Shaun Groves on Third World Symphony and Keeping Jesus the Main Thing

Catching up with Shaun Groves is a thrill ride of deep emotion, spontaneous wisecracks, and purposeful passion.

Shaun Groves in a staring contest with boy

In a conversation that touched on his own struggles with doubt and surprised me with his renewed focus on treating vegetables with respect, I am left with this singular impression of the singer, songwriter, speaker, blogger and artist — Shaun is on a journey to keep Jesus at the center of his life and to change the face of poverty.

And he welcomes us to come along. Here are a few of his great answers to my poor questions:

    • On the dawn of the release of your latest album, Third World Symphony, how does a busy dad, husband, speaker and artist find the time to make a record?

The record is six years in the making, featuring my struggle straddling the First World and the Third World. Being angry, and disappointed, and elated, and full of joy and gratitude all along the way. It was a slow process, based on my actual experiences with Compassion kids and reflections on scripture.

There are things I have seen that made me doubt whether God is good, whether His plan to help the poor through the Church is effective. I have some intense struggle there. I am human, I have not arrived at the destination, and the struggle continues. The album captures all of it, from despair to joy.

    • What do you know, for sure, as you listen to Third World Symphony?

The new album starts with grace. Throughout, I always knew it should and would start with grace. I feel like Jesus saw me on my worst day and He chose to love me anyway. And He gave everything for me.

When that is in view, writing a blog post about the poor, giving money to 58:, being a missionary, saying something about Compassion at a concert, all of that is no longer a chore, it is a privilege. It is not even a “job.” So the album starts with that. It is all about mercy and grace.

    • The album moves from grace to the question of “enough.” When is “enough” enough?

It makes songwriting so easy when you can rip off Solomon! For me, the song “Enough” is based on Proverbs.

What I was originally looking for was a clear rule as to what enough is. How much money for a house? How much for clothes, etcetera?

Instead I found Proverbs 30:7, where Solomon prays, “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.”

So it’s a double caution against both extreme poverty and extreme wealth. If I get extremely wealthy, which in comparison the rest of the world nearly all Westerners are, I might forget about God and think I don’t need Him.

Enough is satisfied by daily bread and God. Anything left over I want to give back to God to help others and save my own soul. I am not there, but it is a prayer I pray.

    • Being educated about the 58: initiative and the plight of the extremely poor is a great way for parents to combat entitlement issues with their children. How does this impact parenting in the Groves family?

Well, I could probably tell more about how NOT to parent! I remember coming home from an overseas trip, still incredibly moved by what I had seen. It always takes me a few days to re-acclimate after a trip that involves so much impact to my heart and soul.

Shaun Groves playing with two children

One night my son was complaining about his broccoli. In a display of absolutely terrible parenting, I picked up his tray and threw the broccoli in the trash, proclaiming that so many people have only trash to eat from!

Of course, that was absolutely way over the top, and it was not loving or kind during that “teachable moment.”

In fact, the person learning the lesson ended up being me, as I later apologized to my son and tried to explain what I was feeling.

Now I try to limit my parenting for about a week after I get back from a trip because I know I am coming down from that experience. I did not apologize to the broccoli, though; I am still working out those issues.

I say all the time that Compassion releases children from poverty in Jesus’ name and they have released my children from wealth.

I think the most powerful tool for teaching in my family is to simply live, with your kids, blessing other people where you are. My kids have an understanding of the world that I didn’t have until my 30s.

    • The 58: initiative is about ending extreme poverty in our lifetime. Were you skeptical about that?

When skeptics ask me a direct question, I know that behind it is a never-ending list of skeptical questions. So the way my heart was changed was to think about my relationship with God. The more I know our generous God, the more I want to return that generosity in some way.

Third World Symphony talks a lot about how God has saved me. And made peace with me. Paul says, “In view of God’s mercy, now offer yourself as a living sacrifice.” When I keep God’s mercy and love in my mind, I naturally respond in the same way.

You can also view Shaun Groves – Third World Symphony (Ethiopia Story) on Vimeo.

So if people are skeptical about Compassion or 58:, I just respond,

If not those organizations, then what? Don’t tell me you aren’t going to give to the poor because you are skeptical about 58: or Compassion.

Has God loved you? Do you have leftovers? Fine, be skeptical.

In view of His mercy, offer yourself to God in another way that makes sense to you. You may be passionate about sex trafficking, water, food or children. 58: allows you to dive into your own passion with world-class organizations of integrity.

I love that about the 58: initiative! Acknowledging we are all made differently, dive into whatever gets you excited.

58: says there are things smart people have checked out that actually work. And that represent Christ well. And that are done with integrity.

The 58: initiative is the first time world-class Christian poverty-fighting organizations have banded together not to boycott something but to do something positive for the world. Ending extreme poverty is the goal, and they think it can be done.

I grew up in a church that was “against” a lot of things. I am not anymore, but for many years I was angry at that church for the way they made people feel and the issues they picked that would be “worth” getting upset about. These issues became their “Jesus” issues.

Poverty is physical and spiritual, and there are many, many aspects of it that need to be addressed. It models humility for the leaders of the 58: alliance to say “We need each other.”

They are standing up and saying that solving extreme poverty is more important than any single organization. That keeps the kingdom of God and Jesus the main thing.

It fights the judgmentalism I saw in my early church days, but it also fights the idealism of the individual do-gooder. In my mind, this is the only way to fight extreme poverty: for us to link arms and combat it from all sides. I am proud to do that with Compassion at

    • Thanks Shaun, for keeping Jesus the main thing, learning to treat broccoli with respect, and taking us along on a journey with Third World Symphony.

You’re welcome. I am praying for you guys, and for the 58: initiative! I hope everyone will go to and find your passion. We CAN solve extreme poverty — together!

Love what you have heard? Purchase Shaun Groves’ Third World Symphony on iTunes!

24 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Anastasia Stephan September 4, 2011

    This is just to join in on “the symphony” (which has been playing on my ipod and computer all weekend)…the words are impactful! They take my heart where I hope my feet will get to go! They proclaim an anthem of Truth and Reality that is hard and real and eternal…all the things we are meant to live for! My husband, who is a worship minister, listened to the words and said, “these are different…they come from a different “place”. You can tell it’s not from a “where we need to go” perspective; it’s a “where I’ve been” one.” God has been impressing on my heart and mind the idea of living eternally…on earth. (Living for all eternity while here on earth.) I’ve been thinking and writing and just trying to listen and live out this idea. It is not a new idea…been in the Word since It was written…but it seems to be a foreign way to live. So, I’m on a journey…for all eternity! Thank you Shaun for wrestling, praising, praying, thanking, and writing! I plan to “walk” to the beat of “symphony” all the way to Him!

  2. Michelle ~ Blogging from the Boonies September 3, 2011

    Shaun’s album reached me at a point where I needed it. “For such a time as this…” I posted about it here:

  3. Jacquie Parella September 3, 2011

    Thanks to all of you who commented on this blog post. We are so blessed by Shaun and his music and it is great to hear how he has touched your lives as well. Here’s some fun news:

    The following people were chosen at random and will receive a complimentary copy of Third World Symphony. I’ll contact you all individually so we can get the CD to you:

    1. Teena
    2. Dawn
    3. Bryan
    4. Stephanie
    5. Julie

  4. Tammy September 3, 2011

    Love the part about the music not being where they’ve been. So powerful! Thank you for all you are doing to raise awareness!!

  5. June September 3, 2011

    Shaun, thank you for letting God use you and the gift of music he gave you for speaking out about Compassion. A couple yrs ago you took a blogging group to El Salvador and you went to my child, Karla’s, project (ES526) and played soccer with the kids. Oh how my heart loved seeing what her project looked liked through your pictures and videos. I even got to see my Karla in a few wearing one of the outfits I bought her and gave to her when I went to see her. I’ve never seen her project so that was an extra special treat for me from God! 🙂
    Blessings to you, your music and ministry!

  6. Julie September 2, 2011

    Shaun, you won’t remember this, but several years ago, you shared on your blog your struggles with doubt. I emailed you our son’s story of his unbelief. from which he’s not yet recovered. You wrote an honest, compassionate reply. And then listening to your music and reading your blog have stirred things in me. In our “mature years” God is renovating our hearts, sending us into inner city ministry stateside, and my husband to Africa to train pastors. Who knew? Thanks for sowing into our lives.

    1. Shaun Groves September 2, 2011

      Julie, I’m truly honored to be a small part of what God is doing in the life of your family. Continuing to pray for you son…and celebrating your obedience to serve across the street AND around the world!

      Need this encouragement today. Thank you.

  7. Aislynn Holt September 2, 2011

    I think that the combination of Shaun Groves and Ann Voskamp in my life has been a transformation of true thanksgiving in my life. Shaun made a big impact in my life with “Welcome Home,” but to this his change in his life has been the best gift. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to see what God is doing in your life!

    1. Shaun Groves September 2, 2011

      Ann’s an incredible woman. Grateful to have her as a friend. And thank YOU for the kind words.

  8. Yvonne September 2, 2011

    I love what you said about Compassion releasing children from poverty and releasing your children from wealth. I believe this keeps us grounded in what is really important.

  9. Bryan September 2, 2011

    “It’s good music, but is hasn’t been where we have been.” What a powerful testimony to what Christ has done. Too often we, in America, forget about where people have been and don’t know where the people of the world are in relationship with their ability to even lift up the name of Christ. I am humbled by that man’s words and pray that the Lord continue to bless your ministry. God Bless!

  10. Jill Foley – Compassion Family September 2, 2011

    I left a comment here yesterday, but it must have gotten lost.

    Anyway, thank you for this Shaun. I especially appreciate your comments about parenting. Like you, we are intentionally giving our children a global awareness – both through Compassion and through homeschooling. As much as I would have liked to have had this awareness earlier in life, it’s fun learning with them and seeing God use this opportunity to shape and change us.

    Thanks again for an album full of beautiful music and thought provoking messages.

    1. Shaun Groves September 2, 2011

      You are very welcome, Jill! Thanks for all you do for Compassion.

    2. Jacquie Parella September 2, 2011

      Sometimes posts go into the spam folder. We’ve had a ton of spam lately so it may have gotten lost in that. Sorry Jill and thanks for reposting!!

  11. Kees Boer September 2, 2011

    Thanks, Shaun, I like the pictures how you have real fun with the children!!! Have you ever been to visit the children in Bolivia?

    1. Shaun Groves September 2, 2011

      I’ve never been to Bolivia! Heading to Ecuador soon – close huh? ; )

  12. Juli Jarvis September 1, 2011

    Thank you Jon and Shaun! This is wonderful! We all must do our part to bring poverty to an end…thank you for the beautiful music!

  13. Shaun Groves September 1, 2011

    SO glad this worked out, Jon. Thanks for your time…and patience.

    You all have no idea what this man went through to get this post done! We tried to record a video chat. On my raggedy old computer. Got the audio, but no video. So what you’re reading is Jon’s painstaking transcription of that chat. The man is a saint.

    Thanks, Jon, for all your hours of work on this.

  14. Stephanie September 1, 2011

    Wow, thanks so much Shaun for confessing your bad parenting moment. That really touched me. Thanks for not pretending you have it all together, and thanks for encouraging all of us to examine our lives with humility.

  15. Carol Strawn September 1, 2011

    Love the broccoli tag! ha! I agree. With all our surfing and social media it really is just surface stuff. We have not been where THEY have been in their tiny villages. Our faith is so small and untested in comparison. Thanks for this touching initiative.

    1. Jacquie Parella September 2, 2011

      Carol, I’m glad you liked the tag. I just read your comment and you made me laugh out loud. Who knew broccoli could bring such delight?! HA!

  16. Teena September 1, 2011

    Thank you; Shaun for sharing. Your words in our songs just wash over me. God has completely changed our life in the past two yrs and especially the last year!

    I became an Advocate in June. God is changing our lives…. my kids….

    It is REAL to me.

    Thank you again and again. I hope one day to go to Indonesia to meet one of our sponsored kids. Hope to meet you one day!


    1. Shaun Groves September 2, 2011

      Would love to meet you too, Teena! Congrats on becoming an advocate! What part of the country are you in? We might just run into each other at a sponsorship table someday.

      1. Teena September 3, 2011

        Thanks, Shaun! We live in Georgia…. that would be wonderful to meet you. I would love to work a table at one of your concerts. Loved listening to you and Ann in the field. God is truly speaking into so many lives through both of you.

        Compassion is becoming who we are…. and its amazing.


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