When Michael Card was 14 years old, an 86-year-old blind woman taught him the Bible from memory.
“What was most impressive was seeing the love and passion she had for the Bible. She taught 13 classes a week and did all kinds of counseling,” Card said during a telephone interview from his home in Franklin, Tenn.
“The basic truths of Christianity have to be incarnate, in the flesh, lived out. You don’t learn that sitting in a classroom; you learn that from seeing someone live it. I can give you the right answers and still be in the wrong place.”
For Card, the wrong place has become church and, ironically, he went outside traditional church to find his “true” church. He now worships and lives through what he simply calls “Community.”
Community is the vehicle for the acclaimed Bible commentator, singer and author’s religious, musical and literary virtuosity. And it’s how he continues his walk with God.
“The reason I call it a community and not a church is because church doesn’t mean anything much anymore, or it means the wrong thing. The community to me is what the body looks like in the practical form. Church is narrowly defined as a thing we do for an hour on Sunday,” Card said.
Community, for Card, is a group of men who meet twice a week to have breakfast, pray together or simply see a “dumb movie.” It’s trans-denominational and trans-racial.
The men he’s closest to in his worship group range in denomination from Presbyterian to Baptist; he describes himself as somewhere in the middle. He continues to teach home Bible studies from time to time. Card’s best friend and mentor is a former Black Panther from Chicago.
“When we first started spending time together, he knew he hated white people. Over several years, I realized how ingrained my prejudice was. There’s been a lot of difficult communication. Over the last five years we’ve admitted that there are a lot of things we don’t like about each other, and we’re still committed to walking together. We’re trying to live out the gospel together,” Card said.
Since starting his group, more and more churches have come to him for advice.
“It’s funny how many people keep coming to us and asking us how to do it. We say we don’t know how to do it. You live life together,” Card said. “Go open the door of your life to someone who is not like you, because that’s the other thing that church tends to be, very homogeneous. There is no threat of encountering someone different than me or someone that believes differently than I do.”
Since last year, Card has been managing his various careers under the community umbrella. The next step is linking with like-minded teachers, artists and authors to support each other in disseminating Bible-inspired bodies of work.
Considered an icon in the world of Christian music – co-authoring 14 books, recording more than 20 albums that sold a combined 4 million copies, winning numerous Dove awards and hosting two radio shows – Card has attempted to exist beyond the music industry.
Card said the Christian music industry pits community against commodity, whereas he sees more value in small gatherings than profit margins.
“We don’t just go to services and we don’t go to concerts. In isolation I can blow into town, do my thing and blow back out and nobody knows me or where I am. I can say anything,” Card said.
“Community is not valued in the context of 6,000-member churches. That’s just a spectator mentality and then people go to these huge places and they are just as much alone; sometimes, really, you feel more alone.”
Card still tours in the traditional sense, but he also builds worship activities and public speaking into some of his appearances. However, it will be all about music when Card appears Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Faith Bible Church, 600 W. Cora Ave.
He plans to perform songs from his latest album, “A Fragile Stone,” plus songs from his upcoming concept album about lament. Card is currently putting the finishing touches on a book with the same theme, “A Sacred Sorrow: The Lost Language of Lament.”