My Interview with David Pierce (a.k.a. the “Rock Priest”)
As I mentioned earlier, today I’m pleased to share with you an interview I conducted earlier this week with my friend David Pierce, founder of Steiger International (an offshoot of Youth With A Mission) and the evangelistic rock band No Longer Music.
Hey David, you were probably the first person I heard ever talk about “the global youth culture,” and you would know about it. You’ve been traveling all over the world (with the possible exception of Africa, right?), reaching out to the global youth culture with the unflinching love of Jesus for, well, a looooong time (two decades?!). What is happening “out there” (among young people) right now? What is a trend (or trends) that you’ve been noticing lately?
Thanks for having me on your blog, Steve. I really appreciate your friendship and I hope that what I have to say wonâ€™t be too irritating!
I first heard about the â€œglobal youth cultureâ€ when I heard an interview about a business woman who wanted to take her son on a trip around the world in order to see what young people in other countries were like. So they went to major cities around the world, like Tokyo, Paris, London, etc. and found that the youth in every part of the world were listening to the same music, playing the same video games, and watching the same movies.
More and more, especially in the urban areas, people in this â€œglobal youth cultureâ€ have more in common than they have differences. They are hungry for truth and are asking the same questions, but sadly they are also hearing the same lies.
One trend that I have seen is a continued decay in sexual morality among the â€œglobal youthâ€. For example, a few years ago, we had a No Longer Music concert in a popular up-scale club called â€œOzâ€ in Sao Paulo, Brazil. As we were performing, a pornographic video was playing on a screen behind the bar. Young girls were passed out on the couches and there was a room upstairs for people who wanted to have sex. Sadly, this is just one example of the sexual breakdown that is devouring a global generation and robbing them of their innocence.
How have things changed among young people over the years that you’ve been reaching out? With the advent of the Internet, mobile phones, etc. I imagine you’ve been on the frontlines for witnessing quite a shift.
Itâ€™s ironic, because in one way the internet, mobile phone, etc. have made the world a much smaller place, but yet increasingly people are feeling isolated and alone. Online social networks (such as Facebook and MySpace), chat rooms, and online video games have created a virtual world that has replaced reality. They have virtual relationships instead of real relationships. Added to this is the fact that brokenness in families has become the rule and not the exception, which is leading to increased anger, hopelessness, and despair amongst the global youth.
How are things for young people today around the world the same as they ever were? I’m guessing you’d give a Billy Graham-esque answer here about the “darkness of human hearts” (or something like that) …
As always, people have the sense that there is more to life than getting old and dying. I believe that people know that something is not right with the world, and they have a spiritual hunger that needs to be filled.
My Steiger “rite of passage”: At the “Jesus Camp” (now called SLOT Festival) in Poland, 1996, I took the stage in drag with David (at left, in the red nightshirt) and No Longer Music during their classic song “No Sex” (“No sex! No sex! No sex … before marriage!”). Becky and I and several of the other couples on tour who were all staying together in a nearby youth hostel jokingly called it the “No Sex AFTER Marriage” Tour 😉
In your recent interviews with Andrew Jones and Luis Batista, I noticed you referring to “the emergent generation” and “the emergent youth culture.” How familiar are you with the “emergent church” movement (from the U.S., New Zealand perspective)? And what, if anything, would you say to those of us (myself included in this grouping because of my affiliation with Emergent Village) who are seeking to rethink “church” as something more missional in our culture/place/time? Are we being “too radical”? Or would you say we’re “not radical enough”?
I think that when you use terms like â€œemergentâ€, it can describe almost anything. I believe that there are emergent churches that are powerful and alive and there are emergent churches that have compromised the message and have become nothing more than social clubs. Just like there are traditional churches that are alive and traditional churches that have become nothing more the social clubs.
The important thing for any church, including emergent churches, is that yes, while Jesus did eat with people, understand their language, communicate in their symbols, and demonstrate true love, he also told them the truth. I think today there is what I would call, a social gospel cop-out.
Peter said that as a follower of Jesus that we need to look after the orphans and widows. However, if Peter only looked after the orphans and widows, they probably would have given him the Nobel peace price and made a statue to honor him in his village. But in addition to taking care of the orphans and widows, Peter preached Christ and Him crucified and because of that he died upside down on a cross.
I believe that a lot of churches today are selling out because they are afraid that they may offend someone. But Jesus said that you should beware when everyone speaks well of you, because that is how it was with the false prophets.
Itâ€™s as if you were on the sinking Titanic and someone is injured or hungry. Itâ€™s true that we need to bandage their leg and give them food, but you also have the responsibility — if you really love them — to tell them that the ship is sinking and that there are life boats. I believe that a lot of churches do not believe that the ship is sinking.
You’ve been pretty critical of Christian artists/musicians who have chosen the route of “mainstream” success (whether as a CCM artist or otherwise), rather than making the kinds of sacrifices you have made to use those gifts and talents for evangelism. First, isn’t there something important about being “culturally relevant” (i.e., contextualization)? I mean, NLM would not be able to reach its audience without performing high-quality music in a particular popular style/genre with a stage show that is creative and artful, right?
I believe that Christian artists should not be normal artists. They should defy the conventions of the typical art scene and play by an entirely different set of rules than the world does. Many Christian artists say they want to be radical for Jesus, but they follow the same set of rules as the world. If you truly want to be â€œradicalâ€ in a way that will allow you to see Godâ€™s power, you are going to have to go against conventional wisdom.
I think that one of the problems with most Christian artists is that they spend too much time honing their skills or practicing their instruments.
Sometimes I feel like there are more bands than people. There are millions of talented musicians and artists in the world. That is why it is so foolish to believe that the key to â€œsuccessâ€ is making the best music or producing the best art possible. The key is knowing Jesus.
For example, if you are in a band, what if you made a commitment that for every hour you practiced, you would spend an hour seeking Jesus? What would happen to a band like that? I donâ€™t mean doing this in a labored way, as if prayer is a burden you have to carry. I mean recognizing that God is with you and that he hears you, and then asking him to move.
Hebrews 11:6 says, â€œ… without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.â€
I think the typical band figures, weâ€™re a Christian band, so we should pray before we rehearse. So they pray, â€œJesus, help us to have a good practice!â€ And then they practice for about four hours. Afterwards, if they are really radical, they might say, â€œThank you, Jesus, for giving us a good practice.â€
But instead, I want to challenge you to start really seeking God. Put a map of the world on the floor, and pray, â€œLord, give me a place to go.â€ Donâ€™t limit him; really seek what he might want. Then pray for the clubs or galleries or publications that you think he wants you to approach. Pray as much as you paint, or write, or film, or practice. I think this would revolutionize the Christian art scene.
On the last night of the “Jesus Camp” in Gizycko, Poland, 1996, all of the young people who had made a commitment to follow Jesus Christ lit candles and worshipped together. It was a beautiful moment.
For the past 20 years you’ve pioneered this particular type of music evangelism, and now you’re passing along this charge to a new generation of musicians/artists through the 3-month Steiger Radical Missions and Leadership Training School and through the new Evangelistic Artists Association. You’ve also got a new book written directly at Christian artists/creatives. What can you tell us about that? And to those Christian musicians and artists who might be reading this, what would you say to challenge and encourage them toward mission? How can they get involved with Steiger and take the next steps toward using their musical/artistic talents for a missional purpose?
Before I talk about how you can be involved with Steiger, I want to ask this question to everyone reading this: do you want a normal life or a revolutionary life?
Jesus tells us that there is a narrow road that leads to life and a wide road that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). I believe that this is not only a message to those who donâ€™t believe in Jesus, but also to those of us who do. For believers, there is a narrow road, and there is a wide road. I think you can believe in Jesus and still take the wide roadâ€”be a nice Christian guy, do the normal thingsâ€”and God still loves you. He doesnâ€™t love us because of what we do; he loves us because he loves us. But I think he looks at us and says, â€œI have another road you can take. It is a narrow road, itâ€™s difficult, and itâ€™s going to cost you everything. But itâ€™s the best.â€
I believe that God would say to many of you reading this, â€œTake the narrow road.â€ Be willing to be truly radical and not be ashamed to tell people the truth. Be willing to pay the price and live the revolutionary life you were created for.
One day I was listening to the radio, and a well-known Christian band was being interviewed on a popular station. This band had achieved considerable success in the secular music scene. The interviewer asked the singer of the band where he got his inspiration. It was as though he was setting him up to talk about his faith in God. The singer in the band responded by saying, â€œI know some people would say weâ€™re a Christian band, but weâ€™re not.â€ Then he said he got his inspiration from different social issues and life experiences. And as he spoke, it was as if I heard a voice saying, â€œIf you deny me before men, I will deny you before my father in heavenâ€ (Matthew 10:33).
How bad will it get before we open our mouths? How many people will have to die? How desperate does it have to become? How can we be silent when all day long, people hear nothing but lies, from morning until nightâ€”every time they turn on the television, every time they open the newspaper, every day they go to school. All they hear is lies. And those of us who are followers of Jesus … who have an answer for the desperation in peopleâ€™s hearts, for the cries deep in the souls of those who want to believe there is some purpose to life but who are being destroyed by the worldâ€™s lies … how can we be silent? How can we act as if itâ€™s not our responsibility to tell them that there is a Savior, that there is a way out? If God has given us a platform, do we not have a responsibility to rescue as many people as we can? God have mercy on our souls if we choose to remain silent.
Now, there are many ways to be involved with Steiger. If you are an artist who feels that God has called you to use your God-given talent to bring the Gospel message to the secular world, I would encourage you to be involved with our new Association of Evangelistic Artists. The Association exists to challenge, train and equip young evangelistic artists to boldly and effectively share the gospel outside the church using music and art. There is going to be a free two-day seminar on October 1st and 2nd at Bethel University in Minneapolis. If you are interested in attending, please contact Aaron at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, we have a 3-month training school in New Zealand for those who want to work with Steiger. See our website (www.steiger.org) for more information.
Thanks for your friendship, David, and for living a life that challenges me every day to be more radical for Jesus. Maybe Becky and I will get a chance to go back out on the road with you again someday! 😉 Until then, God bless you and Jodi, Aaron and Jennifer, and the whole NLM crew.
I really love and appreciate you guys! It would be great if you and Becky could come to the Evangelistic Artists Seminar on October 1st and 2nd at Bethel University in Minneapolis. I will make sure you are well taken care of, and youâ€™re welcome to come on tour with NLM anytime!