When Nik Ripken met with a radically changed freedom fighter in Central Asia, he realized the bold story of conversion was powerful enough to reach many hearts around the world. Ripken included the man’s story in his book The Insanity of God, a collection of interviews with Christians around the world who endured persecution.
But at the heart of the story burned a question Ripken asked the man about the terror he faced as a follower of Christ: “Is Jesus worth it?”
Years later, at a songwriting retreat, this question and the specific story of this man in Central Asia, moved songwriters Erskin Anavitarte, Matt Papa, Laura Allen and Ripken himself to write “Is He Worth It,” a song capturing both the urgency of the gospel message and the intensity such commitment to God actually carries.
Ripken said the song was truly co-authored by the persecuted church, as it is the inspiration and witness that sparked the idea. The songwriters wanted to give melody to truth.
“The inspiration for the song comes from the Bible and the gospel,” said Anavitarte, who holds a master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. “The focus for the song was directed by Nik. But the Holy Spirit got ahold of us in that room. I’ve been in a lot of songwriting sessions and a lot of rooms where the words and focus don’t come that easily. But this was a Holy Spirit generated moment where I can literally see us putting into expression the things Nik had talked about.”
The writers, Anavitarte said, wanted to focus on specific imagery surrounding the persecuted church, connecting American believers with those around the globe.
Ripken said at the root was the desire to capture the heart of God, giving voice to His children internationally.
“We were singing for the church, globally, to recapture her first love,” he said.
Both men said music can be a vital component of faith and can help a person remember and apply God’s truths.
“There is nothing more powerful in God’s creation than singing God’s story back to Him,” Ripken said. “[The songwriters] took God’s story … reflected in the story of this man I interviewed in Central Asia and then sang God’s word back to Him and to an audience that I pray will become an international audience, asking the most important question of life: ‘Is Jesus worth it?’”
With a video accompanying the track, Anavitarte said he hopes the visual images stir people in a new way since the original track was released last year. The images come from the film “The Insanity of God,” which is based on Ripken’s book.
“Putting the video and these visual images in front of people has allowed them to see what our believers, brothers and sisters are experiencing, with a visual representation that has now allowed them to say, ‘Hang on a second, I didn’t know it was like that,’” Anavitarte said.
“Our tendency is to be a little bit out of sight out of mind. People are stirred with an awareness that this really is an issue, not something that just used to happen, but something that goes on all the time, all over the world. Believers today, even in the most intense persecution, are still willing to say Jesus is worth it.”
But for many Christians, their witness is silenced by passivity that creeps in, often not even purposefully. That is exactly what Satan wants, Anavitarte said, for the witness to cease and the singing to grow quiet.
“Satan’s primary goal is to silence the witness of the church and to silence the gospel from going out and being received by people,” he said. “When we believers, especially here in America, will not do what God has called us to do and we’re silent in our witness … we’re fulfilling and carrying out the same mission as Satan, which is to be quiet about the most important thing.”
The point however, is not to act out of guilt, but instead with the hope that listeners and viewers of the song and video would look at themselves in the mirror, evaluate, pray and change, Anavitarte said, seeing and joining the believers around the world who are saying, despite immense tribulation, that Jesus is worth it.
“When our witness has grown cold, we need to actually look to these believers to gain inspiration and encouragement in our lives,” Anavitarte said. “It causes me to get up, move and want to be passionate about the gospel.”
The deepest connection with those fellow believers around the world, Ripken said, comes through the obedient act of joining in with the global witness of Christ.
“When I come to Christ and then share my faith, that’s the way I am identifying with my brothers and sisters in chains,” Ripken said. “But when I keep my faith to myself after giving my life to Jesus, I not only fail to identify with my brothers and sisters in chains, I identify with their persecutors, because what they want is for us to keep our faith quiet.”
Christian witness looks like asking, “Is Jesus worth my time to have my neighbors, my family, in a place where we break bread together, so we can listen to their story and tell God’s story until those two stories merge together,” Ripken said.
“Is He Worth It,” is available on all music streaming platforms, released by Anavitarte under his artist name, Erskin.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tess Schoonhoven is a freelance writer in Nashville.)