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Brother's Keeper Feature

  • 1999 10 Aug
Brother's Keeper Feature

"For me, anytime you get a bunch of guys in a room and start talking about spirituality, it's a pretty awkward situation. Guys don't like to let down walls at all. But we need to ask the hard questions."
--Gabe Dunlap ~ Brother's Keeper

Singing together is only one of many things the four members of new Ardent pop quartet {{Brother's Keeper}} like to do. John Sanders, Philip Enzor, Gabe Dunlap and David Schrodt started hanging out together as teenagers when the four Memphis-area high school students went on a choir trip together with their mutual home church, Memphis' Bellevue Baptist Church. These four guys were "randomly" put together in the same room on the trip, and quickly bonded into a friendship that has lasted through many years. They've made it through high school, college, and even marriage (for a couple of them), and now they're a full-time touring group with a nationally distributed self-titled album, proving that God surely had something special in mind for these young men.

The tie that first bound this group together (even more than music or Saturday afternoon basketball games) is their commitment to accountibility. Even through each phase of their lives, they have stayed true to their desire to encourage each other in their individual walks with Christ. The four guys say that while on that first trip together, they discussed their desire for leadership (as well as the lack of it) in their high school.

"Without accountability, it's very difficult to continue to live for God, and to do what you need to do," David says. "That's the whole reason we got together in high school--it wasn't to sing at all! At that time, three of us were juniors and one was a freshman, and we looked around and saw there were no seniors living for God. We thought if they're not going to do, we need to do it. In the absence of leadership, we felt we really needed to stand in the gap."

"I know how hard it was for me personally growing up," he continues. "I had a hard time when I got to my junior year in high school. I started getting involved with drinking and smoking, even while I had grown up in a Christian home. My parents were Godly parents, I went to a Christian school, and I went to Bellevue [church] all my life, so I was surrounded by Christian ethics and morality. At the same time, I was so caught up with self-esteem issues and wanting to be accepted (as many teenagers are), that peer pressure took me down the wrong road, even though I knew what was right and wrong.

"It was that same year that I met up with the guys and said, 'I know I'm not living right, and I know I can't do it on my own, and I need you guys.' That's where it all started. I know how easy it is to slip and fall when you don't have that."

Gabe adds, "So we decided to hold each other accountable -- to ask each other the hard questions. We've been doing it for nine years now. It's funny because we didn't get together to sing or pursue a record deal, but because we have fun together -- we just like hanging out together. The record deal came much later."

What came first was a guys' accountability group originally led by the youth pastor at Bellevue Baptist, which carried them through high school. They say this group helped to ground them in the principles of the Christian walk and keep them strong through many of the temptations that high school and college students face.

The guys stayed friends while they went after college degrees, and even reunited musically to sing in the Gospel Music Association's Spotlight Contest, and ended up winning for their region. That performance grabbed the attention of Ardent Records, and got the guys thinking seriously thinking about doing music as a full-time ministry.

The guys in Brother's Keeper admit they are humbled and excited by the calling God has given them. "God picked the four most average guys to do what we're doing," Gabe says. "We're not the four best looking guys, not the four best singers, but it's the fact that God put us together that makes us unique. I tell people all the time, 'God wants to take the unusable and use them.' That's exactly what He did with us."

So how do these guys do it? With nine years of experience in maintaining a strong accountability group, John, Philip, Gabe and David are willing to reveal what has worked for them.

"For me, anytime you get a bunch of guys in a room and start talking about spirituality, it's a pretty awkward situation," Gabe admits. "Guys don't like to let down walls at all. For us it was a tough issue because it's hard to ask questions when there's sin in your own life. But we told ourselves that this was something we needed and had to do -- we need to ask the hard questions."

"Because we've been together for nine years, we know each other really well," he continues. "We started a thing where we'd meet at one guy's house and we'd ask each other things like, 'how much time you'd been in the Word this week? Have you been with God? Are you memorizing Scripture? What are you studying? How's your thought life been?'" (a big question for guys, he says.) The group came up with a personal grading system for answering these questions, and would grade themselves honestly, praying for each other as they admitted their areas of weakness and struggle.

"Sometimes we fail, sometimes we pass, but it's just good to know we're not alone. And when we do mess up or get stuck in a rut, these guys will not think badly of me, but simply say, 'Now I know exactly what to pray about for you, and where to hold you accountable,'" Gabe says.

David, who originally came up with a primary list of questions, says he got the idea from a book called, Man in the Mirror, by Patrick Morely, which the guys had used in their first study group in high school. "We used to meet Sunday mornings around 7:00 a.m. before Sunday school even started - we had about ten guys come to that, including us. More recently, we've continued to take on that format. You grade yourself on a scale of A to F, like a grading scale at school, going through and filling out a sheet of questions. After the sheets were filled out, we'd read them out to each other, and encourage each other to do better next time. But it's amazing how much just knowing that you're going to get together once a week and fill those things out, how much accountability that has in itself."

"[No matter what was shared,] the group's time always ended with prayer for each other's needs, whether outside of us, or something one of us specifically needed on a spiritual level."

John says that their group's vision could be summed up in the verse Daniel 1:8, which says, "Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself"[NKJ] He talks about how important it is to be encouraging rather than judgmental. "The way I view our group is more from a perspective of encouragement, rather than a hammer," he says. "One thing I've got to trust is that if David, Philip and Gabe really do know the Lord, then [it's the Holy Spirit's job] to convict, to say 'this is truth.' To be honest, I'm a positive kind of person. And I believe if we have Jesus Christ in our life, it is about encouragement. It's never really about saying, 'Hey, you're messing up, and I'm going to let you know about it.'"

John says this is the idea behind the line in their song "Heart Attack" that says, "even when I'm at my best, I'm still in need like the rest." "I'm no better than anyone else apart from the grace of God," he adamantly admits. "What we want to do is bring people encouragement -- wherever they are in their relationship with God. So when people are seeing our lives, they're seeing Christ in it. We don't want them to see us as somebody that judges and condemns. But if they can remember that when you do mess up and fall down, your family loves you anyway - that's the whole deal. When Dave comes and says he's struggling with something, we are just to pray for him. And then remind each other that we can instantaneously get ourselves right back with God and start growing."

These four young guys appear to be keeping their promises to each other. Promises that were made back in high school. Now the name on their CD, posters and t-shirts says that they are their {{Brother's Keeper}}. John says the name comes from the place in the Bible where it says there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

There are some things you just don't talk to your brothers about. But these four guys tell secrets, share private thoughts, and pray for each other. These guys are more than just keepers of some old school promises. They are displaying with their lives what it truly means to be your brother's keeper.

Click here to read about Brother's Keeper new brotherly relationship with 'N Sync