This July, Jesus Culture — a worship driven ministry that is gaining a reputation as sort of the Hillsongs of America — is putting on a conference in LA. We got to chat with Jesus Culture director Banning Liebscher about the origins of JC, the conference, and what it means to be a “revivalist”
Tell us about yourself, Banning:
Hi! Well my title is director, and I’m the founder of Jesus Culture. I was a youth pastor at Bethel (a church located in Redding, California) in ’97, and in ’99 we had our first youth conference, and called it Jesus Culture … the band came out of what we were doing there. So Chris Quilala was with us when he was like 14, and he’s 30 now. And Kim, she’s 31, she’s been with us since 18. We had a youth group, did the youth conferences, and from those conferences we were experiencing incredible moments of worship. So in 2005 we said, “let’s just record an album, so other people can experience what we’re experiencing.” So that started taking off, then it got on Youtube and ‘How He Loves’ blew up, then we started taking conferences out, and working with leaders, and so on
A lot of people are familiar with the music of JC, but what is there to it besides the music?
Well Jesus Culture is a ministry: it consists of lots of different parts, though music is the most well known. But we’re doing conferences and events, and you’ll never see the JC band apart from the message. When we’re on this tour, I’m preaching, we’re doing ministry, they’re doing worship … ultimately the band is part of a bigger movement who’s heart is to raise up revivalists in the nations and leaders to transform the nations.
What of this rumor you might be leaving Bethel to start a church in Sacramento?
Yea, Bethel is going to send us to plant a church and move JC headquarters to Sacramento, and plant a church there in 2014. I’ll be the pastor, and the (worship) team is going too. We felt like the Lord wanted us to have a local expression of what’s on our heart nationally and internationally… Our heart is to serve the local church and see cities impacted… to build a local community about what God’s shown us.
Tell us a little about the upcoming conference in LA
Our conferences are about raising up revivalists. We use the word revivalist, a word that has lots of different meanings in different circles, but our heart is to raise up a generation that’s fully awakened to the love of God, that’s encountered the power of God, that’s given themselves fully to the cause of Christ on the earth. To see nations transformed, cities saved, campuses impacted. So the conferences have been the heart and soul of who we are, where we can come together for three days and seek the Lord and be trained and equipped in the supernatural, in leadership … so we went to LA last year, and had a really incredible time, seeing some of the signs and wonders that happened, the worship times … we just have a really big heart to see young adults come in, encounter God and be sent back to their cities and campuses to see impact happen.
Some people might wonder how you would compare JC to Hillsong?
The call and mandate on Hillsong is to write songs, but we mostly do covers … people ask us why we mostly do covers, and we answer because that’s the song we’re encountering the Lord in. Those are the songs that are touching us as a group and conference, and that’s our main goal: to encounter the Lord. There’s been a lot of pressure from people saying, now that you’re at the level you are, you gotta not do covers, but I think whatever we encounter the Lord in, that’s all I want people to do. If it’s through our song, or somebody else’s song, whatever helps people’s hearts to be lifted up.
JC also does schools and training — what options are available for young people?
The first thing we have is a worship school, during the summer, which is a short term thing, a really great experience. Everything else is more like nine months. We have the School of Ministry, where you can do one or two or even three years, where you do lots of classroom stuff. It’s a pretty profound experience, and we have people from all over the world coming in. If you can’t make it to Bethel (for that long), you can come for week long, periodic schools that are happening all year long, there’s schools on everything. There’s also the Leadership development program as well.
What would you say to someone who’s gone to events like these before, and felt like the impact doesn’t last very long?
Well you gotta be about the long term. If you come to one of our events, and it doesn’t ignite within you a passion to get to the secret place, and a passion to get in the word, then I don’t feel like I’ve done my job. So on one level, I feel like my job is just to get you to Jesus.
(Photo: Banning Liebscher at a Jesus Culture conference)