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The lead singer of MercyMe is finally sharing the story behind the hit song 'I Can Only Imagine'.

Bart Millard, the lead singer for MercyMe, wrote 'I Can Only Imagine' for the album The Worship Project, which released in 1999. The song became a single later in 2001 and has since been certified platinum RIAA twice, becoming the first and only Christian single to hit that milestone.

i can only imagineBart Millard wrote the hit song after his father's death. Millard says that he became obsessed with heaven after his father's passing, and wondering what it might be like (Graf-Martin).And for a long time after it was released, the band didn't even play it.

"It didn't really hit the one verse and a chorus and fit on Powerpoint kind of worship stuff back in the day, so we never played it," Millard remembered. The band was at a church camp almost a year after the song was released when the speaker asked if they could play that song.

"While he was preaching, we were behind the curtain trying to learn our own song," Millard laughed.

After that, the song blew up across not just Christian radio, but mainstream as well. It surprised the band, especially Millard, who had a deep personal connection to the song he wrote.

"It was a big deal to me, but back then we were independent and you're doing everything you can just to survive," Millard said. "Everything was about the praise and worship you would do at church camp, and that what was selling albums.

"We were too busy doing 'Lord I Lift Your Name on High' with the hand signs."

I Can Only Imagine has been made into a feature-length film scheduled for release on Friday, which explains the story behind the song. Millard wrote the song after his father's death. His father, who was abusive for most of his childhood, became who Millard describes as the 'most Godly man he knew'.

"If you would have asked me who is the one person God could not reach, I would have said my dad ten out of ten times," Millard admitted. "And here we are saying how his life was changed forever, and because of that, mine was too.

"No one is not capable of being forgiven."

Manitoba showings:

I Can Only Imagine debuts in theatres on March 16. You can see the film at the following Manitoba theatres:

  • Landmark 5 Winkler
    • Friday, March 16: 7:00 p.m.; 9:35 p.m.
    • Saturday, March 17 - Sunday, March 18: 1:00 p.m.; 4:00 p.m.; 7:00 p.m.; 9:35 p.m.
    • Monday, March 19 - Thursday, March 22: 7:00 p.m.; 9:35 p.m.
  • Scotiabank Theatre Winnipeg
    • Friday, March 16 - Thursday, March 22: 1:30 p.m.; 4:25 p.m.; 7:20 p.m.; 10:10 p.m.

*Showtimes are subject to change. Check with your local theatre.

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