Downhere. Matt Maher. Starfield. Newworldson. These names are but a few of Canada’s best and brightest artists making a major impact on the American Christian music scene these days. While it is no secret that Canada has produced a bumper crop of uniquely talented artists in many genres over the years, the country’s batting average in Christian music has been especially noteworthy. And now, in 2010, Canadian singer/songwriter and worship artist Jon Bauer is stepping up to the plate.
GMA Canada’s 2008 Male Vocalist of the Year, Jon was also the 2007 SHAI Award (Canada’s People’s Choice) recipient for New Artist of the Year. Fuelled by the success of his critically acclaimed releases Life of Worship (2005) and Surround (2008), which have yielded numerous hit singles in Canada, Jon has received a total of 11 GMA Canada Covenant Award nominations in the past five years. Additionally, his 2008 Giver of Grace—Kids Worship Vol.1, was last year’s Covenant Award-winning Children’s Album of the Year.
Jon’s third worship-focused recording, the Light of Another World EP, is also his US debut, and he’s excited to share his music—and his heart—with an ever-growing audience. Produced by Rusty Varenkamp (Rush of Fools, Tenth Avenue North), Light of Another World features four selections written or co-penned by Jon. Like Chris Tomlin or Casting Crowns’ Mark Hall, Jon takes great care to craft corporately focused worship moments that encourage the Church. His warm, emotive vocals and memorable melodies put the finishing touches on a collection that’s as equally accessible on a Sunday morning as it is on Monday’s commute. “My heart is to encourage people that worship is more than music. It’s a lifestyle, and it’s a choice,” Jon explains. “We need to look for ways to serve God and serve others, representing Him to this hurting world.”
These are words Jon doesn’t take lightly. He is passionate about helping his audiences understand just what living a lifestyle of worship means, but it has been a growing process of discernment and obedience for him as well. At various mileposts along the way, God has spoken clearly to Jon, and one of the first such encounters came at a very formative time in his life.
“Before I left for university where I was studying to become a teacher, my sister gave me a worship CD by Bob Fitts called He Will Come and Save You,” Jon recalls. “I put it in my CD player as I was driving to school and after as short listen, I started to sing along to the words. The Spirit of God came upon me in my car as I was driving. Never before had I experienced that power and I sensed the Lord saying, ‘Jon, just as you hear this worship leader leading others, and even as you are being led in the car listening to this music, I have something like this for you in the coming days as well.’ I had no idea what that was—music was the furthest thing from my heart. I had in mind what I wanted to do in terms of a career and it didn’t involve music.”
The encounter proved too much for Jon to ignore. He had reluctantly taken piano lessons as a child, and from this earlier training he was able to teach himself within a few months to play the guitar, in anticipation of what God would do. Before long, Jon began singing on the worship team at his church, as well as leading worship from time to time. After a few years as a worship leader, Jon’s pastor encouraged him to try his hand at songwriting, and once again, God spoke.
“I tried songwriting and nothing really strong came out,” Jon says. “One day I came home, tired from my day of studying, and I slipped downstairs and sat down in front of the TV. I was exhausted and I just wanted to relax. But when I sat down on the couch, God’s Spirit spoke to my heart so strongly and He said, ‘Jon, don’t watch TV, I just need to spend some time with you.’ I went into the other room, sat down at the piano and I didn’t say anything, I just closed my eyes. After a few minutes, my hands found the keys—and I’d never done this before—I started to sing out a prayer to Jesus.”
“I sang ‘may my life be my worship, may my life be my song, and may I praise You my Savior all the day long,’” he continues. “But as soon as the words came out of my mouth, God challenged me. I sang that I wanted to worship God with my life, but when I considered how I had failed to show love and common courtesy to others in small ways that day, I was convicted. God told me that as I go forward, worship needed to be more than just the songs I sing, it needed to be my life; that’s one of the key points of my ministry.”
Although music was playing an increasingly greater role in Jon’s life, after he graduated from college he accepted a teaching job. Assigned to a Christian classroom in the public school system in Canada, this opportunity allowed him to not only share his faith with his students, but have daily times of worship with them as well.
As additional opportunities arose for Jon to lead worship and present his music outside of the classroom, he made the decision to step away from teaching and begin a full-time pursuit of music. It was a leap of faith, but the words of Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,” anchored Jon’s decision.
“I can see how God has used all the things in my past to help me in what I’m doing today,” he reflects. “From music lessons that I never wanted to take as a kid, to becoming a teacher, God opened the door for me to share at Christian teachers’ conferences throughout North America. Part of my passion is to demonstrate for teachers how to incorporate their faith into the classroom, to reveal Jesus to their students in their daily routine.”
Another important facet of lifestyle of worship that Jon strives to impart is to communicate a heart for global missions. He and his wife Andrea spent a season with YWAM in Malaysia and Thailand as young adults and they were forever changed by the experience. Today, Jon partners with World Vision. He and Andrea sponsor seven children, and he promotes the work of the organization at his concerts.
As God has carved a unique ministry for Jon in two distinct arenas, He is now preparing him for even more. “If you’re not growing, you become stagnant, and that’s what God has challenged me with recently,” Jon says. “He’s asking me to take something fresh to the churches and to the conferences.” These days, Jon doesn’t have to look far to find inspiration. Whether in joy or struggle, God continues to reveal opportunities for worship. “One of the joys of the past two years in our family has been the birth of our two children, our son Emerson and new baby daughter Avalynn,” Jon says. “Seeing God in the miracle of creation in our family has been one of the highlights of our walk with Him.”
“God’s plans are so much better than my own,” he concludes. “And had I gone my own way, my ministry would not be what it is today. I have such joy, clarity and excitement for what I’m doing.”
It’s time to make a place on Canada’s honor roll for another great talent, although Jon Bauer is so much more than a gifted singer/songwriter and worship leader. Canada’s faithful son is a humble servant and an amazing encourager, equipping God’s people—whether in Canada, America or around the world—with powerful and timeless songs for worship and spiritual growth.