Young. Seasoned. Black. White. Yellow. Ties. Dresses. Jeans. T-shirts. Gray hair. Spiked hair. No hair! These are just a few of the words that describe the people before the throne of the One True God as Travis Cottrell leads them into worship. Having a heart for unity among God's people, Travis can be likened to a bridge, crossing the boundaries of denominations and filling in the gaps that separate the Body of Christ from one another.
"God has given Travis what I believe is a gift of favor with audiences and congregations," says author and speaker Beth Moore. "His approach permeates every denominational wall. His warm yet powerful style engages even the most resistant group into irresistible worship."
"There are few people who take me to the place of worship like Travis Cottrell," admits Reverend Dick Hill, worship pastor at Champion Forest Baptist Church. "When I'm in the room where he sings, I find my eyes closed and my soul opened. Many times in my office I worship with his CD during devotions. There is tenderness...joy...and awesome strength in Travis' voice...showing not just the versatility of a voice, but the deep passions of a soul."
Travis had his own plans when he came to Nashville in 1990 from Boone, North Carolina. He would finish school at Belmont University with a vocal performance degree, pursue an exciting career in the music industry, and be rich and famous in three years-or less! But God had another plan in store. He graciously met Travis at a crossroad and led him down a life-changing path.
After graduating with a church music degree from Belmont in 1992, Travis began to write songs. His first song, "It's Only Thunder," landed on Larnelle Harris' I Choose Joy. His next published work, Waiters: A Youth Musical about Waiting on the Lord, became the year's best-selling youth musical. He continued to write, and was working as an editor at a music publishing company, when out of the blue, the church he attended lost its minister of worship. At the church's request, Travis spent the latter part of '94 and most of '95 as the worship leader for Two Rivers Baptist Church, a 6,000-plus-member church in Nashville. It was during this providential season that God began to stir Travis' heart about worship.
God showed Travis John 4: 23-24, which says, "A time is coming and is now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." Travis began to understand that God had not created him only to be a singer, or even a worship leader, but to be a sincere worshiper of the most holy and high God.
"The opportunity of leading worship at Two Rivers Baptist Church that Dr. Jerry Sutton gave me was a blessing," says Travis. "The experience of working with that church body, choir, orchestra, and drama ministry was an unspeakable blessing. In planning worship, I began to learn at an early age how important it is to try to be sensitive to such a diverse group of people of ages and experiences."
Following his work at Two Rivers, God opened doors for Travis to lead worship for various student events, such as FCA weekends, camps, back-to-school rallies, and citywide worship nights. Connie Ricks, Student Ministries Coordinator for the Florida Baptist Convention says, "He really connects with the students from the beginning...you can tell it is all about God and not about his musical abilities. The students love him. And he can relate to any audience."
Embracing the rich traditional hymns of his childhood, and loving the contemporary choruses of today, Travis uses a blended style of worship to help lead everyone into worship. Groups are one minute proclaiming that "on Christ the solid rock I stand," and "a mighty fortress is our God," and the next minute are "trading their sorrows" and shouting "yes Lord...for the rest of our days"! He believes that "it is not about the songs we sing in worship. It's about the heart we offer to the Lord."
"I don't think worship can be defined by a musical style. I believe that it's such a matter of the heart. If God has gifted you to sing an oratorio then do it as unto the Lord and that's worship," Travis says emphatically. "And if God has gifted you to rock, then do it. Do it for the Lord. God is creative. He likes to be worshiped in creative ways and he calls us to grow in our worship. He did not stop being creative when Handel...or Bach...or Fanny Crosby died. He continues to shape music and shape how music expresses our worship differently in each generation."
Travis brings a full and humble heart to the Lord, which explains why God effectively and abundantly uses him for His service. "I know I never merited this chance to be one who leads other people in worship," admits Travis." God can use anybody and He uses us all where He wants us." Today, part of Travis' ministry includes traveling across the country with his wife, Angela, with whom he sings and writes music, and a team of extraordinary worshippers and musicians. Our team is very much a family to us," says Angela. "It's like we've all grown up together over the years, and we have a deep spiritual bond that connects us to one another." Travis agrees, "Because most of our team members have full-time jobs during the week, we really look forward to those times we can get away as a team to lead worship. We come back home as much refreshed as the group we've led, and we have a blast being together."
The rest of the team agrees. Keyboard player, Chris Marion says, "My experience with the praise team has changed the way I praise and worship. It has restored a lot of the joy in the experience for me. It has been a real pleasure working with the individual gifts and personalities among us." Tammy Jensen, alto, believes that "God has been nurturing all of us together as we exercise the gifts He has given us. I really feel that one of Travis' strengths is that to him it is not 'Travis and the praise team'. It's just the praise team. He draws us in and encourages us because he loves to see us walking in our gifts." Soprano Mandisa Hundley says of Travis, "Even though he's enormously gifted, and could easily walk around in pride, he is so humble and always keeps it real. He's the same guy with us as he is on stage, or in the green room with famous speakers or singers." For the past 8 years, Travis has been privileged to lead worship for such well-known leaders as: Henry Blackaby, Beth Moore, Anne Graham Lotz, Josh McDowell, T.W. Hunt, David Edwards, and Wellington Boone. Through these experiences, his love for the Lord has been deepened, his perspective on worship has grown, and new songs of praise have been birthed.
Travis has produced many musical projects, including four CD's for the Living Proof Live events sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources. He currently has three solo projects with the fourth to be released November, 2002. In addition, he has recently completed three musical print projects: Jesus, The One and Only, the Musical (Genevox), Come! In Grace and Glory (Brentwood-Benson), and Hymns For Praise and Worship (Word).
Of all the songs Travis has written, one of his favorites is Living Proof Live Volume 2's "Hallelujah", which he co-wrote with his wife, Angela. "Angela is an enormously gifted writer because she is such a student of the Word of God. Everything she writes is so filled with passion and emotion but at the same time is grounded in the Word", says Travis. "It is such a sweet and worshipful experience to write with her".
With all of Travis' accomplishments, his mother, Jean Cottrell, says that she is most proud of "his Christian life and that he married a beautiful Christian wife." Travis and Angela married in 1993 and now reside in Franklin, Tennessee with their 3 children; Jack (7), Lily Kate (4), and Levi (18 months).
Husband. Father. Friend. Wise. Funny. Brotherly. Godly. Gifted. Humble. Leader. Servant. Timeless. Bridge-builder. Travis Cottrell - a worshiper of the Living God; a man after God's own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).
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