“Overflow,” the worship album released in June by singer-songwriter and worship leader Michael Bethany, came from his own prayer closet.
“As a matter of fact, that’s what ‘overflow’ means. It’s not an overflow of blessings; it’s an overflow of intimacy. It’s not overflow to us, but it’s overflow coming out of us. It’s being with God until it overflows into our everyday life,” Bethany said.
Two of the album’s songs — “Fill the Room” and “He is Lord” — came right out of Bethany’s personal worship time. He was praying and simply started singing each one. “Walk with You” arose from his daily meditation time.
“I journal daily about intimacy with God — just get up and pray and look for Scriptures in the Bible,” he said. “Those lyrics were birthed out of that. That song concept came out of my journal, so when I started to write the song I had to open my journal. This was what I have been talking to God about.”
Not only did many of the songs come directly from that place of worship, but the recording was also made live in a worship setting. It was recorded with a group of college students at the King’s University at Gateway in Southlake, Texas.
The songs weren’t performed; they were the heart of a worship service. The students didn’t simply watch the songs being sung and played; they joined in, raising their voices and their hands in worship.
“Overflow” has had an incredible reception. As exciting as that is, the opportunities that have arisen can cause stress, with new things to steward and constant judgements made about whether a certain opportunity is from God or not.
Bethany compared the album’s creation and release to a harvest.
“Once you’ve prayed and you’ve watered and you’ve nurtured and you’ve prayed and there was a storm, and God miraculously preserved your crop — whatever that is for you — once it’s fully mature, it’s time to go harvest it. And that’s work,” Bethany said.
“Harvesting is sometimes more difficult than planting because what you planted were seeds. They were easy to manage. You just needed faith to believe that God was going to do something with this.”
The harvest is so much bigger than the seeds that were planted, he said. So much has to be done — build storage bins, plan systems to take care of the harvest, obtain needed tools. It can’t be done in a day.
Furthermore, the harvest might need processing.
“You’ve got to turn it into something useful for people so that it can become a blessing, not just to you but to your community and maybe even the world,” he said.
Harvest for Bethany means a lot of decisions. He is committed more to God and to his wife and two sons than to travel. He knows that if he’s so exhausted from traveling, he’s not good for anyone.
He prays about every opportunity he has to minister and doesn’t always say yes.
Bethany has already won two BMI Christian Awards. As his worship songs become more popular, he recognizes that he has to be careful to keep perspective of who he is and who God is.
He likens it to Isaiah’s vision of being in God’s presence in Isaiah 6.
“When you see God rightly, you see you rightly. There’s no award I could ever win or be given or accolade I could ever have that changes what I see in God’s presence. I know the truth. I think to live in pride is to live outside the presence of God because you can’t be in the presence of God and give yourself a pat on the back.
“As long as God is the focus of my worship, I’ll never become the focus,” he said.
However, Bethany is very grateful when he sees what God is doing with his music.
Not long after the release of “Overflow,” Bethany was having a really bad day. He was at the airport and felt defeated. He even wondered if he was cut out to do this ministry.
He got a message from a worship leader who was going through a really rough period with her husband. She told Bethany that the “Overflow” album was “like a personal revival.”
He was amazed that even when he was incredibly discouraged and his own music wouldn’t even encourage him, at that same moment, God was using those songs to impact someone else’s life.
“I’m in the airport and I’m crying,” he said. “I’m like, someone’s real life is being transformed at the very moment I feel like I need help. God just is showing me, ‘I’m using you when you don’t even know that I’m using you. This album has been released to be a part of people’s lives in real time. Remember a year ago when you wrote this song? Someone’s having that experience right now and it’s changing their marriage.’
“By God’s grace, we get to do all of these amazing things. Every testimony represents some challenge that we had to be faithful enough for that testimony to exist. It all works together. God’s grace is sufficient, overflowing and abundant in our lives, so I’m so grateful for all of those things God is doing.”
To learn more about Bethany and his music, go to michaelbethany.com.