Music part of missionary DNA for Phoenix church plant
by Myra Holmes
At Axiom Church, music is more than a catalyst for worship; it’s also an important tool for outreach and discipleship for this young congregation.
Axiom is a USMB church plant in the Phoenix, Ariz., area, that is supported by Mission USA, the Pacific District Conference (PDC) and Copper Hills Church, Phoenix, and officially launched in January 2013. From the beginning, the church has had a vision for reaching the “unlikelies” in their community.
“Jesus was often found hanging out with people you wouldn’t have likely found in the synagogues,” says the Axiom website. “We too have a heart for these kinds of people.”
Music creates “culture of worship”
Perhaps because several core leaders have toured professionally—including brothers Gavin Linderman, pastor, and Lance Linderman, director of outreach, as well as Micah Bentley, director of music and worship—Axiom seems to draw those who are passionate about music and are involved in the music scene.
As the website says, “Often we joke that our church is made up of musicians and baristas. While that’s not totally true, you will find yourself meeting people who typically you are unlikely to find in the church of the burbs.”
So it’s not surprising that music plays an important part in the expression of worship, mission and discipleship at Axiom.
Music—often original music—helps create a “culture of worship” at Axiom. “Our whole lives can be expressions of worship,” says director of worship Bentley, “but music is often the starting point for that.”
When Axiom leaders recently wanted to encourage attendees to interact more deeply with a teaching series, they naturally turned to music. “Novus,” an extended play (EP) recording of original worship music, was released on Easter and designed to dovetail with a series on spiritual formation. CDs were handed out to all attendees as part of the Easter Sunday celebration as “something they can take into their life,” says Bentley.
Ministering to musicians
Music has become a key way Axiom reaches out in their community as well, beginning with the very space in which they meet. The renovated storefront facility is intended not only for worship but also as a multi-purpose venue for community gatherings and concerts.
As Axiom offers their venue to local and touring musicians, they show Christ’s love to the people whom Axiom has a vision to reach. “A vast majority of the music culture is what you might consider unlikely to be drawn toward the church or toward God,” Bentley says.
When a band books the venue, Axiom does more than unlock the doors. Volunteers help carry gear, set up top-quality sound, provide food and host musicians in their homes. “We take them to the stage and give them a voice, then take them to our homes and give them a shower,” says Lance Linderman, director of outreach.
That’s no small gift, he notes, speaking from personal experience. When musicians are living out of a van, haven’t showered in days and are making little or no money, “this place is like a city on a hill,” he says. “When they leave the show, they’ve been hugged and loved.”
Reaching the “unlikelies”
The musicians Axiom hosts aren’t necessarily Christian. Linderman says that at first, he wrestled with wanting to “be cool,” tempted to minimize the fact that the venue is also a worship center. Now, he says, he is more up-front about the church and his own faith, which opens up “weird and interesting” conversations.
Linderman points to the example of Jesus, who ate with tax collectors and sinners. Linderman says, “I can’t think of a better way to reach unlikelies.”
A few of the musicians they’ve served in this way have become part of the Axiom congregation, moving from what Linderman calls “complete depravity” to baptism. And Linderman notes that for every concert, he’s been able to connect further by swapping phone numbers or engaging in conversation over coffee.
Linderman believes that hosting musicians is also a discipleship opportunity for those in the Axiom congregation as they put feet to Jesus’ command to love others. “The greatest way we can disciple people is by allowing them to tangibly touch and be a part of heaven coming to earth, heaven coming to Axiom, heaven coming to that band,” he says. “When they get to be that, they are doing the will of God. Creating opportunities is a huge way to disciple people.”
Musicians living on mission
Music and mission also intersect at Axiom through Wild Earth, an artistic project led by Bentley, pictured right in foreground. In fact, Wild Earth thinks of themselves as “musicianaries,” musicians who see art as a mission. The term is adopted from Come&Live!, (comeandlive.com) an online community of Christian musicians.
Bentley explains: “We’re on mission when we’re playing music, whether it’s worship music or our art out in our community.”
Bentley had been doing music both on stage and in worship settings for about 10 years when he felt a pull toward original worship music. He says that Gavin Linderman, pastor at Axiom, helped him refine that dream, and the congregation as a whole championed Wild Earth from the beginning. Consequently, the lines between this independent project and Axiom are blurred.
Rather than a set “band,” Wild Earth is comprised of a rotating cast of musicians, many of whom are part of Axiom. Sometimes Wild Earth leads worship at Axiom, playing original music with an indie rock vibe. When Wild Earth dreamed of releasing an album, Axiom people supported the project’s crowdfunding efforts. And when the band released a full-length album in January, Axiom hosted the release concert in their venue.
“Axiom was behind me every step of the way and continues to be now,” Bentley says. Wild Earth’s album, Orchestrate, is available for free download on the Come&Live! website.
Linderman says Axiom considers Wild Earth one of the church’s missionaries. “We’re recognizing that God is moving,” he says. “We want to support them.”
Music will undoubtedly play a role in Axiom’s future. Bentley says more original music is in store, and he dreams of Axiom being “a hub of music culture” in the Phoenix area, especially through the venue. Linderman likewise hopes Axiom’s influence would expand. He suggests the venue may find a “sweet spot” among younger musicians—those below drinking age—since the venue doesn’t include a bar.
Both Bentley and Linderman welcome conversation about their music and mission. Linderman readily admits the congregation is still learning, and he welcomes counsel from the larger USMB family. Bentley would welcome conversation from other USMB congregations interested in using music in new ways. They may be contacted through Axiom Church: email@example.com.
Photos by Kendall Linderman feature musicians of Axiom Church.