William Murphy talks about this season in his life, his relationship with Tasha Cobbs and composing songs that become larger than life.
Certain songs in the new millennium have changed the landscape of Gospel music forever, shifting the hearts and imagination of men and women towards heavenly heights. These selections are more than melodies composed by creative scribes.
They’re anointed anthems and powerful praise songs that capture the sound of Heaven. Songs like We Fall Down featuring Donnie McClurkin or Alpha & Omega by Israel Houghton or Break Every Chain sung by Tasha Cobbs are all examples of a collective chorus singing the spiritual language of surrender and serenity.
Another composer and Christ-follower who’s offered songs that’ve turned millions towards Christ is pastor of The Dream Center in Atlanta, GA and perennial praise leader, William Murphy, a humble servant who will forever be connected with the blessed ballad, Praise Is What I Do, a sacred signature song that ranks among the favorites in the 21st century.
Murphy‘s latest album – God Chaser – is a collection of even more worship songs for the body of Christ. Songs likeYou Reign and It’s Working have been adapted and reinterpreted by thousands of churches in America and abroad. BlackGospel.com spoke with William Murphy about this exciting season in his life, his special, spiritual relationship withTasha Cobbs and composing songs that become larger than life.
Christopher Heron: Pastor William Murphy, I’d like to know a few of your interests, just to reveal the personality behind the pulpit. For instance, what would be one of your favorite restaurants in Atlanta.
William Murphy: Let’s see, one of my favorite restaurants in Atlanta would probably have to be the Cheesecake Factory. We love the Cheesecake Factory, that’s our place. And we like to go to Papadeaux. Those places are relatively close to our church. Then of course there’s J Alexander’s. Those are our places. We frequent both those places almost every week. We should probably own stock in them, but…those are our places.
Christopher Heron: When there’s time to pamper yourself, what’s your favorite hobby? What’s an activity you enjoy when you just want to be good to Pastor Murphy?
William Murphy: We could live in the movie theater. We don’t get to do it often, but that’s something that we like to do when we get a free Monday. We just go and spend some time in the theater. That’s about it.
Christopher Heron: And what’s a city you would consider your home away from home? A place that either you love to vacation, or a place that you love to kick it. A place that you even love performing at, what is that city?
William Murphy: You know what, I was recently in Houston. I’m probably here maybe six to eight times a year. This is a really good area for me. Of course, I’m now in a Pastor’s conference. We’re a part of what’s called the Association of Independent Ministries. So, we have meetings here, three or four times a year. Then the city calls me back to minister. So, I’m here every other month it seems like. So Houston is a really good place for me. And then of course, of course, New York City is like, my favorite place to be. I’m going to own property in New York Cityone day. So, if anyone who’s reading this article wants to give me a brownstone, I’m open to the blessings of the Lord.
Christopher Heron: Alright, I’m going to switch gears to the album, God Chaser. It’s really resonated with the saints. Why do you believe that this particular album has been embraced by gospel music fans?
William Murphy: When we started preparing for this record, what God had told me is that he had given me a collection of prophetic songs. So, I think one of the reasons people are just so drawn to the music is because the songs are really words of prophecy that are set to melody. So when people hear it, it’s almost like they’re hearing from God. Because again, it’s words of prophecy that God gave us to set to melody. So, where people are in their lives, when they hear this music, it sounds like it’s already getting better, it’s already getting easier. I was in Houston and a guy walked up to me and just looked at me with a glaze in his eyes and said to me, “it’s already getting better. It’s already getting easier.” The songs are so…I call them “right now songs”. They’re songs that meet people where they are right now.
That’s why people are just… even the record is not a new record, but it’s new every week because people are just getting wind of the songs with the success of It’s Working, which, again, is another prophetic song, This is my Season for Grace and Favor, God is Leaning In My Direction. As I travel across the country running through airports, people are like, “God’s leaning in my direction!” and people are gravitating to this ‘right now’ word of encouragement. It’s been a tremendous blessing to see how a song God gave me some years ago – It’s Working – a song that I wrote in church one day at the end of a message is seven years old.
Christopher Heron: Wow.
William Murphy: There was a moment… in our circle we call it ‘the song of the Lord’, where you have this moment in God’s presence and you hear this song and it’s like a prophetic song and you just start singing, and everybody grabs it and it’s a blessing. That was seven years ago and I started singing it at the end of service. I would listen to it several times. I just thought that it was something God gave me for me, and it was for that moment.
I was able to capture it on an iPod, believe it or not. This was back when iPods had the little attachment at the bottom where you could just press record. I would listen to the song several times a month and it would speak to my heart. I was getting ready to do this record believe it or not, Tye Tribbett was supposed to produce this record with me. We’re even talking now about him producing the next record with me. So, pray and cross your fingers and do everything you need to do for that. We’re talking about it now.
He had come by the house when we were living in Atlanta. We were just sitting around the house and I was playing some music for him. And he heard It’s Working and said, “You have to put this on your record.” I thought, “well you know, it’s like a little chant, it’s kind of like… I didn’t really sit down and write it like a song, but the way that God had given it to me, it was a ‘right now’ song. So as I travel the country ministering this song, it speaks to the hearts of people in a way that I could have never imagined.
Somebody sent me a video clip from South Africa the other day where they’re singing It’s Working. It’s gone viral, so to speak. It’s gone literally across the globe. But it’s because it’s a word from God, and when people hear it they know it’s God speaking to them. I am beyond grateful that God would give me something that would continue to speak to the heart of people globally. That’s why I think people are gravitating to God Chaser, because again, the song just meets people right where they are.
Christopher Heron: I host a Sunday morning gospel radio show and the song You Reign is the one that really gained traction with my audience.
William Murphy: Yeah, that was the first single that we released on the record…again, a song that was written in our church with one of our spiritual daughters, who is actually now a pastor in Saint Louis. She went home to pastor her dad’s church. We just installed her as the pastor in the West End Mount Carmel Full Gospel Baptist Chu
rch in August. Pastor Maya White wrote that song in our church, and then when it was time to record it I made a few adjustments to it and added some lyrics. So, she gave me a writer’s credit, but really she birthed the song.
Churches are singing it everywhere. I walked in a church the other night and they were singing it. It’s amazing! You know what Christopher, this is really my assignment. It’s part of what God has called me to do. I call them “tools”. God gives me these tools that enable people to encounter God’s presence. You Reign is another one of those tools that God so graciously gave us to give to people that they could use it to encounter God’s presence on a consistent basis.
There hasn’t been one time that I’ve raised that song and not gotten a response from God. I think that’s the testimony across the country as people listen and raise it in their churches and play it on the radio and in their cars, that as those words go up over my circumstance, You Reign. God responds to it, and people are blessed because of God’s presence as they raise that song.
Christopher Heron: Perhaps my favorite song that I’ve heard you record in the last couple of years is The Anthem, the song that you recorded with the Full Gospel Baptist Church
. It’s an enormous hit with the Planet Shakers in Contemporary Christian music. Whose idea was it to record that song on the album, and did you know it was also going to be very special the night that you recorded it?
William Murphy: You know, God has been so good and just faithful to our church. We started singing this song in our church. A lot of the songs that you hear are songs that we… even songs going down to…Break Every Chain…we started singing that song in church. Just out of that experience, we were like, “Wait a minute, this is not just something that worked in church, this is something that causes a release to the body of Christ.” So we started singing The Anthem.
I serve Bishop Paul S. Morton, Sr. and the Full Gospel Fellowship as the Bishop of Worship, so my responsibility is to make sure that globally we have leadership respective to worship. I’m responsible for making sure, globally, that in every region and state and district we have leadership for dancers and musicians and choirs and worship, and even administrators. So when we got ready to do the record, I just felt like that was one of the songs that we were supposed to release with Full Gospel. Of course, when we sing it throughout the fellowship it literally has become an anthem. People just sing it.
I wasn’t really supposed to sing the night of the recording because of course my record was fresh and my label was kind of like, “well, you can sing on it, but don’t sing, like it’s a hit. Don’t sing a song that’s going to turn into this gigantic song.” But that night was just amazing. The entire record was produced by another one of my spiritual sons, Ernest Vaughan. He goes by Vaughan Phoenix, you can find him on iTunes. He’s an incredible producer, singer, songwriter, preacher. This guy is just ultra gifted. He happens to be our worship leader at the Dream Center as well. So, when we started recording that night there was just such a response from God that we were all just blown away and just blessed by God’s presence that day, and praise God that the songs has become this anthem that people are singing everywhere.
I’m really excited that the song has become a bridge between cultures. That’s another part of our assignment, is to be a bridge builder, to be a point of connection between Christian music and Gospel music. That’s why you’ll hear those sounds fuse into what Tasha Cobb’s doing, you’ll hear it fused into what Gospel’s doing. You’ll hear it fused into what Vaughan Phoenix is doing.
This week alone, we’ve had three singles released on iTunes by guys who are connected to Full Gospel. The other day Diatra T. Langford released a cover of The Greatness of You, which is an incredible song that we do at Full Gospel. One of my international overseers, Pastor Lisa Weah, released a song called El Shaddai. That was written and produced by one of our other international overseers, Rod Lumpkin. Then one of our sons out of the Dream Center, Isaiah Freeman IV, he was one of the top ten finalist on Sunday’s Best, I think two seasons ago. He just released a song called Burning Heart. So, within a span of two days we’ve got three children from the Fellowship who are releasing singles. All of these songs, man, they’re like those songs that bridge cultures and close those gaps. So, I’m exited about all of what God is doing right now in my life and in the life of Full Gospel, and the Fellowship, and those who have been connected and serving in that organization for so many years. Again, Pastor Maya White, who I met when she was twelve years old. She was on my youth praise team twenty years ago, and now that same senior pastor is at a church in Saint Louis. It’s been amazing what God has done because of our faithfulness.
Christopher Heron: You know, for all the beautiful music that you, Pastor, have recorded over the past fifteen years, plus. You will forever be associated with Praise Is What I Do.
William Murphy: Forever?
Christopher Heron: Forever. I’m curious to know if you’re okay with it. Do you sing that song every time you receive that request?
William Murphy: Let me tell you something. We laugh and we joke about it. I told my family I’ll be singing Praise is What I Do every night until they have my own service. I’ll be singing it every night, every day. Do you understand, Christopher, how many guys who dream of having a song that people want them to sing over and over and over again. I think it’s one of the highest honors that God could ever bestow on me, to give me something that would feed my family and establish an inheritance and legacy for my children. It’s amazing. I was joking the other day. I said “they’ll be pushing me out in a wheelchair and I’ll still be singing Praise is What I do.” It is just an amazing honor to have written something like that. I share this testimony all the time that God gave me that song at a time when I thought that my ministry life was over.
I was in the process of getting divorced. I was at such a low place in my life, and I just thought, preachers don’t keep ministering after their marriages fall apart. I thought it was over. I started praying and asking God, what was I going to do? Because I thought my ministry life was over. And those words came to my spirit, “praise is what I do.” So, for the rest of my life, that’ll be my signature song. It’ll be something that I minister over and over, through the good and the bad, or the happy or the sad, through all that I go through. Praise Jesus is what I do. And it’s resonated with so many people. It’s been translated into God knows how many different languages. To this day, and I recorded this song maybe twelve years ago, and to this day, everywhere I go, people walk up to me and go, “that song was the song that got me through the roughest time of my life.” What else can you ask God for? I am extremely grateful and honored and humbled that God would make me the ‘Praise is What I do’ guy.
Christopher Heron: You mentioned so many of your proteges and I want to return to the one that has become a national figure, your spiritual daughter and former worship leader Tasha Cobbs, who’s really emerged as one of the leading voices in Gospel music.
William Murphy: She really has.
Christopher Heron: Could you have ever imagined her ministry to blossom the way it has in recent years?
William Murphy: Well, you know, there’s a spiritual side, and then there’s a natural side. And spiritually I am not in any way surprised. Tasha served our church and served my personal ministry for over seven years. And there’s a whole song that says you can’t beat God given. We just had a conversation maybe two hours ago. She’s no longer serving as a worship pastor, but she’s pastor of special events. So she is not just my friend, not just our formal worship leader, she literally is my spiritual daughter and still submitted to my life and my ministry. She displays that on a weekly basis. There’s nowhere she goes that I don’t know about. She’s fully submitted to me as her pastor, as a spiritual father. Am I surprised? Not at all, in the spiritual sense.
Now, on the natural side, you just sit back and you go, “wow!”, you sit back and you go, “OMG”. I’ll tell you a funny story, we started our church eight years ago, it’ll be nine years in January. We started our church January 15th 2006. We put it out and about three hundred people showed up. We had about two hundred and fifty seats, so you had some people standing around the walls, and the place is jam packed. I did the best preaching I could, Chris, I poured my heart out. I thought to myself, “man, the floodgates are going to open and people are going to join, and it’s going to be a great day for our church.” One person joined our church that day, and that one person was Tasha Cobbs. And the rest is history.
So, it’s kind of funny now. Of course it wasn’t funny that day. I was in a depression, like, “Oh I miss God, nobody joined the church!” Of course as weeks went by people starting coming. Even now, we’re in the process now of looking for another church. People are back to standing around the walls in two services. My wife is trying to talk me into going for a third service. God is doing some amazing things. So, on the spiritual side, I wouldn’t have expected anything less because of Tasha‘s faithfulness, commitment and loyalty. And then on the natural side, everyday I’m just blown away by what God has done and what I see God is doing. I give that praise that God’s been able to use our relationship as a model for the body of Christ.
I have people coming to me saying, “this relationship you have with Tasha is amazing, it’s awesome, you’re not jealous, you’re not holding her back.” And I’m going, “what are you talking about? I’ve not done anything special. This is the way things were always supposed to be.” I said to Tasha a few years ago when we were making that transition from her being our full time worship pastor. I said to her, “Nobody raises their kids for them to go live in the basement. You’ve got to go and do what God has called you to do. Everybody’s got a base, everybody’s got a home. This is your home, this is where you’ll be based out of. This is where you’ll be accountable too.” And she’s done that. Everything I’ve asked her to do, she’s done it. And you see the fruits of her submission, her loyalty and her obedience. I’ll say the same thing about Tasha that I say about myself. She hasn’t been perfect, but she has been faithful.
Christopher Heron: Amen. Pastor, I’m going to end with one final question. I know you’re a second or third generation preacher. Praise and preaching is what you do. Are you comfortable today in your skin, understanding that this is your assignment, to be a pastor, to be a worship leader, to spread the gospel through both word and song, doing Kingdom business for the rest of your life?
William Murphy: Man, I am absolutely comfortable. There’s a song I wrote a few years back, and we’re going to minister it on Sunday. It says, “I was created, just to give you all the glory. I was created just to worship and adore you. That is why I am here.” My mother was fifteen years old when I was born. My father was seventeen. They never married. If you look at it in a natural sense, people would say I was a mishap, I was a mistake, I was whatever. But man, I am supposed to be here, and this is what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m absolutely comfortable in my skin. I love pastoring the Dream Center Church of Atlanta. They’re the greatest group of folks, anywhere in the world. What God is going to do, in and through the partners of the Dream Center is going to be world changing. I’m excited to be a part of the leadership of this group of people who are going to glorify God in the earth and not just in the church. I am comfortable with it.
I can tell you one thing I am absolutely uncomfortable with, and God’s working on my heart, just like he worked on my heart with this whole pastoring thing. I’m coming into this whole apostolic thing where we’re planting churches, we’re covering other pastors, and you know, for me that’s like a “what in the world is going on.” To God be the glory for the things that he has done. We’re in the process now of actually planting a Dream Center in South Atlanta. There’s a Dream Center coming to East Atlanta. There’s going to be Dream Centers in other cities. I’ve got two pastors that I’m working with now, one in Houston and one in Cleveland. So, you know that old song which is, “every round goes higher and higher”, it’s ringing true. The music and the records and the church is not all that God is doing.
Of course, I owe so much to my pastor, Bishop Paul S. Morton, Sr. who gave me an opportunity to not just to serve Full Gospel, but to serve the body of Christ as a Bishop in the Lord’s church, which, of course, opens up a whole other avenue of ministry. I’ve been able to cover other pastors. I’m actually covering Pastor Bertha Cobbs, who is Tasha’s mom. Actually, her dad passed away back in January. Her mom picked up the reins and started pastoring the church. She called me one day and said, “I’ve been praying about it, and you’re my pastor. You’re the one who’s supposed to cover me.” Of course I started crying like a woman, but it was all good! So, God is just continuing to do these amazing things. When I tell you this song is becoming a staple in my life, that I haven’t been perfect, but I have been faithful. There’s something to be said about faithfulness and commitment and loyalty. When I look back over the last twenty years, how I walked with Bishop Morton and had the honor of serving him, how God just continued to elevate my life and give me opportunities that I absolutely do not deserve. But God is so faithful.
So I honor my pastor today, the same way Tasha honors me. And I honor my fathers, my dad, Bishop William Murphy Sr. who fourteen years ago released me. He didn’t just release me, he sent me to Atlanta to serve Bishop Eddie Long. Of course that opened up the door for us to be here in Atlanta, and to start the Dream Center here in Atlanta. Then of course my granddad, who sort of acts as an apostolic father for our family and covers us and gives us wisdom.
I’m just a blessed guy. I’ve got some guys in my life who keep me on the straight and narrow and get me back in line when I’m tripping. I’m a blessed man. Thank God. I just want to give a shout-out to my family. They give me the opportunity to serve the body of Christ. All of my children and my wife. I’m so grateful for what God is doing. And grateful for this opportunity to have shared this time with you. We don’t take it for granted. We appreciate you helping us to get the word out, for people to know what God is doing, we don’t take it for granted. We appreciate it.
For more information on The Dream Center, visit www.thedreamcenterchurch.org. For more information on William Murphy, visit www.williammurphy.org.