Bryan Nance of American pop team PHAT CHANCE saw the grim consequences of sin, watching his father die slowly of Aids. It's given him a powerful take on sexual purity. He spoke to Mike Rimmer.
American high schools are probably full of wannabe pop bands but here's one who have actually made a go of it. More than a go of it! Not many bands can claim to have opened up for the likes of big US CCM names like Rebecca St James, Big Tent Revival and NewSong even before signing a record contract.
Phat Chance, now being much plugged and with a snappy new album 'Without You' out here through Word, are the complete opposite of overnight sensation. They formed in 1995 by Justin Morgan and his brother, Dallas Morgan. They were soon joined by a friend, Bryan Nance. Over the next four years they also recruited Brent Lain as lead guitarist and a youth camp friend Brandon Johnson became lead vocalist. Naming themselves Phat Chance with '"Phat' an acronym for 'Praising Him All Times', the band enlisted the help of family friend Scotty Wilbanks, formerly of NewSong.
They recorded a five-song demo and then upped the work rate and went gigging to hone their skills. It wasn't long before they signed to Flicker Records, a new label established by Mark Stuart, lead singer of Audio Adrenaline and co-owner of Flicker Records. I have to confess I was in danger of writing off Phat Chance as yet another bunch of Christian kids in High School playing at pop stars. I couldn't have been further from the truth as you'll see when you read on.
Talking with Bryan Nance, he explains the band's focus in one word. "Purity", he shares. "There are a lot of girl groups out there and individual artists like Rebecca St James who voice their stance on keeping themselves for marriage and staying a virgin. As guys we want to stand up for that too. There's not actually a lot of guys who voice that really loud but I know a lot of guys who definitely believe it."
Bryan is a passionate advocate of purity and not just in the sense that we should abstain from sex outside of marriage. "All Christians should believe that you should remain pure because it's Biblical." He continues, "That's not just to say keeping yourself abstinent for marriage but also being pure in the things that you watch, the movies, the music you listen to, the TV and the words that you say. We need to keep ourselves pure not just in a physical, sexual aspect but we need to challenge ourselves daily with remaining pure in our minds. Not just by staying away from the things of this world but also renewing our minds by reading the Bible, by prayer and keeping ourselves accountable. It's important to find people older than us to keep us on the right track, to help us grow and take our relationship with God even further, to a new level."
It would be easy to suspect that a bunch of teenage American boys in a pop band might be the last people on earth to talk anything but theory on the subject. Bryan's life counters any accusations that he is too wet behind the ears to minister to his peers. He explains, "I personally know what it's like to have consequences from not keeping yourself pure. Whether it's your body and just doing drugs or whether it's having sex before marriage or something like that. I know that because my dad was a regular teenage guy in High School, he played football and was the top dog in his school. He ended up doing drugs and losing his virginity before he was married. He committed adultery I don't know how many times after he married my mom. He was still doing drugs and still living a life that was full of pleasing himself."
Bryan saw the consequences of his father's behaviour. Sadly he explains, "He ended up being diagnosed with HIV when I was two years old. For seven years he lived with AIDS. Although he also became a Christian during this time, for seven years I was able to see how crummy it was to face the consequences that he had to face. I would never want to put that on myself. I would never want to give my life up to the TV or the music that the world has to offer because it's all rooted in what Satan wants and how Satan wants to destroy you. John chapter 10:10 says that Satan is out to steal, kill and destroy but God's there to give you life."
Witnessing the devastating consequences of sin so close at home has been a motivating factor for Bryan's ministry within the band. He says, "When I saw what kind of life my dad had after he gave his life to God, I definitely think that purity is a huge part of what God can bless us with. I know what it was like for my dad and I know what it is for me to remain pure. I know how awesome my life has been just living with God and how bad it was when my dad had to face the consequences of his sins."
His father died when Bryan was nine years old. He explains, "I was a Christian when he died. I'd been a Christian for a while but I didn't really have a mature relationship. I was a kid, I didn't really have the brains to know exactly how much Jesus loved me or anything like that. God just, for some supernatural reason, kept us close to him. I don't think I ever got bitter that my dad died or anything, even though our finances dropped. We didn't have a lot of money but God kept on providing. We always kept the verse in mind that God would be a Father to the fatherless and a Judge for the widows. That's in the Psalms. So that's something that encouraged me every day, that God was always there, whether I had a real father or not. He was there and he really was a Father to us."
Bryan describes that being with his father during a period of time when there was a great deal of prejudice and ignorance about Aids was very difficult. "We knew we couldn't get the disease by just drinking from a glass after he'd drunk from it. But because the public didn't really know much about it, we decided to keep it a secret. Even most of the church members didn't know about it. Actually, he was kicked off the children's ministry he was part of because they were afraid that he might give the kids AIDS. So it was definitely a tough time to deal with. Our neighbours didn't know about it. We had to keep it a total secret just because people didn't really understand that it wasn't very easy to get AIDS, unless you were maybe doing drugs, messing around with sex or whatever."
So it's not possible to simply brand Phat Chance as another one of those pop bands with happy tunes and a comfy, cosy Christian background. In the case of Bryan Nance, his life experiences inform one aspect of this band's music ministry. Phat Chance are desperate to reach out to people and help them avoid receiving the payback time when those who have sown in impurity finally cash in and receive the wages of their sin.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.