out Tour, an experience designed to be like a big arena church service and also featuring Newsboys, Sidewalk Prophets and more of Christian music’s top artists.

He’s also heading into new territory with the release of his first book, Feed the Dog–a devotional that reflects Gill’s strong desire to build disciples of Jesus Christ.

“A man had two dogs; the one he fed grew the biggest,” Gill says. “We have the spirit and the flesh. The one we feed is going to win, so we need to starve the flesh and feed the spirit.”

Releasing in LifeWay stores Oct. 2, Feed the Dog includes a devotional, leader’s guide and video series (complete with illusions) to take readers through seven disciplines to feed the spirit: prayer, scripture reading, fasting, solitude, worship, ministry and community.

“These disciplines have become so important to me on a personal level,” Gill said. “I realized that these are basic things that a lot of people in our culture are missing out on. I wrote it for students, but it’s really for everybody. I knew I had to get this message out there.”

Getting the message of Jesus out has been the goal from day one.

“Since I started doing this at age 22, the vision was to share the gospel in a way that would be new and fresh,” he said. “It’s always been about making the gospel known and making it clear.”

After being wowed in college by an illusionist, Gill wanted to evoke that awe in others. Over the years, his self-taught pastime of performing illusions evolved into an exciting, interactive stage show.

“The energy of the live show is electric,” Gill said. “I can see it on their faces when their eyes light up, when they experience that moment of mystery, when their mind is kind of blown. I just love that. I get chills as I watch them react.”

From grand illusions meant for arena-sized audiences like his Water Coffin escape to sleight-of-hand tricks–like pulling cards out of thin air, sleeveless–shooting arrows from the audience onto the stage to find a selected card, riding a motorcycle blindfolded, pouring endless amounts of water from jars, and transporting objects from his hands to the hands of unwitting participants from the audience — all serve as the backdrop for sharing the gospel and giving people a chance to respond.

Constant evolution and customization has been the hallmark of a Brock Gill show.

“One week I’m at a chapel service at a college, the next I’m in Haiti, and the next week I’m on tour with the Newsboys,” he said. “Every time you see my show, wherever I am, something about it is going to be unique, because we’re tailor making the material. The show is special every single time, which is one reason I never get tired of performing it.”

Gill also has tailor made his performances for a social media audience by sharing weekly illusions and devotional moments with online audiences–another new opportunity, he says, to share his methods and his message with people who’d otherwise never encounter them.

“People watch the videos and then share them with their friends, and so a lot of people who have never been to church–or would never go to church–get to see these videos,” he said. “It’s created conversations between believers and their non-believing friends about spiritual topics.”

Gill has watched as God has gradually given him a global platform, taking him and his wife, Auny, to places like Egypt, Greece, Australia, Honduras and the Dominican Republic, among others. With his nonprofit organization, Caliber Outreach, Gill has performed for Muslim refugees as well as for prisoners and the impoverished in Nicaragua.

Fresh in his mind was a recent trip to a Nicaraguan prison, which had a large number of convicted murderers. It was a dark place, he said–both spiritually and literally–as his skeptical, stone-faced audience sat silently, arms crossed. Gill scrambled to set up his show quickly.

“After one trick, immediately the atmosphere changed,” he said. “They were smiling and laughing–maybe for the first time in years. These were people at the bottom of their lives in the worst conditions possible, and the place was roaring with laughter.”

That laughter, he said, turned to tears as Gill shared a message of hope, forgiveness and grace.

“I saw these big, grown men start to cry, and they wanted to follow Jesus,” he said.

All of the successful milestones of his career pale in comparison to these kinds of eternity-shaking moments–moments he’s driven to experience over and over again.

“Nothing excites me more than seeing people come to Christ,” he said. “I love being able to tell people about Jesus this way, and I just can’t wait to see what He’s going to do next.”

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Hope Survives: New Album from Veritas Releases Soon

In a powerful crescendo of accomplishment over the past several years, contemporary classical vocal group Veritas found themselves in some tremendous places, from belting out their signature power harmonies on the Carnegie Hall stage to crooning cruisers in the middle of the Caribbean, to joining Sandi Patty on her Forever Grateful tour.

They also found themselves interacting with thousands of fans after shows and online, hearing their stories, their challenges, and most of all, their hopes.

This, in turn, energized Veritas’ purpose. With their sophomore record, Hope Survives, the men of Veritas–Jeff Anderson, James Berrian, Andrew Goodwin, Jordan Johnson and Lucas Scott Lawrence–are wielding their powerful, dramatic musical arsenal to communicate the hope expressed by their fans, as well as the hope which guides each of their lives.

“We get so many messages from people on social media, and lots of emails telling us how they were going through a horrible time, and our music reminded them of God’s love for them,” Lawrence said. “It gave them hope.”

The power of hope is also something very real and personal to each member of Veritas.

“Each of us brings a unique voice and sound to the group,” Anderson said. “We also bring five different stories–which are still being written.”

For his part, Anderson said he had lost hope in 2007, when he lost his father to a “horrific and painful battle with brain cancer,” and at the same time, lost his voice for 8 months–an ailment that required reconstructive surgery and therapy to learn how to speak all over again.

“I couldn’t whisper, speak or even fathom singing again,” he said. “To me all was lost and I really struggled to find anything positive in life, but during this dark time, I was taught a valuable lesson. I realized, for the first time, I had been placing too much trust in man, material things and my own gifting. It wasn’t until I lost it all that I realized my worth was not found in my talent or the things of man but in Jesus Christ alone. Once I placed my Creator on his rightful throne, my hope was restored. He gave me the power to survive. Hope survives!”

At a young age, Johnson also lost his father, and said in the midst of such loss, “The one thing I had to hope in was Jesus.” Similarly, Goodwin has dealt with the ongoing pain of his father abandoning the family when he was very young, embracing hope for the future from his Heavenly Father’s love–something that has become all the more important now that he himself has children.

One of Hope Survives’ upbeat ballads, “Unforgettable”–co-written by The City Harmonic’s Elias Dummer–sharply resonates with Berrian’s story: “Do you feel like just one in a million / Just a drop of water in the sea / Do you feel like you were made to matter / While it seems the world around you disagrees / Even if the sky is falling all around / Heaven knows that you’ll survive the fall / You’re one in a million stars that light up the night / You’re unforgettable.

As the only unmarried member of the group, he says that while he can sometimes relate to feelings of emptiness or uncertainty, God fills him with hope that He has a good plan for his life.

“For me, it is waking up every day and wondering what my life is going to look like in five, ten years, but I do not have to worry about that,” he said. “God is going to be with me.”

For Lawrence, hope has emerged in the midst of a heartbreaking journey of infertility he and his wife have experienced.

“I got to the point where I had to choose to trust God’s goodness, to choose the peace I get when my mind is stayed on him,” he said. “It was a choice I had to make every day.”

He said the Ronnie Freeman-penned song, “Come To The River”–which he describes as “a breath” on the album–has meant a lot to him, as it is an invitation to rest in the river of peace that Christ offers, especially when it is much easier to dwell on life’s stresses and unknowns. Lawrence and his wife are now resting in that peace as they prepare to meet the child they are going to adopt.

“Even though we are on stage looking as if we have it all together, stuff is going on in our lives, too,” Goodwin said. “The biggest thing for us is we want people to know there is hope. Whatever you are struggling with, we want to tell you why there is a hope that will survive through that particular struggle.”

Once again pulling from a deep, diverse pool of songs and genres, the 10 tracks of Hope Survives speak to the hardships of the human experience by declaring the ultimate victory Jesus brings.

“We wanted to find songs that really ministered to us first, because we knew if they spoke to us–if they really ministered to us first–we knew it would be something we would be able to truly share from the heart,” Goodwin said.

Songs from two iconic artists serve as the foundation for the hope that is proclaimed throughout the album, with Veritas’ rich cover of Sandi Patty’s “Via Dolorosa” and their soothing rendition of Bob Dylan’s “To Make You Feel My Love” painting a vivid picture of Jesus’ love for the world.

An a cappella treatment of “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” and an orchestral arrangement of “Amazing Grace” give fresh musical paint to time-honored hymns, while “Bring Him Home” from the hit musical Les Miserables declares trust in God in the midst of suffocating uncertainty.

In some cases, finding the perfect song meant, for the first time, writing it themselves. Veritas’ Johnson and Berrian wrote the triumphant title track (along with producer Benjamin Backus of for KING & COUNTRY, and Ross King), opening the record with the victorious lyrics: “Hope survives / When it seems that life is over in the darkest night / But it comes back even stronger / In the wounds and scars we find out who we are / Through the fight we will find hope survives.

“More Than Conquerors,” written by Berrian and the album’s producer, Jay Rouse, invokes Romans 8 with operatic flair and passion.

Artists Todd Smith (of Selah) and Tyrus Morgan penned “Let Us Be Light” with Jay Speight and Veritas’ Anderson. Another high-powered, uptempo pop-flavored track, the song sends an invitation to believers: “Let us be light, let our love shine / Break through the shadows, piercing the night / Let us be light, don’t hold it inside / Let the world know hope is coming alive.

Since coming together in 2012, Veritas has always focused on crafting a dramatic experience to tell the greatest story ever told–the diving drama of love between the Creator and His Creation. Now, they are doing it in a way that more intentionally seeks to speak to their audience.

It is something they picked up from Sandi Patty while on tour with her.

“She’d say every night, ‘I know I’ve been called by God, but it’s you, the audience, I’ve worked for all these years,’” Berrian recalled. “That really resonated with us. We asked ourselves how we can best minister to our audience, to speak to the heart and bring encouragement to them, and we really honed in on the common thread we all share, hope.”

“Once you show people who you are and you are transparent with them, all of the sudden they come out of the woodwork saying, ‘That is my story, too.’” Goodwin said. “The truth is, the five of us on stage represent everybody who we’re singing to, every night.”

That’s humbling, they say, but it’s motivating, too. And it has changed them.

Whereas Veritas’ debut album introduced the quintet to the world as a musical force, the group’s follow-up uses that musical force to send a message.

“The first record was our sound,” Lawrence said. “This one is our heart.”

 

The album is available now in the Official Veritas Store and at iTunes, Amazon Music, Google Play and everywhere great Christian music is sold.

 

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