Format: Sound Plus Doctrine PodcastDownload Session
Sovereign Grace Music has a new Christmas album, Heaven Has Come. In this episode, Jon Althoff joins David and Bob to share stories behind the album and specific songs. They also spend some time discussing ways to think about and introduce songs during the Advent & Christmas season.
Have a question about this episode? Shoot us an email at email@example.com
Bob Kauflin: Hey, you’re listening to Sound + Doctrine, the podcast of Sovereign Grace Music. Sovereign Grace Music exists to produce Christ exalting songs and training for local churches from local churches. For more information and free resources, you can check out sovereigngracemusic.org. Thanks for joining us.
David Zimmer: Hello, welcome to Sound + Doctrine, I am David Zimmer.
BK: I’m Bob Kauflin. And we have a special guest with us today.
DZ: Very special guest.
BK: And we will have him a few times after this.
BK: It’s Devon, my son.
DZ: Dev, it’s great to have you. If I had an applause button, I would hit it.
Devon Kauflin: Good to be here with you guys.
BK: Raise your hands. Yeah, so Devon’s gonna be joining us for a few podcasts. And today, we wanted to talk about the doctrine part of Sound + Doctrine. We can think that doctrine… I mean, this podcast is about how doctrine fuels and governs what we do when we gather. But we’re gonna spend some time today talking about how doctrine affects the way we live. It’s not just about our meetings. There can be a tendency, if you’re listening to a podcast like this to think, “Well, doctrine, it’s what we sing about, it informs what we do.” But before that, it really informs the way we live, and so, that’s what we’re gonna dive in today, and Devon’s gonna help us do it.
DZ: Wonderful. Well, Dev, it’s awesome to have you. I feel like… For our listeners who are familiar with you, but don’t really know your story, I thought we could just start at the beginning. What it’s like to be Bob Kauflin’s son.
DK: Oh well, do you want me to answer that?
DZ: No. Yeah, what was it like growing up with Bob and doing ministry with Bob?
DK: Yeah. The… I often start my story with, I grew up, the son of my parents. [laughter] And surprise, surprise. And really, I think enjoyed in one sense and made it easy for my parents’ first 12 years of my childhood.
BK: Those were the good years.
DK: The golden age. And…
DZ: Catch you using sarcasm?
DK: I was a really good kid. [chuckle] I was…
BK: Maybe I should just start talking.
DK: Up until that point, I was a good kid and obedient…
BK: You were very compliant.
DK: And compliant, and loved my parents, and loved my family. When I was six, we participated in planting a church in Charlotte, North Carolina. And I loved that experience from six to 12 that we were there and seeing the church grow, and having the opportunity to see my dad and ministry and be able to feel like I was participating in ministry. As the church grew, I felt like I was the coolest kid there was. And that…
BK: It was a small church.
DK: Small church. And that I came to see really, really marked my experience of the world. And so, when we moved, when I was 12 up to Maryland and we moved to a larger church, I didn’t know anybody. And that season, I grew to really not like the church, not like my parents and hated God, honestly. And so, 12, 13, 14, 15, and just there was growing rebellion, growing deception in my life, and I wanted to make my… I wanted to enjoy myself and I wanted to make life miserable for my parents.
BK: And you did a good job. [chuckle] If I may say so.
DZ: So you weren’t saved at that time or you were saved?
DK: I was not saved at that time.
DZ: Okay, okay.
DK: And so… Alright. How much should I get into right now? Do you want me to get into how the Lord saved me?
DZ: Yeah, well, also, I’m wondering like that move sounded like it was very difficult.
DK: Yeah, it was a big moment in my life. I mean, I think pivotal years, entering into or right around the middle school age, and there’s a lot going on at that time. And when we moved, there was this shift… Now, I look back and I can see, I understand. There was a shift from… I was living for the approval of my parents and the approval of other authority figures. I liked the fact that, in my mind, I was the kid that other parents wanted their kids to hang out with because I was so great and so, I wanted them to think that I was as great as I thought I was, and I lived for that. And so, the outward expression of that seemed really great, because I was obedient and I was compliant, and I knew the answers, and I was doing the right things.
DK: When we moved, that shifted, where, instead of living for the approval of my parents and other authority figures, I realized, “Oh, I’m not the cool kid in this context, and I really wanna be the cool kid. And I don’t know any of the cool kids, and so what do I need to do to be one of the cool kids?” And so I… Instead of living for my parents’ approval, I was living for my peers’ approval. And looking back now, you see… It’s clear to see that both of them, it was idolatrous. Even though the one was a lot easier for my parents than the other was.
DZ: Well, I was gonna say, yeah. It had to be a shock. Was it a shock or…
BK: Was it a shock? [chuckle] Yeah…
DZ: That sudden change…
BK: Yeah, so Devon…
DZ: That it felt like?
BK: Devon was our third child out of six, and we thought with the first… If God had just given us two children, we would have thought we were amazing parents. [chuckle] And then Devon came, and as he said, when he was 12, we just realized, “Wow, we are desperate parents. We have no idea what we’re doing.” Especially me, I can’t speak for Julie. Julie’s an amazing mom, and took a lot of the brunt of Devon’s rebellion and disrespect when I was away on trips. But I realized, “Wow I don’t think I know what I’m doing.”
BK: And probably one of the biggest things that I realized was I thought I’d been parenting for God’s glory, and I realized, no, what… You’re really parenting for your glory. Because as he began to rebel, as things came out about him, we had to take him off the soccer team, off the basketball team, we had to just restrict him in so many ways. I’m a pastor in a church, and it just looks bad. It just looks bad. But through the help of friends, through the help of, just people I respect, we were helped, and God enabled us to get through those years…
BK: And change us in the process. Yeah, was it a shock? It was a huge shock.
DZ: How did you come to faith?
DK: Yeah, so during that time, as he mentioned, they… My parents, they didn’t pull away from me, even though there was little in me that would have wanted somebody… Somebody would have been prompted to press into, and they pressed in. And what that looked like, was just keeping the gospel ever before me. And so, even though I grew up in a context that did proclaim the Gospel, often I heard the gospel hundreds and hundreds of times, whether it be Sunday mornings, or in youth group settings, or in the context of my home, heard the Gospel all the time. And when this all happened these years, 12, 13, 14, 15, that didn’t stop. And so, they kept the Gospel ever before me, and they were patient with me. And one of the ways that was expressed in particular was during that time, I was probably 13, we started meeting together on a regular basis. And we would normally go to Starbucks at the time. And I was…
BK: Which we both hated.
DK: Yeah, I was gonna say, I remember, [laughter] just sitting in the car, as we’re going, he would pick me up from school or something, we’d go over to Starbucks, I’m just thinking like, “This is the worst, I hate this.” And then come to find out later like, he’s feeling the same thing.
BK: I was thinking the exact same thing. [laughter] Why am I doing this? This is bearing no fruit. How did I get here, after all we’ve invested in him?
DZ: Wow. Wow.
DK: And so, we did that, and… I mean, I just remember, over time… There were miserable times often. And it was mostly just because of my pride and my complete lack of desire to be a blessing in a way.
BK: You were not the greatest conversation partner.
DK: And so… [laughter] But one… There was a shift that took place as we were doing that, and he began to just draw me out about things I was interested in. And not doing it in a way… Initially, there was… I didn’t trust him, initially. And so, it took some time before I realized, “Oh, he’s not asking me so he can correct me.” He’s just asking me because he wants to know about me.
DK: And get me talking. We were doing that, and that was, again, miserable, but you see the Lord’s… Lord work through it. We started reading some books together. And so, there was a few different books, “When People are Big and God is Small” by Ed Welch, we read. And I wouldn’t have been a believer, when we’d probably… When we started reading that, I was probably maybe 14 or so. Read a couple of other books. And then in particular, I remember when we were reading “The Enemy Within,” by Kris Lundgaard. And as we’re reading that, at one point, and you… Maybe you wanna pick up that one ’cause you remember it, probably better than I do.
BK: I remember it very clearly. Yeah, I should say, going through all this, I was thinking, “I’m being a faithful parent, I’m… ” I was driven by the idea or the thought, the truth, the reality that if… You can be successful in ministry, but if you’re not successful in your home, you’re really not successful. Because God says a lot about the home and especially for what a leader… He’s supposed to manage his household well. And I knew that wasn’t happening. That’s what I was trying to do, humble myself, thought I was doing a pretty good job. And then we’re reading through this book, which is really a condensation… A simplification of John Owen’s…
DK: Condensation, huh?
BK: Yes. [laughter] It is, it’s condensed. [laughter] Very simply. Of John Owen’s “Sin and Temptation, The Mortification of Sin”, which are just amazing in the original version. We’re reading it and Devon says to me out of the blue, “Dad, I feel like this is the first time that you’re not looking… Speaking down to me, but you’re like actually speaking with me as a fellow sinner.”
BK: And that was one of those “Aha” moments where I realized how blind I had been. And I began to see that all the things that I saw on him that I just thought were so bad, his pride, his anger, especially those two, I dealt with those. And I was just becoming angry at him because I was so proud. “I would never do this is if I was your age. I was such a good kid.” Those were things I’m thinking. But in that moment, I think God really use that to move us forward. And I was able to confess my sin to him much more regularly, much more genuinely, and then say, “Dev, I’m just failing… But here’s what I can do,” I remember telling him this numerous times. “I’m gonna fail you as a dad, but I am gonna, till you leave this house and for the rest of your life, I’m gonna point you to the fact that there is no one like Jesus Christ. He has changed my life, changed… And I want Him to change yours.” And so, I just… That’s what I knew. “I know I’m not gonna be the greatest dad in the world, but I can point you to Jesus and I can point you to His word.” That’s doctrine having an effect in the home.
DZ: That’s so encouraging to parents with rebellious children.
BK: Oh, we’ve talked to a lot.
DZ: Because they’re… I think you explained, there’s a lot of revealing of sin and pride and arrogance that you are dealing with, and anger, but I also think there is a hopelessness…
DZ: When, what do I do?
BK: And it’s this paradox, because I remember one time being at a conference, this big conference, celebration conference, we call it, and thousands of people. I’d be leading, people would be [chuckle] just countering the Lord, and just be amazing time, and I’d walk off the platform and there would be Devon with his hat worn some weird way, just looking up at me, like I’m thinking, He’s thinking “You’re the worst parent in the world.” And all of a sudden, it’s from the mountaintops to the lowest Valley, the pits. And I’m thinking, “What did I do to deserve this? Like… I’m… “Doesn’t he know who I am?” “Do you know who I am?” Is what I wanna say to him.
BK: I’m Bob Kauflin! I lead thousands to encounter the Lord…
DK: I was just trying to keep him, keep him down to Earth.
BK: Oh, you did a great job. But, it’s that humbling paradox where God shows you what you really are, what your life is really like, and Jesus becomes that much more glorious. And that’s… Oh my, those were hard, but those years were so important.
DK: Would you say there was a shift that took place where it went from, you wanted to see me change because I reflected on you, to, you wanted to see me change because you wanted to see me love Jesus?
BK: Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. And, that took a while, I think, to really, to discern what was in my heart.
DK: To identify that.
BK: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. And it wasn’t… Even after you were converted, I remember it wasn’t like, “Oh, now Devon’s not proud anymore.” One of our biggest issues was we would judge each other, sinfully judge each other. And, he’d say something and I’d see it as disrespect and I’d react in a way that, you know that, and then he’d react to my reaction. And, it was just… Every time that happened, I sought to just acknowledge it. “Dev, when you said this, I’m sorry, I was judging your heart.” And it might have been true, but I couldn’t know it was true ad I just assumed it was. So that… Well, we asked each other’s forgiveness so many times, and a lot less now.
DZ: Yeah, and well, I think what you’re both explaining is, I think there was a humbling taking place, but you were still pressing in. It wasn’t a dismissiveness towards his behavior or his rebellion, and you were suppressing it in.
BK: I think parents can vassal, go to one or two extremes.
DZ: Yeah, yeah.
BK: One is, everything depends on me. And they freak out, and it’s just like, “We’re gonna lock you down. We’re gonna fill you with scripture.” And just… Without real love and without real humility. And then the other side is, well, we can’t do anything. Yeah, we did the best we could, till the time they’re 10 years old. And now we just let him go. And so, we tried to walk that middle ground of, let’s say spirit empowered, grace motivated involvement.
BK: And I remember telling him one time, [chuckle] this one time, I was talking about his hat. Hats were a big issue. If I was parenting again, I wouldn’t make it this big an issue. And I was glad to hear that Devon says it can be an issue with him and his son sometimes. Just, hats can…
DK: We’re working on it.
BK: Yeah. The way you wear it… And so it’s this huge issue, and I said, “Devon, if I told you that, I don’t want you to wear your hat and you’re rebelling and that’s… It’s just really bad, and if you… ” I forget exactly how I said it but something to the effect of, “Would you rather go to hell with a hat on, or not wear a hat?”
DZ: Oh my goodness!
BK: And he said, “I’d rather go to hell with a hat on.”
DZ: With a hat on.
DK: That was an easy answer.
DZ: The hat must have been super cool.
DK: It was a big… It was a big deal to me.
BK: It was a big deal. And…
DZ: But it was probably, it’s just something that you were holding on to. Like, “This is mine. This is part of my identity. This is who I am. I’m gonna… ”
DK: Yup. Absolutely.
BK: Which is… It was all about my power, my authority. And yeah, children should respect their parents, but God was changing me in the process.
DZ: That’s so great.
BK: And… It’s the Lord’s grace, that he changes both parent and child.
DZ: That’s so great.
BK: In the same pro… Because of the gospel.
BK: Yeah… And I never finished, but the Lord did save me.
DZ: Oh sorry.
DK: There wasn’t a…
DZ: Not to leave you hanging.
DK: Yeah. Just in case you were sitting there…
BK: A couple weeks ago.
DK: Is Devon a Christian now? It was a process. There wasn’t a moment in time where I’d say, “Yeah, the Lord saved me,” but definitely, by the time we were having that conversation on the couch, going through “The Enemy Within”, I would have been saved then. It was around the time I was 15, and it was just through their continued proclamation of and modeling of the gospel. And in the home, and then seeing and hearing the gospel again and again in our church context, and in our youth group, and the Lord just gradually softened my heart and opened my eyes to the fact that I was a sinner and in need of saved, being saved.
BK: Yeah, yeah.
DK: And in need of grace, and so the Lord used that to transform my heart, and as he did that, I mean, He just continued to work through our relationship and what a sweet gift that’s been.
BK: Yeah. Absolutely.
DZ: Yeah. It’s so wonderful. After you were saved, did you immediately start doing ministry with Bob? I mean, what has that been like?
BK: Right away.
DK: During my rebellion, I have an older brother as well, Jordan. And…
BK: The good son.
DK: The good son. [laughter] The older brother.
DZ: The older brother.
DK: And he… He always, as long as I can remember, aspired to be like my dad and be in ministry.
BK: Told us he wanted to be an evangelist when he was 10.
DK: And I wanted nothing to do with it. And so my rebellion, in one sense, it was both… Again, it was against my parents, but it took the form of, “I don’t wanna be like my brother.”
DZ: Yeah, yeah.
DK: And… So I was happy to go my own way. Then the Lord saved me, and there was not any stirring to, “Oh yeah, I should be in ministry.” And in fact, actually, there was this point towards the end of high school, going in to college, where I was just… As I was praying about the future and reflecting on what has the Lord called me to do, there was this realization… You know what, growing up as a pastor’s kid, and with my brother wanting to go into ministry, it’s like ministry is all I know. And there’s a sense in which it’s gonna take more faith for me to step outside of that, than to just try and stay in it.
DZ: And there wasn’t a leading or a prompting from Bob, that was saying…
DK: Not at all. Not at all.
BK: I was thinking, “He’s never going into ministry.”
BK: I remember having a thought, we were at a small group meeting with youth, and…
DK: There’s about probably 10, 15 kids and a handful of parents.
BK: Yeah. Yeah. And so I hear someone singing behind me and it’s horrible. It just sounds like, “Oh, oh, oh.” It’s just it’s not on pitch. It’s not… Then I turn around and it’s Devon.
DZ: Oh my god!
BK: And I think, “Well, at least Jordan’s gonna go into ministry.” I mean, I had no hopes. The fact that he was a Christian was such a gift from God, and if he did anything productive with his life, I would be very happy.
DK: So the Lord led me to… I went to University of Maryland, majored in business, and was in sales, and that’s the path that I went down. And…
DZ: For how long were you in sales?
DK: I wasn’t ready to answer that question. Six, seven years, or something, I was in business. And I was happy to be a man who faithfully loved his wife and loved his kids and followed the Lord and served the church and gave to support the church. I was fine being that guy. And along the way, the Lord has given me opportunities to serve a ministry.
BK: Well, yeah, go back to high school. I don’t know when you started playing for the…
DK: So after… I’d started playing guitar. I got a guitar on my 12th birthday, which was two days before we moved…
DZ: Oh wow.
DK: Up to Maryland. And this is one of the remarkable things, just seeing how the Lord works. I’m learning guitar and my world was very small…
BK: And I wanted to teach him piano ’cause I taught, tried to teach all my kids piano, and he said, “No way.”
DK: I was not a good student.
BK: So I taught you three chords on guitar.
DK: Yeah, so he showed me three chords on guitar. First song I learned was “Lord I Lift Your Name On High.” And he gave me a chord book, and we had all kinds of chord charts around the house of songs that we sang in our church. And that was my world. And so, those were the songs that I knew. Even in the midst of my rebellion, I’m learning how to play guitar, and how I’m learning how to play guitar is playing all these songs we sing for corporate worship.
DZ: That’s so great.
DK: And so, that’s what I did.
DK: That was my outlet. And so, as the Lord… I’m sure the Lord used that to soften my heart as well, I mean, just keeping me in front of the truth, and what a gift that is. I remember even learning how to play, one of the earlier songs I learned how to play, ’cause it was in G at the time, was “Alas, And Did My Savior Bleed,” your arrangement of that.
DK: I’m in the throes of rebellion learning “Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed.” Yeah.
BK: Alas, and did my savior bleed.
DK: And did my Sovereign die?
BK: For such a worm as I?
DK: Yeah, so kind of the Lord. He mentioned that small group, probably around 15, 16, I started leading our singing in that context, and it was one of the first moments that I was like, just evaluating things, and it’s like, “Alright, my dad’s been doing this for 25 years, and I’ve never done it before, so he knows a lot more than I do.”
DZ: A wealth of information.
DK: Yeah, so let me ask him, how I can do better. And so, I remember both beforehand, as I was choosing the two or three songs that I was gonna lead, and then afterwards. We would just spend hours, really hours, talking about, what could I do better. And so it was… The place that we met at the time was really, I think, two minutes away from our house, but I remember every time we’d get in the car afterwards, drive home, “Dad, what could I have done better?”
BK: I remember that, too. ‘Cause it was such a shock, ’cause there was no other part of his life he was humble.
DK: Yeah, I wasn’t doing that anywhere else. So then, as I took those steps, and so we’d come home and we’d talk about it and… Yeah, just talk about the things I could have done differently, or how I could have thought about it differently. And we did that, week after week, for a long time. And then, as I was a leading in larger contexts or different contexts, continued having those same conversations. As I was leading at different conferences and events, we’re just still having these same conversations. We still have those conversations now.
DZ: That’s so great.
DK: And so for me, God used that to just see, “Oh, when God says He gives grace to the humble, like he really does.” And…
BK: What a surprise.
DK: Yeah. What a shocker. And so, that’s why I was doing all that stuff. The Lord led me to shift directions in my life, in 2012 now, and I went into ministry and now serve as a pastor at Grace Church in Maryland and DC suburbs, and it’s just a joy to be doing that. I would have never imagined… One thing my wife asked me before we were married, she was like, “You’re not ever gonna be pastor, right?” I said, “No way. Never gonna be a pastor.”
DK: And sure enough, here we are. And she still loves me and is married to me.
DZ: That’s so wonderful.
DK: Coming on 15 years.
DZ: Yeah. I just I think it’s cool, Dev, when I just hear your story and what we’ve talked about over the years together, is that you grew up in a ministry home, a music ministry home, but you were in business for six, seven years, but it was a love for the church that sort of was grounding you during that time. It wasn’t that, “Oh, I need to go be a worship pastor… ”
DK: He modeled so well that faithfulness isn’t determined by your ministry platform. Faithfulness is determined by loving the Lord and obeying Him.
DK: And so, I never felt like, “Oh, if I go into business, I’m gonna be… It’s gonna be a let down,” or “I’m taking a step down from really pleasing God.” He never modeled that, never taught that. And so, yeah. I felt free to follow where the Lord was calling me and where the Lord led me. And so then, to see the Lord open those doors over time and lead me to where I am now. I mean, it’s only God could do it.
DZ: Only God could do it.
BK: Yeah, it’s one of those things where I… When you have kids, young kids, you have dreams for them and you think, “Wow, that’d be great.” I almost didn’t dare to dream that my two sons, two sons, four daughters, that my two sons would be in ministry someday. I just left that in the Lord’s hands. I wanted them to know Jesus, to know that He died in their place, that to forgive their sins, that they could know God as a result, and that it’s just the most glorious thing you could do in life. And then, whatever else you do after that, fine. But then God gives me the gift of both my sons are pastors, and that’s just wild. I never… I remember one time leaving conference, John Piper was preaching and he looked at me, said, “Don’t ever, don’t ever take it for granted that you can minister up here with your children.” That was like, I don’t know, 2008 or so, 2009, and I don’t. I mean, it’s just… It’s a gift from God. Didn’t have to turn out that way, but it did.
DK: Yeah. It’s not something you put your hope in or looked for.
BK: No, no.
DK: But what a gift it is.
DZ: That is so wonderful. I feel like we could talk about this all day long, but I need to draw this to a close. And so, it’s been awesome having Dev in with us. We’re gonna have other podcasts that he’s gonna join us for and talk through. But, thank you so much for tuning in and listening, and I hope you have a great rest of your day.
DZ: Thank you for listening to Sound + Doctrine, the podcast of Sovereign Grace Music. For more information, free sheet music, translations, and training resources, you can visit us at SovereignGraceMusic.org.