All posts in "Interviews"

Compassion is the best apologetic


CT interviewed Max Lucado about his book Outlive Your Life; You Were Made to Make a Difference, which includes this great exchange: What provoked your interest in poverty? About four years ago, a guy asked me what my great-grandchildren would think about my response to the one billion hungry people on the planet. I had neglected this area in my life and in my teaching. It led to a series I did for the church, which led to this book, which is based on the Book of Acts, about the Jerusalem church. When you study the first 12 chapters of Acts, you see how the church responded to things like hunger, bias, persecution, racial tension, and hypocrisy inside the church. You write, “Cut concern out of the Bible, and you cut the heart out of it.” How do you prioritize poverty among other issues? Compassion is the best apologetic. There are many controversial issues in our culture. The church should take a strong stance on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. But there’s something about compassion that causes society to say, “We’re going to take this person seriously.” Take Mother Teresa. She was confrontational on abortion, but she wasn’t rejected by society. Full interview here.


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Interview with Mike Grayson of MikesChair (part 2 of 2)


Here’s the second (and final installment) of my chat with the namesake of MikesChair. Their song “Keep Changing the World” is one of the nominees for our 2010 Song of the Year (part 1 here). To listen to and vote for “Keep Changing the World” or the other nominees for our Song of the Year, click here. You can also visit our MySpace.com/HarmonyofHearts/playlists. +  +  + Describe the response to the song “Keep Changing the World.” It’s nice to see how people cling to the song as…motivation, maybe?  To just go out and do something.  So many people have the impression that they   have to move to Africa to change the world.  God is going to call certain people to do that, but we’re all called to do something.  Sometimes that’s in our own homes or own communities. Tell me a bit about how the band encourages others to “keep changing the world” at their concerts with MikesTable? Sure (laughs).  We like to joke that we are furnishing the house.  MikesTable is the umbrella idea of bringing awareness to need.  At MikesChair shows, when possible, we ask people to bring a canned food item which we donate locally – a local church or food bank.  We try to be sure that there is an awareness of the need in the community.  We also connected with Food for the Hungry, which brings awareness to the need globally.  So MikesTable helps give a platform for the conversation. Does a Scripture verse come to mind that concerns serving the poor? First Corinthians 13 says, “If I can speak in the tongues of men and of angels, then it’s basically nothing.  That whole chapter is what it’s all about.   If as a band, if as believers, if as people, if we’re not walking out the things we’re talking about the way we’re supposed to, then it’s all just noise.  Our prayer is that we’re not adding to the noise, but that in some way, we’re loving well. What’s next for MikesChair? We are working on our next album, getting in the studio.  We’ve done two mission trips over the past year – one to Peru and one to Guatemala – so there are songs that have influenced by those trips. What were your impressions from visiting Guatemala and Peru and what God is doing there among the poor? When you visit a foreign country, there’s a certain element of you think you are going to go over there and bless them, but in every situation, it’s the opposite.  These people have nothing – they don’t even have essentials that we need for life, and yet…  These people are so thankful, and they have nothing.  There’s this desire of:  God, strip me down to nothing and let me faithful for it. Congratulations on your nomination.  We’re looking forward to the new album. We are honored – thank you so much. +  +  + To listen to and vote for “Keep Changing the World” or the other nominees for our Song of the Year, click here. You can also visit our MySpace.com/HarmonyofHearts/playlists.


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Interview with Mike Grayson of MikesChair (part 1 of 2)


I caught up with Mike Grayson – the namesake of the band MikesChair – as the band was headed for a tour date in Ohio this fall. +  +  + What’s the short version of the band’s name? When we were students at Belmont University, we all lived in one dorm, but I was the only guy who lived on a different floor.  So I was basically living with the rest of the band in their different dorm rooms and had nothing down on their floor.  One day I came back from class and found out the guys had gotten me a chair so I would have something that was mine.  So everytime we wrote music, that was my spot.  So, for us, it’s a reminder of where we started, and how faithful God is to take us from there to the platform we have today. Did you expect it to take off like this? No, we didn’t.  We knew early on there was something special about it, but we never thought we’d be doing this full time eight years later. What prompted the writing of “Keep Changing the World”? It was in part inspired by when I lived in a low-income area of Nashville.  There was a church parking lot across the street that filled up with people every week.  For the longest time, I just assumed it was an outdoor worship service, but finally realized it was a food drive for the community.  Hundreds of people came for canned foods, bread…things I take for granted every day.  Once I realized that, it just broke my heart… The song itself is a celebration of people who are doing something.  Every concert, that is our goal:  to encourage and inspire people to take action.  As the church, we have an army that can go out and drastically change the world if people would just take those little steps.  “Keep Changing the World” is a kind of mission statement for us as a band, a reminder of what we want to accomplish and what we feel called to do.  Hopefully it serves as an inspiration for others as well. +  +  + To listen to and vote for “Keep Changing the World” or the other nominees for our Song of the Year, click here. You can also visit our MySpace.com/HarmonyofHearts/playlists.


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“God is a great fugue”


Peter Bannister is a modern classic composer who takes theology seriously. Concerning his recent oratorio Et iterum venturus est (And He shall come again), he says: The historic creedal statement…reminds us that the Christian faith not only calls us to remember the Word’s becoming flesh but also to live in anticipation of Christ’s return. Et iterum venturus est is conceived as a work pulled in the “two directions” … focusing on Christ as both the promised Savior and Judge of Christian eschatology. For a long time I have felt that during the liturgical season of Advent (which will be the context for the first performance of the piece in December 2008) a great deal of attention is paid to recalling the (not-so-burning) Babe of Bethlehem and relatively little to the Crucified and Risen Christ’s future coming in glory … ‘to judge the living and the dead’ in the words of the Creed. The danger of this is that the awesome, unfathomable mystery that is the Incarnation becomes domesticated, dissociated from the transformational call to repentance and its implications for both our individual lives and God’s world. While being careful to avoid any kind of speculation on the time-frame for the parousia, I intend to juxtapose scriptural texts regarding these two comings of Christ within one work in order to demonstrate their inseparability within the Biblical witness and…to interpret the past in the light of the future. The video above (also viewable on YouTube here), Peter reflects on the challenges he faced writing Et iterum venturus est, discussing the intrinsic connection between music and spirituality and how he realized the necessity of linking profound theological reflection with challenging musical scores. Click here to download an interview with Peter Bannister by Greg Wheatley that aired on Moody Radio. HT:  Chandler Branch, Soli Deo Gloria


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Songwriting for the poor – Interview with Jennafer White of Wrent


Jen and Brady White were simply counting on a getaway, not on God changing their lives. The young couple – known to audiences across America as the band Wrent – visited the Dominican Republic in September of 2007.  They became part of a trip organized by Cross International to help donors understand and appreciate the work being done overseas to care for the poor. Jen was working for a Cross International board member at the time that was not able to come, so she and Brady came on his behalf. “We didn’t know anything about Cross International or what we were going to see,” says Jen, “We were just excited to go.  So we went, and the LORD changed our hearts forever.” Jen says the ministry began before they even got off the ground:  “We had already formed an unbelievable community as a group going down, even before we arrived in the Dominican.  Cross International set the tone for the whole trip – we felt so loved before we even got there.” Once touching down in Santa Domingo and driving 30 minutes out of town, Jen says they “became immersed in the most severe poverty I’ve ever been around.” “The floors in homes were made of dirt and it would rain every night,” she explains, “and since there was only one bed for 12 people, the family would have to sleep in shifts for 2 or 3 hours.  It was horrible!  The floor was literally washing away from under them.” Now Jen uses this story to illustrate the conditions to their audiences across the U-S:  “It’s a perfect picture of how desperately people need help.” Brady and Jen’s song Believe – birthed from their time in the Dominican – illustrates in music the cry of the poor for deliverance from wretched circumstances and conditions.  They have given it to Cross International to distribute to churches that want to focus on serving the poor during worship. Jen explains the process of writing Believe:   “We started writing it before the trip, but we just couldn’t finish it.  We just had a couple of lines and a tune, but that was it.  But after the first day in the Dominican, when we got back to our hotel room, and Brady started playing with it again, and it just came together then.” “God used our time in the Dominican to call us into our current ministry,” says Jen.  “It was then that we decided we wanted to raise money for and awareness about what ministries like Cross International are doing to serve the poor and fight poverty around the world.” Jen and Brady White travel extensively as the band Wrent, and share the love of God and the needs of the poor with hundreds of people at churches, youth camps, radio audiences every year. Music charts and video of their song “Believe” are available to church music directors free-of-charge through Cross International’s Harmony of Hearts program.  Click here to preview and for details


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“Not our work, but God’s work” – Interview with composer John Sall


John Sall was an young church music director when he heard about a competition for young composers, sponsored by a well-known New York church. At the time he was the Director of Music at Bethel Lutheran in Rochester, Minnesota, and – in his words – “was young, ambitious, and didn’t have children yet.” So John put pen to manuscript and wrote “Is Not This the Fast That I Choose”, an anthem based on Isaiah 58 for choir, organ and string quartet, which won the Grand Prize in the First Annual Competition for Young Composers sponsored by Riverside Church in New York in September 1999. “It’s designed for your average good four-part church choir, one used to singing independent four-part work,” John told me recently.  “It’s in a sort of unfamiliar or slightly minimal style for vocal writing, using a lot of the same harmonies with occasional unexpected moving lines that create dissonance.” So what is the biggest challenge with the anthem?  According to John, “I found that the hardest part was just getting into the mind and ear of the singers how the piece worked.  Once we did that, the notes themselves and the individual lines are not especially difficult.  It’s not intended to be virtuosic or challenging.” In the score, the original composition segues neatly into “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty (Lobe Den Herren, Neander, 1680),” which provides a nice surprise and ends the piece on a promising note, making a lasting impression on listeners: Praise to the Lord! who will prosper your work and defend you, Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend you; Ponder anew what the Almighty can do, if with His love He befriend you! John calls the inclusion of the hymn a “delightful, happy accident.”  He says, “I was getting towards what I thought was the end of the work when the hymn introduced itself again to my mind.  It kind of walked in, sat down and said, ‘By the way, I think you should include me here at the end.’” John recently dusted the anthem off for his choir at Abington Presbyterian and found it as welcome as an old friend.  “What I found that I really loved about the piece is not just that sense of prophetic concern and chastisement that comes out in the call for the very things that God wants from us, but also the reminder of blessing that is inherent in doing those things.  In the text, it is portrayed as a cause and effect:  God says if you do these, things, then your light will break forth like the dawn.” “The idea is that while we do what is required of us, God will also strengthen the work because it’s not our work, but God’s work,” says John.  “It’s not that God’s work can’t be accomplished without us – He will find a way to get it done whether we do it or not – but that it is with putting our hands to the work God has in front of us, we will also be strengthened and uplifted by the work itself. God Himself participates with us in that process.” John Sall is the Music Director of Abington Presbyterian Church in Pennsylvania and author of Is Not This the Fast I Choose, a choral anthem based on Isaiah 58. This is one of the resources we offer free to participating churches.  We are grateful for his generosity in waiving royalties for churches that participate in Harmony of Hearts presentations.


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