This is my final episode for 2018 and what a way to close with Jason Upton. This was a bucket list interview for me. I’ve loved his music and worship since I first heard it in 2003.

This conversation is deep and profound. I think you’ll want to listen again and again and again like I have … because if you hang around a little longer and dig a little deeper, you’ll be surprised what you never heard the first time. 

The backdrop of so much of this interview came out of a question about one song back on his REMEMBER album - called FLY. A song that was recorded live and where it seems like an angel joins in and sings with Jason. Upton seemed to me - almost uncomfortable at first chatting about it - not wanting to draw attention to himself - not wanting to take from the mystery of that moment and define it I guess … But out of that question he so beautifully answers so much more than I asked for - he gives away the depth of his heart and it flows like a river full of life into topics like spontaneity and modern worship, mystery and certainty, memory and remembrance, the important of listening and waiting.

There is a section where he speaks about Jesus being the ultimate worship leader - the one who turns the desolate places into promised lands…  

He mentioned he was keen to chat again in the new year after recording his new album. Maybe then we can also talk about chat about his profound adoption story.

I did manage to sneak in a question about his revelation on the daddy heart of God… And one of my favourite parts of our conversation is when he speak about  what encourages his heart about the church in 2018. He quotes Eugene Peterson - “everyones is so down on the church but can you imagine the world without her…” I love that!

From my side - a huge thank you for supporting the beautiful pursuit. Every month we are climbing in downloads by the hundreds and that’s so encouraging to me. Thank you for your feedback and I wish you all a beautiful Christmas and a wonderful new year. May you rest deeply this festive season, and contemplate and take time to give thanks.

To my incredible husband and children. My community. Thank you amazing family and friends who have helped make this possible this year. And last but by no means least - my brilliant co producer and incredible sound designer - Sean Williams, thank you!  

Until next year- enjoy falling into this well my friends… 


…”Human flourishing is not a mechanical process; it's an organic process. And you cannot predict the outcome of human development. All you can do, like a farmer, is create the conditions under which they will begin to flourish.” - Ken Robinson

Welcome to The Beautiful Pursuit, Episode 7 with Kirstin Maud.

Hello dear friends. I am SO excited to bring you this episode – it’s different! But much closer to home, my home. 

I recently had the privilege of being on an online internship with one of my heroes – Seth Godin. Seth ran a Podcast Fellowship with an amazing woman and podcaster Alex Di Palma. I was particularly challenged in one of the lessons where they encouraged us to START SMALL when it came to our podcast. By that they meant  - don’t rush out and try get big names – well known folk – start with the ten closest people to you. Having already started my podcast – I felt stumped for a few days. I had started pretty big. Shot high and hit target a few times too. 

And while they encouraged me that some can start big and it works - I loved the principle of starting small. I loved the idea of inviting you a closer into my world and into my beautiful pursuit. I made a list of the ten people (and more) that have fundamentally impacted and influenced my world and what I believed they would add to this podcast. I got really excited about the unique offerings they’d make and the fact that you could share in the inspiration and honesty, the vulnerability and the breakthrough of some pretty dynamic humans that I get to call my closest friends. 

I am thrilled to introduce one of my absolute best humans and friends to you - Kirstin Maud. And one of the wisest most joyful women I know!

Kirstin and her amazing husband Rob have been married 20 years this year. They have three delightful children Madison, Milla and Jude – whom Kirsti home-schools. Together with Kirstin’s brother Sebastian, Rob and Kirstin founded one of South Africa’s most exciting coffee brands – Motherland Coffee Company. Motherland recently turned 8 and is built on sustainability and fair trade principles - you will find their café’s popping up all over Johannesburg and Cape Town – with plans for international growth too. And if you’ve been listening since Episode 1 – you heard Martin Smith and Jonathan and Melissa Helser mention the goodness that is Motherland Coffee in their episodes!

Kirstin and Rob founded and own other successful business. These visionaries also lead the thriving and beautiful church community that my husband Rowan and I and our two little ones call home- and we serve as leaders in. The Collective Church in Johannesburg. You can take a look and a listen for more on The Collective Church online… 

My friendship with Kirstin goes back almost 15 years. You know those friends who become family – people you have so much history with. We’ve lived on the same property at one point, served on leadership teams together, travelled together, witnessed each others life’s major and minor events from (things like) our wedding and the birth of my children to the glorious ordinary moments of countless coffee’s and meals. In the last few years we’ve walked deeper than ever – both our families hugely impacted by time with The Helsers at their ministry A Place For The Heart. As a result we joined Rob and Kirstin with other dear friends of ours Janine and Sean Williams (who’s music you often hear on TBP) and we formed a ministry– hosting short retreats and worship nights – which later evolved into The Collective Church. Our great passion is to see others coming alive in their identity as children of God – living wholehearted lives and pursuing Him in everything. 

In the midst of prepping to host a Heart Journey Retreat in 2017, Kirstin encouraged us one night as a team to get a 20 years vision for our family and our lives. She spoke about being planted deeply but having wings for the world. She spoke about vision in a way I’ve never heard anyone speak. I knew in that moment that I was hearing a message that was destined to literally go around the world. It was dripping in hope and life and I wished I’d heard it ten years ago and that everyone I loved could hear it. Here we are in this episode talking about and unpacking that message! 

She lives this simple yet profound message. Together with Rob she is a big dreamer. Their family talk about grand adventures like building a house or going on a world trip and then schedule it. And I’ve watched them do it twice. They have faith and courage to literally walk out their dreams… Their lives are inspiring to so many. 

So here I am learning from my friend again – inviting you to do the same. My hope is that you will inspired and filled with courage to dust off your own heart longings and dreams and to partner with God to see the impossible made possible in your life! 

06 - Dr Caroline Leaf

Welcome to Episode 6 with Dr Caroline Leaf. 

Dr. Leaf holds a Ph.D. in communication pathology from the University of Pretoria, South Africa. Since 1981 she has researched the science of thought as it relates to thinking, learning, renewing the mind, gifting and potential. Dr. Leaf is an international and national conference speaker on topics relating to optimal brain performance, such as stress, toxic thoughts, male/female brain differences, thinking and learning, controlling our thought lives, wisdom and how to identify and use one's natural gifts. She is frequently interviewed on TV stations around the globe, has published many books and scientific journal articles and has her own TV show and podcast. Leaf and her husband, Mac, live with their four children in Dallas, Texas.  

I first came across Dr Caroline Leaf many years ago when I bought her book SWITCH ON YOUR BRAIN. She’s just released her latest read, THINK, LEARN, SUCCEED and I managed to grab 15 minutes with her while she was in South Africa promoting the book. The day after this interview I attended her full day seminar, which was pretty incredible. Her work is hope filled, empowering and inspiring. I was impacted by the atmosphere she cultivated and sustained over a full day seminar – it was enlightening to say the least. You collide with her conviction and her determination and you feel strong and ready to make small changes that yield big rewards. 

One of the many joys of producing my podcast – is that I am immersed in the audio for weeks before you hear it - and so I deeply experience the very unique flavour that each guest brings to the show. Dr Caroline Leaf brings something very new to this space. 

 I wanted to bring this interview to you on The Beautiful Pursuit for a number of reasons. One of those is because I believe in the immense power of stewarding our thought life. She’ll really make you stop and think. I once heard her say: We are deeply intellectual beings created in the image of a deeply intellectual God. So when we get in touch with who we really are created to be by God, then we think clearly. 

I hope this interivew brings you much clarity! Much love, Ant

05 - John Mark McMillan

I spoke to Charlotte-based singer- and platinum selling songwriter John Mark McMillan just after releasing his 6thalbum and coming off a 35 City Tour in the USA to promote it. Many are familiar with his name especially after he wrote the song “How He Loves” and everyone from Kim Walker and Jesus Culture to the David Crowder Band, and Flyleaf covered the song. Years later churches around the globe are still singing that song week after week too.  

I was impacted by John Mark’s incredible depth and tenderness – his vulnerability and profound grasp on the humanity of Jesus. I loved his thoughts on friendship and seeking out relationships with people who aren’t like us… 

There’s a potent segment of this interview on vulnerability too. 

And if you’re a songwriter or a worship leader you will be challenged to hear him speak about his writing processes, honesty in worship music – and the song story behind ‘How He Loves”… 


Here are some of my highlights from our conversation: 

Speaking about friendship and leadership – specifically with regards to the guys he tours with

“I think growing up in church I had this idea that if I was leading a team – I had to be everyone’s spiritual guide. And honestly that kind of backfired. At a point it kind of gave me anxiety. I realised one day I don’t have to be their leader – I have to be their friend. Sure, I am their boss and certain stuff needs to get done, but things got way better for us when I decided these guys are my brothers and we are working together and I am not their leader.”


“I wonder where that comes from … I know Paul talks about 10,000 guides but only a handful of fathers. And what’s the difference between the guide and the dad: the dad has to wipe your butt. When you’re a baby. The dad can’t walk away from you when you become inconvenient. I feel like there is something to that. Being a friend. Part a part of somebody’s story. Without an agenda.”

Speaking about friendship in general

“A lot of my spiritual development comes through conversations with friends… 

I think it’s really important that we open up to people who are not like us. Opening yourself up to people who are different from you. The lord has a lot to offer you from people who are aren’t like you.  

I think this is also really important – and its never easy – actually its dangerous: You have to be wiling to open up yourself and expose yourself. There is only one way to do that – its dangerous because you can get hurt.”

Speaking about vulnerability: 

“What does vulnerable mean to me? I think it means being honest. Allowing myself to be in a compromising position and in a position to be hurt. Doesn’t sound great does it… but all adventures happen in that place… All adventures require an element of chaos. I think that’s what vulnerability does – it opens you up to the chaos. We need a certain amount of order and chaos to balance your life. If you have too much order you will go insane and if you have too much chaos you just die. Vulnerability is opening yourself up to that amount of chaos.”

Can you live a life of faith – of loving and following Jesus without vulnerability? 

“You cant. The very nature of the teaching of Jesus is ultimate vulnerability. Jesus says you know that you are children of God when you love your enemies. Matthew 5. That’s a sign that you are children of God. So loving your enemies by nature is the ultimate vulnerability – wishing them well. The great act that defined Jesus’s life – allowing himself to be tortured and murdered exemplified that for us. So Jesus’s life is the life of faith and that’s very scary right and that’s the life we are called to live. Not the closed off, shut down life – but the life of adventure and pain.

Pain is unavoidable but loneliness is avoidable. You can try and avoid pain and end up lonely – that’s the most beautiful thing about Jesus. All the other gods – even up until Jesus came – even the God of the old Testament – they sit up in their place and they watch people and they play with peoples lives and watch them live and die… but then they pull back and the people suffer but the gods don’t. 

… That’s the beauty of Jesus – He fellowshipped with our pain and suffering. He didn’t avoid it the way all the other gods. 

What is often lost in our American Christianity is an escape-hatch Christianity. You pull the lever and everything is OK. The most beautiful parts of the gospel are lost in that message… its not that you say the magic spell and you are teleported to the happy place. The real beauty is that Jesus is with you through the whole process. In your worst moments you …  

You don’t have a god who won’t sympathise with you. As a believer you can’t stand and shake your fists at God because he totally experienced what you are experiencing. But the Jesus God is the one who fellowship with you in your worst moments… 

That’s where friendships are made – you don’t make them on the mountaintops – you forge them in the darkness.”

 Speaking about pain: 

“You don’t get to decide if you are handed pain. You can get smart enough to avoid stupid pain. You can decide what your pain does to you. It can either make you hard and angry or soft and empathetic. I have had rough times – difficult times but wouldn’t trade those because I see people better. I think that is the most important work of transformation that Jesus does with you - he teaches you how to see people. How do you process pain well? You learn to allow your pain to teach you how you see people better.”

About writing: 

“It’s become the work of my life. I want to write all the songs I have before I die. I am driven. It’s processing but I’m not writing for the next record. It’s become my work. I have this dream that I write a song that would last the next 100 years. I don’t know why that matters. Thinking about sowing and cultivating songs for my great grandkids to process with – to see God and love better.” 

About his song, ‘How He Loves’

 “I wrote it after a friend died in a car accident. I was in Florida, 8 hours away when it happened. I got the call. I was devastated and couldn’t sleep. I was going through my journal that night. I keep massive amounts of notes. I think I found the first part of the first verse – just that part of the song. It was new and I had played it to him before he died. I wanted to write the rest of the song from his point of view – from the point of view of someone who is dying…but of course you don’t advertise that in the song – its way to heavy. 

It’s funny how many who have lost someone have gravitated towards that song not knowing. Its really amazing – around the world – meeting people who have been able to process their pain with my words. It’s a real honour.”

Honesty and worship

“I think in life there are things that keep you alive and then there are things that make staying alive worth doing… to me worship by nature is the second. It’s not keeping you alive – it’s the reason you stay alive. But it gets so turned around. Worship songs become a utility… We get in a dangerous place when we view worship as utility. For me – if I don’t hear something honest in a song I naturally tap out. My heart can’t listen cause I can’t be bothered. You can be totally accurate in all that but if I don’t feel like you mean it, I don’t care. The danger is that insincerity breads resentment. Being insincere is more dangerous than being incorrect. The church is way too interested in how correct they are in worship but not as interested in the sincerity of the worship.”

Honesty in songwriting

“It’s important to disagree – we find the truth through all that and we find the tension in all that. How do we grow in worship songs? We need tension and we need to be challenged. We stunt our own growth. We reinforce the way we see the world. We need challenging words in our lives.” 

What’s the beautiful pursuit to you? 

Is living life fully – living a life in pursuit of the things that give life meaning not just keep you alive. 

This episodes giveaway is sponsored by CUM Books. John Mark McMillan’s first live album, is a collection of well-known anthems such as “Future/Past” and “How He Loves” as well as  “Heart Won’t Stop” and “King of My Heart”. Live performances on the record include a cast of some of John Mark’s good friends including: Kim Walker-Smith, Bryan & Katie Torwalt and wife Sarah McMillan. Both electric and intimate, this album captures the essence that John Mark McMillan has become well-known for at his shows. We are giving away 5 copies of Live at The Knight – Deluxe CD/DVD. All you have to do is rate this episode on iTunes and like The Beautiful Pursuit on Facebook.  


WILDERLOVE - Shot vertically, this music video is one of the first of its kind. For the best experience, view vertically in full screen on your mobile device.





04 - William Paul Young

In this episode, I chat to international bestselling author, William Paul Young. Young’s book The Shack has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide and been translated into more than 40 different languages. In this interivew we speak about The Shack and its success, as well as looking into his latest book, Lies We Believe About God

Can't wait for your to hear this... The full transcript will be available here for download soon! 

03 - Jonathan & Melissa Helser Pt 2

Here it is! Episode 2, Part 2. 

Packaging this episode was such gift to my own heart. I am thrilled to share it with you today and am sure you'll take as much as I have from the love and wisdom pouring out of these two. 

Thank you for being so patient in waiting for Part 2 with The Helsers. My little family has faced some big transitions in the last few weeks - the biggest being into a new home! Inamongst packing up our office and our home - I was marinating in this interview. I thought alot about hard times and challenges that I've been through, and I thought about dear friends and family members who live with chronic illness and pain. I thought specifically about how we've learnt to live (in joy) in tension - and to hold onto our hearts deep cry that God is always good no matter how bad something might be at the time. I realized that we have chosen (my husband and I and our friends that have become like family) to guard our hearts and our connection to the Lord regardless of our circumstances. We owe a lot of that to the teaching and impartation we've received from The Helsers. In this interview, I believe there are so many keys to living a sustainably strong life in the Lord - grounded in His goodness and truth, especially in the face of adversity. 

And at the same time, I am bursting with excitement for the new. A new season. Our new home. New adventures. A wide open space to dream with the Lord again! 

I’ve heard Jonathan say something profound about tension. Without it, you can’t make music. What a beautiful analogy.

Life, as Melissa so aptly puts it is so full of pain and heartache, joy and delight. It's the full spectrum. And we aren't always prepared for that range of emotions and experiences. Yet Jesus immersed himself in it all - in family and in friendships - in the human experience. He faced heartache, betrayal, persecution, pain and death. And then He left us with the beautiful gift of the Helper - The Holy Spirit. So we would never go through ANYTHING alone again. 

One of my favorite parts of this interivew is Melissa speaking about the fruit that suffering produced in her life. I was undone (as you will hear). That is zero resistance to The Holy Spirit – allowing whatever we are going through to produce the good fruit of kindness, mercy, grace, patience and self control in our lives. It’s like there is this ongoing invitation from the Holy Spirit to an upgrade in our nature. To our true selves. We are often busy fretting or freaking out – and the Holy Spirit is wooing us – come away with me – let’s get a heavenly perspective on this. He never leaves us. He never expected us to have all the answers.

I've titled this episode 'Thriving in the Human Experience' after Jonathan and Melissa's powerful statements about embracing life and our connection to Jesus no matter what we are going through. 

They kick off by speaking vulnerably about Melissa's journey with chronic pain as a result of a rare bone disease she has been struggling with since she was 17. I asked her about self-pity, bitterness and disappointment in God. How she's managed her heart through such tough seasons. Jonathan speaks about all this from his perspective as her husband and best friend. Its incredible stuff.

And for those of you who want to hear the delightful story of how Bethel Music signed the Helsers – it's all in this episode.

May you be inspired and continue strong in your own beautiful pursuit.


02 - Jonathan & Melissa Helser Pt 1

I’ve heard Jonathan say before that the more heaven comes to earth – the more earth looks like family. I love that so much of what they speak about in building a ministry – is much like building a family.

I’ve known The Helsers since 2010 – I was part of a team who brought them out to South Africa for two worship schools in Johannesburg – one in 2011 and one in 2012. 

In 2015 I visited them in North Carolina and attended their adult retreat for three-life-changing days. In 2016, my husband and some of our dearest friends did the same. We are all forever changed by their lives and ministry to our hearts.

“We had a mentor early in our life - he sat us down and said it’s so important that you teach a generation to become what they’ve never received.”
— - Melissa Helser

Listen here: 

Speaking about legacy and inheritance, Melissa says:

We got pregnant in year one and I think the merging of becoming parents and pouring into the youth lit a fire in us. We had a mentor early on in our life who sat us down and said it’s so important that you teach a generation to become what they’ve never received. I think that that was a definite marker for us both. Everyone is waiting for a grey haired man to father them – to give them everything they have not got in the natural. And in society – lineage and legacy and inheritance – a part of it has disintegrated – are families thriving? We have seen the fruit - and the longevity of walking with Jesus – we are fighting for this moment right now and for our kids, and their grandkids. That sustainability piece has become a huge driving force for what we are passionate about. I want to be present in the moment – but hopefully I am planting seeds that hopefully my grandkids will eat the fruit of our life. And young adults really get that language – when you talk about sustainability. At its core – its so micro and macro – living fully present but also thinking about in the future. What I practice now – I am planting for future generations to eat from. We are teaching them – because there are so many broken people - longing to be parented in a healthy way. To be able to introduce them to the true heart of the father and the friendship of the Holy Spirit. We don’t outgrow our need for parenting – we never outgrow our need for the trinity.

Jonathan talking about disciplining young adults:

I think what is so encouraging is that they don’t have so much to unlearn. There’s such a freshness in them. You see Jesus’s disciples – such young guys - they were so fresh and wide-eyed. I love how impressionable they are. One word in his presence and from his lips – changes them forever. They leave the noise of the world when they come here. And this is the most noise a generation has ever faced – so many noises competing for a father who wants to define who they are.  And so getting them out the noise and hearing the fathers voice is amazing. Then everything changes – but it takes time to shut out the other noises.

Melissa continues…

One thing that’s so impactful is teaching them how to tend to their own heart. We are a very gifted driven culture – this is what I can do for you to bring significance to my own life. I think teaching them to tend the garden of their own heart for this human life – this human experience – its such a gift.

I remember walking one day and asking about this human life – why are we doing this? These cycles of life, death, trauma – and I was waiting for the lord to bring clarity. I just kept asking… God what is it for? He was super silent. We walk a lot. Just as I was getting back to the house – I heard him quietly - heard Holy Spirit say “I really thought you would enjoy this”. And it struck me - to teach a generation how to enjoy this human experience and to walk fully in the nature of Jesus – to shed disappointment and bitterness and opinions and cynicism and tending to the garden of their heart – its difficult. But everybody wants to thrive. We have seen – going beyond giving them a theology but giving them practical tools – on how to thrive. Not just when they are 22 – but when they have their first baby – and they are up in the middle of the night losing their mind - crying out to the lord in a different place – we give them tools – where the 99% of the time they are thriving. They actually respond so beautifully – finally someone is telling me how to do it. Instead of a message – here is the how to.

 Speaking about their discipleship schools

Jonathan: We had a real father speak into us right as the school was starting to get momentum – cause we were hidden for 5 years and we would accept anyone – now we can be selective. He said: Many will come and ask for your model. Don’t give them models – give them values. Values can work anywhere in the world – values can be replanted. One of the greatest values to us – is that we are found by a father but we are formed in a family. We’ve been found by the Father of extravagant kindness and He puts us in the beautiful tension of family – like Proverbs says – iron sharpens iron. As we are immersed in family - we see who we are. My dad said to us before we got married - one of the hardest things about marriage is that your spouse will become your mirror. They will reflect to you who you are. The father wants to transform you through the power of the cross – a place of transformation that we run to. Then there is also an incredible side to that – our spouse reveals greatness in us that we didn’t know was there – they champion us. That’s what so much of what the students walk into here: the power of a family… we create a table where we encourage them and call the greatness out of them. It gets as practical as (cause they are here 24/7) – in the non-spiritual moments that the stuff comes out. Real correction moments. Like work duties – when you get to say, hey there is a better way for you than the way you acted the other when we were on work duty. There is a better place for you to live. It’s life changing discipleship – and you kind of go: oh that why Jesus’s pattern for discipleship was to have 12 guys live life with him for three years and it was in that place that heaven rubbed into earth and earth was never the same.

 Speaking about the discipline / rhythms of ministry for 6 months and then creativity for 6 months (The Cageless Birds), Melissa says:

We have seasons of pouring out and then creating. Most of the team are creative – so much of why we started the Cageless Birds was to facilitate and create books and music – a space for them to just – even in Christian culture – the higher thing is to do ministry – I just disagree: the higher thing is to live a life totally submitted to the nature of Jesus: whether you are a businessman or an artist. When you bring the presence of Jesus in whatever you do – you change atmospheres and therefore you walk out the ministry of Jesus… For us its been really important that our discipleship doesn’t look like just sitting around having a prayer meeting etc/worship/counselling) – even though we do that – Jesus is so LIFE ON LIFE. Our discipleship with our team looks like loving, feasting, and working hard, dreaming, taking risk, and trying new things. A few years ago we were like – lets write a book – for our community – a collaborative effort from our community… it was the first thing we put our language into. Just trying to gather that material – its risky – just to get printed when people aren’t buying books. To do life together – is to dream HUGE –to take risk is so kingdom.  Whether we fail or succeed – the whole process is part of the reward – the whole thing – even if they fail – me and Jonathan get to practice leading like Jesus – for there to be a consequence but grace. Graham Cooke said to us recently: grace is not underserved favour – its the empowering presence to change. You are walking out all these foundational rhythms of the kingdom – in everyday life – living a life totally submitted to Jesus. Its not enough to sit and talk about Him and how amazing He is. That’s why there are so many rhythms in the school. Photography, dance, etc. Everyone takes art – it’s in those moments – that they come face to face with their fears that have crippled them for so long. We can all get in a corporate worship meeting type setting and you feel like you can conquer the world – then you leave and you get in a fight with a friend or you cant sit at a table with your parents without fighting – that’s where the discipleship takes flesh – can I actually walk this grace message out – can I actually say no to fear – can I say no to anxiety? That’s why we do it. You don’t realise what you are doing and how you are living. It looks like finding God in the 99% of our life and practising his grace and mercy and kindness and self-control. What does it look like to impart that you are no longer a slave to fear. We want to teach them to get traction in the tiny moments - so that when the big moments come, they are like: I am ready for this – and they just start soaring

How do you open up connection and depth with your students?

Melissa: It starts with building trust. We had a friend recently say – the success of the 18 Inch Journey will directly be related to the success and the growth and fruit of your friendships here. We saw that here – a decade in – it felt it feels like the best year – wow our team is in a different place. We are practicing vulnerability and trust 24/7 – 365 days a year. We are practising conflict resolution and brave communication – the deeper we give ourselves to those kingdom rhythms of loving and living life and to serving each other and not being afraid of the things that are really tense. It creates a deeper place of trust…

It’s the worship and the teaching and the presence created in those moments. But mostly its mealtimes, work duties, moments where they are just with the staff and with leadership in really normal moments. And most of them have never been with leaders in really normal moments – never seen or experienced that. Those simple moments – mowing, cleaning, taking out trash – that life on life with a leader – it breaks down their stuff that I can’t trust leadership or this is not a safe place. The more we create an atmosphere of the presence of God – it looks like the 6 months before when we are working hard together and hitting conflict and doing that before they get here. What we create before is as powerful as what we create in the moments. That’s living every single day..

Speaking about family:

Melissa: Our passion more than schools or discipleship programs is the unit that is our family and home. The most beautiful is that the more whole Jonathan and I become, the more whole our children become. They are 15 and 12. Its stunning to watch: the more we press into wholeness – it is a direct reflection on our children – its almost instantaneous because they are watching us 24 hours a day...

Its not enough to say be kind to yourself and then we beat ourselves when we make a mistake: what we actually do to our self is more powerful than what we tell them to do to themselves. The way we treat ourselves is more powerful than the way we teach them to treat themselves. The more vulnerable Jonathan and I become – the more willing we become to open up our heart.

I had a moment with my daughter Haven. She’s doing horse-riding and she was transitioning out of private lessons into group lessons. And she is more like Jonathan. She was like I don’t want to do group lessons. Do I force her? My favourite thing in parenting is being led by the Holy Spirit. So I told her you should just go on a walk with the Holy Spirit and ask him what’s going on? That’s the simplified version of what we teach our students – to just stop and instead of just ploughing through life – stop and ask the holy Spirit – who is the greatest helper – that’s what Jesus died to give us. He swallowed up loneliness forever by giving us the Holy Spirit. So that’s our honour not our shame – that we need a helper – that we need the Holy Spirit. Simplified version – is what I did with Haven. The lord told me that when they were really little: if you teach them to need me – they will never outgrow their need for me – but they will outgrow their need for you. They will need me forever. She left and came back and was like  - I want to do the group lessons. I was like, OK, what did the Lord say? And she said – that I don’t need to be afraid – so, great – I am ready. It was that simple. She ended up doing the lesson and loving it. She was like the lord knows me so well. I didn’t even teach her that – that was her perception of being met by the lord.

Jonathan on family and values:

I think its about finding out values – how do you plant values into your home in an intentional way? Like thanksgiving – how do we go thanksgiving in our family? Or gratitude. One of the really intentional things we do is when we are sitting at a table together is: ok lets all go around and say five things we are grateful for – from today or last week or from this vacation. We’ve had moments where they didn’t want to do it – but as we have had more moments where its fluid and there is life and joy in it – its become a well worn path to encountering heaven. And when you are teaching your kids these paths – be ready for them to teach them back to you. I had this moment when we were running late as a family for a really important meeting and I was getting all anxious – I am huffing and puffing and backing out driveway – Cadence puts his hand on my arm and he’s like dad, I think this would be a good time for you to say five things you are grateful for. We’ve just created a well-worn path to the lord – where thanksgiving crushes anxiety. I put the car in park and said you are right – and I said five things I was grateful for and in that moment gratitude became a weapon to chase anxiety out our home and life. Ask the Father what are intentional things we can do as a family – for us the dinner table is a holy place – and we try to never bring our phones to the dinner table because it can be so easy to look at those screens and not at each other in the eyes. What are the holy places in your home? That’s what the word holy means – to be set apart for the lord – and to set apart those times…

On mentorship and building into their own team:

Jonathan: One of our dreams for our first camp was – what if we created a camp and environment where they didn’t just drink from our well of revival – but their hearts became a well of revival that they could drink from for the rest of their lives? And so our focus was to help them dig their own well of friendship and intimacy with the lord – their own connection with Jesus so that that fire could stay burning for the rest of the year? That has become the value of our discipleship. We don’t want to teach them to need us as leaders – we want to teach them to need the Holy Spirit inside of them. We are always there to help and lead but to teach them their own neediness for God – so they would not always need our well – but they would discover their own well in their heart. So much of our discipleship has become that.

We do evaluations with our staff each year – and in them we give them a set of questions – we change the questions every year and we have them go ask God questions: What is the upgrade you have for me this year? What is the one fear you want me to overcome this next year? They journal this and write it out on their own before the meeting. Usually they are going to write down the weakness that we have already seen and we are just going to partner with the Holy Spirit. That’s a very intentional thing. When they do it for the first time they are so intimidated. But then they get to the end – and they are like I have never felt so loved and fought for because we are partnering with the story the father is telling about them. It’s a beautiful part.


For more on The Helsers, visit:









01 - Martin Smith

Welcome to The Beautiful Pursuit Launch Episode!

This is #01 with perpetual pioneer Martin Smith. 

In this interview you'll hear Martin speak about family, marriage, the pursuit of God, gifting, and turning things on their head. Martin also chats about his latest album and creative endeavor, Army of Bones. 

To subscribe to The Beautiful Pursuit in iTunes, click here.


About this interview... 

It was amazing to listen to Martin Smith - the man who's penned some of the modern churches best loved songs, speak about life, and marriage, family and his deep passion for God and making music. I loved hearing about his new project Army of Bones and how he and his band (young guys who he's basically known since they were kids) are pitching up in clubs and pubs and playing to small crowds. He believes that much in the gift God has given him and he's got nothing to prove in the process. You get the sense that he's just following his heart. 

After 17 years of making albums, filling stadiums and touring around the world with Delirious, Martin called it a day in 2009. He went home to fully be with his wife and six children. The adjustment couldn't have all been tea and cake after so many years on the road. And yet when you sit face to face with Martin, his humility is disarming. He's seemingly unaffected by all that. He's a regular guy with a soft heart. He pauses and contemplates a lot. Words don't come cheap. You feel the strength and stability of his character in all he says - and sings. 

I plan on asking everyone I interview what the beautiful pursuit means to them. Martin's answer to that question couldn't have have warmed my heart more. He so simply summed up one of the core pillars of what the beautiful pursuit is for me. Family and marriage. "The pursuit of staying together". What use are the songs we write and sing if our most intimate relationships aren't thriving and overflowing with the goodness and wholeness that is the very essence of the Kingdom of God? 

Enjoy some of the show notes and quotes below. They're gold. 

On family:

“Family is that sense of belonging. More and more you realise that family is so important and that if you aren’t privileged to be part of that culture of family – it’s hard to get through life (especially when that’s fractured)...

"We guard it like it’s a precious thing”.

On a marriage that lasts and a family that loves and honours one another:

“Its thanks to the grace of God, hard work and intentionality...

“We have a great marriage, not a perfect one, but a great one. We’ve had our struggles but amazingly we’ve always really liked each other. We enjoy hanging out. Talking is so important. Being as open as possible. Having no secrets. We’ve had our moments but we are here, in one piece.”

Speaking about Army of Bones:

“It’s a very honest account of the endeavour to stay married over 23 years...  

"Most pop music is about relationships breaking up – I wanted to write an album about staying together.”

About playing in bars and pubs:

"I don’t have to prove myself in any way. I love the church. I am a church boy. We have brought our family up in the church. We love it. That’s without question."

Lord, I need more danger in my life:

“If you don’t have danger in your life you can start to grow old a bit quick. I prayed this prayer, God I feel like I need more danger in my life – creatively, musically, and relationally. And He certainly answered that prayer. We have been playing in these little clubs and its hard work – back to zero. We’ve loved it.”                                                                             

The pursuit of God is dangerous

 "If you really want to run after Him, it’s everything isn’t it? Everything that you are is on the table: finances, relationships, dreams, everything - you take the crown off your head and you lay it on the table. And there is a danger in that because you sacrifice your own ego. It’s a hard thing, especially for a guy. It’s that constant pursuit of humility that doesn’t come naturally. There is danger in that. I don’t think the journey of faith is without danger – sometimes the constraints of church, the institution, can maybe sanitize that journey a little bit. But it’s up to every individual to fight for that. Church is not perfect because people are not perfect.”

Leading worship for the world:

“If you truly take your calling seriously – whether it’s a painter or a journalist – for me its trying to write songs that people can connect with – I don’t believe that gifting is just for the church. He gifts us to change the world. Not to be contained in a Sunday morning context. That shouldn’t be controversial. If you look at the bible – it’s full of people who exploded into the world and changed it. I have many friends who do that and it inspires me.”

About Chris Martin

“He has something of a worship leader anointing…

"We need to encourage everybody who is trying to bring hope to the world…

"If we look in the scriptures - none of us are living up to the rules so we need to be a bit kinder to one another.”

Having a homeless man living with them

“It was the most remarkable year of our lives because he would come up and eat with us every night and he had the most amazing presence with the children and was so interested in them and that put me to shame. He had no mobile phone, no email, nothing - but he had this incredible attention span. He taught us more than we taught him.”

On writing in this season

“I love the co-writing thing. I like to get the idea in solitude but then I like to finish it with a team. People always make it better.”

What are you excited about in this season of your life?

“I am looking for those 16-year-old kids, really raw, passion for God and they are going to turn the whole thing on its head again.”

Turn what on its head?

"We have learnt how to do it. Whenever the institution learns how to do something, God comes and turns it on its head. We know how to do great meetings now. Now we have amazing sounding worship. But when that starts to overtake the raw nature of passion – that’s when God always says, let’s start again…

“A lot of this has to do with authenticity. I am fed up with people writing songs that they don’t even believe in and then expecting churches to sing those songs. It’s got to go back to this really raw, psalmic nature – where it’s OK to sing about brokenness – because pretty much everyone I meet along the road is broken. We have to give them the songs of victory and joy but also of lament.”

What is the beautiful pursuit to you?

“Staying married. I see my parents are still married - 57 years later or something. That’s got to be the greatest achievement in life. And your children to have grown up as healthy people of hope and faith. That’s got to be the beautiful pursuit to me. And a little bit of making music in-between.”

Listening to: Brandon Flowers and London Grammar

Reading: The newspaper everyday and How Music Works by David Bryne

Fav song you wrote: Obsession

First song you ever wrote: Lord you have my heart

All time fav worship song: Amazing Grace, but the best song of our modern era is 10,000 Reasons – it will be the song we all go back to. 

Fav song you love to lead: No Longer Slaves (I wish I had written that song)

Fav band of all time: U2

Fav band live: Coldplay, Earls Court, London

Tea or Coffee: Cortado

Fav coffee shop: Pelicano in Brighton

Weird ritual: Yes – apparently I do a cleaning ceremony before I eat - like washing hands. 

Fav worship leader: Wow. That’s an amazing question. Everyone is so different in their own right. Darlene because she is so strong, Chris Tomlin is so childlike and full of joy. Matt Redman because he is so stately. And Tim Hughes because he has so much authority. How can I pick a favourite?  Amanda Cook.

Fav holiday destination, Corfu Greece

Fav thing to do on weekend: Watch Brighton play football

Advice to your 25-year-old self: Trust more, don’t be in a hurry, and listen to your wife more. 


For more on Martin Smith, visit his website.



Interview with Martin Smith

What a way to kickstart The Beautiful Pursuit. Martin Smith was one of my favorite interviews back in 2008 when I was freelance writing and producing for Integrity Music. I happened to be in London when the opportunity arose to interview him. My husband Rowan and I woke up at sparrows one morning to get from London to Brighton to interview Martin in his hometown at his favorite coffee shop. That was fun! He'd recently closed Delirious and was working on an inspiring project called CompassionArt.

To interview Martin again almost 10 years later was an honor. He's a humble, gentle giant - so honoring and unassuming. When you speak with him, you collide with depth - depth of heart and soul, depth of integrity in his pursuit of God. His answers don't come cheap. They were birthed and fought for - you can feel it for yourself when you listen. 

Martin is an inspiring musician and songwriter - download his new record Army of Bones - its layered with stories and struggles - he says it's a record about "the pursuit of staying together".

I loved so much about this conversation. I loved his honest and grounded assessment of 23 years of marriage to Anna. I loved what he said about faith and danger - how following the Lord is always pretty dangerous: you give your all, you set your ego aside, and you pursue wholeheartedly. And I loved what he said about how our gifting is not just for "the church" but for the world too. 

Can't wait for this podcast to go live on December 1st and to hear your thoughts...