In a recent interview with U.K.’s Cross Rhythms, MEGADETH bassist David Ellefson, who is also a Lutheran pastor, spoke about his studies at Concordia Lutheran Seminary in St. Louis nearly a decade ago. He said: “When I did my seminary training — I only did a year of it, a year of a four-year program — I did it through the Lutheran track, and I love the Lutheran theology. In effect, one year of it really taught me the narrative of the Bible. How it happened is, I went to college from 2005 to 2007, where you’re used to reading two-inch thick books every day. So when college ended, I was, like, ‘Now what am I going to do?’ So I picked up a Bible and it’s about three inches thick, and I had never did read it. So I thought, ‘I’m going to read this.'”
Ellefson, who grew up attending Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Jackson, Minnesota, re-embraced his faith at the age of 25, after going through a 12-step recovery program. When Ellefson later settled down in Arizona, he started a contemporary worship service at a church in Scottsdale. He called it MEGA Life, partially a play on MEGADETH. But it’s also a reference to a verse from the Gospel of John: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
Asked how Christians have treated him, especially with regard to playing in MEGADETH, Ellefson told Cross Rhythms: “I would say that Head [Brian ‘Head’ Welch from KORN] is the only guy who has been accepted by the church, then he went back to rock ‘n’ roll, and is still accepted in both communities.
“When I really dug deep into my religious journey, I started a church service,” he continued. “Me and my family did it at home. We started the MEGA Life ministries. I was the worship leader. My wife did the hospitality, and my kids were mandatory ushers, greeters. It was a lot of work, but it was a lot of fun. It was certainly a labor of love. And it was very cool. Our church loved it. They thought it was a wonderful story. But as I’ve written books and done other things, the church as a whole, they don’t like that. ‘The guy still plays in MEGADETH.’ In fact, there were problems even in seminary. Big time. Like, ‘How can we possibly deal with this guy?’ They were reading through MEGADETH lyrics, MOTÖRHEAD lyrics… Whereas the rock ‘n’ roll people, they were, like, ‘Dude, that is so cool! You’re studying to become a pastor!’ They were the ones I was supposed to be most scared of, that they would reject me for being a Christian. But they were, like, ‘Dude, that’s so cool. We just think that God is the most awesome thing.’ So I could be in MEGADETH and have a spiritual exploration, and they were fine with it. Meanwhile, it seems that the church, at least in America, they were not okay with it. They were like, ‘How can you possibly sing those songs and do this thing?’ But our lyrics are generally more human. On topics, even like on ‘Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?’, it’s kind of a more “Get off my back, I’m doing the best I can” kind of thing.”
Ellefson was in MEGADETH from the band’s inception in 1983 to 2002, when the group briefly broke up because frontman Dave Mustaine suffered severe nerve damage that left him unable to play. After Mustaine reformed MEGADETH with an all-new lineup in 2004, Ellefson sued his former bandmate for $18.5 million, alleging that Mustaine still owed him substantial merchandise and publishing royalties. In January 2005, the case was dismissed in court, and five years later, Ellefson rejoined MEGADETH.