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An Examined Life with Jeff Allen 48: Nathan Cochran of Mercy Me, part 1

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Nathan Cochran, bass player for Mercy Me joins me this week. In addition to being 1/5th of one of the most influential Christian bands of the century, Nathan recently released his first solo EP titled Diving Blind. With the simple gist of “I don’t know the future”, Diving Blind features four singles straight from Nathan’s heart.nathan_cochram1

But one of the characteristics of Nathan and Mercy Me’s music that I love is written, rewritten, quoted and requoted all over the internet:

Their music is appealing to both devout Christians who study the Bible and young teens who devour Rolling Stone.

Now, as a comic who crossed over from performing secular night clubs to Christian churches, it’s really interesting to talk to a guy whose band has crossed over in the other direction.

In 1994, the guys of Mercy Me started as a worship band for churches and camps. As they continued to grow as musicians and write their own songs, they started to realize that some of the stuff they were writing became important worship songs for some of the people the were playing for.

One example of these songs is I Can Only Imagine.

It was birthed from lead singer Bart Millard’s experience of his dad passing away when Bart was just a teenager. But, as the guys performed it and more and more people heard it, they realized that there was something going on that was bigger than them. In fact, as Nathan puts it, I Can Only Imagine will most likely outlive the band. There have even been multiple occasions when Nathan is asked what he does for a living…MercyMe

“Oh, I’m in a band called Mercy Me.”

“I’ve never heard of ‘em.”

“We did a song called ‘I Can Only Imagine’”.

“Oh! I know that song!”

And, according to Nathan, this is a really cool place to be, especially as they got to see it cross over from just Christian stations into mainstream radio. When this happened, doors were opened for them that most worship bands only dream of, including television performances and secular venues where the guys get to share why they do what they do for audiences who never expect to hear the Gospel.

The first time I saw Mercy Me live was at Radio City Music Hall with David Crowder and Michael W. Smith. I still can’t believe that Nathan got to live my dream – to perform in front of a sold out crowd on the stage of Radio City Music Hall! At the time, Nathan and the band wanted to make the most of the moment, since they didn’t think they’d ever experience anything like that ever again. They flew their wives up to New York and soaked in the city as much as the moment. Little did they know that twelve years later, they’d be selling out venues all over the world!

Like Nathan and the guys, I tend to avoid doing an altar call at the end of my performances. Firstly, I don’t see myself as a pastor at all. I don’t have the opportunity to follow up and disciple anyone who might make a decision that night to follow Jesus. Secondly, I have seen people emotionally moved when I share my story about how Jesus grabbed a hold of my own life, and I would hope that if someone is making the most important decision of their life, it would be made more thoughtfully than after hearing my jokes and stories. I can only imagine (pun intended) that Nathan’s perspective is similar, since I’ve been moved to tears just driving down the highway when their music comes on!

Going back in Nathan’s story, he grew up in Columbia, MO before moving to Texas. Early on, Nathan and his family were regular churchgoers. Then they went through a spell when they stopped attending for a few years. This didn’t last too long, though, and at the next church they began attending, his dad eventually became the Head Pastor. So, Nathan was a pastor’s kid through his teenage years and into his early twenties. The difference between Nathan and many other P.K.’s is that he never experienced any rebellious period, wanting to defy his dad or Heavenly Father’s authority.

Not to say he hasn’t had his doubts regarding the Christian faith. He actually enjoys searching through doubt. As a boy, he was never forced to read God’s Word, which actually created within him an enjoyment and desire to find the answers to life’s questions in the Bible’s pages. While he’s not a cynic at all, Nathan doesn’t like to accept things people say or write at face value – which may be at the core of why he’s such an avid reader and student of nearly everything while he rides in the band’s tour bus.

Oddly enough, it was getting married and having kids that actually spurred on Nathan’s incredible desire to read and learn more and more and more. He remembers one night, staying up until 4:00am after reading something to the point of:

I don’t have to be a Christian to do good things or be benevolent.

Nathan wrestled with that. “Well, I guess that’s true”, he thought, “so… what’s the difference between someone who is benevolent on their own and someone who is good by following Christ?” This led to a season of Nathan realizing that there were a lot of life-questions that he simply didn’t have a good answer for.

But, if God really is who Nathan believes He is, then there is an answer for everything… we just need to seek it out.

Flash-forward to today and Nathan describes himself as ravenous to be able to give an answer for his faith in Jesus Christ. Not that the perfect argument will undoubtedly save someone’s soul, but as 1 Peter 3:15 tells us, he wants to be ready to always give an answer to every man who asks him a reason concerning his hope.

As I always say, when I was seeking for truth and God’s answers, what I wanted was an explanation… but what I needed was a revelation. I had a lot of “book knowledge” prior to my acceptance of Jesus Christ, but that’s all it was… words in my brain. Then I read the Book of Ecclesiastes and heard a thoughtful and amazing sermon series on the book. After that, by simply reading Genesis 1:1,

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

That very first verse of the Bible rocked my world! Without God’s revelation, all the truths in the Bible were just words. But when I allowed God to enter in, everything in those pages have been brought to life! Now I understand

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