I’ve shared the stage with a lot of musicians, preachers and performers over the years and what amazes me the most is how some have fallen away from a relationship with Jesus Christ. This is absolutely fascinating to me. How can someone that believed so passionately about a God they learned about growing up in Sunday School walk away from what they professed on stage. Did they suddenly ‘change their mind?’ Was there some sort of ground breaking revelation in their life?
My first band, All IV One, was a mix of R&B and Hip Hop. We would sing and the preacher would give the sermon. We saw lives changed, we were all witnesses of…well, maybe we weren’t, maybe those in the audience had a coming to Jesus moment but didn’t follow through with the most obvious of requirements in being a Christian. You Must be Born Again.
My goal this year is to be BOLD. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been fearless and will encounter anyone that would strike up a conversation about my passion for serving Christ but without the stage, my crutch, I don’t typically share my story of what God has done for me. Well, 2013 is the year that I am tasking myself with sharing the good news to a friend once a month. I know, pretty weak, I should be spreading the good news daily to my friends; call this baby steps. Last month (January) I approached my “target” and shared that earthly death means nothing when you have a relationship with Christ. I explained that from my observation they needed to establish an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ and with that they would pass into heaven when they died. What a glorious day that will be indeed. The response I received was “I’m going to Heaven” and that they are a good person. Here is where I disagree. This person is not a good person but an amazing person. So great and kind of heart, someone that I can only aspire to be. They tried to assure me that they were just like me and not to worry, that we would be together in Heaven someday. Yet they scoffed at the notion of being ‘born again’. Unfortunately being good, great, awesome is not enough. You Must be Born Again.
My most popular band, Salt or Salt the Band, toured to and from Seattle to places like Idaho, Montana, the Dakotas, Tennessee, Virginia, California and Arizona. We were the Happy Side of Edge with a mix of bubble gum pop and an intense message that obviously didn’t mix well. Record labels didn’t know how to shelf us. Release magazine told the world: SOMEBODY SIGN THESE GUYS, while critics raved “if you want to be in a band before they break big get into Salt the Band.”
Stop to stop our message was the same, if there was no Jesus, there would be no Salt. We didn’t do this for money or fame – lol, there wasn’t actually a lot of either. It was about the message of what God could do for you. We shared a message of hope and kids were crying as they heard powerful lyrics that cut to their core. Yet did it really matter? When those that shared that message turned their back on the man they claimed saved them? My heart breaks when I hear friends say, “I’m going to heaven, I’m a good person Troy, don’t worry about me.” Yet for those I’ve shared the stage with that have seen the power of Christ my heart has no sympathy. The idea behind being born again is so simple. Shoot, even Black Sabbath gets it. I remember the preachers that spoke at Salt concerts and I remember the words I used to say in sharing the good news from the stage. What an opportunity I missed when I should have been explaining that You Must be Born Again.
TJR: Wow what an experience, the absolute best experience I have ever had while playing in bands. These guys got me, they played with a passion that matched my vocal intensity. We were a no holds barred rock show and we could hang with the best of them. Very raw and a very young group of musicians but I didn’t care. Some of my old band-mates couldn’t understand what I was doing, yet I was loving life playing this style of music. The message was simple, we spoke to those that had been hurt, or were tired of life and needed a savior to just rest in the savior’s shadow. Songs spoke of broken dreams, of rain on my birthday and His Majesty. If you looked closely you could sometimes see tears falling in the midst of my growl. My journey was complete, this is what I had been waiting for. Then something happened. In the middle of a concert some of the band declined to play His Majesty because it was at an over 21 club. His Majesty wasn’t on the original set list yet I felt the Lord impressing on me to sing it, shoot, yeah, let’s do it I thought. When I cue’d the band well, they weren’t exactly on board. That was the last concert we played.
What an opportunity we had to reach out to a different audience to share with them the good news. The good news that death doesn’t bring an end with Christ in your life. That if you believe, if you humble yourself and repent you can be saved from your current path. To repent, to change the way you think, to be Born Again.
With the birth of my first, second and third children I figured out quick that music wasn’t paying the bills. Finally at the age of 39 (with the discovery that baby #4 was on it’s way and the flaking out of fellow musicians over a comeback attempt) I finally gave over every dream of being a full time music guy. It was rough, there were a lot of tears that afternoon. When you’ve expected to do one thing your whole life and finally admit that you came up short can be difficult. Maybe it was time for me to grow up, time to be responsible. I had already lost out on any kind of corporate career; friends my age were Managers, Directors or VP’s at their jobs.
There is one thing I miss and only one thing. My voice. I had a voice on stage. When I spoke people listened. Intently. I remember my first gig at Starbucks. It was a busy Saturday night and they had me sitting in the corner. Since my guitar playing wasn’t as stellar as it should have been and I was alone, I was a nervous wreck. Shouldn’t matter though right? Everyone was talking. ‘Wait a minute’ I thought, no one is paying attention, so I belted out ‘how come it rained on my birthday.’ Silence. Everyone stopped and looked over at the guy in the corner. Man, I loved that. My voice. Please understand I’m not claiming to have an awesome voice, my point is I was on my soapbox and although it wasn’t blatantly Christian it was still a message that I could sing. My voice is now this blog and I say You Must be Born Again.
You Must be Born Again. What does that mean exactly? Well that’s the beauty of the message. You know exactly what it means but I’ll play along and explain. Born Again means you are to renew your mind, start anew, change your current situation. This concept that Jesus accepts you for who you are is wrong. Jesus doesn’t accept us, we are to accept Him. Such a fantastic lie though wouldn’t you say? The devil doesn’t try to deny Jesus, he doesn’t try to get you to stay away from Jesus, he says: Jesus accepts you for who you are. Too many of my brothers and sisters that I’ve shared the stage with believe this lie.
After writing this I pause at that thought…maybe I am sympathetic after all.