Nestled in the center of the state, Pierre, the capital of South Dakota, is home to roughly 14,000 people. Agriculture is the dominant industry, and the rural culture is infused with a state government demographic that often brings in young professionals and families. Amidst it all is New Life Church, a growing Assemblies of God faith community with a mission to “Help People Find and Follow Jesus.”
Like most churches last year, New Life Church spent Easter 2020 celebrating Jesus’ resurrection via livestream. Despite a year of online ministry and unanticipated challenges, lead pastor Jake Krahn said the Lord used the unique time to bring the church to new spiritual depths.
“Just before the pandemic started, New Life had seen incredible numeric growth and was getting ready to launch a new two-service model,” said Krahn. “Things modified, of course, when we had to implement COVID precautions, but it’s amazing to look back and see how the Lord used 2020 to take our community into deeper knowledge of the Word and increased awareness of the needs in Pierre.”
As the team began planning for Easter 2021, Krahn commissioned his team to dream big and do something new.
This prompt resonated with worship pastor Nicole Taylor. For months, Taylor had felt God stirring her and her team into a season of creativity. “I knew we had the music and production team in place to do something big, and I felt the Lord calling us to do something that had never before been done in our church.”
Through a volunteer team of six writers, 10 musicians, two audio producers, and two videographers — all who are part of the church — New Life Pierre created “Breathing New Life,” an original song and music video that debuted on music streaming platforms and social media March 19. The song’s message centers around the Easter Story of Jesus’ resurrection, and the way His sacrifice brings new life.
Kirk Hulstein, a member of the New Life creative team, said the process of writing an original worship song allowed him to examine and celebrate the Lord’s hand in his own life.
“Not many churches in rural South Dakota write or produce their own worship songs, so this was a significant undertaking for our team,” he said. “As we wrote, the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection took on a new reality for us. This theme is certainly one that’s been lyricized before, but it keys in on the pivotal moments of the salvation story. It’s an invitation to come and experience new life through the power of Christ.”
On Easter Sunday, the New Life music team led their original song in a live worship setting for the first time. Taylor was excited to see the level of worship and engagement that happened as soon as the team hit the first chord.
“People were singing along! ‘Breathing New Life’ is becoming an anthem for our church and our community, and that was so evident from the wall of sound we heard on Easter as soon as we started leading the song,” Taylor said. “Even people who aren’t normally part of our church were singing and worshipping with us. We always knew this project was going to be something the Lord would use, but I don’t think we realized quite how far it would resonate.”
The New Life team says they’re “thrilled” at the way the community has responded to the song. In the weeks following the project release, the local newspaper published a front-page story about the creativity coming out of New Life. The local radio station invited Taylor to do an on-air interview during a morning commute primetime. A regional Christian music syndicate agreed to begin broadcasting the song as part of their regular rotation in the coming weeks. The music video’s views on social media are nearly identical to the population of the Pierre community.
In order to accommodate for people coming to church to hear the song and the traditional holiday influx, New Life Church offered four Easter Sunday services and saw attendance multiply from a little more than 200 (post-COVID) to over 500 people. Several families told church staff that they came specifically to hear the song. One guest said that if it wouldn’t have been for the music video popping up on her Facebook feed, she wouldn’t be in church.
Krahn and Taylor are praying that the song’s momentum has an eternal impact on people in their faith community, their region, and the nation.
“We know the Lord gave us this song as a declaration for this time in our history – a time when people need to know that Jesus’ death and life bring new life, renewed freedom, and the opportunity for a connection with God,” said Taylor. “We’re praying that this will continue stirring people into a deeper intimacy with the Word and the Spirit as they receive new life in Christ.”
“I’m incredibly proud of our team for creating this song,” said Krahn. “We’re ready for God to use us in whatever way He sees fit to fulfill the Great Commission in central South Dakota.
To watch New Life Pierre’s music video of their original song, visit their Facebook page here.