The Ultimate Rockstar Devotional Series


Hey Guys,

I am really excited to reveal something to you this Wednesday that has been on my heart for a while now. It’s called The Ultimate Rockstar Devotional Series. In this series of short devotionals we will be exploring the parallels between the life and times of Christ here on earth with that of a music entertainer.

Kind of rocks doesn’t it? Here is where I got the idea from:

One day I was watching Lenny Kravitz on VH1’s Storytellers as he was talking about his mega hit “Are You Gonna Go My Way”. He said that the song was actually written from the perspective of Jesus Christ who he described as The Ultimate Rock Star. Go back and listen to it. It’s pretty cool when you hear it again from that perspective.

I was born long ago
I am the chosen I’m the one
I have come to save the day
And I won’t leave until I’m done

…but what I really wanna know is…are you gonna go my way?

It’s an interesting comparison don’t you think?

– Rough and humble beginnings but later seen as an “overnight success”

– Little respect in his hometown and amongst his own people

– The more popular he became, the less privacy he got

– Praised by the public one week, publicly ripped to shreds by those same people the next (literally and figuratively)

– Close friends, close enemies

There are so many parallels and lessons to be drawn from the life of Jesus if you are someone with a platform within the music industry. So whether you are on the road, in the studio, enjoying some downtime, or getting ready for whatever the next step is in your career, I really hope that what I write will help you not only draw closer to the Lord, but to help you in your path of purpose. I sure welcome your input so please feel free to leave a comment or email me if you would like at

Keep Shining,


Where Have Our Songs Gone?

“They sang songs about freedom now we act like we don’t need ‘em…”- Mike Hicks “Where Have Our Songs Gone?”

Have you ever noticed that when some sort of tragic uprising is going on in the world that the first song most urban radio DJs reach for is Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” which came out over 40 years ago? Now I’m not complaining about the song of course. It’s timeless much like all of Marvin Gaye’s music. I’d much rather hear his version than the pop star studded remake (sssshhh let’s not talk about that…nope, let’s not even).  But are we really that desperate for songs with meaning that we have to reach back over 40 years?

While pondering this, I issued a challenge on Facebook that went like this:  In light of recent tragedies regarding black men being senselessly murdered by police, if you were a DJ, could you put together an hour of music (about 15 songs) limited to only the following criteria:

* Is reflective of today’s societal  issues
* Performed by artists that have been on the Billboard charts within the past 3 years
*Encourages the listening audience towards peace, love, hope, self reflection and personal responsibility

And let’s not forget these stipulations as well:

* The song can’t contain the N-word or B-word used as a term of endearment because to me that’s a double negative (hey my challenge, my rules).
* You can only repeat an artist one time so no, playing The Roots and John Legend’s Wake Up album for an hour straight does not count.
*Insert Jeopardy music here*
After a total of 24 hours and 104 comments, we came up with a whopping SEVEN songs:1. Robin Thicke’s “New Generation” (Yes, “Blurred Lines” Robin Thicke. Don’t let the fluke of the success of that song fool you. He’s quite the songwriter actually.)
2. Erykah Badu’s “A.D. 2000”, a tribute to Amadou Diallo.
3. Jon Batiste and Stay Human’s “Social Music” (This was a new one to me. Glad I was introduced to his music.)
4. Aloe Blacc’s “Love is the Answer”.
5. Esperanza Spalding’s “Black Gold”
6. Janelle Monae’s “Sincerely Jane”
7. Mali Music’s “One”

7 songs in 24 hours.

Before I posted this challenge, I mentioned it to a friend who coincidentally found himself challenged on the way to work to find something to alleviate his frustration with current events, most specifically the uprising in Ferguson, Missouri.  He told me “I put on the Wake Up album but I got frustrated that I had nothing more to ‘soundtrack’ all of this to.”  Reminds me of something that John Mayer said in his song “Speak for Me”.

Show me something I can be
Play a song that I can sing
Make me feel as I am free
Someone come speak for me- “Speak for Me” John Mayer
Now if I were to say let’s pull some songs together from the sixties and seventies, we’d have no problem. Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, The Staples Singers, Nina Simone and many others “spoke for us”.  They gave us a soundtrack for our frustrations and cries for freedom, peace and justice during a very tumultuous time in our country.  And it didn’t just stop with their music. Many of them used their platforms to speak out against injustice and to unify people to bring about change.  But if you look at then and fast forward to now?
Now they’re celebrating broken things
I don’t want a world of broken things
You can tell that something isn’t right
When all your heroes are in black and white-
“Speak for Me” John Mayer

Make no mistake, I am not picking on these artists of today.  Promising to be socially responsible is not a criteria when it comes to signing a recording contract no more than the guarantee that one is mentally stable.  I can’t imagine putting the pressure on some of the most popular artists today to suddenly become socially conscious.  I don’t even think that some of their record labels would allow it.  Besides, after witnessing some of the things that they can get arenas of people to repeat and co-sign that aren’t exactly socially responsible to begin with, I honestly don’t think it would be fair. We have indeed become a society that celebrates broken things.  So contrary to what you may think I was getting at with my challenge, my point was not that today’s artists need to change.  My point is music has become less and less about music and more and more about amusement.  What necessarily has caused this imbalance in our music?  I don’t have all of the answers but what I do have is a theory that may reveal a part of the problem.Besides producing socially conscious music that has stood the test of time as well as using their platform to bring about social change, there is one more thing that Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, The Staples Singers and Curtis Mayfield have in common: they all started in the church.

In a recent Time article, Questlove was quoted as saying something that up until I read him say it, I thought I was the only one that saw a correlation:

“…I don’t think it’s a mistake that a lot of of my favorite artists are coming from Down Under. A lot of them more soulful than what we’re dealing with now. When you think soul music and Aretha Franklin and the Baptist-born singer, that’s sort of an idea in the past. As black people, we’re really not in the church as we used to be, and that’s reflected in the songs now.”

He’s right. Black people, particularly young black people, are not in the church like they used to be and we need to ask ourselves why.   How can generations carry on the traditions of those that started out in church when they aren’t even there?
“Sing a new song, can we just sing a new song? Somewhere along the way we got it wrong…” Mali Music “One”
As I mentioned, one of the songs that we came up with during the challenge is “One” by Mali Music.  He along with many others have gone through so much criticism for going mainstream; a fight that seems so illogical to me in 2014.  Thankfully he has gotten past that criticism and has forged ahead to put out a very important, non-compromising album.  But what about those that could never get past the criticism? Those that have either let their talent stay and wither inside the four walls of the church or that have left the church altogether?  What about them? Could they be our missing voices?

Is the church to blame for shutting up the mouthpieces that we desperately need to speak to and for our culture? 

Yes it completely and undoubtedly is.

The way the church, and not just the black church but the church as a whole, has grossly mishandled the musical talents and gifts of its members is a shame and a sin rooted in both fear and elitism.  It’s across the board. I’ve heard too many stories about mainstream artists who are Christians that are criticized for what they do but no one minds them sending their tithe check in off of what it is that they do; too many stories about artists who have gotten preferential treatment because of what they do and have been pressured to be in the spotlight in their churches all the while their personal lives were falling apart with little to no recognition from pastoral leadership.  I’ve seen church musicians frustrated and completely resent the church and leave never to trust the church again while the pastors were too busy worrying about where they will find a replacement before Sunday than that person’s soul.  The Church needs to repent for how we have treated our “Davids” and our “Asaphs”.  It was never the intent of God to keep His children and their gifts within four walls.  If you truly believe in the word of God, if you believe that “where the spirit of the Lord is there is liberty,” don’t just let but SEND with your blessing outside the four walls of your church those with the Spirit that brings about liberty to convey that in their songs so that they can impact our culture. Who else to sing about love than those who believe in and walk in Love?  Who else to talk about the issues of life than those that have been given abundant life?

“Won’t you help me sing these songs of freedom…” Bob Marley “Redemption Song”

It’s time to wake all the way up, Church.  I am pleading with those in leadership to please acknowledge the fault and take the lead.  We’ve got to call our prodigal sons and daughters back and tell them that we were wrong. That the very gifts that we cursed or exploited were ones that could have been used to speak life at this very moment when our culture needs them the most.  We’ve got to train, equip, affirm, and intercede for those that have been called to mainstream music.  We must because here’s the thing: so much of the resistance from the church that musicians have faced when it comes to going mainstream is rooted in fear; fear that the industry will be too tempting and too much for them to take to the point that they will compromise their faith.  And it is all of those things… when you have to do it alone.  They shouldn’t have to do it alone. We need to stand with them.

So where have our songs gone? They’ve gone with the very ones we’ve shut out and shut down.  It’s time to invite them back in.  We need them now more than ever before.

Must Read: God’s Love Letter To Artists by Jon Acuff

Image result for jon acuff

“At the heart of it, the reason the church is not known as being a global leader in creativity and excellence is pretty simple. We missed God’s love letter to artists.”

One of my favorite writers, Jon Acuff, wrote a wonderful eye opening piece about God’s love and specific purpose He has for artists.  In this piece he sites a few passages in Exodus where God issues a call to artists in the desert.  I am not sure I would have even noticed this had he not pointed it out. I’ll let you read the piece and interpret it for yourself but in the meantime, I want to say something.

One of the things that I love about this ministry/blog/whatever God wants it to be is that it is a constant reminder to me that God is concerned with every bit of our lives.  When I get passionate about creative Christians in the mainstream, I think about how much more passionate God must be for His children.  When I think of how much my heart breaks for an artist that is going through something difficult like wrestling with their purpose,  I think of how God’s heart must break so much more.  If there is anything I could say to any artist on any level it would be YOU ARE IMPORTANT.  Not because your gifted, talented, good looking, or charismatic. You are important for the same reason every single person created is: because you were created with a specific purpose that adds to the well being of the entire world. Sure not everyone is under the spotlight but what you have been gifted with and called to is not a mistake or a misconception.  It’s not to be compartmentalized a part from your faith especially when it’s your faith you will need to succeed in the first place.

To read Jon Acuff’s piece, “God’s Love Letter to Artists”, click here and then let me know what you think about it.

Don’t Forget to Add Salt: Why Being Light Without Salt is Missing the Point

Over ten years ago I was working at a Christian music marketing company and was forwarded a phone call by a popular hip hop DJ.  He had recently become a Christian, which to me was exciting because I had jammed out to some of his most popular songs at parties for years.  However as we conversed about what he wanted to do with his talent since he became a Christian, I started to become increasingly worried.

Him: “I want to do a hip hop version of *Insert popular CCM franchise here*”
Me: “But….that’s copyrighted. You just can’t take that. Why not do something new?”

The more we talked, the more I felt that he was trying to play it safe by changing up his style and trying to force himself into a system that was not going to allow him to be himself musically.  He explained to me that he was discouraged about how since he became a Christian, he was receiving criticism about how his music had become watered down.  If you know anything about hip hop, you know that is exactly the opposite of what a hip hop artist wants to hear. They don’t want to hear that since they have decided to be a  follower of Christ that their music is no longer relevant in the streets. However, this story is not uncommon.

I fear that when it comes to creativity that too often believers strive too much to be light at the risk of failing to effectively be salt. Because of this their art suffers.  In reality, we don’t have to strive to be salt and light.  It’s not something we have to try to be because we already are. The question is not if we are salt but are we effective salt?

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” – Matthew 5:13

I looked up some things about salt as an ingredient and found some pretty interesting things as it pertains to our lives, particularly as creative people.  By definition salt is “an element that gives liveliness, piquancy or pungency.”  It’s used to preserve things by drying out bacterial cells that cause spoilage. In other words, it keeps things fresh by making it hard for bacteria to cause things to spoil. It seasons as well as it preserves.  It enhances flavor, it doesn’t just simply blend in.

So how does salt lose its saltiness?  By being contaminated by exposure to water and becoming watered down.  I think that can happen to talent.  I think that talent and creativity can be contaminated and watered down by fear and compromise when it comes to Christians. One of the things I would say to an artist who is a new Christian would be this:  Don’t water down your talent for the sake of blending in because really you weren’t created to.  Don’t think that watering down your talent will make it easier for you to be a light because in regards to being salt and light, that’s not even how that works.  Light illuminates darkness and much like salt it enhances, it does not blend in. Also, please be clear: watered down talent doesn’t always equate to becoming G-rated.  There are plenty of artists that have watered down their talent by going the R-rated route with the delusion of that being the pathway to being a light in the industry.  This is not what Paul meant when he talked about being “all things to all people”. Paul walked in freedom as he did this (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).

Bottom line, as my new favorite YouTube sensation Kid President so plainly states,  if it doesn’t make music/art/television/the world better- don’t do it. If it’s not adding flavor or enhancing things, simply don’t do it. Don’t kid yourself and think that just because something is “hot” that it has flavor. Something can be hot and bland all at the same time and to put it simply, that is just a hot mess. If you are a new Christian and are having difficulty with what to do with your talent, don’t be afraid to be uniquely you for fear that you won’t blend into “Christiandom” or “church culture” because frankly, both need a kick in the pants anyway.  We need salt to stay salty! We need to get things livened up!  We need new chords. We need new TV shows. We need new art.  We need new designs. We need new structures. Overall we need new creative things that are making the world better and that can only done by keeping our salt salty and not contaminated by fear or playing it safe.

In regards to “playing it safe”- unfortunately what has happened is that we have too many people becoming Christians and leaving the very industries that need them, to then come over to an industry that does not want to or even know how to accept them as they are supposed to be.  Thus, music has been spoiled with little salt to preserve it.  A really good book that I am reading called The Rock & Roll Rebellion: Why People of Faith Abandoned Rock Music and Why They’re Coming Back by Mark Joseph addresses this very thing.  In it he tells the stories of a few artists who battled with where their place was in the industry after becoming Christians.  This book is really insightful and I will most likely be quoting it here often.  In his opinion, many have forsaken being effective salt and light in our culture by leaving it completely. He writes “Incredibly, successful artists who experienced life-changing conversions were encouraged to give up their loyal audiences who may have been interested in hearing what their favorite artists had to say and were relegated to the CCM ghetto and urged to make music for fellow believers.”

In conclusion, if you have to leave the industry for a time to get stronger in your faith because of the depravity and temptations that exist there, by all means do so. But if it is God’s will, please do so with the intention of going back.  If you are in hip hop and you have decided to give your life to Christ, you go just as hard as you did before you made that commitment. We need you to. By the guiding of the Holy Spirit and wise counsel, by all means, keep going. Just make sure that whatever you do lines up with the
Word of God (Ephesians 5:15-17). Come correct not only lyrically but musically without compromise.  In this day and time, we need your salt to preserve our culture.  What we don’t need is for people to leave, water down their talents and try to blend in somewhere else.

“Being salt and light demands two things: we practice purity in the midst of a fallen world and yet we live in proximity to this fallen world. If you don’t hold up both truth in tension, you invariably becomes useless and separated from the world God loves.”- David Kinnaman, author of Unchristian

My Interview on Divine Dialogue About Christians in Secular Music

This past Thursday I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Candice Benbow for her online radio show Divine Dialogue.  I love the work that Candice is doing within the church to bring a variety of topics to light that need to be discussed.  I also love that Candice is all about solutions. We need both- discussion and solutions and I hope to be a part of that more soon and often. Please be sure to tune into her show as it is live every Thursday night 5:30 pm EST. Below is the link of the interview I did where I discussed the opposition a lot of Christian artists deal with when pursuing a career in mainstream, how the church should always be a safe place for entertainers, PJ Morton, Fantasia, and the impact of Whitney Houston’s life and tragic death. My interview is in the second half of the show, around the 50:00 mark, but the entire show is worth a listen. At the top of the show she interviewed Rev. Niechelle G. Jones out of Chicago and discussed the relationship between young adult African-American Christians and todays Church. Thanks again Candice for having me!