Combining the Craft of Musicianship and Evangelism
Thunder School is a place for Christian Musicians and Creative Evangelists. Imagine a three month program dedicated to honing the skills and spirituality of Christian musicians of all ages. Combine that with industry professionals, the most skilled musicians, and a God seeking staff, and you’ll discover Thunder School. Thunder School is a program starting in September in Nashville, Tennessee. It is directed by Scott Mac, one of the founders. Scott was gracious enough to offer us an insight into the genesis of the school, as well as insight on its future.
Scott, what is Thunder School and how did it start?
“In 1990, a pastor named James Ryle stated there would be a day when God would raise up the standard in the music and arts and combine musicians with evangelists to usher in the greatest harvest the world has ever seen. The names of the dreams he had were called ‘The Sons of Thunder.’ It was a prophetic name which Jesus spoke over James and John. Jesus said the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore, the goal of Thunder School is to rise up workers for the harvest. Music, media, and the arts are the language of our times. It’s been profound.
“Thunder School disciples musicians and creative types. We get them healed and cleaned up as they go through inner-healing and identity issues. We put the heart before the art. Once the heart’s pure, the art just begins to flow.
“We began Thunder School in 2007. We spawned it from a gathering in Nashville on 7/7/2007, with a national movement known as ‘The Call.’ We filled the stadium with 70,000. This monumental gathering preceded a silent repentance walk through the streets with 30,000. It was there we announced Thunder School. It was intended to equip creative evangelists, and as we refer to the students, Musicianaries.”
What qualifies you to lead others Christians to become Musicianaries?
“I came to Nashville in the mid-80s and quickly joined a world tour as a drummer for Warner Brothers Christian artist David Mullin. I soon evolved from road life to working in the studios of Nashville as a songwriter and music producer.
“With a peek behind the curtain, I realized the Christian music industry had a dog-eat-dog mentality all in the name of Jesus. I was shocked. Was this really Christian music? I started hearing others say that Christian artists were the last people anyone wanted to work with. I went through the process of asking, ‘Where’s God in all this?’ And then I began to make certain I wasn’t part of the problem. I saw that the majority of people were trying to do a lot of good things, but they were working within a system patterned after the secular world where money was the bottom line. I tried fixing it myself. I even wrote a book called ‘Snakes in the Lobby,’ which is still available around in ten languages around the world. The Lord really used it to expose and change things in the industry—not just the people, but the spirit realm which was running things.
“Soon after we began a Thursday night get together. It was just a bunch of twenty-somethings seeking the Lord on guitars and bongos. This was before worship was cool. Back then, worship wasn’t even part of the music industry. We quickly realized this was touching our hearts and changing us. We began to notice there was a lot more to this. Soon we went out to the neighborhoods to extend compassion. We got to a place where we were feeding over 250 homeless people and performing our worship music.
“We started a ministry called Provision International. We began taking care of all the needs of our city and taking ownership of Nashville. It started with the homeless, then we began going to prisons and the inner-city. At the time it was a place I didn’t want to go. Coming from Canada, I never saw anything like government housing. Against the groups’ better judgment, we followed the words of Jesus. I felt challenged. I said to myself, ‘In Nashville, we have the most churches per capita of any city in the Bible belt. We have areas where people are dying, because of drugs, violence, prostitution, and murder, and we let it happen because that’s the way is always was. And just outside of those neighborhoods, we all live happy lives and go to church.’
“Eventually we found a building in the middle of an area known by the locals as ‘Hell’s Half Acre.’ There we started a local outreach called The Foundry. We began as a Christian Coffee House. This was way before Starbucks. God guided us to worship there, so we could help the neighborhood encounter God. Eventually the entire area transformed. We received a $28,000,000 grant and today you wouldn’t believe it’s the same place.”
Who can attend Thunder School and what are the prerequisites?
“We accept only twenty-five to thirty students. To become a member of Thunder School, they must have graduated high school. We require them to fill out an extensive on-line application. It’s important to know who we’re bringing together. We all will live together on campus; we demand a certain level of Christian behavior. It only takes one person to cause major problems. The average age of those attending Thunder School is twenty-something; however, we have had some in their sixties. Not all of them are from the United States; students come from around the world to attend the school.
“Thunder School runs for only three months. This year it is from September 7, 2013, to December 7, 2013.
“In addition to training them in music and the arts by some of the top producers in the industry, we invite them to discover a vision of themselves. We perform a lot of outreach and worship. We will develop their musicianship as well as their spirituality. You can’t bypass spirituality; if you do, they’ll never last.
“Once the classes are complete, some are invited to perform a one year internship.”
Tell us about the internship opportunities.
“Interns can join us in our Rolling Thunder Tours, where we send our Musicianaries around the world. Similar to what we did locally, we go out into the world to meet people where they are and offer the word of God. Furthermore, we will have the band host our annual Thunder Conference.”
I independently sought out Nashville recording artist Charla Rainey. Charla was a student of Thunder School back in 2007. She has an angelic, charismatic, and contagious spirit for Christ.
Charla, how did Thunder School affect your music, your worship, and your walk with God?
“I was doing music on my own in Dallas for about fifteen years before coming to Nashville. I was trying to do the most with the gifts God had given me, but I was looking for someone who was years ahead of me to mentor me and to help me grow both musically and spiritually. That was my heart’s desire when I first heard of Thunder School.
“Musically, I was concerned they would try to change me—change my music and the music that I hear when Jesus would sing a song to me. I wanted to keep it raw and pure. Scott respected that. He honored my uniqueness and was able to enhance it further.
“Spiritually, I wanted to find people who had the same heart and felt God’s calling and purpose, to see creative people use their gifts for the glory of God. That was always in my heart and is the nature of the staff. Additionally, serving the poor in community was the final part which sold me.
“Thunder School took my heart, sound, vision, and calling to a new level with the Lord. It offered me confidence and made me more equipped.”