Catching up with Shaun Groves is a thrill ride of deep emotion, spontaneous wisecracks, and purposeful passion.
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.
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 live58.org.
- 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 live58.org and find your passion. We CAN solve extreme poverty — together!
Love what you have heard? Purchase Shaun Groves’ Third World Symphony on iTunes!