The brief but powerful biblical reference to the life of a man named Jabez has been a catalyst for prayer and transformation in churches across America. Indeed, this man who lived thousands of years ago prayed a simple prayer that has sparked a revival among believers nationwide, and in the life of a band named According to John.
When a showcase for Nashville music industry representatives in early 2001 did not immediately lead to a new record label home, the members of According to John found themselves at a crossroads. It was during this challenging time that the group's founder, lead singer and primary songwriter, John Waller, received a copy of the best-selling book, "The Prayer Of Jabez." "I read it in one day," said John. "I immediately started praying this prayer for myself and the band. I also encouraged them to read the book as well."
Soon after, John decided to turn Jabez's supplication into a worship chorus for the youth group at his church. "I wrote the words one afternoon in a matter of minutes," remembers John. "Then later at church, right before my soundcheck, I wrote the music. We performed it that night, and I've never seen a song engulf a room like it did. It was amazing."
The song is now the centerpiece of According to John's second album, Beyond What I See, released on the band's own Nobox Records and distributed nationally by Diamante Distribution. Produced by former NewSong member Scotty Wilbanks, the collection features slick guitar-driven pop/rock that moves naturally from infectious youth-oriented anthems to intimate, acoustic-based ballads. The common thread of the album is Waller's powerful vocals, adding passion and meaning to the strikingly honest lyrics, most of which Waller penned with friend Scott Johnson. The recording showcases the instrumental talents of each member of According to John: Jason Hoard on lead and acoustic guitar, mandolin and vocals; Matt Adkins on lead, acoustic and rhythm guitar, and vocals; and Josh Fisher on drums and vocals.
Throughout Beyond What I See, the group explores issues of everyday faith, placing a special focus on relationships. "In 'Worth The Wait,' a young man is praying for his future wife, even though he doesn't yet know her name," explains John. "He's willing to wait in purity, because he knows what he will share with her will be worth it all."
With "Cloud Nine," the group tackles the issue of teen pregnancy, as a girl laments her mistake in getting carried away by the thrill of infatuation. "It's really a warning from her to other teenagers," said John. "It came from a real life experience of a girl in my high school. We want to encourage teenagers in the area of abstinence, because we know that temptation is one of the biggest things they deal with."
Beyond What I See in many ways begins a new chapter of a journey John Waller has been on most of his life. John grew up in Atlanta listening to music by artists such as Steven Curtis Chapman. "His music made such an impact on me that I decided I had to do this," recalls John. "I wanted to try to write songs that moved people the way his songs moved me."
John began writing songs when he was 19 and soon started sharing them with audiences in the Atlanta area. In 1996, after five years on his own and several custom recording projects, John felt it was time to put a group together and According to John was born. "I sought out people who were strong where I was weak," remembers John. I really like camaraderie and I love being on a team. I have a sincere appreciation and admiration for the guys in the band."
When describing his bandmates, John says, "Jason is the most energetic one of us. He is always up, always laughing and always cracking jokes. He's a clown, but he's a guitar prodigy. He can play anything with strings on it. Matt started with us when he was only 17, but he is extremely mature for his age, and an incredible guitar player. Josh, the drummer, is the sweet-spirited one. His personality is such that he brings light to a room wherever he goes."
The band's journey has been marked with significant milestones. In 1998, their self-titled debut on the KMG label yielded the successful Christian CHR radio single "Justified." A bittersweet honor came for the group when their song "Nothing Back" was used at the funeral of Columbine shooting victim Cassie Bernall. The song was later used in a video tribute to her life and faith. "It made us feel very humble," said John. "That song went so perfectly with what we had heard about her life. Obviously, we could've never made that happen - God just dropped the song in that teenager's life."
Now, with the release of Beyond What I See, the members of According to John eagerly anticipate new roads ahead. "We've prayed for God to expand our territory and that's exactly what He's been doing," says John. "Everything happening with our ministry is far beyond what we could've ever imagined."
For John, Jason, Matt and Josh, the prayers continue - they pray that they would have more than critical or financial success - but that they would, in John's words, "impact people wherever we go. Our goal is to be faithful to enter the doors God opens for us. And our mission is to get people caught up in the excitement of walking with Christ in everyday life." That is the bottom line - According To John.