John Mark McMillan serenades campus

With his heart on his sleeve, the “How He Loves” originator led Biolans into tender, emotional worship.


Pierce Singgih // The Chimes

John Mark McMillan, composer of worship songs including “How He Loves,” performs after Singspiration on Feb. 17.

Pierce Singgih, Arts & Entertainment Editor

After the Feb. 17 edition of Singspiration, John Mark McMillan led a stripped-down, acoustic worship session with vocalist and wife Sarah McMillan and pianist Benjamin James Roberts in Chase Gymnasium. Current and prospective students alike entered John Mark McMillan’s vulnerable atmosphere during the Spring Preview Day event, praising God through his thoughtful and creative lyricism.


A lyrical poet and maverick in the Christian music industry, the platinum-selling artist’s unique style is hard to define. Many of his songs feature strong electric undertones and complex sounds that bolster the different stories he tells in his music. However, for this performance, he allowed his lyrical creativity to shine through simple vocals, an acoustic guitar and a piano. By stripping this set down to the basics, he created a space for students to connect with God through vulnerability.

“It’s so real and authentic and he’s so raw. He’s always been so raw,” said Sarah Griffith, sophomore philosophy major. “I’ve seen him five times before this and I’ve seen him acoustic and I’ve seen him not and there’s something about his acoustic that’s intimate and close.”

This intimacy allowed John Mark McMillan to focus on creating a connection with the audience, which is his favorite part about performing live. He believes that worshipping with others and connecting with others helps him and the audience grow closer to God.

“You feel the songs and you feel other people singing, [so] you feel more connected to God in that way,” John Mark McMillan said. “There is something about your conversation with God and the way you experience other people. You almost can’t get away from that… There’s something about the way you connect with human beings and the way you connect with God that’s intertwined.”


Sunday night’s set was filled with both classic and newer songs, giving viewers a taste of his entire discography. Between each song, he took time to tell the stories behind their lyrics, allowing listeners to learn more about who he is and how God has impacted his life. While his music naturally tells stories, these explanations furthered the intimate connection John Mark McMillan made with Biolans as he told the heartbreaking yet uplifting origins of his music.

“It was very personal,” said Alyssa Cairns, a 17-year-old prospective student from Newport Beach. “A lot of the things he talked about you could really relate to. He really communicated with the audience well.”

Through the nature of storytelling, John Mark McMillan’s music is often relatable to many. This relatability through honesty can bring the audience into the same feelings as the artist, allowing them to bring those emotions before God.

“If you’re honest, a lot of the time you’ll find a lot of other people that feel the same way and they just [need] the permission to say it,” Sarah McMillan said. “For me, that’s where connection comes in––if I have said something that’s true to me and honest.”


John Mark McMillan closed the night by performing the original version of “How He Loves,” “King of My Heart” and “Heart Runs.” After telling a story about a friend of his who died after surviving 26 years with cancer, he remarked that we should all be grateful for the miracles of life, no matter the difficulties. When speaking to the Chimes earlier Sunday, he shared a similar sentiment about finding God through every moment in life.

“Like I say in the verse of ‘Nothing Stands Between Us,’ there’s a cup of joy for every taste of sorrow,” John Mark McMillan said. “For all the terrible things that happen, have happened in the world and do happen, they’re still small compared to the beauty and joy and miracle of life and existence that God has given us… There’s joy in every moment if we’re willing to give those moments to the Lord. I think we can meet God in every corner of life.”

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