Following her success in leading the worship team at Abundant Life Church in Bradford, Lara Martin felt a change was needed. Multiple trips to Romania to help the poor resulted and Lara was fruitful in ways she didn't previously imagine. Last month, her debut solo album Pearl was released. Full of stories, it charts Lara's life over the past seven years.
1. You’ve just got back from a songwriters retreat in Scotland. What happened?
Ten of us were invited to go and have some time writing together. It was all to do with personal growth and development.
I haven’t laughed that much in ages and there were some great songs written and fresh collaborations.
Over the last few years I’ve been collaborating more with people. There’s a wealth of wisdom when you can both go digging together. The other person can teach you things because different people approach things differently.
2. How did your new album Pearl come about?
The songs on the album weren’t actually written for an album. They were written over the past seven years. On the cover it says 'a semi biographical collection of songs', they are actually telling a story about my personal life. There’s some artistic license in there as well but the stories are real.
It’s the easiest thing I’ve ever done and because it’s been a solo project and something I’ve financed myself, it was on my own timescale. There was no pressure, I could make a lot more decisions that would serve the message of the songs. It’s been the most joyful and freeing album I’ve ever recorded.
3. What’s your favourite song on the album?
I didn’t call the album after any particular song because I love every single one of them. There’s a part of me in every single song.
4. What songs have had the most impact on people?
Be With Me is one of the ballads and that song is written as if the Holy Spirit is singing it to you so a lot of people have found healing in that emotionally because it’s bringing Christ into the normality of life. It talks about a real intimate relationship, the Holy Spirit really ministered to me when I wrote it.
5. Tell us the story behind the song Soothe.
It was written following a miscarriage I had last year, which nobody knew about apart from my pastors. That was the only song I wrote during the recording process because I was pregnant when we went into recording the album. Sadly we lost her.
The song really kick-started my healing. It was a day in the office, everybody had gone home, I picked up my guitar and I was in so much emotional pain and so lost and asking ‘God why did this happen? You knew the desire of my heart. I have two sons, you know I wanted a little girl.’
And this song came out of the pain and emotion that I was in during the time. But there’s a big 'but' in it. 'But', the lyric says 'isn’t it just like you to come and soothe?' That’s what the holy spirit does best. All of the questions suddenly become irrelevant because you then take on the healing oil of the emotion.
It’s very vulnerable, it’s not smoothing over the issue, it hits it head on. I’ve had emails from men who have said 'I’m a macho man but actually I was on my knees pouring out my pain to God and I’ve received a breakthrough'. Those testimonies mean more to me than anything.
6. Do you think the album is more suited to aiding people with their own times of devotion rather than congregational singing?
Yes, the type of songs on it are ones you can use in a personal devotional time and have a time of reflection.
All those songs are all about the amazing God he is and his sovereignty. Even in the pain, it brings it back to God. I’ve used it in congregational settings to minister to people. Get people to sit down, chill out and sing a song like be with me and watch the response in the room.
7. You’ve been working with Kingdom Worship Movement and their event The Renewal a lot recently, explain what it is and why you’re involved?
Noel Robinson shared the vision with me about four years ago. He rang me one day and said the vision in his heart was to bring together different cultures, different worship leaders ministering together on the same platform and bring all different types of people together.
A lot of people said the Renewal would never work. They said how can you get so many people coming from a different perspective all together?
We all have Christ in common and we’re preferring one another and doing it for an audience of one and it’s working.
8. What led to you going to Romania to help the poor?
We can get really comfortable as Christians and live inside this church bubble where everything is nice and you’re living from one meeting to the next. You have the nice car and the nice salary.
There’s nothing wrong with that but my husband and I came to a place in our journey that we were too comfortable and it was limiting us in our growth. We needed to see something beyond ourselves.
We call it the trip that ruined our lives in a good way. It rocked our comfortableness. We were doing church with people who didn’t have flashing lights and a PA and all the thing you think you need for a good church service.
The presence of God was so clearly in this freezing cold derelict building. God really dealt with our hearts so we started going backwards and forwards for three years.
The more we went, the more we felt we needed to commit more time to it so in 2009 we left Bradford and moved to Romania. We had to finance ourselves going and put our money where our mouth was. Friends carried out our 40inch plasma TV and came round and picked out what electrical items they wanted, making a donation so we could finance our way.
We planned to go for a year but it ended up being cut short because I fell pregnant with a miracle baby. The child that we had been trying for for five years we conceived in five weeks in Romania. I think that’s what you call a reward for obedience so we were absolutely gobsmacked by what God had done. By going to a place that was barren and desolate we were very fruitful there!
9. What’s the best Christian book you’ve read?
Hands down it’s easy for me. Legacy Now by Phil Munsey. That book changed my life because it talks about what you’re going to leave behind and every single day that you live matters.
When my friends have had birthdays they’ve all had this book. I still keep ordering it. Some of the quotes and one liners are pretty phenomenal just to chew on. It was a life changing book for me.
10. What has God been teaching you recently?
To keep growing. If I keep growing the people around me stand a better chance with my leadership. If you don’t grow it limits your usefulness to God.
There’s certain places he wants to take you and conversations to have but if you shut it out how can he use that? I’m leaning to entertain God’s thoughts at a different level that wouldn’t necessarily be my own thinking.
Romania was one of those curve balls where you learn more about yourself and the kingdom of God than I did in any sermon I’ve ever heard.
May 1st, 2012 - Posted & Written by Sam Hailes