Interview: Trip Lee talks Rise: Get Up and Live in God’s Great Story

Trip Lee Reel Gospelby Sam Robinson

Just a few weeks ago, Trip Lee released his second book, Rise: Get Up and Live in God’s Great Story. It’s a brilliant read that will challenge you to live for God in everything, and raises some important challenges, particularly for young people (read our review here). I had the privilege of speaking with Trip earlier this week to talk about some of the issues raised in the book, Trip’s love for God’s word, and a recent run-in with a selfie stick.

SAM: Where in the world are you, Trip?

TRIP: I’m in Atlanta today. In my house in Atlanta.

And you’re currently on a break in the middle of your Rise tour, with KB. How has it been?

The tour has been really good. So far we’ve just kicked off the first leg, six cities. It’s been amazing, man. I worked really hard on the tour itself to make sure we’re giving people a good show. Tried to put a really unique experience together with content from the book and music from the [Rise] album. I’ve been really encouraged by the response to it so far.

Have there been any funny moments on the tour?

There’s always funny moments… In Jacksonville a dude did just decide he wanted to jump on stage with a selfie stick during Manolo. That was interesting. I wanted to like message to him ‘Get off the stage!’ but not be mean to him, all while still rapping my verse. That was interesting.

As a Christian artist, is there an awkwardness of wanting to be polite and show them kindness when that happens?

Of course! I’m not gonna be a jerk – punch them in the face! But, at the same time, I put a show together, you should respect that! I might give them a nice little nudge and say, ‘Hey – you might want to jump back in the crowd now.’

And when they come on stage with a selfie stick! Well let’s talk about your new book, Rise: Get Up and Live in God’s Great Story. This book has made a real impact on me this year. How long did it take you to write it?

I came up with the outline and idea for it back at the end of 2013. And I pretty much sat down and wrote the book in a month-and-a-half. End of ’13, beginning of ’14. And then that was the first manuscript and it went through editing for a few months after that. It was a whole lot of ideas from my head and I poured them all out in a month-and-a-half. Which is not how I want to continue to do books.

How did it fit in with the timeline of the album? Which came first?

I had the idea for the book first. And then I had already started on the record. I had a bunch of the tracks, and I started to write some and took a break from the album for about a month-and-a-half while I wrote the book. Then I got back to the record after that.

Your previous book, The Good Life, was quite evangelistic in the way it went through the gospel, and showed that a good life is how God designed it to be lived. Did you feel that Rise is a natural extension to that, for believers?

I think so. I aimed it specifically at younger Christians… I think it was more for Christians who were younger in age. But I wanted to write in a way that anybody could relate to it. The Good Life is more evangelistic and Rise is more aimed at Christians. So if I meet somebody and they are not a Christian and I could give them one of my books, it would be The Good Life. I think that book is more devoted to laying out the bare basics.

For me, the concept of Rise is something that’s been missing in the Christian book world for young people. Is that what motivated you to write this book?

Partly, yeah. Part of it is seeing the messages our culture tells us while we’re young. And then thinking, ‘Man, I don’t know if anybody is speaking to the young people who follow my music.’ That motivated me to want to write this book and I hope it’s encouraging. I talked to a lot of people who have already read the book, or who read parts of it, and they have been encouraged. So that to me feels like a win. If there’s seven people whose lives are deeply impacted, and encouraged to really get up and live now, then that’s a win for me.

For sure. In the book, you open up about your struggles and you encourage your readers to share their sin with fellow brothers and sisters. And you helpfully point out that we pretend that we have it all together. Sort of fear of man stuff. I’ve got a quote here – ‘Why do we pretend like we’re not sick when we are?’ – why do you think we struggle with this so much?

I think we struggle with it a lot because we don’t like other people seeing our mess. We don’t like to be exposed. We like to keep up the facade. I think it’s because we go back in our minds to thinking that the most important thing in life is keeping up our image. And us being exposed as sinful and messed up could only mean bad things. But in reality, what it means to be a Christian is to expose yourself as a sinner and throw yourself on the mercy of Jesus, and in order to grow as a Christian you have to continue… You can’t go back and pretend you’re not a sinner or you don’t do anything wrong! We have to continue to be honest about our sin and where we are so we can grow. God’s given us each other for that. Given us his Word for that. And that’s something that I struggle with myself. When I write chapters like that it’s not like a scientist who has read some books about these people who struggle with fear of man. No, I struggle with this deeply in my own heart. As I’m writing, these are things that I use in my own heart to try to find a way to fight against that.

And another quote that stood out to me: ‘God made every sphere of life, He rules over every sphere of life, and he can be glorified in every sphere of life.’ That struck me, and it made me think, why is it that we as Christians find that such a hard thing to grasp? It’s true! Why do you think that we find it hard to realise that God is Lord of everything?

I think we like to compartmentalise. We like to think of our work life, and then our home life. And then our spiritual life. We like to put things off into their own little quadrants. And then we like to put God in one of those, like he only cares about one of those. It’s hard for us to think of God as Lord over all of that. Not only is he Lord of all that, he cares for all that. And he can be honoured in all of that. And I think that’s something that I really wrestled to understand early on as a Christian. As I was at church, and saw more and more of it in Scripture. I don’t think we’ll be very good employees or managers. I don’t think we’ll be very good neighbours. Very good husbands and wives, until we really understand God being Lord over everything.

You share a lot in this book about how God has grown you. Was it helpful to look back and see just how God has been at work in your life, as you wrote this book?

Of course, yeah! It’s hard for me not to write in a personal way. It’s hard for me to reflect on things as I reflected on my own journey with Him. And it’s always cool to do that, because I think back and I’m like, ‘Man, I was pretty annoying, but I loved Jesus!’ Man, that might not have actually been the right thing I did right there, but the fact that I was willing to do that – I was actually committed to Jesus. And that’s only something that God could have done in my heart as a little annoying teenager who just got his driver’s license even though I probably shouldn’t have had it. It’s really cool to look back and see the ways that God worked in me, even while I was still very immature in many ways. God gave me a love for Him in my heart, and I’m grateful for that.

Your fans have had a few months to digest the new album, how do you see this book not just connecting with, but complementing the record?

Yeah. I think one of the ways it connects is that the music is almost a celebration of some of those truths. I mean, the way people digest music – they put it in their CD player and they usually don’t listen to music to learn stuff. They may! That’s definitely not why people put it in though. They put it in because they want to have a good time, or they want it to take them somewhere. So when you listen to music, it connects with you emotionally and stirs up things that can either motivate you to do something, or help you to feel grief rightly about something. To help you reflect on something in your life, or give you inspiration or encouragement.

So it’s almost like a book gets to go very deep and does something intellectually. I wanted to connect with your emotions, but it’s helping you think more deeply about things. It’s helping you to examine parts of your life. It’s pushing you to study scripture. And then the album, you get to celebrate those truths. You get to respond emotionally to the stuff that God says. You get to reflect on it a little bit more. And also, you’re probably not going to read every chapter of my book a hundred times, but you may listen to my album a hundred times! And it may drive those things deeper into you more and more. So I love getting to impact people one way with music, and a whole different way with the book. I think they complement each other well.

Yeah. I should ask you actually, while we’re talking about your album, do you ever get sick of people asking where your cabin in Manolo is?

[Laughs] People ask me that all the time! ‘Hey, Manolo! What’s that mean?’ That’s what I get for throwing down cryptic hooks.

Yeah! Maybe next album you could give directions to the cabin? Holiday leases?

[Laughs]

Well, getting back to the book, you write about how we like to tamper with the gospel, water it down, domesticate it. Make it more palatable. You say, ‘tampering with the gospel reveals how you actually feel about it.’ Now that to me is a huge rebuke. The gospel is always going to go out because it’s God’s power, but do you think that we Christians can be a threat to it sometimes?

Of course, yeah. And when I’m saying that, I’m thinking about what Paul is saying when he’s saying he sets forth the truth plainly, not tampering with it. And when we tamper with something it means we think it needs improvement, or it needs some kind of change. So when I want to tell somebody about Jesus, and I feel funny about being honest about sin and I just twist that a little bit or twist what’s emphasised, that shows that I think the gospel itself isn’t powerful enough. Or, it shows what the gospel does is not what I’m trying to accomplish. You know. So the only thing I really want to do is come to my church, then maybe it’d be better if I just said something nice and said, ‘Hey! We have cookies for you. Come and see the cookies!’ But if I wanted to see someone saved, the only message that can do that is the gospel. And if I just change that, that shows I don’t think it’s sufficient to do that. I think we get in dangerous waters. I don’t think we do that purposely with ill motives most of the time, but it’s good to examine our hearts. If I feel uncomfortable with laying forth the truth plainly, then I have to ask myself what’s going on in my heart.

Definitely. Speaking of God’s word, one thing that you encourage me in on your albums and tweets is your deep love for the scriptures. And that comes up again and again in this book. Do you have any tips on how to read the Bible regularly and enable it to sink deep? People can see reading the Bible as a chore or a duty – what tips do you have to love it better?

Yeah, I think one of the things that helped me to love God’s word more – one thing was sitting under good preaching of God’s word. So, when we hear mediocre preaching that doesn’t take the text seriously… [Grabs Bible] So I’ve got my Bible right here with me now. It says, ‘Arise, O Lord. Let not man prevail.’ Imagine that someone says, ‘If you don’t rise with the Lord in the morning, then you’ll never do anything!’ When we hear preaching that doesn’t take the text seriously, we’re not going to take the text seriously. We’re not going to fall in love with God’s word, because someone always interprets it in some mystical way that nobody could ever figure out. But when we hear good, powerful preaching that takes the text seriously and helps us to understand what it says, that helps us to learn and read our Bible, and that helps us to see all the good stuff that’s in it. So that’s a huge thing.

And honestly, I think one of the big things is study it for yourself! Even when it’s hard, give time to really get in it. Because it’s so good! There’s times when I don’t even want to get into the Bible and then I do, and I’m like, ‘What am I doing? This is so amazing! Why am I acting like it’s a burden or something? This is where I read about God! There’s so much good stuff for life and good stuff to help me think better about all kinds of things.’ I want to encourage people to really press through and invest in the things that are going to help you understand the Bible better. There was a book I read early on, Living By the Book, which helped me think about Bible study methods. When I go to it, how do I begin to understand it? Those are things that can seem clinical, but those are things that help us understand God’s word more.

Was there anything you wanted to include in this book but had to cut?

The porn chapter almost didn’t make the book, just because of time stuff. But after that first draft I knew I had to add it in. So I did. There was a social media chapter that didn’t make it in because of time. There were a few chapters like that which didn’t make it in because of time. But I don’t feel like the book is incomplete. There’s always more you could say.

Or leave it for a sequel, Trip!

There it is! There it is! [Laughs]

What’s your prayer for this book? How do you hope it will encourage and shape those who read it?

I hope that there are people who maybe haven’t ever encountered God in a meaningful way. Maybe they’re young and the preacher talks but they don’t really connect with them, or they haven’t really connected with the Bible much. And if this book can help break through, and show the beauty of knowing God and living for God even now, I hope that there’s some people who can feel secure. Even those who think, ‘I’m going to live for God later, I’m just having fun now,’ I hope that some people read this book and it destroys them. And it feels like, ‘I can’t do that.’ I hope it brings people to brokenness like that and really pushes them to begin that journey of following God now. And there might be some people who read it who don’t think that God matters all that much. I pray that God will use the book to awaken all kinds of things in young people.

Now you’re halfway through this tour with KB. Are you going to bring this tour to Australia?

I don’t have any current plans to bring it to Australia but I would love to. I really want to get back to Australia sometime soon.

You’re probably sick of being asked this question – people thought you had retired from music before the Rise album came out. Can we expect more music from you in the future?

My best answer to that question is, I think so. I feel the itch to write music and to create. I have a million ideas for songs and records, and I’m very ambitious. I would love to put out many, many more albums. A lot of it depends on the continued trajectory of my life. My health, my pastoral ministry, my family, all of those kind of things. I think so though! If I had to guess, I would say yes. But we’ll see.

You’re a busy man. Is it true that you’ll release another book this year?

I won’t be releasing another one this year. I have another book due this year. Lord willing, it will come out next year. I’m working on that, in beginning stages on it now.

Excellent. I look forward to reading it and talking to you about that as well. Thanks so much for your time, Trip. It’s been a delight to meet you and chat about this book.

Thanks man. Appreciate it.

trip-lee-rise-bookRise: Get Up and Live in God’s Great Story by Trip Lee is available now, and can be ordered here. Read our review of the book here. You can pre-order a copy here. Read our review of Trip Lee’s album Rise, here.

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