THE SAME GOD for every child, every family, and every community worldwide!
“When I was five, I walked the aisle singing Just As I Am”, well, that’s how the story began. We were an “every time the doors are open at the church” kind of family, meaning every Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and every 5th Sunday Singing, we were there. I knew all the songs, and I was proud to sing them. My particular favorite old-time hymn was called “Mansion Over the Hilltop”, and I sang it with my mom every chance I could. I felt safe, secure, and very confident. Then suddenly, without any warning, my dad was gone, and my confidence left just as suddenly with him. After this experience, I was quickly made aware of the fallen state of this world when my father and mother divorced. My dad was my hero, and he moved out. It was the first, but not the last time that it felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me, just when I thought I was getting back on my feet.
The people in that church were so kind to me as a kid, and I knew all the right answers to every Sunday school question. I was the first to raise my hand, first to answer, and first to follow their lead in what it meant to be a good Christian. But when my dad left, I remember very distinctly how that part of me changed. You see, when your hero falls, you naturally began to look for the cracks in every other part of your life as well. That’s exactly what I began to do at church. They always talked about a big God doing big things, but I began to realize that I didn’t see any evidence of that at all. I went from a very optimistic and confident in the Lord kind of kid to a pessimistic and unsure one within weeks.
Then mom got remarried to an amazingly kind man and we moved from my hometown in Mount Pleasant, TX to Dallas. Immediately, mom found another Southern Baptist church just like our last one. You know the kind where you have to call everyone “Brother.” Brother Bill, Brother John, Brother James; You get the picture! That meant more of the same old teaching: a big God doing big things, but I still didn’t see the evidence. We had almost gotten used to Dallas when we had to move to Madera, CA for my stepfather’s job. Guess what kind of Church my mom found? Yep, another one just like the others. Just another church with those same posters on the wall: the Roman’s Road, the Wide Gate, and Narrow Road. Remember the song “Blessed Assurance”? We sang it almost every Sunday it seemed, ugh! I got so tired of that song. More of the same talk about a big God doing big things and still no real evidence. It seemed like another desert town to me.
Then we moved to Houston, TX and finally on to Wilmington, NC, where we moved our letter of membership to Winter Park Baptist Church, and where I ended up in the Youth Group. It was there that I began to really love music and began to write out all of my thoughts in the form of a song. I’m sure a bunch of them were awful, but believe it or not, a lot of people started kind of thinking I was talented. The hard part was that I was into a weird type of Christian music, Christian rock, and it was hard to find a place for it in our church. I began to believe that maybe the big thing that I could do with my life would be to play Christian rock music and travel the world sharing the good news. But let’s be honest, nobody in my family had ever even considered that as a real possibility. Quite a few people didn’t understand what the heck I thought I was doing. “I mean come on kid! Go get your degree, don’t ruin your life,” some would say. It was a bit frustrating, to say the least. To really want to do something like that would OBVIOUSLY be a big thing for the kingdom of God, after all of these years of hearing, but not seeing, God was doing such things.
I found myself alone and without a backup plan. Just a crazy dream and a few friends who were also crazy enough to jump in the boat with me, to see if it would sink or float. To say that I was done with the churches that I grew up in would be an understatement. I used to think “they talk about a big God doing big things, but their lives are so ordinary. I finally try to do something big, and they don’t get it, or even believe it was possible! I mean, COME ON!”. I had a chip on my shoulder the size of Texas when we started out together as Building 429, with a goal to “conquer” the world of Christian music.
Miraculously, someone heard something they liked in our music and signed us in 2003. I felt vindicated; okay, for real, I gloated a bit…or maybe a lot. Especially when our first record was met with such huge success. #1 songs and major tours made me feel like I had truly proven everyone in my past wrong.
I then met some of the coolest folks at World Vision and thought we were on the same mission. I read the following statement that they shared with me and thought, “yeah, me too!”.
“World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. Motivated by our faith in Jesus Christ, we serve alongside the poor and oppressed as a demonstration of God’s unconditional love for all people. World Vision serves all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender.”
I later joined them on a mission trip to Rwanda. One morning after the Muslim call to prayer went out over Kigali, I heard another song follow it. The melody was so familiar. Though I didn’t know the language, I definitely knew the song, “Blessed Assurance”. I remember my wife and I began walking down back alleys until we found a small gathering of believers, and we joined them. I relearned that old hymn that I’d sung a thousand times, but in their language. In that moment, it hit me. If they were worshipping the same God in Rwanda, with the same songs, maybe God was actually a big God doing big things. There in that church, I began to reconsider a lot of things that I thought were true, in the light of the reality of a God that was big enough to span oceans, cultures, and languages. Maybe He is a big God, doing big things after all.
The remainder of that trip was life altering, as we spent time pulling up the roots of poverty and planting the seeds of CHANGE in Rwanda and Uganda. My impoverished heart was having old roots pulled as well, and I began a transformation in the way I saw the Lord and His church.
I thought back over the World Vision statement, and I wanted to help “…children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes…”, but I had to challenge myself to really dive in to the next part of their statement: “…motivated by our faith in Jesus Christ”. Was that still true, or did I just want to conquer the world and prove others wrong?
Then, we flew into the Philippines to play a concert, and the pastor of the mega church that we were playing told me I was going to be tasked with doing the invitation after our show. I tried to get out of it, but he wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. He told me I am not just a musician, but I am a minister, and I shouldn’t be afraid. But there was one problem: I was terrified! 10,000 people would attend the event over multiple days. I had never felt the weight of 10,000 souls the way I did that day. I remember being on the 26th floor of our hotel, looking out over Manila, wondering what in the world I was going to do. Suddenly the “Roman’s Road to Salvation” poster from my old youth room popped into my head, and I felt like God was saying “Jason, My word is enough.”
I’ll never forget how we all marveled at God’s hand in motion after I simply read from His word and invited people to come forward. 3,400 people accepted Christ for the first time. Maybe God was big after all, and maybe those posters weren’t just dumb posters on the wall in a small Southern Baptist Church. Maybe, just maybe, I was motivated by my faith in Jesus Christ!
When the dust began to settle from these two events, a couple things jumped out at me. Maybe the big thing that God was doing in all of those small churches was the testimony He was building in me, that I would know that flawed people can do amazing works if they allow the Lord to move, that the Bible is the word of God and that it is ENOUGH, that the Creator changes his creation, not the other way around, and that hope grows best when it’s given away!
Let me share a bit of hope with you: YOU MATTER! Your church matters. Your small Sunday school room filled with outdated posters, matters. Your testimony matters. But what matters most is when you choose to give yourself away. You’ve been given so many tools to love others with that, it’s insane if you don’t use them. Until you start trying to use your resources to bless others, you will feel completely bankrupt just the way that I did.
In my travels, I have come to one conclusion that is inescapable, but I would’ve never come to this conclusion if I hadn’t been willing to risk being a fool, to risk being uncomfortable, to risk giving something away.
After all that I have seen, He’s still the same God to me and is the also the same God to you!
Let the lyrics serve as a praise and a prayer in your life as they have been in mine:
I needed to climb a mountain and find You there,
Hear Your voice in the ocean air
And sing hallelujah in a language I’ve never known.
Find Your hand on the raging sea,
Face the storm and know Your peace.
Sing hallelujah over the years I have grown,
And after all that I have seen.
You’re still the same God to me.
-Jason Roy, Building 429