Nashville: Music and Mission


On Monday, we started out with a brief meditation on Luke 12:22-34 (“seek first His kingdom…”) and then met up with former Jars of Clay lead guitarist Steve Mason to talk about Christian vocation. Steve now runs a sort of old-fashioned one-chair barbershop and fills in as a studio-musician on the side. Some great themes that came out in this time with him were:

  • the sacredness of everything (Zechariah 14:20)
  • people don’t change until they have to
  • success doesn’t always work out the way you expect, and everyone needs people to speak into their lives and help them “course-correct”.

For lunch we went to Nashville-famous Hattie B’s for some “hot chicken” and then over to Centennial Park to see Nashville’s Parthenon replica. We read part of Acts 17 there and talked a bit about “American idols.” In Paul’s day, the Greek gods appeared to be supreme (I mean, they had all these great big temples and devotees!) but 2,000 years later, their temples are in ruins and no one worships them (strange that American Christians thought it was a good idea to rebuild a temple to a pagan deity, but that’s a longer story).

After that we went to the Civil Rights room at the Nashville Public Library. This was a great history lesson for us as most of us didn’t associate Civil Rights with Nashville, but the history runs pretty deep there actually. This was a challenging time as it was so obvious how the Civil Rights heroes connected their beliefs to (risky and costly) behavior. It raised questions for us like, “what are the struggles facing us that God is calling us to engage with in society?”

After this we hopped on a free city bus and took an informal “tour” of Nashville. I tend to think you haven’t “really” experienced a city unless you’ve taken public transportation. Taking a full loop on a city bus gets you off the tourist circuit and allows you to see places and meet people for whom Nashville is an everyday thing.

After dinner we ended up splitting up and roughly 1/3 of students went with to the city square to hand out Panera leftovers (they gave us all the pastries they were going to throw away) to the homeless folks who hung out there. They ended up meeting Michael Tait (of DC Talk/Newsboys fame) who is involved in ministry there as well. The rest of us went down to Broadway to check out that scene (and most of the students ended up spending time with homeless people there as well).

On Tuesday we met up with Matt at the offices of Blood Water Mission (a non-profit founded by the Jars of Clay guys and Jena Lee Nardella) to talk with Jars’ vocalist Dan Haseltine. This was a really rich time of learning more about Christian non-profit work and how serving the poor/foreign missions often requires more than compassion and sometimes less than re-locating. BWM staffers need skills in writing, working with spreadsheets, marketing, logistics and communication.

Tuesday night we headed over to the recording studio that Matt and Charlie Lovell (Jars’ keyboardist) run together for an amazing concert by 4-5 of the artists they are currently working with. This was a huge privilege and students were blessed in a lot of different ways during that time.

On Wednesday, Matt introduced us to his pastor, who shared about how he’d gone from being a successful youth minister to a crashed-and-burned pig farmer living in a trailer with no phone or television for 2-3 years and how being in that place allowed God to get a hold of him in a new way. We also had more time to hear some of Matt’s story.

Some more adventures and take-aways:

Plaza Mariachi tacos – visiting Franklin, TN – “you don’t have to do the same thing for the next 20 years” – trying on hats in a big Nashville hat-shop – fancy hipster coffee-shops – keys being locked in a van at Chipotle – recognizing the image of God and the dignity of people we seek to serve

On the way home on Thursday we stopped off at Clingman’s Dome, the highest point on the Appalachian trail, which has a 360 degree view of the hills and valleys on both sides.

Huge shoutout to Jon Stegenga for all the photos!