There are many influential people in and around the Christian community who have important things to say. And when two of these people converse behind closed doors, their discussion is often compelling and enlightening. With this in mind, we are pleased to unveil this special new section in CCM Magazine. Each month we’ll invite you to eavesdrop on a conversation between one of your favorite Christian artists and another high-profile personality in today’s culture.

And who better to launch our inaugural discussion than Steven Curtis Chapman and Philip Yancey? Chapman is considered by many to be the voice of Christian music. With 13 releases and nine million albums sold (the most recent being the tribute to his wife, Mary Beth, "All About Love" on Sparrow Records), he has won more Dove Awards (47!) than any other artist.

Yancey, meanwhile, is the world-renowned author of immediate classics such as "What’s So Amazing About Grace?" and "Where Is God When It Hurts?" He has sold more than 14 million books and recently released "Rumors of Another World: What on Earth Are We Missing?" (Zondervan).

Are people interested in what these two think? No doubt. And since they had so much to say to each other (and because it was too good to cut), we just had to run it in two parts. So look for the rest of their conversation in the February issue and, in the meantime, enjoy!

Steven:  I’m in the process of writing a new album, and that’s usually six months to a year of really thinking, praying and just saying, “God, is there a specific message?” Over the years I’ve always sort of had a theme, something that’s just kind of been a common thread through all the songs. [Recently going through difficulties with some good friends] really had a lot of influence on the songs and just wrestling with: “God, where are You in the middle of this?” kind of pain and disappointment. With each of those themes [in the new album] it seems like a book or several books have been part of the inspiration. I wrote the album "Speechless" (Sparrow) a few years ago, right at the time your book on grace [came out]. "What’s So Amazing About Grace" (Zondervan) was a big part of just shaping my ideas, thoughts and heart; so I’m sure I owe you a lot of royalties from some of these songs!

Philip:  You can have them!

Steven:  I have to spend a lot of energy in getting back to “square one.” I have to forget the success of the last thing — or the lack of success of the last thing in industry terms — and just get back to thinking:  “OK, forget everything I’ve ever done as best I can” and “God, You’ve brought me here for such a time as this. What’s this time about?” And I found myself saying, “Man, I wish Philip would come out with a new book!”

Philip:  I’ve often thought about the difference between the act of writing and the act of reading. Take one of my books:  It takes, say, 18 months to write. If I’m writing on Jesus, I’ll read 100 books on Jesus. I’ll go to movies, and I’ll think about Jesus all day long. My reader — even the most faithful reader — encounters that in six to eight hours, usually with the TV going in the background. So the experience of what I spent and what they spend is different. And I’m sure it’s true with you:  six months to a year thinking about an album; and when people get the finished product, they learn the tune. When they go to a concert, they don’t want to hear any of your new stuff, and they don’t even want to hear you talk. They just want something they recognize over and over. And so the experience of that compared to your gestation and birth — it’s a weird thing.