How The Altar Music is Spreading Hope and Healing Across the World
How One Musician Found His Calling at a Local Church

Welcome to this special interview with Zac Hagerty, the musician and worship leader behind The Altar Music.

Zac's incredible journey has taken him from a life of jetsetting as a touring musician to planting himself full-time at a local church. He is the worship leader behind the album "Welcome Home," which is now played in over 100,000 prisons worldwide, bringing hope and healing to those who need it most.

In this interview, we'll be exploring Zac's inspiring story and how he discovered the power of being "planted."

We'll also be discussing the strategies and tactics that have helped The Altar Music become a success, and what insights he can share for others looking to create impactful music ministries.

So whether you've only ever sung in the shower, a worship leader, or simply someone looking for hope and inspiration, get ready for an uplifting conversation with Zac Hagerty.

Episode Transcription:

Hey, this is Justin Brooke from Faith Funnels, and you're about to hear from Zach Haggerty who used to run a worldwide ministry. He's traveling the world singing the songs and preaching the gospel all over the world. And then gave all that up to plant himself at a local church here in Tennessee, the church that I go to. And they started the altar music and now they've got an album. Now the album is called Welcome Home. It's phenomenal. I suggest you look up a song called Follow the Lamb. It's amazing. All right, with that said, let's jump into the interview. Take it away, Zach.

Alright. So here we are on with Zach Haggerty. Zach, thank you for being on. I wanted to know if you would be able to just tell us a little bit about what is your ministry, how you got it started, give us the fast forward us up to today. Sure. Yeah. Well, thank you for having me on. I live in Johnson City, Tennessee. I'm the worship pastor the Altar Fellowship, which is a local church here that kind of has a global international ministry reach. And I've been here three years since the beginning. I was hired on to lead the worship department to just be a worship pastor to our musicians when our church started. And so through that we've launched the Altar Music, which is sort of a creative musical element through our church. So we did a record last year. We've got a massive department and we know we write at songs and we're kind of marrying the sound of the land with the sound of our church culture.

And I think it's really something beautiful. And so I'm so pumped and so honored. It's got an Appalachian melting vibe to it, but it's had a little bit, brings back some of the motherhood of Scottish music, brings in some of those elements and super godly Kingdom based. My favorite is Follow the Lamb. You got a favorite? Can you say? I feel like Death Defeated is probably my favorite. That song was one of the hardest to finish. Funny story. We did a live recording on a Friday. We didn't finish that song till the Wednesday before, during our pre-production. We're getting ready, we got to make sure this is right. And so I think for me, it holds a special place because it was like the harder the fight, the bigger the fish. And so it just comes with a big journey for me, and that one always gets our church.

Everybody's on their feet jumping. That one's a good one. So along the way. You got a music ministry and you're helping the local church. You've got an album. So you're helping people nationwide. I know our album is in the prisons or something. Can you talk a little bit about that real quick? Yeah, so we were approached by a ministry called God Behind Bars in the spring of 2022. So about a year ago they reached out and they were like, hey, we've got sort of a closed network similar to Netflix and YouTube sort of software that we release in these prisons. And so they're like, we don't have anybody that sounds like you guys on this platform, and so we would love to release your music videos. But the conference that we did out in Las Vegas, got that set out there, they were like, just be prepared.

These guys, they love penpals, so you might start getting massive amounts of fan mail. And we were like, man, that would be amazing to see what we do week in and week out, reach the hardest and darkest places in the world and US prisons. And so every single week we get 30, 40, 50 letters from inmates that are writing testimonies of how the song Follow the Lamb led them to their knees and they gave their hearts to the Lord or reminded them because it's got that Appalachian family sort of generational sound with the banjos that reminds them of their grandmother who used to pray for them. And so for a long time I would correspond with all these guys. I would write 'em back, and then it's grown so big. We've got a whole team in our church that that's all they do is they are pen pals with these inmates.

And man, it's just amazing to see that what God is pouring out here in our little church is going places that we could never personally ever walk into. And mm-hmm. Pretty amazing. Cool. Yeah, and Emily's voice in that Follow The Lamb man. I don't care how tough you are, man, her voice will just melt you. She is a favorite.

So you're a worship leader, you've got an album out, it's rolling through the prisons, but what was it like in some of the early days? What were some of the challenges that you were coming across that you had to overcome? Yeah, so prior to moving to Johnson City, I traveled full-time with my wife and we were missionaries, so we were doing a lot of work in the Middle East.

We were sort of leading a global training and development program for a ministry that was planting mobile houses of prayers throughout the United States. So I came from a completely different context. One of the biggest challenges for me was, who am I going to be, planted as the local church guy? Because I was never home for six or seven years. I was on the road traveling everywhere, anywhere, any conference, any major event. I was there and it was really exciting. So I was like, when I got hired on here, when we felt like we were supposed to move, I was like, I don't know. I don't how to discover who I am planted and seated in the same place week in and week out, especially given the context of a church plant. It's like, well, what am I even getting into? And so that was a personal sort of hurdle to overcome.

How does this age well, just sitting down, when my whole life and the context of so many relationships were so over there, global. What is it like to show up week in and week out. A mundane Monday morning or your random Thursday afternoon? What is life like that really like?

So how'd you deal with that? You how'd get through that? Yeah, it was really a step of faith. Honestly, when the invitation came to move here with the instruction of, I just want you to sit down, I just want you to plant yourself, stop traveling, just love your wife, love your children, and help lead this church and lead this ministry. I had no reason to trust Pastor Matt. I had no reason to trust him that it would turn out well. But at the same time, I had no reason to doubt that this is what God was calling me to do.

And so it was a big step of faith and probably the first six months were the honeymoon period. I was just like, oh, I'm happy to be here. And then I kind of had to be confronted with some of my own restlessness, some of my own striving for performance and doing things sort of because I didn't know who I was. I had to kind of rediscover who I was and who God was calling me to be in this day and age as a father and a husband and as a pastor and a local church guy. And so it it's turned out well though. I'm so thankful that I was able to see into what I couldn't see at the time and say, I'm going to trust the same presence that led me here, that it'll be the one that carries me through.

I love to hear how you overcome it, how you were able to make that step of faith. So thinking back to what you know now, and I know you got kids, so let's position this. Let's say your kids want to follow in dad's footsteps and they want to start a music ministry. And I think they are. I've seen your kids, they're very musical. So what kind of advice would you give them in them starting their ministry career now, knowing what you know now?

The biggest thing, it's same advice I would tell myself 10 years ago is to find a father, right? Find a man, find a woman, find a family, and plant yourself in it. And don't make decisions that are going to better your career. Make decisions that are going to better your soul. Because if you're going to live a better life, you're going to produce better work.

And so I would tell my kids, plant yourself, find a faithful father and say, I, whatever's in your heart, the dream of your heart, I want to make the priority of my life and trust that the Lord will honor your ability to honor a father and through serving another man's vision, ultimately you'll get your own. And so that's what I would tell it.

Man you are a godly man of faith, man. I love the strength there, man. All right, cool. Let's go a little bit more tactical, a little bit more technical. How do you measure the success of your ministry? What you guys are doing?

Doing a record, right? In the church world, there's a temptation to measure success on record sales and Spotify playlists and charts and all of that. And if I'm honest, there is a little bit in me that keeps track of some of that stuff.

But the measuring stick for success for what I feel called to do is really how much love is produced between me and the people that I'm doing it with. Because at the end of the day, it's not about records, it's not about charts, it's not about Spotify playlists, it's about we're a family with a generational call. So whether any of this is successful or not, we still got to love each other. We got to show up next week and still be able to look into each other's eyes and be like, man, I, I've seen the journey that you've walked and I honor it, right? I know what you're struggling with. I want to celebrate the wins and cover the losses in your life. And you don't get that if you're whole priority is just on what we can produce.

You have to really live life with each other. So we kind of have a little bit of a mantra, even with our department that if love is not produced, it's not worth doing. And I wish I would've known this 10 years ago, the measuring stick of success is how much love is produced because it's easy to care about the people that you don't see week in and week out, right? It's easy to prioritize the conference across the world and not prioritize the people that actually actually know you and have seen you at your best and have loved you at your worst. And so I want to be able to offer that to the people that feel called to be joined to me and that I'm responsible for is that love would be the biggest pursuit. Because if we love each other, we can only go up from there. Anything's possible.

Dude, I think your answer is definitely going to bless somebody because it blessed me and my eyes started heating up. I was like, man, I better not start crying right here on this podcast.

That hit me. I should be focusing on the love that's being created with my team more than any of our numbers and stuff, man. Thank you. Love that. Alright can you talk about a specific moment of accomplishment that you're particularly proud of in growing your ministry?

Yeah. I think one of the things that I'm probably the most proud of is doing our record, I think to me is such a big accomplishment. Not because we did a record, but because we took the revelation that's happening in our church and we turned it into a language for our family. We took these concepts because the songs that we wrote for the record are as fresh and as new as our church is because we didn't come in with come with preconceived ideas. I didn't come in with the thought of ever writing a song and doing a record .

I've done that before in the past, but I came in with a blank slate of I'm going to serve my spiritual father. I'm going to serve the call and the responsibility that's in front of me and I'm going to do it until the Lord says otherwise. And so hearing these messages, seeing lives being transformed and families being restored and marriages being saved, and it was like, man, we have all these memories now and these memories have become melodies, right? Follow The Lamb, Death Defeated, all of the songs. I can take you back to a moment of when that revelation birthed that language and now that language has become really the framework and the sound of our family. And so that's probably one of my biggest, most proud accomplishments isn't the record. It's what the record signifies and points to is that people from all over the world moved, you included.

We just moved and settled ourselves into this little community here in East Tennessee, and the Lord has blessed it and out of it has come a whole framework of encountering who he is and our children's children will be able to point back and say, I remember I've heard stories of this song that carried that breakthrough and we're living in the glory of it today.

Yeah. Yeah. It's nice to be able to take the worship home. I think a lot of churches, I'm not trying to put anything on any churches, but I think it's been really nice one, we have the podcast. I think a lot of churches, you listen to your pastor a sermon at another time or you can give it to a, but to be able to take the worship home too has been, and not even just home in the car as we're riding down the street, it's been great for our family to just be riding down the street, listening to Death Defeated or we're going on home to our family in Florida and we're listening to Follow the Lamb and it just keeps blessing us, man.

It's really a treasure. So big question. This is for the whole church, all of the ministries, we're all trying to navigate question number six right now, which is how have you been able to adapt to the digital changes that are happening in ministry right now? What's that been like for you? Because I know you've like me, you've been around since before digital took over. Now digital's the big show. What's that been like for you and how have you navigated that?

Yeah, I think that's a very good question and I think it's something we have to be willing to address because the world is not slowing down. The digital age is not going to disappear. We have access to anything we could ever want on our phones. And so I think we were actually talking about this at staff meeting that I think it's because of the accessibility of the digital age.

It's going to teach us what's actually most important. The fact that you can sit on your phone and watch a pastor or watch this, just be a consumer. I think we kind of learned or are going to learn that that's not actually what we really want. And so it's almost like the excess of it is going to show us what's missing in our life. And so what's one of the reasons why we have chosen to not do livestream up to this point at our churches? Because we didn't want to make it too easy for people to disengage to what mattered most, as convenient as it would be sometimes as lucrative as it might even be. It's like Zack, it'll grow the numbers right. But again, going back to how much love is produced, it's easy to hide behind a screen. It's hard to hide face to face.

I love the digital age. I think it's awesome. But I have to go back to does it help me love the people I'm called to love? If I don't ever have to have FaceTime with them, can I really know them? Can they really know me? And so we're kind of using the accessibility of the digital age to flip the script on it and be like, thank you for showing us what's missing. Now we're going to step in and occupy that space. That's why we through Covid, even though it was unpopular, we didn't stop meeting why we haven't done livestream as a vibrant, growing dynamic church that could be all over the world. Why we haven't done it is because we recognize that face-to-face is what we were actually made for. And so we will use the digital age as a tool, but it's merely a vehicle. It's not the end of the run.

So use it, embrace it, but remember to keep the main thing, the main thing.

The main thing, right? It's like get in the car but always come back home, right? Just the vehicle to get us the over there so we can point right back to what matters. What matters most.

So last question. How have you seen God, holy Spirit, moving through your ministry? In what ways have you seen that? Oh man. I've seen I mean even, you were at church on Sunday, right? I think I've seen the Lord just show himself faithful that if we just follow him, if we just honor what he honors if we just allow our lives to be defined by who he says that we are, anything's possible.

And there's a freedom that comes when you just stop trying to live your life for other people or for what other entities or industries say you have to do to be successful. And really just say, I'm going to let the love of the Father and the love of the son and the love of the people that are right in front of me be what drives me. Then he's going to be faithful to breathe on it and to finish what he started. He who began the good work will be faithful to complete it. And so it's not really up to me to try to make work it all out in the end, but it is up to me to be faithful to what he's put my hand to. And so just seeing him answer that with more fruit and more rest than I could ever produce in my own life has just been so encouraging.

And I'm convinced that you can do more seated and planted in a family than you ever could do running around on your own. And so I've experienced the fruit of that in my own life. I think our church is a testimony of what happens when people are willing to say, you know what? I'm going to stay put and I'm going to lean in and get close. We see breakthrough and freedom and prosperity and all the good stuff just sort of happened.

Okay, so I can hear that the listener is like, wait, what happened Sunday? Okay, can we talk about Sunday a little bit? Let me set it up. We have two different views because I'm in the pews and you're on the stage. So what you see and what I see is different.

So this will be interesting. So Sunday, go to church, worship was great, but then one song certainly came on and I felt it. It just got thick. The room when this song we're singing Holy Holy Holy, and everybody was reaching a little higher, people were singing a little louder and then it just never stopped. Worship just never stopped. We just kept going. The men came up front, we were dancing. I better learn how to dance better because I didn't know we were going to be having to dance in church! So just to kind of set it up. We came to church, normally, worship, the Holy Spirit came. I believe the Holy Spirit came and worship just never stopped for two hours. We just worshiped. Never did a sermon or anything. So what was that like for you? What did you see? What was your experience?

Yeah, so we have a little team huddle with our media production, the worship team at 10 minutes until service starts. And normally it's where we give technical direction or we give little reminders of, Hey, this is what's happening, and so and so, don't forget your part or whatever. And we'll try to bring, one of our directors will try to bring a word or a verse and be like, Hey guys, let's really kind of be unified around this thought. And so it was my turn to bring the all hands in, "go team" sort of word. And I was like, guys, I'm going to be honest. I don't have this burning profound revelation in my spirit other than this, Christ will be glorified. I was like, we're living, anywhere you look. You're seeing the Asbury revival and this happening over here. I was like, that's amazing. And I'm so thankful.

And why it's amazing is because Christ is being glorified. And I said, but I want to remind us that we don't have to go there to experience the glory that God wants to pour out because he's the same God who's there. It's the same God that's here. I said, so whatever we do, let's just say Christ be glorified. And that was it. It was a simple revelation. I mean, I honor what God is doing around our nation and these little outpourings that we're seeing happen, but I'm thankful that I don't have to go there to experience it. We get to live in it day in, day out because we're just willing to say, Christ be glorified. In worship, in business, in family, in parenting, in marriage, in the dinner table. And so to stand on that stage, as soon as we started, I felt like there's a hunger in the room.

In that first song kind of did that little in instrumental thing. That's kind of our call to worship. And I was just like, man, there is something special about this. And at that 40 minute mark, I know exactly what you're talking about. You could feel like this is about to break open. And it just sort of became this all-consuming thing because I think the Lord will always respond to hunger. And so I think what we saw on Sunday was this sort of collective, Christ be glorified. Everything we learned at men's prayer, all the kingdom principles that we're applying not only to business, to ministry, but to our own daily lives. I think we're beginning to see the fruit of that start to come together. And there's a verse in the Psalms. It says that the streams flow together to create a mighty river.

And I felt like we saw the beginning of all of these streams coming together and it says, it makes glad the city of the Lord. And so from my perspective, I was like, one, it's amazing what happens when men lead, right if as it goes with the man. So it goes with the entire kingdom.

So all the fathers came up and then all of a sudden the kids came. You could feel, the collective strength of the fathers of the house. And so I just saw this picture of all these streams just come becoming a mighty river. And so then it's amazing in the context of revival, when you live by a river, you don't have to chase the rain because we have a living water that we can draw from day in and day out. And so I was so thankful to be in a company of people that are like, man, we honor the rain, but we're going to plant by the river and we're going to let what we carry add to what's already flowing. And I think we saw that happen on Sunday.

Definitely. Definitely. Well, pastor Zach, this has been an honor. Thank you so much for giving me some of your time and telling us these stories. I appreciate you so much, man. Thank you.

Yes sir. Thank you.