march 15, 2013
jackson, miss. – Church services aren’t overflowing with youth and young adults. In many cases, it’s hard for churches to fill even a pew or a Sunday School room.
But rock concerts are tipping at the brim with young people, eager to soak in the message coming from the speakers.
Sonny Sandoval confesses a heart for people, especially young people. From rock stages, Sandoval and his rock band are bridging the gap between Jesus and people, a gap often unreached.
Sandoval has been on that mission as the lead singer of multi-platinum selling P.O.D. (Payable on Death) for two decades. For the last few years, he has been doing the same as a founding member of the Whosoevers, a non-traditional Christian organization trying to reach people who aren’t being reached for Christ.
“When we talk to young people, they just want honesty, man,” Sandoval said Friday on the P.O.D. bus before a show in Jackson. “There are a lot of things they can’t talk to their parents about or even their youth group leaders.”
The Whosoever movement – the name taken from John 3:16 – is about meeting people where they are, no matter their circumstances. The movement has distanced itself from organized religion and embraces a relationship with Jesus Christ.
P.O.D. doesn’t frequent Christian festivals, not because the band is opposed. Sandoval says God has called his band straight into the world, directly in front of people who aren’t going to Christian concerts or church, people with real issues that many times aren’t met by the church. The church is still vital for Christians, but Sandoval says he has been given a platform to speak to people who need to hear about Jesus and aren’t going to church to seek him.
Some people are drawn to church through hymns and Bible School. Some are drawn through tattoos and rock n’ roll.
“I’ve been a Christian a long time and God knows I’ve had my ups and my downs and my confusing points,” Sandoval said. “I never subscribe to the ‘institution’ of Christianity. But I want Jesus. And I think these kids do too. I think a lot of them don’t have a problem with God. They don’t have a problem with Jesus.
“They have a problem with the churches that have let them down. They have a huge problem with people that have claimed Christianity all their lives and they haven’t seen it in their lives, and they’re over it.”
POD has sold more than 12 million records. Before the eighth and newest studio album, “Murdered Love,” was released in 2012, the band took some five years off, Sonny says a time to find out if God still wanted P.O.D. to be P.O.D.
The answer was yes and a new album has made the band as popular as ever. There’s no confusing the lyrics on edgy “Murdered Love,” and obvious play on Jesus’ death of the cross. The strongest lyrics come from “I Am,” an ode to everyday struggles.
“I am the murderer, the pervert, sick to the core. I am the unclean dope fiend, I am the whore,” the song says before asking, “Cause if You knew who I am, would You really want to die for me?”
P.O.D and the Whosoevers are seeking those seeking God, real people with real problems. Sandoval doesn’t find any issue too tough to talk about.
“I don’t want to offend Christians, I don’t, but at the same time I think sometimes when people are … uncomfortable, I think that’s a good thing,” Sandoval said. “I think that allows you to get out from where you’re at and really check it out and see what’s going on.”
* top photo by LeAnn Mueller