Tauren Wells’ Higher Calling
– By Stacey Gualandi
Christian performer Tauren Wells wasn’t always a saint. As a rambunctious 8 year old, he was constantly playing drums on his desk, singing out loud and talking nonstop. “Basically, all the things I use now for my career I was getting in trouble for in school,” says Wells.
Since then, however, the 32-year-old singer/songwriter has certainly earned his angel wings. Wells is now one of the top singers on the Christian music scene—thanks to God and a legion of faithful followers—and has just come off a year many artists pray for.
Hills and Valleys—his 2017 debut solo album—continues to produce top 5 singles on the Christian radio charts, including Known and When We Pray. Last year he was invited to join Lionel Richie’s All the Hits tour with Mariah Carey. (“I just wait every day for that email, ‘Lionel wants to take you back out,’ ‘cause it was just so fun!”) And he won four of his eight nominations at the 49th annual Gospel Music Association’s DOVE Awards in October.
Wells credits his dad for introducing him to Sunday school. At 10, he began singing in the church choir, writing his own songs and eventually leading his youth ministry. Now, not only is he a successful performer, but he also leads worship at Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Houston’s Lakewood Church as part of a new wave of young, hip and popular pulpit pastors.
I caught up with this married father of three as he was ready to take the stage in Denver as part of the 30-city Hope Encounter tour. “If you’re gonna tour as much as I tour, you have to enjoy traveling,” he says.
“Every night, the hope is that people experience something bigger than entertainment—bigger than music—[and] that they experience the hope that only God gives us.”
From God’s lips to our ears,Tauren.
Why do you love performing? What I love about performing is engaging with the audience and being connected. I love to dance and really put on a show, but my whole purpose and intention is to bring people beyond the show and really into the presence of God, because I think that’s what we deeply crave more than anything else.
What is your “why”? I just want to make honest music, so everything that I’m talking about is going to come through the filter of my faith and my relationship with Jesus. That doesn’t mean that I have to say Jesus or talk about the cross in every song. I believe that I’ve got real life music that’s just a soundtrack to your everyday life.
Did you encounter negative people growing up? Yes. That started in fourth grade. I had a teacher tell me that kids like me ended up in jail. I did not end up in jail. I ended up in Bible college. I found that resistance from people is just the apparatus God uses to draw you back like an arrow so that he can release you into your purpose. Criticism and negativity come with the territory of wanting to do something great. If you go through the Bible, you’ll realize every person that did anything great had haters. How we handle our haters determines how we handle our success. [I’ve learned] it takes humility to handle criticism and it takes humility to handle success.
When did you realize this was your calling? I would say at 16. That was a big year in my life, in just discovering that I could live my life for other people. That’s kind of a really self-absorbed age—high school—and I was definitely a little arrogant. Luckily, I had parents and pastors [who] were like, “No, why don’t you come up to the church and pick up garbage off the front yard? How about you come up to the church and set up chairs?” I refocused my creativity and my energy toward what I could do for other people and what I could do for the church. I fell in love with pastoral ministry. Really, I’ve never looked back from that point.
What if your dad hadn’t taken you to Sunday school? Man, that’s a scary question. I don’t know where I’d be. I’m so thankful for my family. We don’t have the capacity to make a lot of those decisions when we’re young, so I’m grateful that my parents made some good decisions and that my motivation eventually caught up with my obedience.
Are young, hip, fashionable young pastors the wave of the future? You’ve got a lot of new churches with new leaders that are just a product of a younger generation. What’s been cool is there are many leaders in that senior generation that are happily handing the baton, training, giving platform to, raising up, and supporting these next-generation leaders. It’s so cool to see it happening in every pillar of society: in science, industry, entertainment, and of course, religion. I think we are a product, in large part, of the culture that we’re in, but we’re also products of grace. That’s why we’re carrying the message that we carry.
Do you believe this younger generation will help unite our country? We will never legislate enough bills or laws to make us as equal as the cross makes us. We will never have a person in power that will bring us together in unit like Jesus would. You can look at religion and say that it’s caused a lot of division, but when you look at Jesus, and you study his life and scripture, all you really read is unity.
Is that message for everyone? There may be some people who like or dislike the message of Jesus and would not choose it, but there is a compelling story, a compelling force, real truth, and grace. That’s actually what I wrote my song Known about: the idea that God can fully know us, and have complete access to all the information about [us], and so truly and deeply love us, beyond any other love that we’ve ever experienced. I think those messages are certainly connecting with many, many people.
What are your plans for the immediate future? I’ll be on tour this spring with Chris Tomlin for The Holy Roar Tour, so I’m looking forward to that. Over that time, I’ll be writing and getting in the studio, but I think I’ve got one more single on this album that I’m gonna put out after Known, and then we’ll start exploring what the next album looks like, but I’m not rushing that.
What advice do you give your three children? Man, if you don’t do much else in life, just have a heart for God, because this life is so short and eternity is really long.
One last question for you, the avid traveler: What one thing do you never travel without? You’ve got to have a lint roller. You never know when you’re gonna have a weird fuzzy situation, so you’ve got to keep that lint roller handy.