“Quote me on anything about Christianity, then quote me on relationship.
“My relationship with God was something I lost during my teens but in one moment I saw the world differently from the way I did before.”
These are the words of 22-year-old Jacob Simpson: a young Christian in the modern age, whose relationship with Christianity has taken its twists and turns, resulting in a life changing out of body experience.
Through his story and experiences, we delve into the reality of the Church for millennials.
The son of a vicar and a talented musician, Brentford-born Jacob was always earmarked for life alongside the Church, but for a time the candle lit Church light was a very distant afterthought.
Despite his family background, his teens were “crazy” with his career path anything but linear.
“Doing what you’d expect from the son of the vicar, I played guitar and played in the worship band but I honestly didn’t care about being a Christian as I didn’t really believe in all of it.
“As with many teenagers, I had a strong inclination to rebel against the order I was brought up in and at the age of 14 I decided that I wanted to grow my passion for music and become a musician.
“I wrote songs and performed with my band I formed with my friends and before I knew it we were spotted by a record company and suddenly my ambitions were being realised.
“A year later I found myself in the position of signing a record deal with my band Jacob and Goliath and I couldn’t have been happier.”
Fall From Grace
In a flash, the young teen prodigy had the world at his feet.
Playing festivals up and down the country, life was more then he could’ve hoped for but soon he and and his band members fell into an all too familiar plight of the music industry’s dark undercurrent.
“Like so many young people in the music industry we ended up surrounded by the wrong people and before we knew it we were all addicted to drugs and taking them regularly.
“I was in a very bad place and I was a shadow of the person I wanted to be, but I didn’t have the will power to stop myself. “
With his religious affiliations almost non-existent and struggling with his addictions, Simpson was convinced by some of his Christian associates to attend the 24 hour Christian festival called David’s Tent where his life was about to take an unexpected turn.
“I turned up to the festival with my perception that I was cool musician and everything there was beneath me.
“I remember thinking that the whole set up was weird and the feeling that I would try my best not to enjoy myself just to prove a point.
“I distinctly recall a woman coming up to me and telling me that God was going to show me something and change my life forever whilst I was there, but naturally I just waved it away as nonsense.
“Come the next night, a youth pastor approached me and asked if he could pray for me just out of the blue.
“Given all the problems I was facing at the time, and the fact that my mates were egging me on, I caved in and agreed.
“After a few minutes of prayer he, a total stranger mind you, began reeling off all of my problems.
“Simultaneously I felt trembling in my arm as if my problems were peeling away and the overwhelming sensation of what I believed was God’s way of reaching out to me.
“Even recollecting it now it all seems a bit of blur, but what I can say for definite was that it changed my outlook on things.
“I always acknowledge how crazy this sounds to other people, but it signalled a realisation that I was going to wipe the slate clean of all my issues and to move on with my life a fresh and if that meant moving away from music then so be it.”
This set Jacob on his way away from the music industry and back into the bosom of the Christian Community, something he admits wasn’t easy.
“Music wasn’t a straightforward job but it was a fun job so beginning at the bottom of the ladder again was hard as suddenly I had to discipline myself in a way I hadn’t done before.
“I think I naturally became a bit of a preacher myself anyway as, after my experience, all I wanted to do was speak to people about my story and try to challenge others to find their purpose in life.
Was probably one of the best experiences of my life! #thevoiceuk thank you for having me!
— Jacob Simpson (@Jacobpgsimpson) January 13, 2018
“Once I realised I was good at doing that, it wasn’t long before I branched out to my old Church network in order to become a youth pastor and here I am today.”
Bringing his knowledge and thorough experience to the forefront, we asked Jacob the prevalent questions surrounding the Church…
MM: Research conducted last year recorded that only 2% of young adults identified with Christianity, while seven out of 10 under-24 year olds say they have no religious affiliation, so what is the reality?
JS: From my work as a youth pastor I notice that what young people really crave and really desire is to find purpose and identity in who they are.
Millennials like myself grow up with so much stuff being blasted at them and are constantly told that success is purely about earning money and a lot of young people try to find their purpose in that.
I had the same approach through my teens when I was earning money through my music and just being reckless which was certainly fun but ultimately it felt empty and unfulfilling.
I feel that the strong aim of young Christian groups now is to say that Christianity isn’t necessarily as boring and stringent as popular stereotypes would suggest, but a community where you can find purpose.
I think half the battle is tearing away some of the heavy academic focus at school and making sure that young people don’t measure their value purely on those results as that’s a slippery slope.
MM: Talking about misconceptions, many outsiders would suggest the Church is outdated. Is this a fair assumption to make?
JS: I think perhaps too much focus on ‘life in the Church’ are those outdated features that people tend to associate Christianity with such as the old brick buildings, pews and people of a certain age reading from the Book of Common Prayer.
In reality, I’ve seen many different and contemporary styles adopted in those same buildings with live music and vibrant youth groups as ultimately Church is a Community not an inanimate object.
My view on the matter is that the nature of God and the values of Christianity don’t change, but culture changes and so does what is accessible to people so now we have technology and pop music as a tool for worship.
MM: Is it all misconception or does it work both ways?
JS: I have to admit that the blame for a lot of these perceptions lays at the feet of Christians themselves and collectively being rubbish and I include myself in that.
Some of us are culpable of making the Church out to be a little bubble that makes us feel better about our lives and ultimately that’s where we’re going wrong.
I think in that respect it’s hard for people to understand what we’re doing as it can create a ‘you vs us mentality’.
I doesn’t help that I feel that there is an expectation from people outside the Church community that if we are not perfect and moral as Christians then we are hypocrites.
MM: So is the Church moving in the right direction?
JS: I think there is a realisation that old Churches are perhaps not everyone’s flavour anymore, but as long as there are these events big or small, where people are encountering Jesus and God then Church and Christianity is still relevant.
Images courtesy of Jacob and Goliath Vevo via YouTube, with thanks.