I first met Chad Johnson when he came out to Albuquerque to be a part of a 3-day tour with The Glorious Unseen and Sleeping Giant. After a good years’ worth of friendship, I can say that he is one of the most genuine people I have ever met. After working with Tooth and Nail records as an A&R for music favorites such as Underoath and mewithoutYou, Chad has recently begun a new endeavor with Come&Live! – which is – well, you’ll find out soon enough…
When did you become a Christian and how?
It was the night of January 10th, 1992, I was eighteen. I was entirely fed up with the shallow life I had been living. I had turned my back on God, was indulging in a life of sin and knew I was in need of change. I was on my knees crying out for help when, as many have attested to, a peace almost instantly began to take charge over my troubled heart. It wasn’t but a day later that I began to regret this newfound submission as the Lord quickly began to root out of me the old and replace it with the new. The process was trying but God was gracious to bring me through. Best decision of my life without a single doubt. What I didn’t realize at the time was that this would also be the most dangerous decision of my life.
You’ve mentioned in the past that your first label you started carried a pretty heavy “debt threat” by the time it was all said and done. If you would, talk a little about that, coming out of it, and forming your relationship with Brandon Ebel and T&N.
Takehold Records wasn’t getting paid from our distributor and I had sunken everything I had into the bands, none of which were selling more than about 3,000 units at the time. My wife and I literally got down on our knees and asked the Lord to help us. It was less than a week later when I received Ebel’s (Brandon Ebel – Tooth and Nail Records) one liner email of hope; “Hey man, How much do you want for your company?” For the record, this email remains the single most promising email I’ve ever received, as it literally displayed God’s provision for us during a very low point in life. I was surprised, ecstatic and sad all at the same time. Sad because I knew that the company I had started had failed to produce on it’s own. Little did I know that God was only closing one door to open another.
How does one become an A&R? How long were you with Tooth & Nail and why did you decide to leave?
Becoming an A&R guy isn’t exactly something you typically apply for. It’s usually due to a connection somewhere in the business, or in my case, God’s perfect will coming to pass. I originally started helping T&N wherever they needed it with A&R of the Takehold/T&N merger bands (Underoath, twothirtyeight, few left standing) being just one of my duties. When mewithoutYou and Further Seems Forever were losing their A&R guys, I ended up being able to work with them due to my previous relationship with them. Add them to the bands I was already working with and my plate began to grow full just on the A&R side. I loved and enjoyed the A&R role and always loved treating bands the way I would want to be treated, which included eating at nice restaurants (what band wants/needs more fast food anyway). I was with T&N just shy of seven years. My decision to leave the Nail was as simple as feeling a very clear call from God to focus all my time and energy on directly furthering the Kingdom. This is a tricky question because I don’t want to imply that it was not possible to further His Kingdom at the Nail. I believe that we can further the Kingdom of God anywhere He calls us in life and I hope/pray that He continues to use each of us exactly where we’re at. Sometimes the Lord calls us out of comfort and into a new place or opportunity and that was how I felt. It just came down to an issue of priorities. My priority was to help discover and develop bands, with a relatively small amount of my time being dedicated to encouraging and challenging them spiritually. My passion for developing bands under the existing music industry model was nearly spent and I felt a strong leading to focus on living out the Great Commission of “making disciples of all nations” as my number one priority, trusting that everything else would sort itself out if I was able to keep my eyes on Jesus.
What did you enjoy most about working within the music industry? Least?
Meeting so many different people that I never would have met otherwise was probably the most enjoyable factor of being in the business. A close second would be the camaraderie we shared in trying to develop bands, especially during the wave of success the label experienced when so many young bands were growing by leaps and bounds. Least favorite aspect would almost certainly boil down to the inner turmoil I felt over what I was experiencing as part of the “Christian” Music Industry. I questioned whether my first priority was genuinely to bring glory to God and to exalt the name of Jesus amongst the saved and the lost. Was I making disciples or just creating consumers? As believers, our every pursuit should be to bring God glory and to share His goodness with others. I don’t see many examples of Jesus being very concerned about any product other than that of encouraging and producing good “fruit” in others. One of the bands I worked with would commonly quote the Matthew 7:18 passage to me; “Can a bad tree bear good fruit or a good tree bad fruit?” – that really struck me. I’m the last one to point the finger anywhere other than my own heart and I am convinced that God has called every one of us, regardless of what industry we may belong to, to produce fruit, and “fruit that will last”(John 15:5). I felt that I wasn’t able to give God the room He wanted to produce greater fruit in my life. My prayer is that the Lord provokes us (both inside and out of the industry) to greater hunger in fulfilling the call of loving our neighbors as ourselves. That includes how we take care of and look after those in our lives, be they the literal neighbor next-door, a starving child in Nigeria, or a young developing band.
What is Come&Live!, in its entirety? Where do you feel the Lord taking it – taking you? What is the most exciting aspect of C&L! – to you?
Come&Live! Is a community of “neighbors” looking to achieve the common goal of “loving the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength” as we learn to also “love our neighbors as ourselves”. Simply put, I believe it’s a brotherhood. It’s an effort to find and develop a new approach for musicians that would provide a more stable environment for exposure and long-term career growth, with the explicit focus of living and applying the Gospel in everything we do. The Lord has taken it from just a small dream in my heart to opening a slew of amazing doors and introducing us to countless others who share a similar dream. Without a doubt the most exciting aspect is to consider what God might do with hearts completely open to His plans, His timing, and His will. My heart is to see the lives of others more clearly focused on pursuing God and a relationship with His Son through the power of the Spirit.
I know that it has taken a lot of faith over the last year to step out into the “unknown” – so to speak… What keeps you going, believing, and living in faith?
Funny, because I literally just wrote a whole blog committed to this question a few minutes before I started working on this. Here’s a bit of what I wrote in regards to your question: “How much God has delivered absolute power and might to my spirit during this time of testing continues to shock me. His ways of overcoming doubt/unbelief have been many and varied. He has used primarily Scripture to come alive in my heart, to the point where I sometimes read a passage (like this Psalm) and wonder with astonishment at how beautifully it applies to my exact feelings or situations. My hunger for His word has grown so much and I find that if I don’t have a daily dose, I begin to experience the adverse affects. The Lord has also used many friends and family members to speak sweet words of encouragement and support. On occasion, He has used a few key individuals to give me very specific “words” of wisdom/knowledge as outlined in 1 Cor. 12:8 – these have usually come as a total surprise (I have not gone looking for them) and have at times, brought me to tears because of how accurate they are to where I’m at or where I’ve been. Through it all, He has provided more abundantly than I could have ever imagined.”
Beyond all of this, God has placed such a peace and joy in my spirit that I can’t even begin to understand.
What is your favorite style of music, and why? Are there any bands out there right now (current or up-and-coming) that have really stood out to you?
Worship. That’s pretty much all I listen to anymore. I know that’s not really a style of music but it’s more of a life-style. It speaks truth to my heart and encourages my soul unlike anything else I’m able to find. I still do enjoy a lot of great non-Worship bands but the vast majority of my time is spent listening to music that edifies my spirit. In addition to a huge bias towards the C&L! bands I also really enjoy Jesus Culture, John Mark McMillan, Sleeping Giant, For Today, Sigur Ros, White Collar SideShow and The Glorious Unseen.
What is your all-time favorite band, and why? If you could only take five albums to a desert island to live and die with, what would they be?
Underoath would have to be my pick. Not necessarily because I’m constantly listening to their music (which honestly I’m not) but because I have such a history with them and there’s just nothing like working so closely to a band and seeing so much of what God has done in and through them.
I actually wouldn’t bring any albums to the island because I would run out of batteries to keep a stereo or iPod running and that would be a very depressing day. I would possibly bring a guitar and learn to play it, though.
Name three bands that, in your opinion, could’ve and should’ve – Why?
What can I say? I’m a sucker for late 90’s emo/indie rock and I feel all of these bands could have and should have been much more successful than they were: Twothirtyeight,
Elliott, and The Jealous Sound.
You have a “Come and Live” blogspot that I’ve checked out pretty regularly, and you talk a lot about spending time in prayer, reading the Word and relying on the Lord for sustenance… What is God teaching you right now? Have you seen your faith grow through the decisions you’ve made to step away from a comfortable place?
Absolutely. My faith is recognizably stronger than what it was even six months ago. I actually feel like I’m a new person. Even though I still have many unknowns and have a long ways to go before this dream becomes reality, I’ve grown so much deeper with the Lord and am so thankful for that growth. There’s no small price I could place on what God has been teaching me. It’s hard to summarize without writing a full page of what God has shown me but I’d say the two things I’ve learned the most through this is are first, that we often times are called to “wait on the Lord!” like the Psalmist says so profoundly: “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD!” (Psalm 27: 13&14). That waiting process is designed to produce wonderful effects in our hearts. Secondly, “the doors God opens no man can shut and the doors God closes no man can open” (Rev. 3), essentially just stop worrying and freaking out and trust that God is big enough to open the right doors in your life and that He might close some that aren’t even worth trying to reopen.
Are you involved in a church right now? What do you think about the church today, in general?
Yes. When we lived in Seattle we were blessed to be a part of a small Calvary Chapel and then towards the end of our time with Mars Hill. Here in Nashville we have found a home at The Anchor Fellowship. I have yet to find a perfect church but then again, I have yet to find a perfect human. I feel very optimistic that the Lord is really doing a sweet work in so many different churches but I know there is so much room for all of us to continue the process towards growth and maturity. It’s hard to have a problem with “church” (although so many of us do) without first pointing the finger at myself and saying “I’m part of the problem!” My prayer is “God, please come and restore your bride and start with restoring my own heart”.
What is your biggest temptation and how do you overcome it?
Dang Levi! What kind of question is that? A loaded one, that’s for sure! Thanks for putting me on the spot buddy. Actually, I’m always very honest and feel that anyone in any position of leadership needs to be exercising the Christian virtue of humility. So, in an effort to live up to my own faults, I’ll gladly divulge.
Like most guys I’ve struggled with pornography (ever since I look at my first playboy back when I was 12). The temptation to fall into lust period, most of the time just in my own heart and mind, no added ingredients required, is still a daily struggle. I have seen the Lord give me a lot of victory in this area, though. I’ve prayed many times that He would just take my lust away and never bring it back but I’m a firm believer that 1 Cor. 10:13 is what he intends for us to struggle with; “No temptation has seized you but that which is common to man. God is faithful, He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear but with the temptation He will provide the way of escape, so you might stand up under it.” I “confess my sins” (James 5:16) to good friends, which helps hugely in keeping me accountable, and practically, I use X3 software for Mac which is a simple accountability check to help keep the doors of the 4.2 Million porn sites closed. Covenant Eyes also provides a great service in this area.
What did you want to be when you were a kid? What do you want to be, now? If you could accomplish anything – relevant to what you’re doing now or no – what would it be?
I wanted to be a professional freestyle bmx bike rider. That didn’t quite work out. Now, I’m content with being a more devoted follower of Christ and a greater servant of others. On the accomplishment side, watching the Lord bring countless youth into His Kingdom would suffice!
What are three books that have made a substantial impact on your life?
Obviously God’s Word but then it would be:
1. Don’t Waste Your Life – by John Piper
2. The Irresistible Revolution – by Shane Claiborne
3. Tie: “The Heavenly Man” – by Brother Yun or “Prayer That Brings Revival” by Pastor Cho
Are you a movie-goer? What is your all-time favorite and what recent movie blew you away?
Not really. Honestly, I’m so out of the loop on just about anything and everything Pop culture. I really don’t care. I love a good movie every now and again but rarely watch TV or read up on the latest trends/etc. All-time favorite movie is probably still Star Wars and I really dig the Bourne series. Recent movie that blew me away was called “Faith Like Potatoes” – it wasn’t the most amazing production, acting, or anything other than the story it told was incredibly powerful and applied perfectly to what I’ve been going through. Check it out on Netflix.
You’ve been involved with various shows that I’ve been a part of in the past, speaking and praying over people, over cities… There have even been circumstances where the Lord has chosen to heal people, physically. How does that fit in to where you feel you are led by the Spirit, now? What I mean is, do you enjoy that evangelical, almost pastoral, role in those circumstances? Is that a direction that you could see yourself heading? What is your favorite part of what you do and the role you play, “in the kingdom”, so to speak?
I love sharing my heart with others in a public setting. It’s such an incredible blessing to be able to encourage someone else in his or her faith walk. The opportunities the Lord has already given me have been unbelievable. It wasn’t until quite recently that I had ever witnessed someone being supernaturally healed right in front of my eyes. I’ve now seen countless individuals come to know Jesus as their personal friend and savior, have experienced supernatural healings on numerous occasions and have witnessed God’s power and grace in more ways than I can count. I do believe that God has placed in me a burden and a desire to share the Gospel with as many people as I possibly can and so I do feel that He is preparing me to share in more evangelical/pastoral-type opportunities in the future. I just want to be able to connect the dots for people and remind them that I’m a nobody that is completely undeserving of anything I’ve ever been given, yet Jesus continues giving in such measures of abundance that it is impossible for me to deny His existence. I am grateful for every opportunity, no matter how small or how large. God is worthy to be praise regardless of whether I’m speaking in front of thousands or quietly calling out to Him on my knees. He wants to restore each of our hearts to a greater place of purpose, true purpose. I’ve found that my purpose is just to live the character and example of Jesus the best way I know how. My prayer is that God would put my hands to the plow and that I would never look back.
Last but not least, if you could have any Marvel Comics superpower, what would it be?
Batman because he’s just got what it takes to bring down some evil.
Thanks so much for taking the time for this interview, Chad. I really appreciate it. Good luck on everything that you’re doing, and you are in our prayers.
Thank you, Levi. I love you and am so thankful to be playing a part in your life. Thanks for taking the time to interview me and to ask some really challenging and provocative questions. I was challenged and enjoyed every minute of it! Bless you man!
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