Though he’s been studying Christian ministries at Indiana Wesleyan University for the past two years, tomorrow is Chase Stancle’s first day on campus. A student in IWU’s online program, he’s dropping by with his band One People to headline a gospel concert in the Phillippe Performing Arts Center.
“We’re coming early…I told the band, ‘I gotta get down there and walk around and see the campus,’” Stancle said. “I didn’t think that I would get down there before graduation, and so this invitation was great in that I’ll finally get to see the campus that I’ve looked at pictures of, and talked to people about.”
The concert will raise money for scholarships given to Church of God in Christ (COGIC) students attending IWU. The event is on Friday, Sept. 28, at 6:30 p.m. in the Phillippe Performing Arts Center auditorium. Admission is free, and a love offering will be accepted for the COGIC scholarships.
Inspired by immortal Motown artists like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder and current gospel greats like Israel Houghton and Fred Hammond, Stancle describes his style as “a classic soul/jazz/contemporary gospel fusion.” Last year he appeared on the reality show Sunday Best on Black Entertainment Television — a sort of American Idol for gospel artists, hosted by Kirk Franklin — and became one of 20 finalists.
When he’s not on the road, Stancle serves in family ministry at Kentwood Community Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan and leads worship frequently on Sunday mornings. He has been married for seven years and has three children: a six-year-old, a three-year-old and an eleven-month old.
We spoke with Stancle this week about his ministry, his calling to worship God through music and his time on television last year.
In an era where so many styles and trends compete for our attention, what is the appeal of gospel music?
Oh, definitely hope. I think that while the style of gospel music is energetic and exciting, [and] I think it also tends to lend itself toward some emotional expressions of worship, I think the most appealing attribute of gospel music, or any Christian music really, is hope. Doesn’t matter what rhythm you put to it, doesn’t matter what chords are played or what progressions are done, if it’s not providing hope, then it’s not really sustainable. I think that the hope in the message of Christ put to music is full of something that the world needs.
As someone who does both, how is leading worship in a church setting different from a concert performance?
In either perspective, I think there is that one-on-one connection with God in the middle of your performance, that certainly has to be portrayed and that people have to see. In a concert, I think there is a little bit more freedom in creativity. When I go to church, I come to engage in a communal conversation with God…so I’m not necessarily coming to see a show, so to speak. But in a concert, there’s a little more artistic creativity.
How did you get the opportunity to appear on BET’s Sunday Best?
Well, that was last year. It really just came out of a desire to explore where God may be using this gift of music in me. It’s such a weird scenario, because there’s so many people that are auditioning for those type of things and it’s really becoming popular for singers to just go try to be on a TV show. And so it really for me was just a scenario where I wanted to see where God could use that, if God wanted to use that in a different way….and He did. (laughs). It was a great experience…I grew a lot, I learned a lot about myself.
The atmosphere on that show seems a bit different from, say, American Idol.
Yes, it’s different. In many ways it’s similar, you know, it’s still a TV show, but I think that there is something to be said for the hope that it presents through the message of Christ and its very, very apparent effort to honor God in its production. But it is still a TV show. So there is still that cast part of it, there is still that story part of it that you see in American Idol, where they really want to display the story of the person that’s involved. It’s really less of a singing competition and more of an opportunity for us to get to engage with people.
What did that experience teach you about your calling and career?
I’ve known for a while that I’m called to pastor. I’ve known since I was 14. And being in an environment where, you know, I didn’t really have to think about anything else except glorifying God, and worshiping and praising God…it was very much a revival for me in that way. But just engaging with people and engaging with the Holy Spirit…and then even being able to share that moment with other believers and worship leaders…we’re all in that place where we’re just focused on Christ and being able to share those moments. And them being able to affirm and see that calling as well was really good for me.
I’ve been a student actually at Indiana Wesleyan for a few years now, online. I was, in the midst of that show, doing homework. (laughs) But still, being able to continually be affirmed through that process and continue to serve God…that part of it was good.
What opportunities have come from that experience?
Opportunities to just minister more. It’s a scenario where, again, there’s a whole lot of people who see you. They see you on TV…there was a lot of exposure, and a lot of invitations to come and sing. It’s opened up a lot of doors to just be able to use that as a vehicle for creative expression in ministry.
What brought you to Indiana Wesleyan University?
I wanted a degree, for one. I initially considered taking just the training courses, called FLAME…and while the classes and everything were wonderful, I decided that I wanted to have a degree. And so I looked into Indiana Wesleyan. I loved the courses that were available, I loved the degrees that were available. It just seemed like the vision and the online environment were just perfect for what I needed. While I was a little intimidated by the thought of it being online, I quickly found that it’s still very relational. I have had absolutely nothing but great experiences through my time at Indiana Wesleyan. So it’s been good.
Tell us about your band One People.
One People is an amazing ensemble of Christian musicians. I have always been very, very dedicated to intentional diversity. I believe that, as people, we have a lot of intentional efforts toward dividing us ethnically, and I believe that it takes some intentional efforts toward uniting ethnically. One of the biggest attributes of our team really is that it is multiethnic and multigenerational. Our youngest member just turned, I want to say 20 or 21, and our oldest member is in her upper 40s. It is just an intentional effort toward educating about diversity and about the need for oneness in the body of Christ, but also joining together with a genuine passion to really make Jesus famous.
Is it a diversity of styles as well?
Yes, and that’s why it’s difficult to even explain, really, what it is. Some of our songs are very, very heavily influenced by blues —as far as music is concerned, lyrically, again, it’s all Christian…some of it’s heavily influenced by classic soul. We do contemporary worship pieces that tend to have a little bit of a rearrangement on them…and so it is a very eclectic sound, and I think that’s a part of the ministry as well.
What will people experience at your concert?
Energy. (laughs) They’re going to experience energy. We are a very energetic bunch and we certainly hope that they will experience the Holy Spirit and they will experience time with God and they will feel free and open to worship God in the way that God has called them to do so, but one of the staples [is] energy. We believe in energetic worship.