In the theological world of Jeff McCreight, there is ministry and there is gift. Ministry is his work as a longtime Lubbock pastor. Gift is his incredible singing voice. Most of the time, the two work together.
McCreight, lead pastor of Rock City Church, has recently recorded a new musical project with a single entitled “You Ain’t Looking Hard Enough,” receiving airplay and positive reviews from critics and fans alike.
“I feel like ministry is my assignment and singing is my gift,” McCreight said recently. “Part of the reason we recorded these songs is I felt like I needed to give God a better return than I had on my gift. It turned out that when I gave the least effort, it was like he started swinging elbows to open doors.”
McCreight has been a steady presence in the local music scene for some time, but the death of his older brother Rick as a result of cancer at age 56 in February 2020 reinvigorated his creative musical focus.
“There was a realization that if I was going to do something with this life, I’ve got to get going,” he said. “I’ve needed to do this for decades, but I just had tunnel vision on a lot of other good things that I was committed to.”
Things fell into place as far as timeline, contacts, songs and musicians. The result is “Standing,” a compilation that celebrates positive, easily overlooked, messages in today's society.
“Every song has some idea of standing, whether it’s about love or patriotism,” he said. “I was so blessed to get the songs I got.”
The project wasn’t easy. The creative process never is. But the path was surprisingly smooth from conception to reality. “I walked in the studio, and we cut three tracks in two and a half hours,” he said. “They (studio musicians) had never heard the songs before. We sat there in the control room, played a song and then recorded it in one take. As far as the first cut, there were very few retakes. It was just really cool. I can hear every one of the songs on the radio; there’s not a weak song in the whole mix. That’s the favor of God.”
Recording began in Nashville, where McCreight and studio musicians cut three tracks in their first session. A little later, they got back together and cut five more songs. The final three songs were recorded in Lubbock.
“Eight of the songs are Nashville written, and two are from Lubbock guys, and one we’re re-releasing,” he said. “I walked into the studio in Nashville. The producer I was with scheduled it, and I just sort of show up to cut these first three songs. In the studio are 40-year session veterans of Nashville, hall of fame people. I didn’t know them then, but I checked them out later, and they were some of the most successful studio cats in Nashville.”
Following the studio sessions, the music was mixed and mastered in Lubbock. McCreight and his fellow musicians knew they had something special from the start, but the finished project confirmed their thoughts.
“The writers of the songs all contacted me,” he said. “They said they had no idea the songs could sound like this. The songs are fun, but they are moral. The Bible is the message center of the spirit, and music is the message center of the soul. David (writer of many of the Bible's Psalms) was a songwriter and musician. You can say something in a song that can sometimes touch people more than a church service or devotion.”
Obviously, McCreight sees music as much more than words and notes trying to convey a message. His hope is these songs and the values they embody resonate with people in a way that causes them to think.
“I believe music is going to be a vital part of our culture turning positive and turning back to God,” he said. “Every generation has had music. When the writers asked what I wanted, I said I wanted good songs teenagers could listen to without mom and dad cringing. I want songs that make people lonesome for good values. We know the difference between right and wrong. I hope these songs set the hook for people to examine their lives and make adjustments as far as getting back to what life should be about.”
The recently released first single reflects this, he said. ”It basically says if you can’t see the love around you, you’re not looking hard enough. It’s about people helping people.”
McCreight is optimistic additional singles will be released in the months to come, giving the project long-term traction, an elusive commodity in the music world.
And while the success is nice, the project is also about using one’s gift in a way that honors God.
“I am still amazed at how easy it’s been once I just took a step,” he said. “A phrase came to mind that you look down the street at a door and ask God to open the door, and if it's not opened, you get frustrated because it wasn’t God’s will. But God won’t open a door until your fingers are on the knob. Once you try, his power and favor kick in and things get done.”
Doug Hensley is associate regional editor and director of commentary for the Avalanche-Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com
This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: Lubbock Rock City Church's Jeff McCreight's new music a labor of love