Mike Rimmer brings the low-down on an impassioned Gospel communicator DAVID EVANS.
His album 'Reformation Of A Generation' was the inspiration behind the theme for this year's Cross Rhythms festival in Devon. However, to most British Christian music fans David Evans is a complete unknown. An ordained minister with the Assemblies Of God in Australia, David sees his primary calling is to be an evangelist. Using music and preaching, his ministry has seen thousands turn to Christ.
Perhaps it was inevitable that Evans became a minister since both his father, Fred, and his uncle, Andrew, are both in the ministry. I wondered whether being a preacher's kid was significant in setting David up for his own Christian work? The answer was perhaps a surprising one: "I feel that being a preacher's kid in some ways was a hindrance to me because as a teenager I had to deal with the perceptions people place on preacher' s kids. If I had not been in a position where I was getting work outside the Church in the theatre, etc, I probably would have rebelled from that pressure."
Evans continued by describing his earliest experiences, "My musical journey basically started when I fell in love with music and the way it affected me. My evangelical journey was developed as a result of a deep desire to make a difference in someone's life. I would sing in a pub and I saw that I was singing just for money. They were just drinking and getting into the music but I realised they would go home as empty and as unfulfilled as every other night. I wanted to sing in order to make a difference in someone's life with the power of the gospel message."
So did his family give him an early break to minister? "My father subconsciously was a great mentor to me. Growing up in the Church culture gives you a great foundation of music and insight into how to conduct yourself on the platform. I obviously learned subconsciously from watching my father and other ministers. You learn how to move an audience and draw people towards a specific goal. In Church life I started in children's church teaching songs and leading the meetings. It was a natural progression for me as I sowed into the vision of the church. As I began to sing at different small church functions others would notice and invite me to perform for their functions. It just grew as a matter of course."
David's many albums fall into both evangelistic and worship categories. I wondered how this had developed? He explained, "Again, it has been a natural progression for me as I perform from my heart. Evangelism and worship are the two areas of my heart that I need to express. My worship music obviously is a passion of mine because I am a worshipper. Regularly I will worship the Lord in private with a CD playing in the background. I believe you can only take people into worship as far as you have been yourself. Many people do not use their musical talent to preach the gospel. I feel that we sometimes are not aware of the urgency of the hour. Many people do not want to use their gift to evangelise. I can't understand that. If you're sold out to purely serve the interests of Christ, what other method is more effective than using your God-given gift to do so? Or are we really serving our own interests and trying to make them fit/work wherever possible in the Kingdom? Personally, I have a conviction that the urgency of the hour impels us to stop mucking around with time and get the message out as clear and as direct as possible. Basically, I feel I am a preacher who happens to sing and obviously to some a little narrow in my thinking. But then again, so is the pathway to Heaven," laughed David.
Having seen many people respond to Christ through his music, I asked David to share something of the strategies he uses. He explained, "Obviously music is one of the best ways we know that quickly ad effectively touches the human heart and emotions. The young people of today are consumed by music. The statistics of Church growth tell us that about 80 per cent of people are saved between the ages of 10 and 25. My heart is to use whatever I can to draw people to a commitment to Christ. You must gain influence of an audience in order that they are open to hear the gospel. My strategy for using music is to have a variety of styles, which will reach all types of tastes. When I go to a hard area in the US, I would be a fool if I use country music in a predominantly black inner city suburb. I would try to sing R&B songs with a little (try hard) rap thrown in. The music immediately makes a connection and with that influence I gain the opportunity to actually be heard. If I go into a nursing home it would be pointless for me to sing my songs because they would not be appreciated by the older folk. My point is that my strategy is purely to reach people. I change like a chameleon in order to fit the surroundings so that I can be the most effective I can."
That explains why an album like 'ROAG' is so eclectic musically! So will the real David Evans please stand up. Which is really he? David laughed and responded, "I really love what my cousin calls 'rhythm hypnotics'. I love funk and groove music that is laced with melancholy, powerful melodies. Basically, I enjoy the sounds of U2."
Consades are central to the way in which Evans uses his music to reach out. I asked him to explain the consade concept. Said David, "It's a concert crusade held over approximately four nights. People who come on the first night are encouraged to bring others the next night because they know that they will not be embarrassed by the presentation. I have a motto which says, 'You will not be embarrassed to bring an unsaved friend to a David Evans consade'." David's motto is based on personal experience, as he recalled. "I remember being very embarrassed about some of the evangelistic people who came to our church. I found that I would never invite anyone because I wasn't sure what to expect. Consades gather all groups, churches, denominations to invest in a town or city-wide evangelistic crusade." So would it work in other countries? David is convinced it would: "Yes, it works in other countries. I have conducted many concerts in other countries."
I pick up a strong prophetic strand in Evans' songwriting and performance, particularly some of the songs on 'ROAG', which gives them an added dimension. I wondered how he married the evangelistic with the prophetic side of his ministry. He explained, "I have designed the CDs to have enough evangelistic content in order for someone o give it away with the confidence that the unsaved friend will hear a straight forward gospel message. I also believe that God wants to address certain issues facing us and one of the most effective ways is to put a prophecy into song. It is hard to write a prophecy and get it distributed in letterform to people across the world; however, God has many ideas and this idea of using music as a vehicle for a prophetic word was obvious to me. After all, this generation will most probably see the return of Christ, so we are the generation who will prophecy and see visions according to Joel, regarding the last days when God would pour out his Spirit. Prophecy is the Word of God spoken. We all should hear the voice of God for ourselves and be able to deliver it to others."
So what does David believe is in God's heart for this generation? He responded, "This is a generation which hears and is aware of the God factor. But this generation does not know him. Simple! Introduce Christ to every living soul and encourage them to get intimate with him."
David described the way he recorded the 'ROAG' album. "I worked with totally unsaved engineers," he recalled, "because I wanted to hear from them what was actually coming across and wanted the sound to be authentic. There were times where we stopped and talked for hours about some of the songs. I gained insight from their perspective. The more you witness the more you realise that we Christians develop our own language that sometimes doesn't relate or translate and is hard for a non-Christian to understand."
The songs of 'Reformation Of A Generation' are very powerful and I asked David to tell me what was on his heart when he wrote the songs. He said, "I wrote the words for 'ROAG' in my prayer diary many months prior to recording. Most of the songs were as a direct result of hearing the voice of God speak to me about this generation or from issues that I faced and felt needed to be addressed. Some of the songs were designed so that I could use them in specific areas such as high school work."
The album, astonishingly still unreleased in the UK, has been out in Australia for three years now. I wondered which songs on the album have made the biggest impact on people hearing the album. '"The Dream' is a song which has made a lot of people aware that fame and the elusive dream of performance is just that, an illusion. Once I had reached the platform of my teenage dreams, I discovered that without a deep grounding in the heavenly destiny for my life 1 would have felt empty and frustrated. 'ROAG' is obviously a song that speaks to the generation very loudly. I feel that it speaks for itself. 'Close To Me' has had the most impact. The way in which I perform this song causes a very powerful presence of God to descend upon the audience. I use the song as a platform for reaching the heart."
Did he have any examples of people responding to his music, challenged and changed by the experience? David told me, "I have a few letters on file from people who were about to commit suicide and through someone giving them a CD they responded to Christ and obviously wrote about the experience. Others have shared with me that because of the prophetic content in the songs they felt as if God was speaking directly to them as they drove along the road. One particular person commented about a song called 'Acts 3:19'from my first album 'Burn For You'. The song is so direct and full of Scripture that it literally arrested them and through tears and repentance they rededicated their life to God."
Heartfelt is the name David has given his own ministry. He explained, "I called it Heartfelt because I felt that every song and everything that comes from my mouth needs to be effective. Like a double-edged sword, piercing the soul, judging the thoughts and attitudes of our hearts by the Word of God. Many times we preach or talk about the Lord as if his Word was a pin rather than a sword. People want you to be honest with them even though they don't like it. It's called being genuine and you gain respect regardless of the minority whom you'd offend. After all, the message of Christ is a rock of offence to those who are running from the conviction of God."
David Evans is well known across Australia for his work with Youth Alive and there has been a huge response to his consades. David put me in the picture concerning the organisation's work: "Youth Alive is a movement in Australia that basically is a united evangelistic outreach using the best local musicians, lighting and sound, to gather Christians and the unsaved to an event. The fruit that is added into the Church is substantial in that one youth group grew by 20 people after a Youth Alive rally. When I conducted a Youth Alive tour over 10 days in Australia, approximately 780 young people responded for the first time to the Gospel, not counting the numerous rededications."
Regarding his plans to follow up 'ROAG' David told me, "I have many new ideas as to how to do my next recording. God spoke to me about getting a particular new message out. I need to do an intimate album next. I moonlight with a crossover band called Melt. We have recorded tracks that sound like Oasis and U2 to purely gain access to the Australian charts (again, gain influence). 'ROAG' was self-funded but I would rather have a record company advance the finance to do another album. But," he sighed, "with my crazy ideas I haven't found any that would feel comfortable with releasing total creative control. They want to box me into a particular style and tone down what I say."
With David's scheduled appearance at the Cross Rhythms and Kingston festivals, we Brits are going to be able to get a taste of what all the fuss is about! I wondered if he was surprised to find that the 'ROAG' album had grabbed a few of us in the Cross Rhythms ministry despite it not having a commercial release over here? "Yes, I was very surprised," he confessed. "I have not released it commercially anywhere in the world except in Australia. The interesting thing about it is even though I would like it distributed across the world 1 haven't pushed it because I don't feel I deserve the title-recording artist. Once again, I feel that I am a preacher who happens to sing."
And how did he feel about making his musical debut in the UK? "I have been to the UK on two separate occasions, however it was to minister at local churches. This will be different for me and, yes, it is like my debut. The Wades have been to Australia a few times now and have given me insight into a little bit of what to expect."
So what can we expect from David Evans at Cross Rhythms festival? Perhaps I was not surprised to hear him respond, "You can expect a performance totally designed for the unsaved, you will not be embarrassed to bring an unsaved friend to a David Evans consade!" David broke into a laugh and said, "Really, I feel like a convict coming home!"The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.