The four smiling young men sitting opposite me never intended to become a Christian rock band. Dressed in black, hair carefully arranged, waiting to sound check their instruments, they openly shared about their passion for God and music.
At 7:30 on St. Patrick’s Day, 2012, these men took the stage and received a warm (and loud) welcome from the hundreds of students and fans packed into Eastern University’s gymnasium.
Sixteen Cities is a relatively new Christian band. Its first album, self-titled, was released in 2010 and the second, “Love is Making a Way,” came out only a few weeks ago.
Although Sixteen Cities has recently enjoyed national popularity, the band got its start in 2002 in a rather unaccepting environment.
“Portland is very unchurched,” lead vocalist Josiah Warneking said.
Guitarist Josh Miller agreed, flipping his blonde hair out of his eyes and noting, “It’s definitely not popular to be a Christian in Portland.”
When Warneking and Miller, along with drummer Chad McCutchen and bassist Joel Warkeking, noticed the limited opportunities to express faith in their public high school, they decided to do something about it. They wanted to “share the Gospel in a way that wasn’t churchy,” Warneking said. They began playing at Wednesday morning praise and worship services and realized how music could powerfully communicate God’s love.
The band adopted the name “Sixteen Cities” after reading about the tribe of Issachar in 1 Chronicles. This tribe was described as consisting of men who “understood the times,” and was given sixteen cities as an inheritance. The band strives to understand the times by using music as a ministry to reach people with God’s love.
The four band members were excited to perform at Eastern and to open for Relient K. As full-time students themselves, they can identify with the college environment. They complete online coursework from Grand Canyon University while on the road. When questioned about this, Josiah glanced down at the laptop plugged in next to his chair and admitted that he was “just a second ago writing an essay.”
Look out for “Love is Making Way,” and check out the title track’s music video (filmed on a frozen lake!) on YouTube. The purpose of this new album is to “declare who God is,” Warneking said-and the band certainly did that during Saturday’s performance.