Chris Quilala was part of a youth group band in the 1990s that went on to lead a youth conference in 1999.
From that start, Jesus Culture held more conferences, recorded albums and started a church. And it will be part of the "Outcry" tour in Baton Rouge on Aug. 24.
Quilala said the “heart behind what we do has always remained the same. We just want to provide a place, whether it’s on an album or at a night of worship … where people can encounter God’s presence.”
In 2006, he said, “We were just a band going after God and worship, and we decided to record an album. It was just cover songs — Hillsong, Tim Hughes, Matt Redman.
“They were just songs that were ministering to us, so we decided to record an album, and then things continued to grow.”
It started back in the ’90s, though, when the group’s youth pastor saw a T-shirt that read Counter Culture. "He loved that idea of going against the norm of society and all the pressures," Quilala said. "But it sounds a bit rebellious, so what if we called our youth conference Jesus Culture?”
Quilala said the idea of Jesus Culture is that the group members were experiencing God in its events and wanted others to have that same experience.
“We were encountering God’s presence in worship, and we thought, 'What if people took that encounter and didn’t just keep it for themselves? (What if) they actually became an encounter with their families or their workplaces or schools?' ” he said.
“Scripture says that we love him because he first loved us,” he said, adding “the heart behind Jesus Culture (is) we would all become an encounter for the people we meet.”
For those not familiar with the band’s music, “just search Jesus Culture and find a bunch of stuff,” Quilala suggested. He said the song “Fierce” has been popular lately.
He also said the group’s album “Love Has a Name,” a follow-up to 2016's “Let It Echo,” will be released Aug. 11.
And the group spent last week writing for the next album, he said.
The more recent albums are a change from the first album. Instead of covers, the band's members have written all of the music.
“We thought it was time to become better stewards of the mandate God put on our ministry and lives,” Quilala said. “And for us that looks like songwriting.”
He said they’ve paid more time and attention to writing about pain and victory.
“I’ve probably written more songs in the last three years than I’ve written in my entire life — probably over 50 songs. A lot of those came from a season of … a really painful thing,” he said. “My wife and I lost our son, so a lot of these songs were songs that I felt like I needed to write just to remind myself of who God is and who I am in God.
“I always want to point people to the goodness of God and what God can do … even if I’m writing in a season of pain.”
Quilala mentioned “Miracles,” a song he wrote while pleading for a miracle for his son. He said he felt the need to “proclaim that God is good, that God is the God of the impossible,” even when a miracle didn’t happen for his family.
Quilala said he also finds it important to write songs to move the church forward. “I try to encourage them to continue to walk in faith,” he said.
Part of moving forward for Jesus Culture was leaving Bethel Church in Redding, California, four years ago and starting its own church in Sacramento, about 2½ hours away.
Jesus Culture Sacramento will be 3 years old in September.
“It’s been amazing. We’ve for years been an event-based ministry doing tours and conferences around the nation, around the world,” Quilala said, but having a church has allowed the group to focus on a local community.
“I think the beautiful thing about that is we get to see the fruit of what God’s doing. We get to see that on a weekly basis,” he said. “It’s been rewarding to be a part of a local community, a local expression of Jesus Culture.”
And that idea of local church even flavors the current tour.
“We’re really excited about the 'Outcry' tour. It’s amazing getting local churches together to worship,” Quilala said. “When the nation seems to be so divided, I think the church needs to be the model of unity. 'Outcry' is an amazing step toward that."
The "Outcry" tour with Jesus Culture, Lauren Daigle, Bethel Music, Chad Veach, Martin Smith and Local Sound
WHEN: 7 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 24
WHERE: Raising Cane's River Center, 275 S. River Road, Baton Rouge