Overflowing with Compassion
Shaun Groves burst onto the Christian music scene a decade ago with his debut album Invitation to Eavesdrop, which garnered six Dove nominations, including New Artist and Song of the Year for the chart topping hit "Welcome Home." He toured with Bebo Norman, Jars of Clay, and Michael W. Smith. He made a second record, Twilight. But even with the success, Groves was reevaluating his purpose.
Today, Groves has left much of the CCM scene behind. He still writes songs, but is also a speaker, blogger, and spokesperson for Compassion International, a Christian child advocacy ministry. We recently spoke with Groves about what drives him today.
When you first started in Christian music, what were your goals?
I had no great ministry goal. I just wanted to feed my family and make music. I felt like God had given me a few things to say, mainly to challenge Christians to know God and make him known.
How did you feel after your first album was such a success?
For years, I had insecurities about not having been successful at things I thought I should have been successful at: athletics, academics, and making money. I didn't feel valuable in high school because I was none of those things. The genius of God is that he gave me what I wanted—success, a sense of popularity, money—so that I could see that they were just new responsibilities. It intensified the questions I was asking myself: Why am I here? What is my purpose? [The success] was a tremendous responsibility and opportunity, and I didn't want to waste it.
When did you sense your goals beginning to change?
When I was on the road with other musicians, I heard why they were doing what they did. I saw what I did and didn't want to be. I had good mentors—older guys at my church—that helped me figure out my purpose. Sometimes touring was frustrating because I was singing in front of people and I'd connect with people afterward, but immediately have to leave. At the time, I was discipling a group of teenage guys at my home church. I missed those connections while I was away.
What was your thought process as you prepared your third album, White Flag?
At that time, I co-taught a Bible study for college students in Nashville. As I taught through Acts and the Sermon on the Mount, my life looked boring compared to what I was reading. I sensed that success as I had known it was coming to an end because all of the artists at my label (Rocketown) were having a hard time selling records. I knew my third album could be my last so there was extra incentive for me to make it meaningful, to be more purposeful than ever. I often joked that I was writing my last words. I never wrestled so much with what I wanted to say. I felt that, in some sense, I hadn't fulfilled the opportunity I'd been given, and I wanted to make it count.
By then, you were also connected with Compassion International.
I met some of the Compassion staff in 2001 when I toured with Bebo Norman, who was a spokesman for Compassion. They knew I wanted to make an impact through my music. They also knew I was writing my last album and wanted to capitalize on the time I had left with my label. They saw that I was focusing more on missions so they invited me on a trip to El Salvador to meet my sponsored child, Yanci.
Even before I left, my wife Becky and I were talking about the home we'd just built—our dream house—and about how many resources we'd put into something so temporary. We were feeling the need to be lean, to be ready to go church plant or move overseas. A few days before my trip, we'd put a "For Sale" sign in our yard.