Stephen Christian is the lead singer of the band Anberlin. According to the always insightful Wikipedia: “After three studio albums and five years with Tooth & Nail Records, Anberlin announced their signing with major label Universal Republic Records in August 2007. The band’s first album on the major label was released in 2008, titled New Surrender. The album peaked at number 13 on the Billboard 200, with the first single, ‘Feel Good Drag,’ claiming number one on the Alternative Songs chart, after 29 weeks in the chart. Prior to the release of their fourth studio album, Anberlin had sold over 400,000 albums.” I had the chance to catch up with Stephen and ask him some Off the Record questions about his view of life and his faith.
Jeremy: Tell us something odd/unique about you.
Stephen; I actually embrace my own ADHD. where others attempt to medicate or use a psychologist to rid themselves of this “disorder.”Â I actually enjoy the fact that my mind can “multi-task” (as I would like to call it).
Jeremy: As a Christian who is the lead singer of a successful band, how do you deal with pride?
Stephen: I am in constant fear of integrating the duality of my life. I like nice neat compartmentalized boxes. Stephen the entertainer “rock star” needs to be JUST the entertainer and no more. Stephen the human needs to be human. If they were ever to meet the results would be catastrophic. (pride, feeling entitled, being “better” than the next person, self indulgent, addictions etc.) The number one way to rid yourself of pride is a firm foundation planted in the word of God (i.e. humble thyself in the sight of the lord, think of others better than yourself, etc.) The other the secret is constant and confrontational accountability. Find someone that will speak life into your bones, while exposing every skeleton in your closet. Every person of position/power will come face to face with pride, its inevitable. Itâ€™s the results of this battle that will determine the outcome of the war.
Jeremy: Do you think people are born leaders or develop into leaders?
Stephen: Though I firmly believe that it is both nature and nurture that make up who we are I believe when it comes to leadership one is developed and I am a living example. In high school I was a very introverted individual. After I became a christian at age 18 I proverbially “came out of my shell,” and I became the head and not the tail. Now I help run a non-profit organization that I co-founded (faceless international), I have started an LLC, and even a record label (woodwater records). I could have done NOTHING without the holy spirit awakening my true potential.
Jeremy: How can people put themselves into a position to influence culture?
Stephen: Be in the world, not of it. We as Christians have a unique way of going into a bubble so that we cannot interact or influence anyone in the world. God gave us the shield of faith not to hide and retract but to advance and take this world for him. Instead I see to many “Christian soldiers” dig a hole and use their shield (their faith) as a roof. If we really honestly believe God is the creative force in this universe than why are we becoming the imitators of the world? If something is “cool” in the world it seems us Christians are a year behind. If they have a boy band, then we create one to imitate. If they have a catchy logo like “got milk,” we have to follow it up with a cheesy unoriginal “got God” shirt. I think itâ€™s embarrassing and goes against the very nature of our creature. Christians have attached stigmas onto the arts. We have labeled it “secular” and in some cases homosexual. We as followers of Christ need to be on the forefront of dance (even David danced), art (have you seen what God can do with a mountain-scape?), photography, painting, design, fashion, etc… Embrace the culture, learn, grow, then evangelize through whatever means God has given you talent in. Don’t allow yourself to be buried under the weight of the unknown or “bury your talents.”
Jeremy: Why are you a follower of Jesus Christ?
Stephen: “And this is pure religion to love the widows and the orphans and keep oneself unspoiled from the world.” No other religion compares to the LOVE, grace, mercy, and hope that my Lord and savior Jesus Christ emanates.
Jeremy: What do you do personally to fuel your spiritual life?
Stephen: Since I do not have a home church (because I usually tour 9 months a year) I listen to podcasts, some of them being mars hill – seattle; mosaic, LA; & village chapel – nashville. Reading the word, keeping up with my accountability partner, and prayer fuel my spiritual life as well.
Jeremy: What is your hope for the future of the Church in America?
Stephen: My hope is that we become the first church in history to truly “judge not” ( lest we be judge) and love others as Christ loved the church. We would revolutionize the world. Please take a second to daydream of a church where you do not have to look like us, act like us, or even talk like us. You can just be what or who you are (a Buddhist, lesbian, atheist, or even yes… a democrat) and we would open up our arms wide with an embrace like the father did to the prodigal son. We could welcome them into our inner circle, love on them, and care for their needs and show them to the feet of Jesus Christ. REVOLUTION! Unlike mankind would have ever seen.
Jeremy: Should we abandon the use of the word “Christian” for a better term? If so, what?
Stephen: I believe I read that over 68% of America believes they are “Christian.” The term has become the most flippant expression ever used in American politics. I am not here to discuss whether we should coin a new trendy term, but ask those that use the term truly live up to what it means a follower of Christ.
Jeremy: What blogs/websites do you regularly check?
Jeremy: Which books have shaped your thinking?
Stephen: Whatâ€™s So Amazing About Grace â€“ Yancey; Orthodoxy – GK Chesterton; Fire in the Belly – Keen; Knowledge of the Holy – Tozer; The Alchemist – Coelho; Desiring God – Piper; Knowing God – Packer
Jeremy: What music moves you?
Stephen: Mogwai, The Rachels, Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Bloc Party, and a few others. But if you want to hear music that will be played as you walk into Heaven’s gates listen to Sigur Ros.
Jeremy: Any other thoughts or advice?
Stephen: Never stop growing and learning. Study to show thyself approved. Working out your salvation requires both fear and trembling. Consider all above yourself. To be heard you must first listen. Donâ€™t just pray, take the time to listen. “The enemy of best is just fine.” Praise the Lord.
Click here to see more Off the Record interviews.