Interview With Desperation Band: Light Up The World
Featuring Desperation Band Posted on September 23, 2010
Jon Egan: "You can see a beautiful sunset, and you marvel at the beauty. God is beautiful, massive and amazing, and when we marvel at that, that’s worship."
Desperation Band, birthed out of the student ministries of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, is a recording artist with Integrity Music. They continue to lead worship both within the student ministries and in the main services at New Life Church, as well as at the annual Desperation Conferences.
Led by Jon Egan, the band has always been more of a ministry than a band. They believe that true change comes when people lay aside their agendas to encounter the true and living God. They are passionate about the presence of God and they don't hide it. They are well aware that music will never impact souls...only the power of God. They don't perform or entertain. They want to join with real people to worship a real God. The Desperation Band exists to advance His Kingdom and to pray as Jesus told us... "your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
Jon says of the group, "The Desperation Band has always been and always will be about the presence of God. We exist to bring Him glory and reveal His truth to a broken world. If we know who He is, we know who we are. If we know who we are, we can live as God meant us to live. Its all about His purposes."
NRT's Andrew Funderburks recently had an opportunity to speak with Desperation Band's Jon Egan about their latest album, Light Up The World. They talk about the inspiration behind the album, how the group has grown spiritually since the last release, and how they have persevered great tragedy and scandal at their home church.
Hi Jon! Welcome to NewReleaseTuesday.com. Thanks so much for taking your time to sit down and talk with us.
You’re very welcome! It’s a pleasure!
What inspired the main theme for your brand-new project, Light Up the World?
It’s a phenomenal story, actually. I’m really excited about this project, because we’re partnering with a major effort and initiative for building orphan homes. It happened when our youth group, at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, decided to build an orphan home in Uganda. We hooked up with this businessman, who’s one of our leaders and has had some experience in building orphan homes. He said that the Lord told him that we weren’t supposed to build one orphan home, but four. It costs around $30,000 to build one orphan home so, if you do the math, that adds up to $120,000.
Since I’d never heard of a youth group raising that much money, we pretty much laughed at the idea. However, this guy heard from God, and he said, “Listen. I believe in Malachi 4:6, which talks about fathers and children coming together. As a father, I am pledging that my company will match the money raised, dollar for dollar, up to $60,000. That will enable us to build these four orphan homes.”
We thought, It’s still crazy, but this seems like a God idea, let’s go for it!
We started advertising, set a date to start taking up offerings at church, and started talking about these orphanages. The first week, a group of high school students raised $15,000! In eight weeks, we raised $68,000. It was overwhelming! Three of the orphanages are now built, and the fourth one is going up now.
I was recently in Uganda with a couple of the guys from the band, and I actually got to visit one of the orphan homes that we raised money to build. I got to play with the kids who have already moved in, and I got to see with my own eyes the lives and destinies rescued for the kingdom of God. These kids have no parents, but now they’re safe in a community with other kids. It’s just so overwhelming!
The album, Light Up the World, is completely consumed with this idea. It’s also meant to raise awareness of what a group of kids in Colorado Springs decided to do. We want to get the word out and get everybody involved in this. We want to get other youth groups involved in this. We want people to join with us to build more orphan homes.
That's incredible! What other messages does the band hope to convey with this album?
"Light Up the World" is the theme and the title track. The song is about believing for more because Mark 9:23 says, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” We’re excited about this album, because we feel that it’s a little bolder than what we’ve released in the past. It’s very intentional about the power of God, the power of prayer, and action. The song “Light Up the World” is about our eyes seeing the glory of God when we see marriages being fought for, fathers and children uniting, the signs and wonders following burning hearts, and the power of heaven coming down. When we start to believe for these things, we begin to see the glory of God. That’s the main message of the project. We are the light God has put on this earth. He chose to partner with us to be His hands and feet. Through this album we’re basically saying, “We’ll do it! You are worthy. You are an amazing God, and we accept the call!” We’ve been praying for a move of God on the earth. We’re starting to see that God’s answer is us, so we’re going for it. That’s why we’re telling our story of how a group of young people has changed the lives of orphans across the world. This is the gospel. This is the kingdom coming down.
Tell us a little bit about the song, “Mercy is Falling.”
“Mercy is Falling” is the only cover song on the album. It’s actually an old Vineyard song. I don’t know if you remember the Vineyard movement, but they used to put out CDs left and right. I was so inspired by these songwriters, twelve years ago, when I was in high school. That’s what made me start writing worship songs and become a worship leader. For the album, I wanted to do one cover song—-a song that was not our own-—so we chose “Mercy is Falling.” It was written by David Russe. It’s a blast for our youth because it’s a praise song, and it’s a jumper.
If you could choose, what song off the new record would be the band’s favorite?
That’s a tough question. Actually, I was recently asking the guys in the band that same question. Everybody in the band has different moments that they love. For me, besides “Light Up the World,” my favorite would be “You Hold It All.” It’s exciting because it’s a departure for us. It’s not your typical Desperation Band sound. There’s the song, but there’s also the message of “You Hold It All.” It’s based on Colossians 1:17, which says, “He holds everything together.” I think the song speaks a lot to me because of the fears and insecurities that we all sometimes carry-—the uncertainties of the future, the economic times, and heartbroken homes. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” I think a lot of people can identify with that. “You Hold It All” says no matter what’s going on that God knows about it. He’s holding it all together, and He has everything in His hands. He actually knows what’s going on in every moment, and there’s a big kingdom plan that He’s well aware of. The song brings a lot of peace to me, and I think that it will bring a lot of peace to others as well. Things might be uncertain, but my God holds everything together. There’s a bigger picture than what my tunnel vision can see. The bridge says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation in this life/So I will not fear.” It’s a powerful moment. We recently presented the new material to our church, before the album released, and it was so exciting to see worshipers grabbing hold of these truths and applying them to their lives. It’s kind of hard to pick a favorite, but that’s one that we definitely like.
In what way would you define the word “worship?”
It’s a simple thing for us. It’s a natural response to how wonderful and huge God is. We give our best, because He gave His best. Worship can be offered through music, working, or anything else in your life. You can see a beautiful sunset, and you marvel at the beauty. God is beautiful, massive, and amazing and, when we marvel at that, that’s worship.
Compared to your previous releases, do you see spiritual growth in the new project?
Oh, most definitely! I don’t think you should continue to release projects unless you see spiritual growth. There’s no point in doing projects just because you can. You’ve got to hear from God and you have to be obedient. I think the moment when the band stops growing is the moment when we really need to step back and look at each other and say, “Why are we doing this? What are we doing this for?” It cannot be to call attention to us, just because we crave a platform. It’s got to be because we want to advance the kingdom of God and glorify the Lord.
There’s been an interesting thing that’s happened with the band over the past year. There’s been a lot more vision and unity that’s come with the guys. We’ve been doing this for a few years now. There’s a time when you get a little older-—not that any of us are old, but I think you start getting some perspective after you do a few projects. We started to be able to answer, “What are we doing? Why are we doing it?” We started to be able to answer those questions clearly. Because of that, we’ve been able to do this project with great perspective.
A project is a project, and we’re just being obedient to God. We are not defined by the success or failure of a project. We’re defined by what God has done in our hearts and lives. We made this album because God put something in our mouths to say. Either we’re going to say it or not. Truth is, we have nothing to lose. We’re going to say it and see what happens. There’s a great sense of vision and community here at New Life Church and with the band. It’s really an exciting time for us, and it’s not because we’ve seen success.
If you’ve actually followed New Life Church in Colorado Springs, you’ve seen some of the hardest times that you’ll ever see. We’ve experienced a scandal involving our senior pastor and a gunman coming onto our church campus and killing two of our teenagers. We’ve lived through pain and shame. But when we are weak, God’s power is made perfect. That is what we’ve seen, and our lives have become completely redefined because of a lot of the pain we’ve gone through and the perspective that pain has brought us. It really makes you wonder what you’re made of when you experience hard times like this, when your reputation is in question and when there are lies that come out about your church.
What music, or people, laid the foundation for the band’s music ministry?
Ross Parsley, our worship leader, was such an encouragement to us when we young guys showed up at church about eight years ago. He created an amazing culture. He suggested that we write songs. Up until then, I had never written a song, but I was able to write because I had now found myself in a safe culture. It’s an important thing for pastors and worship pastors to be aware of creating a safe culture where younger leaders are comfortable taking risks. The Desperation Band started at a summer conference for students. We started with a few hundred students at our World Prayer Center on our church campus. Now, eight years later, 8,000-9,000 young people come here to worship God. This conference is no joke! It’s all worship and the Word. There are no games. It’s strictly three days of completely going after the Lord. The band formed to undergird this conference. It had nothing to with us writing songs or starting a band. It was based completely around doing ministry and trying to impact the lives of people. In the beginning, we wrote a few songs. A friend of ours was involved with Integrity Music, which became our label, and he had some recording gear. He tracked and recorded what we did. Since then, it’s pretty much been a rollercoaster. We’ve probably had twenty guys involved, so it’s not like we’re a six-man band. The best way to describe it is it’s not just a band, it’s a ministry.
God is speaking to us all the time, and sometimes what He speaks to us can be used to push others closer to Him. I’d like to hear what God has been speaking into the band’s lives lately.
The biggest thing that the band is realizing is that we are not defined by music. It’s not about success or failure. It’s completely about the love of the Father. That’s where life begins and that’s where it ends. We don’t get anything in this life unless we get the love of the Father. We won’t experience any freedom if we don’t experience the love of the Father. I always tell the guys in the band, “Before we start this project, let’s get to the place where we don’t need to do this project.” Then we can do the project. If we need to do a project because we have this nagging feeling—a hole in our lives—or because we want to have more influence, then I want to call it quits. I don’t see why God would breathe something like that into us. We want God to breathe on us and on what we do. This is His thing. It starts with Him and ends with Him. For us to think that we can take that from Him is a joke.
What comments or thoughts of encouragement would you like to leave with the readers of this interview?
We’d be more than honored if you’d partner with us in this effort we’re going after with the orphan homes. When you listen to this project, our prayer is that you would find Christ, use it as a devotional in your life, and find freedom, passion, and newness in Him. People tend to beat down on themselves, so I pray that they would find that they are enough. Biblically, God loves and accepts all of us.
Thanks so much for doing this interview with NewReleaseTuesday.com, Jon. It’s been amazing listening to your passion and hearing about what you’re doing and the passion put into this project. I can hear the desperation for God by the way you’ve spoken.
It’s been a privilege!
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