- Mark Smeby Contributing Writer, Songs4Worship.com
- 2003 23 Jan
It's easy to get bogged down doing things for God, for your church, for other people, and start to think those things constitute your relationship with God. While God desires to be in relationship with us, we sometimes think doing is more important that just being. Kelly Carpenter's worship prayer, "Draw Me Close," was birthed during a time like this. In the midst of being busy serving God, he was feeling that God wanted more of him.
Kelly Carpenter's worship anthem "Draw Me Close" has connected with hundreds of thousands of people all over the world.
Kelly caught "the worship bug," as he calls it, about 12 years ago while attending a worship conference at his California Vineyard church. He was on the worship team and was able to spend some time with Canadian worship leaders Andy Park and Brian Doerksen. A couple of years after the conference, he started leading worship, as well as writing worship songs.
One of those songs was "Draw Me Close."
As it happened, Kelly had just finished a church service in late January 1994, but his heart was not quite in it. "My heart was heavy that day because I had come to the realization that I had put my ministry in front of my relationship with the Lord. So I literally cried out to Him, "I lay it all down again to hear You say that I'm Your friend." Within 20 minutes, he says, "the song just spilled out."
"This song has always been intensely personal for me," Kelly adds, "and continues to bring me back to my knees, that my relationship with God should come first before the call, the vision, and the ministry that He has given me."
At first, he didn't actually use the song at his church because it was such a personal song. "I cried when I wrote it," he explained. "Still, I actually thought it was a really different song, like something Barry Manilow would write." Worship leader Andy Park was the first to hear the tune, oddly enough, while he was busy replacing the kitchen floor in his house. "He had it playing on a boom box," Kelly says, "and when he heard the line, 'I lay it all down again,' he broke down."
Park then asked him to play on a live record in July of 1994, and asked if he would lead on the original recording of the tune. Over the next couple of years, Kelly was invited to do a lot of conferences, where he would be asked to present his song. But because it was so personal, he rarely did it.
The years following these were filled with struggle and disappointment for Kelly "We've gone through some tough times in the last five years. Times when I felt God was calling me to full-time ministry. Honestly, it's been very difficult figuring out my faith and my walk with God. During these years, 'Draw Me Close' became much more to me than an 'I'm in ministry' kind of song. It became much deeper for me. Life, and all the stuff we wind up going through makes it really hard to keep the Lord at the center. God ends up using pain and brokenness to draw us to Him. The song became very germane and poignant to those moments--a 'come home again' kind of song."
Kelly says brokenness, as he's come to understand it, is a universal experience throughout life. "The song connects with anyone who is going through brokenness." He continues, even years down the road to hear from people who've been impacted by the song.
Over the past few years, a couple of high profile Christian music artists have recorded his song. The Katinas recorded his song for Rocketown Records' Exodus project, taking the song to number one on Christian radio charts. Most recently, Michael W. Smith recorded "Draw Me Close" on his Worship project, which has sold over a million copies in just about a year. It's also on Smith's Worship live video and DVD.
Kelly, a soft-spoken man, is in awe of what's happened, yet at the same time he doesn't follow the charts or keep tabs on where the song is being played or how wide reaching the impact of the song has gone. "I don't even think it's important to know the hugeness of what has happened. I see it as only a gift from God to me...and it's turned into the gift that keeps on giving. People in ministry like to know that what they're doing is making a difference."
He also said he doesn't revel in the uniqueness of the song, choosing to look at this song's success in the larger context. "I've written 75-80 worship songs, probably had about a dozen published, and this is the one that has done well. It's really a bit of a phenomenon, if you ask me."
You can find "Draw Me Close" on Michael W. Smith's album Worship. Buy it on Songs4Worship.com!
Mark Smeby is a freelance writer who lives in Franklin, TN.