Kristian Stanfill – Make It Out Alive

Capitol Christian Music Group

Release Date: November 11th 2022

Reviewed by: Joshua Andre

Kristian Stanfill– Make It Out Alive (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  1. Show Me Who You Really Are
  2. Make It Out Alive
  3. That’s Not You
  4. We Need People
  5. Grace
  6. Another Praise
  7. True North (feat. Louie Giglio)
  8. My Eyes Are Dry
  9. Walking With You
  10. Where The River Runs
  11. Change You

Here’s the general consensus of what I’ve concluded. Simply put- Live From Camp by Passion isn’t exciting enough. Passion isn’t exciting anymore; and that’s the truth. Back in the day, when Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Christy Nockels and Charlie Hall were part of the movement, the releases were inspiring, powerful, and moving. Each of the songs were singles and representatives from the solo studio albums of the lead vocalists. Now, with Passion becoming more like Hillsong, Planetshakers, Bethel Music, Jesus Culture, and others; I firmly believe that now there’s little distinguishing each of these movements. You don’t see a Kristian Stanfill solo album, nor a solo album from Brett Younker or Melodie Malone. Sure, Passion is still good. It’s still inspiring. But no more is it unique and Live From Camp, like Burn Bright, makes me sad. White Flag, Take It All, Here For You, and Let The Future Begin were the golden years of Passion, as well as the mid-late 2000’s; and unfortunately moving forward I may have to revisit that era more so than Passion at the moment. Passion’s heart is still the same- to bring glory to God in whatever setting they’re in, and to spread the gospel in whatever way they can. In that sense, as I am reminded that this is a movement that does what works for them, and will continue to give God the glory for however long God continues to put the calling on Louie and Shelly Giglio (after all, Passion is Louie’s brain-child and what God called and is still calling for him to do and be a part of!); I can sort of give this EP a tad more leeway than I have previously- as their ministry is to fellow believers. Yet beyond this year, something needs to be done to shake up Passion. Studio recordings, re-recordings of old classics with different vocalists, an acoustic album, a ‘mainstream’ album of worshipful songs… just something different. Because if we have the same old annual live CD; how will that attract new listeners? 

A couple of months ago, when I reviewed Passion’s latest EP Live From Camp, I concluded that I was ‘over’ the worship movement and I wouldn’t religiously listen to their releases moving forward. It’s not that I didn’t love the band- because I still do. It’s just that now and probably going back 2-3 years since 2018’s Whole Heart, every Passion release sounds virtually the same. No Chris Tomlin, no Matt Redman, maybe 1-2 songs from Crowder (which are always a highlight), while maybe half any Passion album is populated with Kristian Stanfill songs. That’s just the way Passion goes nowadays- and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not the Passion I used to know and it’s not the Passion that resonated with me back in the day. But this past week, Passion took one step towards possibly regaining my trust someday- as lead singer Kristian Stanfill released his new solo album- his third overall and his first in 11 years. Now I was intrigued- because never in my wildest dreams, did I ever think that any lead singer from Passion right now would release a solo album. Note that I’m not including Sean Curran who has released plenty of solo material, because… well, I don’t really attribute him as a ‘lead’ singer of Passion (because right now, it’s Kristian, Brett Younker, Chidima and Melodie Malone); but I digress. The point is that Make It Out Alive, a vulnerable, poignant, heartfelt, and inspiring 11 track worship album by Kristian (which coincidently features no alternate renditions of any of the Passion songs that Kristian has recorded with them over the past 11 years!), is a project that piqued my interest greatly- and after listening to this album, can I say that my decision to listen again to Passion and Passion lead singers has been vindicated? Make It Out Alive isn’t a perfect worship album. It’s a messy account of Kristian’s struggles, doubts, and fears. In that sense, the album doesn’t need to be a perfect worship album. But it does offer to us powerful worshipful moments and moments of honesty, hope and encouragement. It’s an album that can be used for personal worship and also for worshipping at church or with a group of friends. And for that reason, Kristian’s album is one that should be listened to at least once. It may not be your ‘cup of tea’. But it’s a solid worship album and a reminder that Passion and everyone associated with them, aren’t going away any time soon.

I think a lot of people will understand this kind of crossroad that I’m talking about. It looks different for everyone, but it’s at these points of intersection we get to decide if we are going to keep playing the game or start telling the truth. I decided, with the help of my wife, friends, pastors, and counselors, to tell the truth.

I started to think maybe these songs could help someone else. I was learning about this new way of life, and I had never felt so alive and free. I want everyone to experience this kind of freedom. The truth is, we are all broken and none of us have it all together. My goal would be that some of my honesty in these new lyrics and melodies will help someone else step into their freedom.

I am 2 years sober today. I’ve been pretty quiet about this part of my life on social media, but I wanted to share today for a couple of reasons.

First, somebody needs to know that you’re not alone. I read somewhere that “when we struggle in silence we suffer alone.” Owning our brokenness and being honest about our humanity helps us heal and helps others heal too. SOBRIETY IS A WE. I have taken every step of this journey WITH people. my wife, close friends, pastors, counselors…it takes a village! Community and connection is where we experience the power of Grace and begin to heal. If you’re addicted and hurting the first step toward change is reaching out to someone and asking for help. we can’t do this alone.

Second, somebody needs to hear that sobriety isn’t just possible but it’s also worth it. my life is not perfect and the last 730 days has not been easy, but I am happier and healthier than I ever was with a drink in my hand. My head is clear, and my relationships are real. My heart is ON and I’m dreaming again. I’m checked in to reality and I’m fighting to be present to every moment. This is the good life. Beauty from ashes. Something worth fighting for.

I hope this is encouraging for someone. I don’t have it all figured out and I have not arrived. This is a process and I’m committed to it. One step at a time, one day at a time until I see Jesus face to face and the struggle ends.

I didn’t know what to expect when I listened to Make It Out Alive. Kristian hasn’t released a solo album in so long… and I thought that it’d just be another ‘generic’ Passion album. But the heartbeat of the entire project, with is inspired by Kristian’s sobriety, is vulnerable, real, moving, inspiring and honest. Make It Out Alive isn’t just a worship album. It is Kristian’s personal testimony, which really needs to be heard to be believed, as we are encouraged to turn to Jesus Christ especially in the times when we feel isolated, worthless, and powerless. Album opener “Show Me Who You Really Are”, is a vulnerable, emotive, and powerful declaration of honesty and hope, as Kristian declares that he intends to let Jesus know the ‘real him’ and in turn, he can be known by the real Jesus. It’s a song that provides us with hope for our own struggles and issues as well, and as Kristian becomes real and lets down his guard, we in turn are extended the invitation to be honest and vulnerable also.

The rest of the album is just as inspiring, encouraging, and hopeful as the album opener. The title track is where Kristian is at his most ‘helpless’ and ‘defenceless’, with Kristian outlining in somewhat vague terms (so that each and all of us can relate to his struggles) about his journey with alcohol and sobriety, and that the only way to ‘make it out alive’ is to always be honest and transparent, and that we need to start taking ownership for everything we’ve done. With Kristian outlining that God prompted him to be honest about his struggles and that is where true freedom was found; Kristian also encourages us to take similar steps and to never cover up things that we need to be transparent about to our friends and family. “That’s Not You”, a bouncy, acoustic guitar led pop/worship/CCM melody, is where Kristian emphatically and eloquently cries out that the lies of the enemy aren’t from Jesus, and that ‘…that’s not You at my lowest, making sure I remember every single failure, all the times I missed the mark; that’s not You in my weakness telling me I’m not worth it, and the race that I’ve been running, I should just give it up; that’s not Your voice, that’s not the truth, that’s not You…’– a song that I could really envision being played at Passion conferences; while the ‘mainstream’-like “We Need People” is an acoustic guitar driven slow ballad whereby Kristian outlines that each and every one of us (everyone, not just Christians!), need people and need human relationships to survive and thrive- we all need communion with other human beings and we all need to be in companionship (romantically and platonically) with other human beings- that’s just a fact of life.

“Grace”, similar to Martin Smith’s song of the same name, speaks about the incredible and somewhat unfathomable concept of grace, and that we don’t deserve God’s grace, but He freely gives it to us anyway, that ‘…when the bottom falls out, when the hammer comes down, and all the plans you made get laid to waste, and the only thing left, is the love that you have, from the ones that know the truth and choose to stay…’; while Kristian also delivers another standout melody in “Another Praise”, a simple yet effective and moving worship melody, where Kristian eloquently sings out that Jesus deserves all of the praise, and that we can and should praise Him, even if it is one of the last things we do on earth- a concept similar to Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Last Day On Earth”. Clocking in at just under 2 minutes, the acoustic guitar led “My Eyes Are Dry” is a track that speaks about a believer that seems stuck in their faith, but longing to have a faith that is dynamic and vibrant again; while Kristian displays gratitude and thankfulness at Jesus’ love and faithfulness for us in “Walking With You”, especially whenever it seems we’re travelling along the narrow road, when ‘…walking with You never let me down, trust in Your word never led me wrong, it isn’t always easy, but You’re always with me…’.

“Where The River Runs”, probably one of the most vulnerable melodies I’ve heard from Kristian, speaks about Kristian’s desire for Jesus to ‘…lead me where the river runs with living water, take me where the morning sun revives my soul, lay me down and let me rest here in Your presence, Jesus, Savior, my only hope…’; while Make It Out Alive ends with the reflective, personal and incredible meaningful “Change You”, where Kristian powerfully sings about the key moments in life that shape you and force you to look inwards, that ‘…some things in the life they come and go, they’re here and just like that they’re gone, they fade into the rear view, other times you grab a pen, you write it down so you don’t forget, the time and place it hits you, there are days you just make it through, and there are moments that change you…’. Yet for me, the most profound and thought-provoking ‘melody’ is the ‘song’ that doesn’t even include Kristian at all. “True North” is a 2-minute excerpt of a bigger sermon by Louie Giglio, and features Louie in the middle of speaking out the gospel message. I would have loved to hear or watch the entire sermon- but these two minutes are some of Louie’s best in terms of sermon depth. And so as Louie breaks up the album (this track is in the middle!), Kristian delivers a moving, compelling and multilayered album. It’s a project that is deeply personal to him, and one that I’m sure will resonate with you as well.

It’s not a game
It’s not a hoax
It’s not a gimmick
It’s not some church or a slogan
It’s true north

A man bled and died for you
The innocence son of God tripped on shame and guilt for you
All of us like sheep have gone astray
But the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all
That’s His story
Isn’t my story

That’s information, but is it revelation?
Because when it comes revelation you can say what Paul wrote to the church
That He, God, has taken the certificate of death that was written against us
And He has cancelled it by nailing it to the cross of Christ
It is finished
And when the accuser comes and says I want to remind you of what you have done
You say hallelujah
Let’s do that together
Play the audio clip again
It’s nailed to the cross of Jesus Christ
Reminding me of the failure again
It’s nailed to the cross of Jesus Christ again
All of it is on the cross
All of it past, present, and future
Is nailed to the cross of Christ
Hallelujah and by the time you turn around the accuser is gone

Kristian Stanfill’s project now has given me high hopes for future Passion albums. Knowing that there is a possibility that Brett Younker, Chidima and Melodie Malone may record solo albums… well it kind of breathes new life into the ministry of Passion, don’t you think? Kristian’s journey in this album needs to be congratulated, and as Kristian encourages us to always be honest with those around us and to always be honest with our friends and family; can I just say that Kristian’s project is one of the most powerful and honest and vulnerable of the year? Well done Kristian, I can’t wait to hear what God has in store for you next! And for Passion… well, I guess I’ll give you another try! They are a part of my childhood and teenage years, if that counts for anything…

3 songs to listen to: That’s Not You, True North, Change You

Score: 4.5/5

RIYL: Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, Christy Nockels, Crowder, Hillsong UNITED, Vertical Worship, Jesus Culture

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