New Horizons for Luke Rollins

Luke Rollins has worked with us for 6 years, building a Christian DJ community (DJ Unity), and Soundcheck, a music industry chaplaincy service. He has been a wonderful and inspiring member of our team and we are so thankful for him and all he has pioneered. Luke is moving on to new horizons and so we wanted to share one last interview with him, finding out what he has learned and is celebrating, and the exciting plans he has for the future.

Luke, you’ve been with Third Space Ministries for 6 years! What drew you to chaplaincy in the music industry?

Initially a perception of the need to care for artists and seeing a gap in welfare provision and the gap for discipleship or evangelism. The industry is one of the toughest places to operate. And so, drawing on my own experience I empathised with others in the industry. So, I think my interest in the lives of artists and seeing a gap in care for them drew me to chaplaincy in the music industry.

When you say your interest in the lives of artists, is that because there’s a sense of peoples stories coming through the art that they make or because of the interpersonal element of creating?

Maybe a bit of both, but I suppose more the latter. Having worked as an artist or with artists all my life, there’s a natural common ground. It’s an easy place for me to connect but I also have a deep-rooted interest in their story and what they’re producing. So, I guess with artists there is always a commonality between our joint paths and what we’ve experienced in the music community.

What, from your experience, let you know that there wasn’t the well-being and spiritual provision in the music industry?

I’ve worked as a DJ and in music for a long time, I experienced first-hand the absence of that provision and just the real opposite to it really. The culture in the industry is not wired for your benefit – it’s wired for your pleasure and enjoyment – for hedonism. And there’s a destructive element to it, which I was part of and encouraged in, for a long time.  It was only close friends who would look out for me. No-one else really would – it’s just not encouraged. So, part of my journey was experiencing that absence of provision first-hand and witnessing it as well, whether through people overdosing at a club and no one stopping them, or persisting in a lifestyle that is destructive and others saying nothing, or in some cases people facilitating and encouraging those habits.

Once you became a Christian did you expect to find Christian support in the industry?

When I became a Christian, I felt clearly prompted to leave the music scene altogether. I sold my decks, and I spent two or three years removed from that whole context. It wasn’t until I went out to Ibiza and met Carolyn, that I got a new appreciation that there are Christian DJs working in this scene. There are people who’ve got a heart for the industry and are getting plugged in with a view for mission and culture change. The formation of the DJ Unity group and journeying with that community began to really educate me and open my eyes to the possibilities and the need for discipleship and spiritual formation within that community.  

Why do you think church doesn’t meet those needs well?

A combination of things, some of them practical and some of them probably because of misunderstanding. DJing rarely fits with Sunday mornings. If they are working or touring, Sundays generally are unlikely to be a good time. There’s also a level of misunderstanding that if you work in the industry then you are partnering with that industry in a way that probably isn’t healthy. Even if this isn’t expressed, it might be implied or assumed, leading to a disconnect. Artists are also often free-thinking types that might not fit well in traditional church cultures.  I think there is often a cultural dissonance between church and artists.

Can you remember an experience in your time as a chaplain at Third Space where you experienced the power of music being, or creating, a sacred space where God was doing something?

I did an early interview on the TV show Sunday Morning Live one day and I had a DJ set in the afternoon. So, I was very tired by the time I set up and I remember playing and coming off stage, when a group of strangers asked me “how long have you been a professional DJ?”
So, I said, “Well I’m not a professional DJ, I’m actually a chaplain” and I explained what I did.

Then they said “Well what you just played was totally different. You carry something – there’s something about you that’s different and you brought joy. There’s a humility and an edge you have that we haven’t seen before.”  I genuinely don’t remember playing anything particularly ground-breaking. I don’t remember doing anything particularly special. It hadn’t felt a sacred set for me – and yet there was something in what I did that touched them and it was something God was doing through me that I wasn’t conscious of, and it changed the atmosphere there that day.

When members of the DJ Unity group have played in certain settings there is something that marks them out – they always bring joy. I’ve seen plenty of DJ sets and some are good but not that many bring joy, but every time I see someone from the Unity group step up and bring something, the atmosphere shifts and joy comes in the room. I’ve seen the power of music over the years of working with DJ Unity and Soundcheck.

What has been one of the most encouraging things?

It’s been a real joy to work in community with people because DJing and music is generally such an isolated pastime. And people crave it. There is always an emphasis on community. One of the most encouraging things has been to see that community flourishing, growing and seeing how well we have encouraged one another.  It’s been a unique but wonderful space and so many collaborations, friendships and partnerships have been built over the years. To see where God has brought us, the healing, and so many redemptive aspects, has been beautiful to watch.  

In what ways has working with Third Space encouraged your own Christian walk? 

Due to the fact that the role has been pioneering, it has demanded that I be in uncomfortable places, and I’ve had to increase my dependency on God. I’ve had to really develop that perception of my need for Him, and that deepening walk with God has been essential for me to get me to do this role adequately., Before I started this role, I would not have believed that I was a pioneer or given my leadership skills much credence. I had to rise to the occasion on both things. This demanded a greater intimacy with Him, and I’m eternally grateful for that. It’s changed my perception as to what God has called me to do and who I am, and it’s been a very formative and transformative process.

In what way is chaplaincy pioneering in the music industry or why is it a pioneering idea?

As far as we are aware there’s no one else offering chaplaincy in the industry. So, it’s taking a model that’s well practised and bringing it into a space where there is no model or grid for it.  There’s a lot more support for artists in terms of mental health and well-being than there was 10 years ago, but there’s nothing that caters for the spiritual needs of a person. So, chaplaincy is very stand alone in offering companionship, listening, journeying, discipleship and prayer. Also, a lot of the well-being and mental health charities are charging for their work and chaplaincy stands out by being a free service and ultimately bringing the gospel into this industry through care and compassion.

In what ways will being a pioneer be something you take forward?

Three things – being prepared to be uncomfortable, having permission to dream big, and the reminder not to try and go it alone.

You have blessed us with many blogs, sharing your thoughts and your insights into the industry, the place of chaplaincy, well-being and pastoral care. You have been a thought leader: speaking on the intersection of the industry, pastoral care, wellness and the place of chaplaincy in that. Do you think Christians have a role in terms of such thought leadership, and of shaping industries as big as the music industry?

I do. I don’t expect it to be an easy space to inhabit, but I think we have a responsibility to try. To bring heavenly wisdom and insight into these places is part of our mandate, and we should be at the forefront of that. It’s probably going to be a challenging journey, but I think it’s crucial that we are bringing our voices, scriptural authority and servant heart into this space. It’s about shaping something that doesn’t get shaped if we don’t contribute.

What do you learn about walking with people by being a chaplain?

That people don’t get listened to enough and it really is such a powerful force of change in someone’s life. That genuine compassion and that time which you give to somebody can change everything for someone – it can be lifesaving. For some people it’s just been that encouragement they have needed to get through the day or helped them formulate a thought they didn’t previously have language for, taking them to the next stage of their journey. I’m not saying it fixes everything, but I’ve seen that the power of giving someone time cannot be underestimated. I think it’s a much-undervalued commodity and it’s been a real privilege to witness that.

What are your dreams for Soundcheck?

The Soundcheck vision is to be supporting a wide variety of industry professionals in a wide variety of contexts. The dream is for chaplaincy to become normalised in the industry and to be a part of the care package that artists receive. There is so much scope and there is so much need. We know there is a deficit of care in the industry and Soundcheck really can be as big as we want to take it.

What is your prayer for the music industry?

There is so much gift and talent and beauty that gets twisted into the pursuit of money, commodity and success and it’s heart-breaking.  My prayer is that people would realise what their gift was given to them for and would get to enjoy it in the full capacity of that. Bach famously said, “The purpose of music is to glorify God and for the recreation of the soul.” My prayer is that there’s a sense of freedom and joy within the industry that can be realised through celebrating our gifts in partnership with the whole spirit, and of all that our lives can accomplish when we are working with the Chief Musician.

What are your plans for doing that yourself going forward?

I don’t have a clear plan at the moment. I’m taking it one day at a time. It will inevitably involve music because that has been the common thread through my life. I’m going to keep working on some projects that I’m doing, finish an EP I’m releasing in May. I’d like to write some music for film, and I’ll keep DJing.  But at this stage I don’t have a concrete plan. I’m stepping into the season of rest and will be waiting on God for the next steps.

What are you most thankful for in your years in this role?

There’s a lot of things that I’m thankful for but I’m really thankful for my Third Space team, for the community and work I’ve had to do. I’m very thankful for the context that I’ve been allowed to operate in and for being able work in an industry that I really love and care for.  I’m really thankful for those things, but especially for the team – for colleagues who’ve just been unbelievably supportive, who taught me so much. I’ve had some life changing discussions with my colleagues and trustees, and it’s been such a culture of prayer and intercession, of faith and big dreams, and joy. It’s just been a wonderful place to work.
I’m thoroughly thankful for the Third Space ethos and for the people behind it, it’s been a wonderful experience – life changing.

Thank you Luke, knowing you and serving with you has been an honour and a privilege. We look forward to all that God will continue to do through and with you. 

If you would like to see what Luke is doing musically, you can follow him on Instagram @lukevictormusic