Listen: Taya Smith chats to Hope 103.2’s Duncan Robinson. Above: Images from Instagram.
It’s been more than two years since the Hillsong United film Let Hope Rise was first an idea taking shape in the mind of director Michael John Warren.
Considered and discarded by a number of distributors – possibly because it had too much ‘Jesus’, according to singer Taya Smith – it was almost killed off when Relativity Media went bankrupt.
But God was at work behind the scenes and the film, now distributed by PureFlix, is hitting Aussie cinema screens for the first time tonight. Speaking to Hope 103.2’s Duncan Robinson, Taya said it’s arrived at just the right time.
“Hopefully people would see the greater story, that is Jesus doing amazing things through ordinary people.”
“This film has definitely gone through a bit of a journey over the last two-and-a-bit years…but we’re just believing that it is God’s perfect timing,” she said.
“I feel like now, more than ever, people are open to the gospel and asking questions, and maybe it’s a reflection of the times we’re in. The world is a little bit of a hopeless place, and I feel like people are open to hope and to who Jesus is and what He offers, in comparison to what the world offers.”
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Its Own New Genre: A Cinematic Worship Experience
The movie – a documentary-style film telling the story of Hillsong Church and what God is doing in peoples’ lives through the lens of the Hillsong United youth band – has inspired pre-screening audiences to stand up, lift their hands and sing along in worship themselves. It’s inspired the promoters to give the movie its own new genre name: a Worship Theatrical Experience.
Taya’s hope is that people watching in cinemas will not only encounter the story of a great church, but a great God.
“We hope that what people would see isn’t necessarily our story, but weaved within it, that they would find their own story, and local volunteers at churches all around Australia, I hope that they would be encouraged and see their own story within ours,” she said. “Hopefully for people who may not even have met Jesus yet, they would actually see the greater story in that is Jesus doing amazing things through ordinary people.”
From Country Girl To Global Singer
Taya told Duncan that the experience of going from a Lismore country girl, to a world-travelling worship leader now appearing on cinema screens, was “surreal”.
“I had never ever imagined that we would ever get to play at some of the places we’ve been blessed to play at, but that even there would be a film about our church that we’d be a part of,” she said. “It had to be God because it couldn’t have been anything that I orchestrated. It says in the film, I came to Sydney with $200 in my bank and just felt like it was the right time and it was like a move of faith.”
Originally Taya’s dream was to use her voice in secular music, but it seems God changed that.
“The gig stuff just never compared to being in church. I’ve always just loved worship.”
“I thought I was going to go into secular music, but when I chose to be planted in a church, God just blessed that,” she said. I had a bit of a hidden season just being at Hillsong Church and serving as a youth leader as part of the youth team…I got to cultivate and figure out my own relationship with Jesus.
“I got a taste of what the secular industry would be like and every time I’d go out in the week and do a gig and then come back to church and be the backing vocalist, the gig stuff just never compared to being in church. I’ve always just loved worship. And even though I get that it’s a paradox being a worship leader when there’s attention drawn to you, the whole thing actually isn’t about you, it’s about Jesus.
“You’re trying to draw people to look at Him. There’s something so nice and freeing about that. Because all I can really do is be me, and the attention isn’t on me anyway.”
Coming Home to be Normal
Lesley-Leanne you are kind, funny, generous, always thinking of others and there is so much ahead of you yet – I am confident your best is yet to come – love you Mumma and thank you for loving me first X X X #partyincanadia #maplebaconpancakes #bestlooking65yearold #sorrymum #butitstrueyouvegotgoodskin #loveyoules #lesleylonglegs #stillgotthecurls #gowildanddyethem #idareyouha #loveyou
Above: Taya and her mum. Picture: Instagram
Experiencing the heights of Christian-culture fame may be a whirlwind but Taya said she’s grateful every time she comes home to the everyday life of Sydney.
“I’m so thankful for my planting here at church in Sydney and the people I get to do life with,” she said. “They keep you grounded and keep you remembering to keep the main thing the main thing, which is Jesus and what He’s doing.
“It’s so healthy to be able to just come home and be a normal pastor on our staff, hang out with our volunteers and do life with them and not be some crazy rock star—because we’re actually not. You’ll see in the movie, we’re very ordinary people, very normal, and if God can do something crazy in our lives like this, then he can definitely do something like that in your life, whatever it may be.”
Reaching People One at a Time
Thousands are expected to see the film in the coming weeks, but the one audience member Taya Smith is most excited about is her cousin—who’s not a Christian, has never come to church, but who posted an invite on Facebook asking her friends to come and see it with her.
“This is such a crazy God-thing that even my family who have never been open to Jesus, are actually promoting to go to a film that just tells the greater story of Jesus and who He is,” she said. “My hope is that people take that as an opportunity for people who have been hard to reach. You never know what God can do.”