(Editor's Note: This article was first published in the September 2022 print version of The Stand HERE.)
“We sing into people’s hearts messages that they may not hear in any other way,” said Music for the Soul founder Steve Siler. “One of the key messages we’re always trying to get through to people is that when Jesus was on the cross, He was not there shaming us. That’s the place we come from. Christ was broken to bless us. He loves us. This [ministry] is all about grace, mercy, hope, restoration, and wholeness.”
In many scenarios, simple notes strung together speak to the soul in ways words alone cannot do. As a songwriter, Siler deeply understands the powerful impact a composition can have on individuals. Throughout his career, he has learned how to speak eloquently the language of music to those who most need to hear it.
For 20 years, Siler and his team of talented musicians at Music for the Soul (MFTS) have created beautiful melodies that tell heart-wrenching stories trauma survivors need to hear. MFTS has over 200 song recordings covering 80 topics such as abortion recovery, pornography addiction, PTSD, eating disorders, and more. But without God’s constant persuading and provision in Siler’s life, MFTS would not be the ministry it is today.
As a child, Siler became intrigued by music when he saw The Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan Show. Wanting to be like his heroes, he asked his father for a guitar and began writing music at 10 years old. And while those early songs didn’t become No. 1 singles, Siler quickly realized that God had given him something special.
“As I listened back to the songs I wrote when I was very young,” Siler told The Stand, “it was clear from the beginning that God had given me a gift for melody.”
However, it took years before he understood exactly what God wanted him to do with that gift. After working many odd jobs throughout his teens and early 20s, Siler found employment in the music industry. He was hired by A&M Records for a marketing position. There, he spent time promoting secular artists. But Siler knew he was made for more than marketing.
He soon found himself late one night at a church questioning God’s plan for his life. A few weeks later, someone who had visited Siler’s church called and asked if he could help him write songs for I Can’t Talk About It, a project designed to minister to children who had been sexually abused. Later, he began writing songs for the pop music market. But after hearing one of his songs on the radio, Siler knew that was not what he was supposed to be doing.
Fulfilling a call
After relocating his family from Los Angles, California, to Nashville, Tennessee, Siler began working as a contemporary Christian music staff writer. He wrote many hits, won a Dove Award, and worked with well-known artists. In 1994, Siler’s song “Not Too Far from Here” was recorded by artist Kim Boyce. It soon became a No. 1 single. One morning soon after, his family was stunned as they heard that song performed on Good Morning America. On the television, a young girl named Mikaila Enriquez sang Siler’s lyrics as images from the 1995 Oklahoma bombing flashed before his eyes.
“I felt like it showed me that God had me where I needed to be,” Siler continued, “and that I didn’t need to worry so much that I was out of place or doing the wrong thing. I just needed to respond to the opportunities right in front of me.”
That wasn’t the only time Siler connected tragedy to his music. In 1999, he wrote “I Will Follow Christ.” During the Gospel Music Association Week that year, he found himself on cloud nine as Bob Carlisle, Clay Crosse, and BeBe Winans sang it, and the crowd went wild. The next morning, he heard that Cassie Bernall was shot and killed at Columbine High School for following Christ.
“I’m thinking OK, so I say I will follow Christ and get a standing ovation,” Siler explained. “That song wound up winning a Dove Award. So it’s like I got all these accolades, and this other person who said the same thing gets a bullet. That was what really got me thinking it’s time for me to seriously put my money where my mouth is.
Founding a ministry
In December 2001, MFTS was incorporated. Since then, the ministry has continued to bless many through its beautiful sounds and healing messages. Over the years, the team has produced 20 full-length projects with the help of trained medical professionals, pastors, and survivors. Their testimonies enhance the impact of every MFTS project.
“I am not a licensed therapist or an ordained pastor. Even though, I’ve been accused of being both of those things,” Siler said with a smile. “What I am, is a songwriter who has the ability to craft songs and who has a heart for people in trauma and recovery. God has uniquely gifted me with a network of friends who are therapists, pastors, or survivors of these issues. [They] speak honestly and deeply to help us create content.”
On some albums, listeners will hear brief testimonies from survivors, e.g. “After the Storm” features a survivor of Hurricane Katrina, and “Tell Me What You See” has an eating disorder victim sharing her story.
Due to the intended impact of each project, MFTS designs the segments – music and spoken word – to be heard and absorbed in sequence. They present the problem, steps of healing, release, and freedom.
“I feel like people will not trust you with their hope until you demonstrate that you understand their pain,” Siler continued. “That requires writing songs that get inside the head of the person who’s in the problem. …We write songs that say ‘we get you’ and ‘we know what this feels like.’ And because we know what this feels like, they can trust us on how to get out of this.
“And to me, if you want to talk about introducing Jesus into somebody’s life, how about helping save them from being in a life that’s going to lead to death, spiritually and physically?”