Free Resource

On Christian Music and the Hidden Gem We’ve Been Waiting For

I grew up with a heavy dose of Sandi Patty, Michael W Smith (Smitty) and Steven Curtis Chapman. While I still love a good Ol fashion “Go West Young Man” or “Friends are Friends Forever,” if I’m honest, I haven’t listened to “Christian” music for well over a decade. For that matter, I’m still not sure how a noun like “Christian” can be used as an adjective to describe the salvific quality of a collective of voices and instruments, but that’s a whole other conversation completely… 

I didn’t intentionally stop listening to Christian music because I had some axe to grind, I just found that it no longer spoke to the Christian story I experienced: a story of doubt despite having all the “answers,” hope in the midst of crisis and suffering in the way of the cross. 

The Collection is not only my favorite band of 2014-15, but they are needed water on the dry soil of millennials’ interest in any music remotely “Christian.” Not only is their music creative and of high quality (think Mumford & Sons meets Lumineers), their lyrics cast a Kingdom vision in some of the most compelling and stirring ways I have encountered. 

I would argue that they aren’t getting popular because they are “cool,” but because the depth of their music is offering something that goes way beyond cynicism and critique of traditional forms of Christianity and instead offers a robust and constructive way forward.  

I spent some time with these good folks a few months back, long after I had become a fan. Here is an interview I recently did with the lead singer and songwriter, David Wimbish.

1. How would you describe your music? Who were major influences?

I like to think of our music as a shy rock kid befriending some band geeks and tripping into an orchestra pit. I’ve heard people say “Orchestral Folk” frequently. My favorite is probably “Big Band Americana”, though it might not be the most accurate. I remember reading an interview with Sufjan Stevens where he talks about how brass instruments can be just as “heavy” as electric guitars. Growing up in a missionary community, I was exposed to a lot of music around the world, and learned that concept through osmosis. I think a lot of the music that influenced me was music that had the same emotions as American music, but with different textures. Many times this was Balkan Brass, Traditional Ghanian, Chinese Folk, Mariachi, etc. Now it has grown to all sorts of things -- Big Band, Classical, Folk, Psych Rock, etc. 

2. Would you consider yourself a “Christian” band? Why or why not?

I don’t think it’s healthy, most of the time, for a band to identify that way, because I think it can perpetuate the idea that there’s a gap between a thing that is specifically “sanctified” and the normal world. If people believe that a god created the earth, I would hope very much that they would dwell within his creation, and that includes music, whether it is played by christians or not. That being said, some of our band members identify as christians, and some don’t. It definitely started more in that camp, and I think, in the American south especially, it can be hard to not at least have some connection with the ideas behind christianity as it has such cultural prevalence in this area of the world. Within our band dynamic, we try to promote a space for spiritual seeking, for loving others, and for acceptance, whether it be through christianity or not. 

3. In your music, you confront some heavy themes like the death of a close friend. How does your music serve as both an expression of lament and a hope for what has come and is coming?

One of the first shows I played, when I was 13 or 14, I remember my Mum afterwards telling me, “You were very good, you have a lot of potential, but all of your songs were so sad.” I know that’s a bit of a Mum thing to say, and I didn’t have much to be deeply sad about at that time, but I realized it was an easy way to write -- songs come out of our deepest emotions and the most common and universally felt emotion is pain, I think. So I’ve been trying to find a better balance in showing my honest process in wrestling with difficult experiences, without putting a bow on them, and still writing honest songs during hopeful times. I haven’t found it yet -- many newer songs have leaned a bit on the darker side I think than ones from the past. To me, though, what is important is honesty. I think people can hear when you’re lying in a song. Not lyrically, but emotionally. We identify with honesty. And for me, especially while writing Ars Moriendi, I felt really hurt, but I also felt hopeful, and was trying hard to capture both of those.

4. A few of your songs confront experiences of toxic legalism in the Church. Rather than coming off cynical, you paint constructive and beautiful pictures of the hope found in Jesus and the reality of the Kingdom. What has been your personal journey that has led to this point?

Thank you; I’m glad to know I don’t come off as cynical. It’s something I’ve talked with our bassist about a ton, “keep me in check if my lyrics start sounding cynical.” When I was younger, my Mum was the music leader at a church. She helped grow it in so many ways, and it became a beautiful place. At one point though, she was forced out, seemingly because she wasn’t mega-churchy enough. I spent ten years of my life being a part of that community, only to lose trust in people I had leaned on. Does that mean I wasted those ten years, that they didn’t mean anything? The truth is, there isn’t a human soul that has figured out perfect peace and harmony and love with other people all of the time. So any place there are groups of humans, there will always be some sort of toxic practice or thought, it is just part of being human. But, those ten years are part of what made me who I am, just like every hard experience I’ve had. There have been many times in my life that reading the words of Jesus gave me hope that seemed to transcend the bad experiences, and give me vernacular to understand the good parts.

5. So your band has about 87 members. Tell us why and share a bit of your hopes/plans for the future.

Ha -- we may have had close to that many in and out over the years. When I started writing “the Collection” songs, it was a bit of a solo project that selfishly came out of wanting to have a band without losing any creative freedom. I’m lucky to have had so many people be committed to my songs and the vision, even before I had a good way to be committed to them as members. If I met someone that played an instrument we didn’t have, and they seemed like a cool person, I’d invite them to come play with us. We weren’t touring much, so there wasn’t much of a commitment necessary from anyone. It’s grown into more of an actual band, which I am very grateful for because it has allowed more musical and relational intimacy than I was able to have in the past, but it still centers around us being a big family. This past tour we did with 7 members, while past tours have all been with 12, and it felt very small; we kept getting in the van and asking, “Wait, who are we missing?”, though I reckon 7 people is still a pretty big band.

We love being on the road, so I think a lot of our future plans are centered around how to do that as much as possible. We’re also working on getting our album release on Vinyl, Cassette, and putting out a documentary. Maybe some new music this year? Only time will tell -- we don’t always know where to move, but we just keep moving.

——--

NOTE: Their latest album, Ars Moriendi, is off the charts good and where I recommend starting. They are also on Spotify. 

Book Giveaway Trifecta

Ok, so we’ve heard it over and over and over…”tis” the season for giving.  Welp, with that in mind, I’m giving away one of each of my books: Thin Places (I’ll be giving the book & 6 session DVD edition!), Teaching Through the Art of Storytelling and Good News in the Neighborhood.  Click on the BOOKS links above to watch video trailers, read descriptions and endorsements for each.  

Wikipedia defines a trifecta as “a parimutuel bet in which the bettor must predict which horses will finish first, second, and third in exact order.”

Er, umm, that really has nothing to do with this give away, so I’m redefining!

A trifecta “is the opportunity to win one of three LIFE CHANGING (ok, maybe an exaggeration) books with THREE different ways to win.”

Choose one of these three ways to throw your hat in the ring:

1. Follow the link to any of these three book pages and click “like”(right next to the reviews under the title). Thin Places OR Teaching Through the Art of Storytelling OR  Good News in the Neighborhood. Then paste a link to your facebook page in the comments (so I know who to give the book to if you win!).  

2. “Like” my Jon Huckins Writing Facebook page (and post link of your facebook page in Comments below) OR follow me on Twitter and Tweet, “Jump in to win one of @jonhuckins books! http://wp.me/p2vhWw-n7 #BookGiveawayTrifecta”  

3. Write a TRIFECTA Haiku (a Haiku is three phrases -- 5, 7, 5 syllable pattern) in the comments describing your love of egg nog.

I’ll be randomly picking winners on Monday!  Three, Two, One…TRIFECTA!!

BOOK GIVEAWAY: Thin Places

Ok, so I’m looking to give away some copies of Thin Places to those who want to engage its message a bit.  The Celtic idea of a Thin Place is a location (I see this as geographic or experiential) where heaven and earth are only thinly separated; a place where God’s Kingdom is being made real.  From our experience, these places are often found in the mundane and unexpected.

So, here’s how to win a copy (I will give away 1 copy for every 20 comments posted) of Thin Places: Six Postures for Creating and Practicing Missional community:

  1. In the comments section below answer one of these two questions, In what way(s) have you experienced a thin place in your neighborhood/community? What is one way you can best use the message of this book to influence the way you engage in your community/church/neighborhood?  
  2. P.S. For all of you who post this on Twitter and tag me (or hashtag #thinplaces) OR post this on facebook and tag me (so I can track who you are!)  I will be randomly giving away a bonus copy! 
  3. Ready set go!

Video stuff: Remember there is a Small Group Edition for communities/churches that are looking to engage this together!  The second video is a full session from that edition.

Here is what some people are saying about Thin Places who have already read it:

“I thoroughly loved this book and found myself saying ‘Amen’ at every page. A primer in incarnational mission by those who have lived it and taught it for well over a decade.”   ~ Michael Frost, Author of The Shaping of Things to Come and The Road to Missional

“As God continues to call the church to it’s most powerful essence of missional communities, Thin Places offers an inspirational look into practices and postures that forge God’s people together and propel them outward.”  ~ Hugh Halter, Author of The Tangible Kingdom, AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church, and Sacrilege

“Over the past decade interest in community life and neighborhood engagement have emerged as significant themes for a new generation of Christ followers who yearn for embodied and holistic spirituality. To thrive, this world-wild movement needs practical resources, born from historical awareness, thoughtful reflection and most importantly lived experience. Thin Places by Jon Huckins, is precisely this kind of storied resource, a tool that can equip groups to practice the way of Jesus and make a life together in their local contexts for the good of the world.”   ~ Mark Scandrette, Author of Practicing the Way of Jesus and  Executive Director at ReIMAGINE

“The terms ‘missional’ and ‘monastic’ are all too often tossed around by Christians as buzz words, an unfortunate reality given the importance of both terms.  That is why ‘Thin Places’ is such a gift to the church!  Not only do the authors understand and protect the integrity of both concepts, but bring them together in a way that points us towards an exciting future as God’s people actively living into His kingdom”   ~ Jamie Arpin-Ricci, Pastor and Author of The Cost of Community:Jesus, St. Francis & Life in the Kingdom

“The call of faith has always included living in community. The thing is, it is really hard. And there are not enough places where gritty community meets possibility. But, that is what I found in my time with NieuCommunities. These are people who welcomed me in, as a stranger and not only treated me as an honored guest, they made me part of the family. In short, these are people who know what they are doing in creating Christian community and Thin Places not only chronicles their experiences, but invites other communities to imagine how to do the same.”  ~ Doug Pagitt, Pastor of Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis, Author of Preaching Re-Imagined and Church Re-Imagined

“In the modern world of exponential speed and individual mobility, there is a growing hunger for a faith that can be lived out together… where we can be present… where there is an embodied practice… where the gospel becomes tangible in a particular place. NieuCommunities extends the rare gift of a transformative discipleship process that is full-bodied and place-based. Their longevity and fixity is in rich contrast to a world of quick-fix and fast-track!  ~ Paul Sparks, Founding Co-Director Parish Collective

There is a “come and see” authenticity about NieuCommunities that is so reminiscent of Jesus calling the disciples out of fishing boats on the shore of Lake Galilee I can almost taste the salt air. At the same time, the “come and see” community is balanced by a “go and do” mission that gives me hope for inside-out change in neighborhoods in the global city. At a time when many are talking about missional communities, NieuCommunities quietly and expertly goes about doing it—forming young men and women and transforming neighborhoods. The vitality of NieuCommunities is less about what is being said than what is being lived. You’ll want to read this book and listen to their story.  ~ John Hayes, founder of innerCHANGE and Author of Submerge and Living Deep in a Shallow World.

Book Giveaway: The One Sentence Story Showdown!

Ruby with book

So here is the deal…

 

I’m looking to give away some copies of my book, Teaching Through the Art of Storytelling and in order to pass around the love, we are going to write a shared story one sentence at a time.

How it works:

  • I will start by writing the first sentence of the story in the comments (I may jump in and write another sentence every once in a while!)
  • At that point we ALL become storytellers by writing the NEXT sentence in the story in the comment box. 
  • Let the creative juices flow freely and let’s see where this thing goes!

Rules:

  • You can write as many sentences as you want, BUT they can’t be back to back. 
  • Your sentence MUST feed off the previous sentence.
  • Sentences can be stupid, ridiculous and random, but they can’t be offensive (use your own judgment on that). 
  • Story will conclude at 8am (Pacific Time) on Friday morning. 

How to Win:

  • I will randomly pick a sentence in the story and send a signed copy of Teaching Through the Art of Storytelling to the sentence author!
  • ALSO, I will pick an additional winner for every 50 comments/sentences that are submitted, so make sure to PASS THE WORD by sharing through social media!
  • Or you can guarantee to win/receive a signed copy of the book by ordering it here!! :) 

Ready, set, let’s write a brilliant story!  

Kevin and Charlie: Last Chapter

This is the last part of the story.  Thanks for jumping in and I hope it can be a helpful example of how to start putting storytelling to use within your teaching context.  Feel free to “pirate” this story, amend it for your audience and initiate some dialog on the myth of Redemptive Violence, Forgiveness and Restoration.  The book releases on Tuesday, Dec. 14th, so please support by picking up a copy and passing the word!  Catch up: Intro, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

After getting halfway to the meeting area and turning back to the safety of his cell, Kevin eventually built up the courage to turn around and walk toward his mother. He felt as though he were walking in a dream, and each step felt as though there were a ten-pound weight tied to his feet. After turning the final corner, he saw his mother sitting on the other side of thick glass and looking down into her purse. As she looked up, he sat down straight across from her. Both of their eyes filled with tears. She could sense that something profound had happened to her son, and he could see her love for him in her eyes.

In the twenty minutes they had together, they quickly shared stories and got caught up on the lives of family members. Kevin knew this wasn’t the first time she’d come to see him, as the guards notified Kevin of her presence each month—he never chose to see his mom. She slowly looked down and then back up to meet Kevin’s eyes. She said, “I’ve sat in this seat on the fourth Sunday of every month since you were put in prison. I knew you were probably angry with your father and me; we made so many mistakes. But I wanted you to know that I’ve always loved you, son.” Kevin was saddened that his anger and bitterness kept him from reading her letters and spending time with her during her visits. He’d missed out on so much.

They only had a few minutes left, but Kevin could see some concern in his mother’s eyes.  She said, “Kevin, I have to tell you that the cousin of the boy you killed has been put into this same prison. I don’t know anything else, but I’m sure he’s angry with you. So please look out for yourself.” Kevin’s heart sank, and for a moment he was filled with fear. But just as quickly, he felt overcome by a spirit of peace. He told his mother he loved her and forgave her. They parted ways as both cried again, but this time they were tears of joy.

As the months passed, Kevin and Charlie became the best of friends. And Kevin established a reputation among the inmates and prison employees as a respected and honorable man. One of Kevin’s favorite times of the day was when he’d walk around the back of the courtyard and feed the local stray dogs through the chain-link fence. Kevin would use the time by himself to think and pray while talking to the shaggy, four-legged creatures. He wasn’t sure if anyone knew he went to this secluded spot, until one afternoon when he heard a low voice call out his name. Kevin spun around feeling startled. Standing there were three guys who didn’t look all that happy. Kevin’s heart dropped when he realized who the guy in the middle was—Cory’s cousin.

The three backed Kevin up against the fence with the dogs yapping on the other side. Kevin could see that Cory’s cousin had his hand wrapped tightly around some kind of sharp object. Stuck between panic and divine peace, Kevin could think only of Jesus’ third way. Kevin had no desire to fight back and use violence to defend his cause, but he also didn’t want to give in to the certain death these guys intended. Surprising even himself, Kevin began singing—loudly. One of his favorite bands was U2, so he sang, “It’s a beautiful day . . .” It didn’t take more than a couple of seconds until one of the guards heard the loud singing and looked around the corner to see Kevin and the three men. Cory’s cousin hadn’t drawn the weapon, so the three men just backed away as if nothing was going on. The guard walked closer to them.

Kevin couldn’t help but smile. It was a nervous smile, but it was also a smile of hope—for a life that meant something. Kevin had been invited into the story of Jesus, and he couldn’t wait to experience it every day.

follow-up discussion and Questions

Have teenagers pull out the main “nuggets” from each teaching and write them on the board.

Break into small groups to discuss personal impact and application.

Discuss the role of family in your life—how have you dealt with pain, hurt, and bitterness? Do you still have a lot of pain, hurt, and bitterness in your life? How do you respond to those who hurt you physically, emotionally, and verbally? In what ways have you been “taught” to respond? In what ways can you respond using this third way (or Jesus’ Way) of retaliation? What examples in the world today show that we must either respond in a passive or violent way? What can we do to break that trend?

1 2  Scroll to top