When Shaun Groves hits the stage at the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove on May 21, he plans on singing some older, well-known songs as well as songs from his new record, due out this summer. However, “I never really have a set list of songs. I go with whatever the audience seems to respond to,” he says.
The Experience Behind the New Music
This new record was inspired by a 2007 he took a trip to Ethiopia. At that time, many positive changes had altered the landscape of the Ethiopian church. Communist leader had fled the country, ending much of the persecution endured by the Christians. Chains were literally taken off the doors of the church buildings, which could barely contain the masses that now flocked to them.
During the trip, he had dinner with 100 Ethiopian church leaders to celebrate, pray, read Scripture and share stories of God’s faithfulness. “I just felt like a kid at the adult table,” he remembers. “I had never been around such incredible followers of Christ. Just their perseverance, joy, faith and maturity–it was a gift to be around this.”
The moment that resonated with him would change the way he writes music. He told an elderly man at his table that he wanted a way to serve these pastors and asked if he could send a box of CDs–music to use in church services.
“The man placed his hand on mine and said, ‘We know your (America’s) music. It’s good music, but it hasn’t been where we’ve been.’ That struck me in such a powerful way; it moved me to tears,” Groves recalls. “It’s not that the music I made was bad, it was just not all that informed. Most of us haven’t experienced the darkness and desperation these people have endured.”
Groves wasn’t sure what to write after that experience at the dinner table. He spent the next few years struggling with what to say through his songs. Now, after having endured personal darkness of his own and having traveled around the world, he believes that God has matured him and humbled him in ways he didn’t know he needed.
Through that time of discovery, he found the words to write–words that can connect the third world to the first world. And, words that can bring people into authentic, informed worship
Understanding True Worship
When most churched people hear the term “worship,” most think “music.” Some time ago, Groves began a Bible study quest to uncover how the word “worship” is used throughout Scripture. He made a discovery that might be startling to some: Not once is it used in the context of singing.
“I learned that when the Bible references ‘worship’ it is instructing us to submit, to bow down, to serve. Worship is a response to God with all that we are to all that He is,” he explained. “That means that what I’m doing on stage might be less worshipful than changing diapers in the 18-month-old class at church. How I serve my wife, kids and my neighbors are really the things God has His eye on. His priority is that our lives be lived in service to Him.”
Taking the Experience Home
“The central mission of what I do is through song, story or humor, help people understand they weren’t just saved from something; they were saved for something,” he explained. “We weren’t saved to wait on earth until we die to go be with Jesus. If we are, we’re not experiencing the fullness of the Gospel.”
His goal in the Evening at the Cove is to evangelize the church. Perhaps there is someone sitting in the audience who invited Christ into their lives sometime back, but senses there is more to life here on earth. He wants that person to know why he or she is here.
“My greatest hope for that night is that people will take stock of what they have to offer God in worship–whether it be their money, talent or passions–and ask God what He wants from us. When we are sincere about that, He always answers.”