It’s a fact: God chooses the most unlikely people to accomplish great things. Moses the stutterer. David the “runt of the litter.” Mary, a young girl.
So it makes sense somehow that God would pluck an enthusiastic youth worker with an earnest desire to serve Him, but without any professional music experience, tell him to pay attention, write some songs, let the people sing and then take him around the world to lead and teach about worship.
But that, in reality, is the short version of Dustin Smith’s ministry.
Set for release this fall, Dustin Smith’s second solo effort, COMING ALIVE, is anything but your typical worship album because for Dustin, these songs aren’t lyrics written out of personally emotive places he’s been to as a singer/songwriter and worship leader. In truth, these songs represent the move of God among the people he serves. Dustin would be the first to say he’s just the note taker.
“When I started writing songs for our church I realized that there were songs that we needed that weren’t out there. One night I was in the basement working after the kids were asleep, and I felt God tell me, ‘I don’t want you to be a songwriter. I want you to be a chronicler. Watch what I’m doing and chronicle it so that others will see and know that it can happen to them too.’ I was supposed to chronicle the move of God through song… I went from never writing a song to writing 20 songs a week.”
How Dustin came to be at World Revival Church, now in Kansas City, Missouri, is, in itself, an unlikely story. What began as “the cornfield revival” of Smithton, Missouri, World Revival Church became a magnet for people hungry to experience God’s presence in tangible ways.
Formerly on staff at a large church on the east coast, Dustin and his family were tired of going through the religious motions week in and week out. When they heard about the Smithton revival from family, they packed up the car and headed west, desperate to breathe deeply again. There was no job and certainly not a job at the church, but Dustin and his wife didn’t care. “I said, ‘I will clean the toilets. I just want to be there. I want to help in any way I can, but I’m not looking for a job or a position to do anything,’” he says of the couple’s move to Kansas City in 2002.
Dustin got a job on a farm painting barns for $8/hour and started volunteering in the youth ministry. He started going to high schools to minister to students and got so involved, he left his painting job to work midnights, flipping doughnuts, just to free up his days to work with the kids. After a few months of volunteering, Dustin was offered the youth ministry position. Dustin says of the position, “I could have lived happily ever after as a youth pastor.”
Then one day, the worship pastor asked Dustin to test out a new keyboard during a rehearsal. Dustin was mortified. Though he’d had four years of vocal training, he was definitely not “a pro” on keys at that point. Recalling the experience, Dustin says he “butchered it.” But then the pastor asked him to play and sing on Sunday. He wanted to say no, but being the kind of guy who jumps in where he’s needed, he did what was asked. He later spent many nights, plunking out songs on the piano, seeking the face of God. “I thought I had been learning to play the piano,” he says, “but God had been teaching me to worship.”
In 2006, when the worship pastor moved away and the search committee couldn’t seem to find a good fit for the role, the pastor asked Dustin to step in. Since that time, Dustin has led thousands of people in worship and has taught both in Kansas City and at conferences around the world. He also has led countless others via weekly television broadcasts carried by Daystar TV for three years. Dustin has ministered in 30 different states within the U.S., and in countries including Canada, Malaysia, Uganda, Poland, Amsterdam and the United Kingdom, and he oversees a ministry that has trained hundreds of worship teams, equipping them to serve at their local churches.
Nearly nine years later, the ministry God ordained for Dustin Smith—a vessel simply willing to be used however God sees fit—continues to flourish in COMING ALIVE, a 12-song set indicative of what worship sounds like… a live and loud response to an extraordinary move of God.
Co-produced by Dustin and Kyle Lee (Michael W. Smith, Pocket Full of Rocks), COMING ALIVE is a passionate expression of revival seekers singing in response to the move of God. “I believe people want to be part of something bigger than themselves,” Dustin says. “When you find people who will give up everything to pursue God, they show up on purpose, they cry out to God and become consumed by worship of Him… that should really be the heart of the church and that’s what this album is all about.”
COMING ALIVE, perhaps even more than his previous album, RUSHING WATERS, digs down deeper into the intimacy underneath the exuberance of worship. “Our pastor always says height plus depth equals length in Revival,” Dustin explains. “When you go to the heights you get to see who He is. And it’s exciting and reinvigorating. Isaiah said, ‘I looked in a throne room and saw Him seated on a throne,’ and he said, ‘Woe is me! I am undone.’ I think we’ve got a little of that ‘woe is me, I am undone’ in this, but not in a negative context.”
The title track, written with Stu G (Delirious? / One Sonic Society), is simultaneously a prophesy over the congregation and a call to worship. “I love where this song takes us,” Dustin says of the driving anthem. “Because of what he has done in our lives, we are coming alive. Essentially, we are the fulfillment of the song.”
“Home” one of the seminal songs on the record, speaks of the dichotomy of God’s presence—the fear, the conviction, the longing and the embrace. “Sometimes it looks different than we think it should,” Dustin says. “It’s not a place we can control. Like the lyric says, ‘It doesn’t feel safe here, but it’s always good…’”
Co-written with Ed Cash, “We Want To Know You” is but one of several “presence-driven” songs, Dustin says. “The first line begins, ‘Take us into a place where angels stand amazed and every voice knows who you are.’ You can almost hear our entry into the presence of God, all together.”
Not unlike the earliest days of Jesus Culture, in these and all the songs of COMING ALIVE, the live corporate expression is as organic as it is worshipful. “We’re not writing songs to make better church services. I couldn’t care less about that. We’re not interested in chasing radio. It’s the heart of God we’re chasing. There really is a generation that is seeking something real, something raw and not super polished, something that meets them in their desperate seasons, gives voice to their brokenness and reminds them that God is right there in it with them.”
For Dustin Smith, there is no doubt, no hesitation in his pursuit of worship, not for commercial success but as a witness to the life-giving power of God among the people, be it in Kansas City, Nashville or Uganda. In laying everything down and being willing to do whatever just to be in a place where God is moving, he emerged with new purpose.
“God really does use simple things to confound the wise,” he says. “He doesn’t necessarily want it to make sense. …I’m a middle-aged balding father of three. And I’m getting to do all these amazing things, and it’s not because I’ve got it all together…. It sounds super spiritual to say, but the truth of it is, I’d die for it.”
For more information on Dustin Smith, visit www.dustinsmith.com.