John Derry spoke to Thom Green of radical hardcore ministry team SLEEPING GIANT
The metalcore band from Salt Lake City, Sleeping Giant will be releasing their new album 'Finished People' in August. As their legion of fans will know, this team of touring hard rockers aren't the average group. Renowned for moving in signs and wonders, Sleeping Giant have been described as "More than a band, more than a group of close friends, Sleeping Giant is a unit of disciples who scream loud from deep in the underground to the highest of the heavens." John Derry, presenter of Cross Rhythms' Rock And A Hard Place radio programme, recently caught up with lead singer Thom Green to speak about their music and passion for ministry.
John: Tell me a bit about 'Finished People'.
Thom: We recorded it with our friend Andrew Glover, who has a recording studio called Sound Temple Studio in California. He plays bass for a band called Winds Of Plague. We spent some time with him.
John: The band has gone through some changes recently, hasn't it?
Thom: Yes, our old guitarist, Eric Gregon, and our old bass player, JR, left. Eric's writing style - he's one of my best friends - we've written together for a long time, and his style's a little different. He wrote "Gang Signs", he wrote so much stuff on 'Kingdom Days', he wrote "Tithemi". Geoff, our other guitarist, wrote "Blame It On The Holy Rollers" on the first record, "Eyes Wide Open". The way they do stuff is different in the process, but I feel like it sounds like Sleeping Giant. So Geoff wrote the record - a bunch of bangers - and hopefully they're fun.
John: How do people receive you at a secular show? Are they open?
Thom: We get yelled at, threatened. It doesn't matter. People are going to be all mad about it. OK, whatever: I'm not going to stop talking. Unless I'm just being an arrogant jerk, then I should stop talking. For the most part, when we give a message, when we try to share, I try really hard - even though I'm preaching a lot - I try hard to share my life, so I'm not just trying to yell at them. 'This is why I wrote this', 'This is why this is important'. I do what I can to try to speak the message to people in a way that they can relate to. Hopefully I can encourage them in their life, or we can meet on a different level. Some people get mad, but there's more of an accepting culture to it. In general, the scene should be a place where people can share their views, and they can all be respected for it - even if they disagree. When I first started, there'd be like five, six different bands, and they all sounded different; everyone had a different style, but if you were straight up with people, it was cool. But I think everything gets real segregated and weird - you're not allowed to have a different view: that's the problem. I don't care if you don't like what I have to say - whatever - I should at least be respectful enough to other people while they preach unbelief and anger and hatred. 'Cool, you guys; that's what you're about'. To not give that same respect is a little narrow.
John: Do you find it hard touring with bands at the opposite
Thom: They're our favourite people to tour with, to be honest with you. What I've noticed, at least in America - and maybe we're guilty of this too - in general, there's like the weirdest, crazy, ego-competition stuff within the Christian scene. It's just easier sometimes to be on tour with bands that are non-Christian. Some of our favourite people have been bands that are totally anti- what we're about. Our old drummer Travis had to leave in the middle of a tour - he had to take off - and Danny, who played drums for Oceano, he filled in for us for the rest of the tour. They're atheists - super mad and angry, all that stuff - and they're great dudes. I don't have a problem if the people are cool, if they're fun to be on tour with.
John: Has the Christcore documentary been released yet?
Thom: I don't know. I think it got its Canadian release a year ago. They were trying to figure out where they were going to release it in the States. I haven't heard from Justin the director for a while. I was a kind of surprised when they were like, 'Yeah, we're going to do this Christcore documentary'. The premise is that Justin is a punk rock head from Canada, and he hated the fact that Christianity was in the punk scene: he thought, 'This is not what punk rock is all about'. Initially he wanted to make a film trashing Christians in the hardcore scene, and it wouldn't work for some reason - it wouldn't come together. Eventually he was like, 'I just to need to be an observer'. In his own personal value system, he's not a Christian. But he just wanted to observe it - see what this thing was. I guess they saw us at one point, and we were so outspoken, so upfront about everything. He was like, 'That would be an interesting band to watch'. I guess us and Messengers From Texas - they travel a lot with them, then they travel with us for a few weeks. It's basically these two dudes that are atheists watching what Christians are doing in the hardcore scene, watching what ministry looks like. It's pretty cool: there's been interesting things, and it's totally Kingdom to me. These guys literally film miracles happening, when we pray for the sick and they get healed on camera; but they still don't believe. That's the Kingdom, that's Jesus: 'I won't manipulate you. I can show you, I can explain it to you, but people have to make the choice to believe or not'. They're awesome dudes, and it was a cool experience - a couple of weeks. I almost can't remember it, because it was a brief minute in the middle of tour, and then they're just gone. I watched it in Seattle a year ago. We were in Seattle, and he drove down from Canada really quick. So I got to see it, but I'm intrigued to watch it again.
John: If there was someone in the UK wanting to start a hardcore band on fire for God - a ministry band - what would you advise them to do?
Thom: Be a part of the scene. You're not going to show up and just rescue kids. If I know anything about the hardcore community, about the subculture I've been a part for a long time, people don't like outsiders. Don't have an elitist, island mentality that you're just going to show up and take them out of it. You have to respect the culture. Make sure you understand what you're doing. And just love Jesus. I don't care about a 'ministry band': if you want to play music, play music; if you want to do ministry, do ministry. Music is such a powerful medium, and people remember the songs that you play a lot more than they remember what you said; but they'll remember what the Holy Spirit was doing in those moments. If you want to do ministry, find out if God wants you to preach, if God just wants you to be friends and to treat people well and to be there for them. I've got friends that I don't preach any messages to them, but I've been their friend for a long time, and I'm going to be there for them because I love them. With other people, I've shared the Gospel with them and prayed for them. It's not a one-size-fits-all thing.
If people want to be in a ministry band, good job, great - please preach the good news of Jesus to people, show them the love that God has for people. But don't let the band crap get in the way; don't be so arrogant that you feel like you can't contribute to what's going on. The scene is just as full of crap as anything I know. You don't want to get too deep into it and then have it overshadow what you're there for, but at the same time it's going to be difficult to have real relationships with people if you're going to stand at a distance and treat people with dishonour. People from the culture getting lit by the Holy Spirit and going, 'I just want to love people right where I am' - that's what happened with us, being in the hardcore scene and getting saved, and going, 'I'm here. This is where I'm going to do my stuff, because this is my life'. I'm not sure about, 'We're going to get this Christian band together and play hardcore shows'. Maybe that'll work, but the most important thing is the relationship you have with God: the love that you have for him, the love you feel for yourself, and the love you can give to other people. Do it - if the band doesn't screw you up, do it.
I want to see ministry happen, but I think when you try to just make it a ministry band, we better make sure that's what God wants first. I've watched a lot of kids use Christianity to have a band: it's like a built-in audience, and it's fake. Then I've watched people who have the right heart for ministry, but I don't know if it's the right field for them. It eats them alive, and they either become cynical and non-believers, because it devours their faith, or they just get burned out. So listen to the Holy Spirit: find out where he wants you to be.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.