Monday, 29 December 2008

5 things you didn't know about Brenton Brown

(...or at least I didn't know until I read this interview)

Grandson of an Irish missionary
Rhodes scholar
He and his wife suffer from M.E.
Recorded "Come, Now Is The Time" as a 2nd year Uni student
Used to lead worship with a drum machine called 'Dave'

The Interview is from Joy
Magazine and as it seems to have fallen down the back of the Internet, I've pasted most of it below

So where are you from in South Africa. Where were you born, what school did you go to? What church? Any stories about God's intervention in your life growing up?

Well. I'm a Cape Town boy, although I was born in Port Elizabeth. We moved to CT when I was 5. Our family had always been church goers. My grandfather, James Mullan, left Ireland for Africa as a missionary in the 1920's working his way down from the Congo. And by the time I was born he was looking after the Assemblies of God churches in South Africa. To be honest I wasn't a big fan of Christians. And by the time I was playing in bands in Cape Town, worship music was probably the most uncool thing to listen to next to Country music! But God really touched me in my student days. I was struck by His mercy and His justice, and once I'd seen Him for who He was there was no looking back.

When did you get saved and how did that happen?

I guess i closed the deal at age 18. Debz, my sister, was going along to some bible studies at UCT. Mainly I think because there was a guy she was interested in who was also going. She was only 16 though and couldn't drive, so reluctantly I agreed to take her. Since I was driving we'd arrive late and leave early. I'd be the guy at the back finishing the speaker's sentences for him. A real smart-aleck. But one night the guy teaching started explaining the verse, 'the fool says in his heart there is no God'. He explained that God speaks to us his through the light of His creation, through the voice of our conscience, through the truth of his scriptures and through the life of Jesus. I guess at that point God was speaking to me. It was like my growing up around Godly people and God's word had laid all this amazing circuitry in my soul, and at that moment all the lights went on. I was amped! In fact I remember preaching to Debz in the car all the way home, and then both of us waking up our parents when we got there and preaching to them.

How did you get involved with Survivor? (the whole story, from the Vineyard days)

Well, if you want the long answer here goes... SACS, the school I went to in Cape Town offered a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford. I was lucky enough to win it and after UCT went off to study politics and philosophy in Oxford. After arriving I looked for a church that felt comfortable and after a few false starts settled on the Oxford Vineyard. I was completely unaware of the greater Vineyard movement and it's significance for contemporary worship. All I knew was that the church owned it's own sound desk and guitar stands. And I figured if they were willing to invest in worship practically like that they couldn't have been all bad! The Vineyard movement in the UK was only ten years old at the time. And John Mumford, the leader of the movement, had asked a guy called Brian Doerksen (writer of Purify my heart and Come now is the time) to come and look after worship in the UK and maybe produce some worship albums.

Shortly after arriving for my second year at Oxford Brian asked for writers to submit worship songs for an album. I sent in a couple and a week later Brian was on the phone asking if I'd consider leading on the recording. I was pretty reticent. I've never been totally comfortable with the idea of being a well-known, exotic Christian. But after thinking about it it felt that perhaps the Lord was leading me this way and I should go. The album, Come Now is the Time or Winds 12, far exceeded any of our expectations. In fact the whole event was pretty surreal.

The Oxford Vineyard had about 80 regular attendees at the time and I led worship each week with Bob, our bass player and a drum machine I dubbed Dave - not a lot of feel but always on time. Coming back from the night of the recording where there were thousands of people and an 8 piece band of professional musicians to our Sunday morning worship was a strange experience. At times I wondered if it had actually happened. Anyway, the bass player for the project was a guy called Les Moir, who also happened to be heading up a young worship label called Survivor.

Any stories about your time in the UK so far?

Well you should probably know that in the last 3 years two pretty significant things have happened to me. Three years ago I fell in love with a girl called Jude and married her! Jude is South African and I first met her when she came to a small group I was leading in Lakeside, Cape Town. She was just a school girl then and I was in uni so all bets were off. But we got on pretty well.

Ten years later, Jude had done extremely well working with a Venture Capital firm in London and although I was still living in Oxford I found myself running out of good reasons not to call her! At the same time, three years ago, both of us fell ill with a condition called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The illness has radically changed our lives. Jude is unable to work in finance and I was unable to pastor.

After spending a year and half with the illness in London we decided to take a radical step and move to California where the sunshine and slower pace of life is really helping us live a little more normally than we were in England.

What do you feel is your purpose in life? Is it to "lead worship"?

To be honest I'm pretty wary of talk about 'calling' and 'purpose'. The only calling I see in scripture is being called to God through Jesus. When I first discovered God in my part of the evangelical world it was almost as if you were a second rate Christian if you didn't know what your 'calling' was - what your big mission in life was. Perhaps it comes from the four spiritual laws... God loves you and has a plan for your life?! This is going to sound brutal, but now that I'm a little older talk of calling smacks a little bit of idolatry to me. I love Augustine's comment: love God and do what you want. That seems to fit far closer to orthodoxy and the God of scripture.

For me the best metaphor about purpose and life-work is found in Jesus' parable about the the servants who are given money to invest while their master is away. The master doesn't tell them what to do with what he's given them. He simply asks them to do something! Just do something with what you have been given. Something that will accrue to God and please Him when He returns.

What makes worship "real"? How can you discern when you hear a worship song?

I guess my understanding of worship is that it is primarily a response. Worship is a response to an accurate revelation of who God is. When we see Him we discover that He is so good that we can't help bowing down in worship. Any song that gives us a view, however small or limited, of our God and allows us to respond to that truth in a congregational way is a song I'll want to use in worship.

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