Bringing Music Home

Shelley's Journey

Apr 23, 2018

Perhaps it is because we feel the fakeness of all this. Or perhaps it’s because we are no longer fooled by it. Or perhaps it’s because we want more. Or maybe, it’s for all these reasons, but whatever the reasons, all four generations alive today are expressing a desire for authenticity—yes, even the millennial generation that will be our future.

This is one of the places where Shelley Giglio has gotten it right. Shelley grew up in Texas, with a family who cared well for her and stressed the importance of being true to who she is as an individual. She recalls, “My parents taught us that there was an authenticity to being who you are. Faking was not tolerated.” Her mom and dad rearing her in this way became the foundation for the way she lives her life.

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Shelley married Louie Giglio 31 years ago, and together the two have created some of the most dynamic movements within the Christian church and music industry, including Passion, Passion City, and sixstepsrecords. One of the common threads for each of these is the same spirit of authenticity that Shelley was taught as a child. No faking allowed.

Combining the theme of authenticity with worship, Shelley and Louie, through the Passion movement, have impacted numerous young people’s lives through events such as the Passion conferences (began in 1997), OneDay, and the Passion World Tour, in which the goal has always been to bring young people together to worship God and experience that worship in an environment where lives could be forever impacted.

Shelley and Louie also created sixstepsrecords, a record label with the vision of getting authentic worship music to the people of God, so that God can reach His people with a message of love and healing. It may not seem unusual now, but at the time, this was revolutionary. Christian music had been on the scene for a while, but not worship music. It wasn’t something that Shelley knew would succeed. But she took a risk being her authentic self, and it paid off—not only for her, but for the millions of people who now have worship music as a significant part of their lives. And since its beginning in 2000, sixstepsrecords in Atlanta has been home to not only Passion, but also David Crowder, Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, and others.

When asked how it feels to be a part of this trend-setting movement, Shelley remarks, “Most of my life is spent in the back of a darkroom while others are propelled to the front—but it’s worth it, because lifetimes are built on this.” Shelley has somehow managed to take the beautiful home life she experienced as a child and bring that into her label, creating an authentic home for her artists. She speaks of them with the same tenderness, fondness, and pride that a mom would have for her child. “I know the simplicity from which their songs came. They put their heart and melody behind something they’ve learned or are walking through. The purity is what God elevates.”

Shelley gives them a safe place to express their hearts, hurts, and healings. The words and melodies used by artists are an authentic expression of who they truly are—what they think and how they feel. Art exposes the essence of the artist and leaves not just their art, but also their personal being revealed and vulnerable to criticism when it’s shared with other people. For some, that can be an incredibly difficult fear to overcome. One of Shelley’s gifts is seeing into people’s hearts and believing in them until they can believe in themselves.

But it has not all been easy. Shelley remarks that life is painful. Everyone experiences loss and tragedy, and when she was young, she sometimes didn’t have the maturity and wisdom to deal with it. As she has walked through life, she has learned, “Sometimes breathing is all you can do. You can’t change it. But just breathing is a gift. I can appreciate it or hate it, but that’s all I can do. That sets the tone for everything else. It makes you realize that there is purpose in life.”

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Shelley’s purpose to create an authentic home for the people that God puts in her path isn’t limited to sixstepsrecords and the artists working there. She has begun two ministries at Passion City Church for women, and one of the goals of these programs is authentic expression of women within the church. About ten years ago, she launched the Grove to address a growing concern in her heart. She wanted to unite the women of Atlanta in inspiration, to show them that there is a place in the church for them to express themselves fully and authentically. Similar to worship music, Shelley was before her time in recognizing that there was not a place in church for women to express their talents. As a result, Shelley saw that the women in church were leaving to express their talents in culture, which is appropriate, but she says, “How sad it is if women don’t have a place to serve in their own house! Women are thermostats; they set the temperature of every environment they are in. We believe in them. There’s a place for them in body of Christ.” And every week, women now gather at Passion City Church in Atlanta to worship, fellowship, and learn about contributing to the body of Christ as their authentic selves. More recently, Shelley began Flourish, a mentoring program for young women in the church, with around 800 participants today. Believing that it isn’t just big environments that are needed to help women flourish, this is a day-to-day program in which women are growing up into what God has created them to be and receiving an investment into their lives, much in the same way that Shelley personally invests into the lives of her artists.

What an inspiration to see someone like Shelley—someone who knows who she is, someone who isn’t afraid to take chances, and someone who risks believing in people with all her heart. Her legacy is over thirty years of authentically loving and supporting people, and I am excited to see that continue for the next thirty years.

Words by Dee Mimbs

Shelley’s portrait by Cameron Powell