“ Tear down the walls of all these things I try to do for you. Come claim my heart for only you. I want to breathe the breath of freedom. I want to see your glory and your kingdom come. I want to see the chains fall of your people so all the world would know, and see the real Jesus. “ –From ‘Real Jesus’
This prayer actually birthed a song for my upcoming album, and quite possibly contains some of the most honest lyrics I have ever penned. This is at the very heart of my worship philosophy and the crux of how I strive to live my life. I, however, must continue to be transparent in saying that I have not always felt this way, nor cared necessarily.
I was born into an amazing Christian family. I was raised by godly, devoted, generous parents who truly lived what they said they believed and strived to teach me that we were created to know God as our Lord and Savior. I didn’t understand that. For most of my young life, I equated Christianity to a club my parents had joined. Much like my other friends whose dads would take them out fishing or to play golf, going to church on Sundays was a Dunton family tradition. In fact if there were awards in the “church club”, I would’ve snagged MVP for sure. I was involved in everything from Bible drill, VBS, Youth Camp, Children’s Choir, Youth Choir, Praise Team, and so on. You name it and I was involved or most likely leading it. But, as mentioned in the lyrics above, it’s interesting how you can do a host of things for God or around God and never experience him or know him. It sounds silly, but there was a game to Christianity for me, and I was good at it. I always knew the right moment to close my eyes when singing songs. I knew all the right answers to the formulaic questions asked in Sunday School (it’s amazing how answering “Jesus” to everything is acceptable, which ironically is actually the truth), and that Thursday nights at Youth Camp were always reserved for emotional outbursts from the same group of girls coupled with the public out cry for the burning of “secular” CD’s, usually headed up by the same guy who did it last year.
It wasn’t until I was seventeen that I finally began to grasp that I desperately needed Jesus Christ. A college leader at the Disciple Now that year explained the Gospel to me in such a way that the Holy Spirit finally ignited all of the kindling that had been gathered and placed around my heart by my parents, church leaders, and friends. He explained that we are all enemies of God because of sin, and that Jesus is the only way to right the wrongs of that sin. He continued on to explain that nothing I ever did would ever be enough to put me back in right standing with God again. He continued, thankfully, to say that through the free gift of God’s grace through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, I could have life, freedom, forgiveness and abundant life as a child of God! So that Sunday, I stood up in front of the church, my family, and all of my friends, many of which I had led in Bible Study, and confessed that Jesus was finally my Lord and Savior.
The summer before my Sr. Year of High School (the summer after I confessed Christ) I went on a five-week mission trip to Berlin, Germany with select members of my Youth Group. This trip, more than any other to that point, began shaping my heart in the realm of worship. One experience in particular literally set my heart on fire for seeing other people enter into the presence of God through song. It was 2 weeks into our stay and we were visiting refugee camps on the outskirts of Berlin sharing the Gospel, hosting backyard Bible clubs, singing praise music and so on. During our activities we met this woman who eventually invited us to her apartment for tea. When we arrived at her place, we were shocked to find that this woman was a single mother, raising 8 kids in what actually turned out to be a single room relevant to the size of a typical college dorm room. There were beds, toys, and clothes scattered everywhere and there was literally nowhere to stand except on top of one another. As our conversations progressed with the aid of our translator Sophia, the information that I was a singer suddenly came to the forefront. The next thing I know, the children are being gathered, lined up and sat down at my feet. Sophia then looked at me, shrugged and said, “They are waiting for you to sing something.” So I nervously looked at my Youth Leader for help, to which he said, “Just sing Amazing Grace or something”, so I did. The reaction that followed was quite unexpected. The woman started crying. As Sophia began talking with her again, she was able to make out two words: “Thank You”.
Needless to say I was perplexed. To this point I had sang hundreds of times in front of people, and not once (with the exclusion of my mother) did it invoke the shedding of tears, well at least not these kind. So that night, I called my mom to tell her the bizarre story of how earlier that day I had made a woman cry by singing to her in a different language. I remember asking her how something like that could happen. I was confused how something as simple as a song in a different language could connect with someone on such a deep, emotional level. Her answer was one that to this day continues to shape my view of worship. She said “Jason, that was the Spirit drawing her near to the heart of God through you.” Baffled, I hung up the phone and spent the next few days thinking and praying about what that really meant. I began to realize with the help of scripture that music is a wonderful tool of communicating the truth of God’s love that can connect with the heart and soul of people in a way that nothing else can. The next time I talked to my mom I told her that I wanted to be a Worship Pastor. Since then God has led me through hundreds of experiences leading worship in dozens of contexts, styles, and venues, but I’ll save those for later.