WACO — Members of the worship band Addison Road are enjoying their ride into prominence in Christian music. But ministering to students remains the group’s focus.
The band, formed when members were attending Baylor University in Waco, was nominated for New Artist of the Year at the 2009 Gospel Music Association Dove Awards.
Addison Road consists of lead singer Jenny Simmons and her husband, Ryan, Simmons on guitar, Travis Lawrence on bass, lead guitarist Ryan Gregg and drummer Jeff Sutton. Wherever the band members perform — concert venues, churches, youth rallies or college campuses — their desire is to bring people into a closer relationship with God.
“We feel called to let people from our generation know that God has a purpose for them,” Jenny Simmons explained. “Our real purpose is ministry. If all we do is simply put on a fun show and write cool music, then we’re not doing anything worthwhile. It is our prayer that God uses us to convict, change and encourage people’s hearts.”
A calling to touch lives
The group has a passion for music but a calling to touch lives, her husband added.
“We love pouring into people’s lives.... We are all in this journey together, and hopefully God can use us to be a small voice of hope and love to those we come in contact with,” he said.
Ministering to teenagers is especially important to Addison Road because of their backgrounds in Baptist churches around the state.
Ryan Simmons grew up in the music ministry, and his father is music minister at First Baptist Church in Weatherford. Jenny Simmons was reared at First Baptist Church in Duncanville, where her mother worked in the youth ministry.
“More than ever this year, I have experienced a dramatic increase in the amount of students who are really struggling and hurting,” Jenny Simmons said. “I’ve talked to so many youth who are contemplating suicide, have lost their virginity, and who are miserable and feel hopeless. It actually became overwhelming at one point this summer, because I realized that even the kids coming from Christian homes or the kids who seem pretty put together were really struggling with serious issues.”
That reaction prompted Simmons to alter her message.
“It’s kind of hard to worship God if you feel abandoned by everyone and don’t understand why God allows things to happen that cause us pain. We started making our message about a real God, who really knows their name, who cares, who loves, who mourns and hurts with us when we hurt,” she recalled.
Not just a "pep rally for God"
“We also told them that God is powerful and gracious, strong and gentle. Instead of telling people what God wants them to do or giving a list of rules or condemnations or having a big pep rally for him, we started remembering the basics — God is love, for God so loved.... I can’t tell you how many people have come up and said: ‘Yeah, I let God be somebody else. I forgot that he loved me. I forgot that he knew my name, that I can have hope.’”
One of the band’s most meaningful experiences occurred during a concert in Washington, D.C.
“During the concert, we reminded the youth: ‘God reigns, and when the world seems out of control or our lives seem out of control, he has not forgotten us. He still offers hope, and he yearns to walk alongside us,” Jenny Simmons said. “We talked about this for awhile and began to sing a song called, ‘Our God Reigns.’”
Afterward, a high school athlete approached Simmons. With tears in his eyes, he told them he had been planning to commit suicide.
“He said he had already written the letters, and he knew everyone would be shocked. But after that worship service, he couldn’t go through with it because God reached down from heaven and reminded him through our words and music that he was not alone, and most importantly, that he was loved,” Simmons said.
“I cried with him, prayed, and then we talked to his youth minister. Experiences like those make what we do — being used by God in that sort of way — more humbling and more amazing than anything else we could ever do with our lives.”
Leann Callaway is a freelance writer in Irving, Texas.