I’ve been wanting to have a heart-to-heart conversation with Glenn Kaiser for a couple years now. I usually run into him at Cornerstone Festival and have a chance to chat a little bit, but sometimes the festivals come and go without that opportunity. So, this conversation/interview has been put on hold. I’m a little apprehensive about some of the questions I had and I wanted to articulate them carefully. I’m not upset or worried about behavioral issues, but I was curious about some of the things and seeming attitudes I saw evolving over the years at the festival, for example. I wish I could say I felt I carefully worded these questions exactly like I had hoped to, but such is not the case. I’m a little bit embarrassed to be found talking about something as trivial as smoking, but out came the words and here they are. I hope you enjoy the interview and take the time to hear Glenn’s new music with his trio, Glenn Kaiser Band.
I promise to talk about the new GKB album later, but first I want to get into something that I’ve been curious about for the past few years. I’ll break these questions into three major related questions:
A. How have you remained faithful to the Lord for all these years? What are the keys to your success as a disciple of Jesus?
I’ve remained faithful to the extent (far from perfect) that I have the same as any Christ-follower could or does, by God’s daily present grace! To further unpack that, being in the Word of God near daily, having a continually growing prayer life (as in, praying to God all through my waking hours rather than merely thinking, reading, listening and talking with people) and of course, genuine on-going accountability with my pastors, wife and other leaders close at hand. Hopefully, with a growing humilty as I’m more and more aware of my many areas of lacking maturity … this helps me to seek Him more via His Word, prayer and constant open discussion with those more mature in Christ than I — who I know I can trust from many years of close relationship to each of them.
B. Compared to a couple decades ago, where people would have made a fuss about smoking or (gasp) cussing, attitudes have changed among the kids/young adults that come to Cornerstone Festival. How have you and the board of elders at JPUSA (who I assume still have a deep pastor’s / shepherd’s heart for these young people) dealt with this? How has it impacted you personally? How has your heart responded to the changing attitudes? How have you distilled what’s essential/important and what’s non-essential? I guess a good way to put that would be: “how have you extracted the precious from the worthless?” What are the good things you notice from these generations? What are the concerns that trouble you?
Well, regarding the concerns first-
I’d say smoking and coarse language still trouble us all, and from time to time we speak out about it; while far more troubling matters would include things such as acting out sexually (without biblical standards or a sense of responsibility), lack of real concern for the Bible’s truths, just basic double-mindedness or lack of following Jesus in their daily walk rather than simply chasing culture/sub-culture, these come to mind as more far-reaching issues.
I think part of the response God calls older Christians (hopefully in terms of spiritual maturity as well as age…) to offer at Cstone and beyond is that the balance must include straight talk AND patience with mercy. We try to be more gracious in our delivery of the truth about these issues. We’ve realized as most older believers often do, that it’s in the on-going relationships you can form with people that in the end seem to affect younger generations deepest. Not the drive-by sermon or simply blasting Truth at people. At the same time we share scriptures that seem to really nail the issues, but hopefully do it with more love and real sensitivity than when we (or “I” at least!) did when we were younger. More light, a little less heat maybe…
I and those in leadership at JPUSA are blessed to the sky with many of those at the Festival as well as here at JPUSA and specifically in our Project 12 Bible/Discipleship school in that so many are really serious about seeking and growing in both relationship to Jesus as well as doing something more with their lives than simply living for this or that personal (often “cushy”) whim. While fellowship can have a downside — party and keep things surface and fun with zero challenge for spiritual growth — there are a lot of young Christians who are simply seeking genuine Christ-followers (note GENUINE) who apparently live as close to God and His Word day-in, day-out. When they find such people they like to be near them … but they also understand the cost of growing up. The cool thing is a lot of younger Christians are just tired of surface Christian living and shallow Christian events. They seem to be seeking meat in daily life, and a bit less dessert, you know? So, I’d say that’s very encouraging.
Mind you, every individual in every generation has to decide if she or he is going to play the “dumb-down/surface” game of fellowship; or, on the other hand, really FOLLOW Jesus and hang close with those who apparently take Him seriously in all their choices. This is constant throughout church history, so in that sense, nothing’s much changed from the Jesus movement days — there were followers and day/week/month/year-trippers who split from Him and His people then … just as there are now.
(I want this to be an educational, edifying interview for the public to see, so we can speak in generalities, etc, to possibly serve our audience best)
C. How has your theology changed over the years in the specific area of personal holiness/behavior, like cussing, smoking, drinking?
None. Hasn’t changed a bit. I put these in the dumpster at 18, when I truly began to surrender to Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I don’t do ’em, don’t recommend ’em, speak out about them from time to time when I think someone is open to hear about ’em. Don’t need ’em, don’t want ’em, don’t expect I’ll have to apologize for not doing ’em when I see Jesus at the end of this!
Have you noticed an increased permissiveness amongst Christians of the younger generations in the past decade? What sort of changes have you seen? Please contrast the weaknesses and strengths you see in the “post-modern” or “emerging” church movement(s). What’s an example of some of the prayers you and your partners in ministry pray for the young folks attending Cornerstone?
I think generally, morals may have slipped, but with the internet, zillions of cable channels, less real linking with people who love and serve God and take His Word seriously in their daily life, I suspect as kids grow up they simply mirror what they’ve been taught (or not taught) by example. I suppose, generally, there’s less restraint in culture and subcultures, so there’d be less with those at Cstone as well, at least in small, basic areas.
Po-mo and emerging/emergent church concepts are wide and varied, but in short as I see it, there is simply a re-thinking and at times good, other times pretty slack challenging of older established “ways of doing church” or even “being church” by the movement. Time will tell as it always does, but we think there are many good points in really examining WHAT and WHY we as Christ-followers interact or don’t interact with those who we might call pre-believers.
Then there are a few folks who are working so hard at not offending anyone that the Good News (which God’s Word refers to as “an offense”) is left a bit outside the conversation — though again, I love the term “conversation,”
as that’s the only way any of us can build solid relationships with people, whether they follow Jesus or as yet, don’t. So it’s a mixed view that we have about all this at present.
In essence we pray God will reveal Himself to them to such an extent that the model is truly less important to them than He and His Word are. I think that’s a mistake many believers have made in most if not all generations. God IS bigger than the church!
Judging by your previous answers, I assume you are encouraged by the maturity and taking-Jesus-seriously that you see around you on a continual basis at JPUSA. I tend to look for the good amidst the bad in a lot of situations, so I have not become disheartened upon attending Cornerstone. I am still greatly edified by those annual one-week experiences. I think my observations are picking up on a changing mindset amongst the Christian hard / edgy music scene. Some of that’s to be expected, when you’re dealing with a surface-y type subject like music and entertainment, but I’ve seen some clique-ish attitudes, rudeness and hints of sexual promiscuity in these generations that makes me wonder. How has your strategy and/or goals for this festival changed over the past several years?
I hear you and agree with each of your points here. I don’t know that we’ve done much other than pray and try to be kind and gracious, while at the same time teaching Bible truth and really trying to live it in front of them for that week. By the way, don’t misunderstand, neither JPUSA nor Project 12 are solidly packed with mature Christ-followers! The point is to have a large enough group of patient leadership where good relationships are formed to the extent (that) more and more people GET serious about following God and His clear Word on the issues rather than chase the cultural norm — especially when it comes to morality and ethics. Hey, fun isn’t automatic sin nor automatic holiness in a believer’s life … it’s really about patience and relationship-building, so that, over time, kind-but-direct challenges can be made about un-biblical thoughts, talk and relationships.
Discipleship has ALWAYS been the problem. That never changes from one generation to the next. That can be shaken, but not always changed in a week … it will take much longer for most of us! Jesus Himself didn’t get it “all done” in the 11 (and then there’s Judas…) and He did it perfectly for 3 years. So, we try to keep things in perspective.
How was the reunion with Resurrection Band this summer? Tell me about the cost-benefit between rehearsals and whatnot and the experience. And describe the experience (either preparation and/or actual performance) for us, please.
It was fun, really fun. I mean, it took some work, but REZ only did 3 shows this summer and made two important choices: slow the songs down a bit, so we can sing ’em and not kill John on the drums … and also dropped tuning to D (where E chords were actually a true D), therefore making it easier for myself and Wendi to nail the high notes! It seemed to work, ha ha! There is interest in Germany and Switzerland for a tour in the autumn, likely the end of October into November, so we may well be doing about 7 more shows like that. But really, it was fun. The really hard part was choosing what songs to do and which to leave out… 16 records against about an hour and fifteen minute set meant a lot of thinning out … but the audiences seemed to really dig the sets.
How are things going with Glenn Kaiser Band? How often do you play? Where? What are your goals and expectations with this musical group?
GKB has been a blast and frankly, is really easy to do — Ed and Roy are just superb brothers in the Lord as well as musicians, etc., and I get to pretty much do what I feel fits the songs and the audience on the night — very cool. We play all over the place, U.S., Canada, overseas tours, etc.. Truth is some of my fave shows are semi-small coffeehouses where there’s a mix of young and older people, old REZ heads who love blues and kids who often right then discover they like it too.
Really been refreshing to interact after shows. But we book tours trying to (as always) key in on our families, JPUSA community, Grrr Records and other (in my case) pastoral and Project 12 responsibilities… We just pray and sort out requests little by little. There are a good number of on-going invitations that we just fill as we’re able to make sense out of all our schedules. Goals and expectations are to encourage people to seek and follow Jesus and His Word, to hear His story and theirs within a blues/rock context. We do a fair number of “secular” as well as Christian biker’s shows, festivals and so on, like the Ottawa (Canada) Blues Festival; played the Basel (Switzerland) Blues Festival this year, etc.; were up at Sturgis Bike Rally for 4 days of shows, etc. Good opportunities to share Jesus in places that don’t often get such stuff!
Oddball question: What are your thoughts on the music of Foghat? What do you think of their style and songs?
Interesting, good basic slammin’ rock.
What in particular are you pleased with about this latest release, Octane?
It strikes me as a fairly mature bit of music for GKB, about right for where we’re at as a band now. I’m very blessed by the songs, Roy’s tunes, the cover tunes as well, just have been blown away by the reviews. I like the broad aspect of the music, trying to not get stuck in “12-bar blues only land” and am happy we were again able to avoid that, yet put some (in my view) strong songs and strong messages in ’em. Really fun songs to play live, too; and we’ll be adding more all through the 2009 shows. I’m loving playing slide more and more.
What are your thoughts on our new President? I know that alot of the folks at JPUSA have tended to vote Democrat in the previous couple of decades … is that still the case? Are there any conservatives at JPUSA?
I like him, but of course nobody is going to “fix” all the train-wrecks in four years, regardless of who it is/might have been.
Yes, many and likely most at JPUSA vote Democratic specifically regarding their lean toward money for the poor and minorities. We live in inner-city Chicago and have seen first-hand how the well dries up (somewhat to us, but far more to those who serve the poor, single-moms and children) when Republicans are in power. By the way, most of us are fully pro-life — including against the death penalty. That and what we know of Obama from locals who know/have worked with him brought many of us to vote accordingly.
It’s funny, I’m writing this at Bushnell (Cornerstone Farm) where I’m deer hunting… That’s “conservative” … I’m about to reply to a Sgt. in the Army who’s a longtime friend and who is doing his 3rd tour in Iraq. I fully support him, but I don’t always agree with any government who deploys their military. That’s liberal, right? I’m fully independent and have been forever … and vote for Republicans from time to time in various federal and/or state offices, but anyhow … it’s a bit more complex, you know? But sure, there were some McCain/Palin signs up around here, too.
In short, as I prayed for G.W. Bush and his Dad, I now pray for B. Obama… God help us, things are pretty wrecked in this world/country regarding wars, terrorism (how about all the sea pirates…? whew…) and the economy and bankruptcy. A lot to pray about and a lot of work to do.
I must also add that moral and ethical concerns for serious Christians ought to include capitalistic big-business crooks and innocent people dying in wars every bit as much as issues such as abortion and homosexuality — and I personally don’t favor any of these, so the idea of voting for people in terms of “morality” is a subject I think many Christians need to think a lot deeper about than many seem to. Sin is sin no matter who’s in power.