I’m very pleased to announce that Shaun Groves is with us today. Shaun is a very successful singer/songwriter (think four albums, seven Dove Award nominations) from Nashville, Tennessee. He works a great deal with Compassion International — in fact he does most of his concerts for free provided he’s given a chance to plug Compassion’s work. And Shaun doesn’t know this, but he’s the first person ever to be interviewed on my site (besides all those times I interviewed myself just to be silly).
Welcome to aliens and strangers, Shaun. Glad you could be with us. You have a new album set to release in August, and you’ve titled it “Third World Sympony.” What’s that title mean? And what exactly were you going for in “Third World Symphony?”
This new album of mine is an attempt to connect.
To connect the first world to the wisdom and beauty of the third world – for the benefit of both. But also to connect two opposing theologies. Two rival gospels.
One side pitches God’s salvation as hope for the soul, something that begins someday when we die. Come to Jesus, this side says, be forgiven and live with God forever someday.
The other side depicts God as humanitarian, repairing the physical world, ending injustice, filling empty bellies, educating the poor, housing the homeless. Come to Jesus, this side says, and you’ll have what you need today.
Both sides are often at odds with each other. But they don’t need to be.
And I’ve read enough of your blog to know you believe these two extremes are reconciled in the person of Jesus. Is that how you’d put it?
Jesus is our salvation! His way of living and His death are a declaration that God cares for the body and soul, about today and forever. A gospel that offers no hope in death is incomplete. And a Good News that isn’t good for the poor is not the Good News of the Bible.
So how did you attempt in “Third World Symphony” to bring these two opposing sides closer together?
I sat down to write. Night after night. Locking these two foes into the tight space of verse and chorus, pushing them closer together with each rhyming line until they got along as they always should. Life providing plenty of painful inspiration.
- My Uncle Joel was diagnosed with cancer. Mom said the doctors weren’t hopeful.
- A friend chose alcohol over his wife and kids. He stopped returning my calls. I was told he’d gotten booted from the Salvation Army and was living in his car.
- My head was full with the faces and stories of friends I’d met on my last trip overseas.
- Prayers for an atheist unanswered.
It struck me that none of this mess was physical or spiritual – but both. That all of these stories, started here in time, would have their completion in eternity. It was all connected. And it was all connected to the cross.
Great thoughts. And having listened to the finished product, I’d say you were successful. My favorite song on the album is “All is Grace.” Here are a few of those lyrics (for readers at home, Shaun — you don’t need them, you’ve seen them before) :
You have loved us
You have loved us all
You have loved us all so
We love all
You have given
You have given all
You have given all so
We give all
Thank you for daily bread
Through us fill the empty
Thank you for bodies whole
Through us mend the breaking
All is grace…
But it’s not only the lyrics I appreciate. I like the banjo. I love the banjo. I’m pretty sure banjo is the best instrument in the whole world. Shaun, what’s your favorite instrument, and why?
My favorite instrument to write on is piano. I can play it without thinking, and that frees up my brain to think melody and lyric. But my favorite instruments to hear are symphonic. I was trained more in classical music – as a composition student – so I bathed in the sounds of a classic orchestra: horns and strings and woodwinds. There’s still nothing as powerful or as beautiful to me than symphonic music.
While we’re on the subject of favorites, can you tell us who writes your favorite missionary blog from Geita, Tanzania?
Ha! Well yours of course. Although this couple Carson and Holly McNeal are gaining on you!
In closing, what advice would you offer Christian readers who want to be involved in bridging the gap between the first and third worlds? What can we do to help?
First of all pray. Specifically, start out by spending time everyday set aside for thanks. And let that spill into every hour of every day. Gratitude, like nothing else I’ve found, inspires generosity – giving of time, attention, energy, talent, cash and more prayer. I’m confident that simply getting into the habit of being grateful – and speaking it! – will be answered by God with further directions.
Maybe those directions will be to give, or to go, or to simplify our lives so that we may give and go – locally and globally. But I believe it all begins with thanks. As the apostle paul said, “In view of God’s mercy, offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God…” The trick is keeping God’s mercy in view. It’s all around us! And thanks helps us notice and noticing moves us to respond with our whole life.
You should go and listen to “Third World Sympony.”
And if you like it (I think you will), you can buy the album here.
Shaun blogs, too. Read my favorite blog post of his ever.
Also check out Shaun’s tour calendar. He might be performing near you soon. I know he’ll be in Huntsville July 19 (I figure that’s the closest concert to the bulk of my readers).