Third Day is one of my favorite groups so when Nigel James wrote a behind the scence book called Lessons from the Road I had to read it. What makes this book so unique is you get to view this group from the eyes of their pastor. So I am sharing with you a small sample of the book. I hope you find it as interesting as I did.
“From the beginning of Third Day we realized that we needed to have someone to speak into our lives as individuals and as a band. Through the years we have had many people, pastors, and friends travel with us. But of all those people, Nigel James has been the most important. He has allowed us and reminded us to be men of God first, and as a result, our music and ministry have reflected that. Nigel has kept us accountable to each other, to the church, and, of course, to our Lord. He has helped us to grow in our faith and has reminded us to stay focused on our calling and on what Third Day is really all about.” ~ Mac Powell, November 2006
Whenever people find out that I travel with Third Day as their road pastor, they always ask me the same two questions. The second question is, “Do you need someone to carry your bags?” I laugh politely and mention that I’m strong enough to carry my own bags. However, the first question needs a more serious answer. Everyone always asks me, “How did you get the job of Third Day’s road pastor?” Depending on how much time I have and how interested the person looks, I’ve got two possible replies. My short reply is that it is a “God thing”; and the longer reply, which explains the set of circumstances in which I’ve ended up working with the band, adds up to basically the same answer—it’s a God thing.
If you think about the situation, it does seem to stretch the bounds of credibility that a man from Cardiff, Wales, in the UK would find himself in the privileged and responsible position of being spiritual adviser and friend to one of the most successful and influential bands in the history of Christian music. Equally unlikely is that their production manager would up root from his home in Australia to join the band’s crew, or that their merchandise manager is a missionary from Brazil. Yet that’s the way God often works: “For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9 nlt). So let me explain how God orchestrated my relationship with Brad, David, Mac, Mark, and Tai.
It all started in the summer of 1995. My best friend, Gary Smith, and I had just left the employment of a national Christian youth organization in the UK to begin ministry together in a charity called Big Ideas (nothing to do with Veggie Tales!). For some years before this, we had been running a Christian music festival and had begun a friendship with the main guys in a Christian record company. Ian Hamilton, Dave Withers, and Dave Bruce, major players in the UK scene, started a new company called Alliance and needed some help developing live concerts and touring. They promised to send some opportunities our way when Gary and I set out together.
Our plan for the summer of 1995 was to leave our employment in June, spend July and early August on an evangelistic trip around youth camp sites, have a couple of weeks holiday late in August, and then officially begin ministry together in the first week of September.
Then two things happened that shaped my destiny: first, Gary got ill with a kidney stone and had to return home early from the evangelistic trip. In fact, he ended up in the hospital. Second, Alliance Music called us to ask if we could look after an American band that was coming over to the UK and Europe for a week. Basically they needed a minibus driver to take a band called Newsboys around the UK, Holland, and Germany. I have to admit I’d never heard of them but had it on good authority that they were good and were gaining a great reputation. Already Gary and I had decided that he would do more of the management, events, and organizing and that I would do more speaking and evangelism. Had Gary been well, he would have driven Newsboys around, but because we couldn’t turn down such a great opportunity, I found myself escorting them around when I thought I’d be having a few quiet days before starting a new ministry.
A week on the road with Newsboys was a blast and my first introduction to the nuts and bolts of the Christian music world. I’d been a fan of contemporary Christian music since I was a student in the late ’70s and early ’80s, but now I was experiencing it from the inside. Peter Furler and the rest of the guys of Newsboys really welcomed me, and we shared many plates of “pie and chips” during that week. Newsboys’ management, Wes and Steve Campbell, became very good friends of mine, and Gary recovered enough to run a showcase concert for Alliance with Newsboys as top of the bill.
Over the next few years, Alliance Music flew Gary and me to the Gospel Music Association conference in Nashville, Tennessee, to find bands and performers who would relish the opportunity of playing in the UK. Each time we went to Nashville, we would stay with either Wes Campbell or Duncan Phillips, and we got to know Newsboys better and better. Peter Furler would often suggest that they bring me over to the US to work as the road manager, and I kept replying that I was a pastoral/speaker-type person, not a management dude! I must admit that my appetite for life on the road in the US was whetted on one occasion when I flew up from Nashville to Chicago to see Newsboys perform at a Luis Palau youth rally and then traveled back to Nashville on their tour bus. I slept on the couch in the front lounge of the bus and gazed wide eyed out of the window at the nighttime Chicago skyline and the early morning scene on the outskirts of Nashville.
Then, incredibly, in the summer of 1998, Steve Campbell called and asked me, on Peter Furler’s behalf, if I’d consider coming on the Step Up to the Microphone tour to do some speaking on behalf of Teen Mania and to act as a tour pastor. After a phone conversation with Ron Luce of Teen Mania, a visit to their headquarters in Texas, and a trip to Romania to see one of their mission teams in action, the plan was confirmed.
So in September 1998, I headed out for the first of two one-month-long stays on the road with Newsboys. At the age of nearly thirty-eight, when most sane people in Christian music were deciding to come off the road, I was embarking on a journey that now eight years later I still have not finished!
Life on the road with Newsboys was perhaps the most intense experience I have ever had. I learned so much about myself, about being away from my family, about life on the road, about Christian music, about relying on the Lord, and I saw so much of America—places like Memphis, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New Orleans, which I had often seen on TV but never in real life.
I’m immensely grateful to the guys at Alliance, to Gary Smith, and to Newsboys (especially Steve Campbell, who along with his wife, Simone, looked after me so well) for the opportunities that came my way at this time. But how does all this connect with Third Day? I hear you ask. Good question! The support act for Newsboys on the first part of the Step Up to the Microphone tour was none other than—you’ve guessed it—Third Day!
The first mention of Third Day in my journal, dated Saturday, October 3, 1998, reads: “At another Paramount theme park. Third Day talked me into going on the Top Gun ride with them—a frightening experience.” I have to confess that my fear came not from being with the guys of Third Day but from a deep aversion to theme-park rides.
I spoke on the weekend shows of the tour and would be waiting in the wings of the stage while Third Day performed their set. I hadn’t listened to their music before the tour but found that songs like “My Hope Is You,” “Consuming Fire,” and “Peace” really helped me worship the Lord and receive His strength before I went on to speak.
I met John Poitevent at this time, who became a great friend. On my first night of speaking, John was walking offstage with a guitar (he doubled as a guitar tech), and just before I was going on stage, he prayed an awesome prayer for me. I was amazed and remember thinking, “Wow! These Third Day guys must be incredible; even their guitar tech is a mighty man of God.” He was actually Third Day’s full-time road pastor, and it was he who encouraged me to get to know the band and to spend some time with them on our days off.
My friendship with Third Day came to fruition in October 1998. Newsboys were big into motorbikes and were going to spend some time biking in California and Nevada, so Third Day invited me onto their bus. We bonded on a golf course in Pasadena and in a Thai restaurant in Hollywood! Our friendship nearly came to a premature end a few days later when I tried to impress the crowd at a concert with my newly learned American slang, courtesy of Third Day. Great embarrassment for me and for them!
As far as my journal entries go, I joined in a Sunday devotional with Third Day for the first time the day after the Top Gun ride and led my first Bible study with the guys on Tuesday, October 13, 1998, at the invitation of John Poitevent: “Leading a Bible study with Third Day today—supposedly. Didn’t think Newsboys bus would arrive at the venue in time. Got here with twenty minutes to spare, washed and ate, only to find all the guys in Third Day still asleep.”
The first study I ever shared with Tai, Mac, Mark, David, and Brad was on this verse: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” (1 Corinthians 4:20 niv). As if to enforce that theme, the daily reading in my own quiet time from a book my wife, Gill, had given me was from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7 niv).
I was homesick, missing my wife and family, aware of the grace she showed in allowing me to travel to the USA, yet I was also conscious that God was beginning to open up a new chapter
of my life and that His power would be all that I needed.
I spent another two months in the spring of 1999 on the Step Up to the Microphone tour, although Third Day wasn’t in those shows. I also traveled with Newsboys on their Love Liberty Disco tour, which took place inside a giant blow-up air dome in parking lots or state fairgrounds during the spring of 2000. I kept in contact with Third Day and even found time to pop into the studio in Nashville when the band was mixing the Time album. I can vividly remember listening to the finishing touches to “Your Love, Oh Lord” and then going out for a good ol’ barbecue meal together. The guys first invited me to join them for a few days out on tour towards the end of 2000. By then, John Poitevent had gone back to Atlanta to work with his church, and Third Day was touring the Time album. From then on, I joined them regularly on each of their tours.
The contemporary Christian music scene often receives criticism for being a business or for merely mimicking the mainstream music scene or for attempting to create a parallel and “safe” Christian culture away from the real world. And to a certain extent, all of these observations carry some truth. Yet my experience also tells me that Christian music does transform lives, does communicate with people, does help seekers find faith, and does build up the body of believers. It’s for these reasons that I do what I do with Third Day.
I often reflect on what I have done to deserve the privilege of pastoring Third Day. In reality, it’s down to the grace of God because there are thousands of faithful, inspirational, even famous pastors in the US who in human terms should be doing what I do. However, as I reflect, I do believe that part of the reason has been my willingness, ever since God called me to serve Him, to be faithful in the small things. I am reminded of the words of the master in the parable of the talents: “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’” (Matthew 25:21 nlt).
From my late teens, when I knew God’s call in my life was to share Jesus with others, I have always been excited about the opportunity to preach and teach the Word of God, whether to five hundred people or to five people. In fact, the denomination in which I grew up sent me around London to preach in many of its dwindling churches. Sometimes I would take other young people with me, and we would outnumber the small congregation we were visiting. Once I preached in a church that had space for eight hundred people, but only a handful were present. Rather than get resentful or despairing, I was always thrilled to give a message I believed the Lord had given me. Over the years I have attempted to keep that same desire to prove faithful in the small things, and I believed that opportunities such as those with Third Day would not have come my way if I hadn’t treated “smaller” responsibilities faithfully. Sometimes people ask me how to become a road pastor, or they tell me that they want to be a famous preacher or a successful singer or worship leader. My advice to them is to start serving the Lord right where they are and learn from being faithful in the small opportunities that will come their way.
Through the song “Consuming Fire” God gave me much of the vision and direction for a project called Ignite, which over the last six years or so has grown to dominate the ministry I help direct in the UK. Very rarely is there a Third Day concert without the song being sung. Here Mac opens up about “Consuming Fire”:
I honestly don’t remember exactly how this song started out—I just remember it always being one of our songs. I have always felt this is a great representation of what Third Day is. It’s a rock song, yet the lyrics are worship. It’s a 6/8 song, so there is a “sing-along” feeling to it as well.
I got the idea from the verse in Hebrews. I didn’t totally know what it meant when I was writing the song. I took it to mean that God purifies us in the same sense that extreme heat purifies precious metal. But we have to allow God to do that daily so it’s not just a one-time shot. The song has lasted the test of time because there is an intensity in the song musically and lyrically asking God to change us and to help us. It starts from a place of brokenness and desperation. We need God to be our Purifier, our Redeemer.
“Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be destroyed, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28–29 nlt). ~ Mac Powell, November 2006
Lessons from the Road by Nigel James
Authentic Books April 1, 2008
ISBN-13: 978-1-934068-48-9/192 pages/softcover/$14.99