Jars of Clay
By Kirk Noonan
As a teenager Charlie Lowell had a realization that changed his life.
It went something like this: No matter what, God loves and accepts
me just the way I am. For a lad who felt like he had to constantly
prove himself to gain acceptance from others, this brought welcome relief.
But as the years passed, Lowell realized he wasnt just dealing
with a bad case of teen angst. Instead, Lowell, keyboardist for Jars
of Clay, was and continues to be in a battle for his self-esteem.
"Ive always struggled with my self-image and have had a sense
of being insecure with who I am," Lowell, 28, admits. "The industry
that I am in breeds that because its so image driven. But when
I remind myself that I am perfectly loved by Christ, and His love and
forgiveness are not based on my performance, I can rest in who I am
and know that I am loved."
& A with Charlie Lowell
Can a teenager have
a calling from God to be in a Christian band?
it can be a calling. I tell teens to find something they love
doing besides music; if they keep coming back to the music then
Id tell them to go for it. Its not quite all that
it seems to be, but its an amazing thing.
How does the creative
process work between all the members of the band?
There is something special that God does between the four of us
when we write songs or hang out together. Its deeper than
a career or a friendship. There is a lot of prayer and trusting
God. All of us have learned that we have to give up sometimes
in order to see it all come around.
What will you do
after Jars of Clays last gig?
Ill be involved with music in some way, whether its
writing songs or playing the piano on Sunday mornings at a church.
most effective way you have found to share your faith?
Being a good listener says a lot relationships thrive on
that. Just a believers presence, being there to hang out
and being a friend, opens up all kinds of conversations. When
people see that, they want to know more about us and that opens
the door for us to share our faith.
Favorite Bible verses?
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels
nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,
neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will
be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ
Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38,39, NIV).
Its ironic that Lowell would have such a struggle. He is one
of the founding members of Jars of Clay, a band that hit the charts
in 1995 with their self-titled debut album that included the hit radio
single "Flood." The album went double-platinum and before Lowell and
his bandmates knew it they had etched themselves into the Christian
and mainstream music markets as a clever band that had something significant
to say through its music.
Grammy and Dove nominations and awards followed. Since 95, more
than 5 million albums have been sold. Jars of Clay has toured the world
and shared the stage with industry giants. Their videos became staples
on TV and some even started considering them pioneers who paved the
way for Christian artists to take Christs message of love and
hope to the masses. But all of the experiences and accolades only magnified
a daunting truth for Lowell.
"I kept learning about my neediness," he says. "My neediness never
goes away until I think of the gospel message. It always reminds me
of how empty I am and how great my need is for Christ. I am dependent
on Him to fill me up. My neediness is a gift. Ive realized I need
to need Him."
For many who taste the fruit of accomplishment and fame, the temptations
of the world become overwhelming and ties to spiritual and moral moorings
are either neglected or cut. Not so with Jars of Clay. Yes, they admit
they have taken an unorthodox road for Christian musicians in spreading
the gospel, but Lowell insists he and the others in the band have not
wavered in their faith.
"Our vision is to use music to build bridges between the church and
culture," Lowell says. "Its our calling as sons of Christ to use
our music to tell people about the freedom, acceptance and love we find
in the gospel. If we didnt do that we would be irresponsible with
If their music were the evidence, their song "Flood," which is about
forgiveness and one they are most popular for, reveals their need to
give listeners glimpses of their faith.
Rain, rain on my face
It hasnt stopped raining for days
My world is a flood
Slowly I become one with the mud
But if I cant swim after forty days
and my mind is crushed by the
Lift me up so high that I cannot fall
Lift me up
Lift me up - when Im falling
Lift me up - Im weak and Im dying
Lift me up - I need you to hold me
Lift me up - Keep me from
Or see "Liquid" on the same album. The songs lyrics are proof-positive
that the band aims to introduce others to their Lord and Savior.
He wasnt broken for nothing.
Arms nailed down,
He didnt die for nothing.
Lowell says helping shape culture through their music and using their
music as a tool to lead others to Christ has always been and will remain
the Jars of Clay way. But, he adds, doing so has not been easy.
"As much as we feel like its our calling, sometimes it feels
as much a curse as a blessing," Lowell says. "But this is what the Lord
has given us a passion for. There are going to be people who dont
agree with it, or understand it and thats OK, but that shouldnt
keep us from our calling."
The arena is near capacity and the opening band is nearing the end
of its set. In a room offstage, Lowell, lead singer Dan Haseltine, and
guitarists Stephen Mason and Matt Odmark are sitting in a circle singing
hymns to the accompaniment of a guitar.
"During our last tour we saw a big difference in how singing hymns
prepared us to go on stage," Lowell says. "Spending time in worship
readied our hearts for what was going to happen on stage and it became
less about performance and more about welcoming the Spirit into the
The Eleventh Hour, which was released in March, is the bands
fourth album. It is self-produced and billed as a collection of emotionally
charged anthems centered on the concept of human longing.
"We wrote this record to inspire people to dig deeper [spiritually],"
Lowell says. "We want people to feel the depth, height and width of
love and longing through this collection of songs."
Longing is something Lowell is familiar with, but it never lasts long
because Lowell keeps racing back to the One who accepts him just the
way he is.
Kirk Noonan is associate editor of the Pentecostal