Jack Redmond: Soul Winners Arise!

JackRedmond2016Jack Redmond is a man on a mission. 

A pastor, evangelist, speaker, teacher and author of several books, including his latest, Let Your Voice Be HeardTransforming from Church Goer to Active Soul Winner, Jack sat down with me to discuss his book. As you will discover through this interview, Jack is passionate to share this truth — anyone who follows Christ can help others connect with Jesus. Now, the interview:

RF: Jack – you’ve written many books like People Matter to God, Infusion and Wounded Heart. What compelled you to write your latest book, Let Your Voice Be Heard?

JR: If I could do one thing in my life, it would be to end spectator Christianity.There’s a big difference between how modern Christians live compared to how the early Christians lived. The early Church was very much face-to-face and relational. They had a personal relationship with Jesus and told others — it was contagious! When I think of the first 300 years of Christianity, there was a 40% growth of Christianity each decade within those 300 years. But when you look at the statistics from 1970 to 2010, Christianity on a global scale is the same — around 33%. With all of our modern technology, conferences, mega-watt pastors, and resources, we are not growing at the rate the early Church grew.

Changing those statistics is bringing us back to relationship and sharing our stories. Let Your Voice Be Heard is a book that equips people to share their faith with people they already know.

If I could do one thing in my life, it would be to end spectator Christianity. – Jack Redmond

RF: Jack, you mentioned the decline or stagnation of Christianity…

JR: Christianity in the Western World is statistically stagnating, but that could change. D. James Kennedy, in his book Evangelism Explosion, talks about 95% of born-again Evangelicals never led someone to Christ. That book was written about 40 years ago. I haven’t been able to find any statistics to update or confirm that study. But, most church-going Christians do not have soul winning on their mind. I found this when I traveled to churches and even in my own church. When you start to have conversations with people, it’s amazing that many have not led someone to Christ — the Savior that changed and is changing their lives.

RF: Why do you think that there has been a disconnect or Christians don’t feel compelled to share Christ?

JR: I go into great detail about this in my book Infusion when in the 4th century, Constantine (Roman Emperor) made Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire. Some say he was converted, others contend that Christianity was taken over and he simply wanted to “roll with it”. But, what he did was to make Christianity acceptable and gave it many benefits it didn’t have before. Christianity spread as a persecuted religion — one that was relational in nature. The benefit of Christianity for 300 years was that people knew Christ. With Constantine made it the religion of the Roman Empire, it became valuable to the larger society. It became an IN thing to be a Christian. But Constantine would also build cathedrals that had one person speaking up front while others looked on. This changed the dynamics of Christianity being founded on relationships and conversation.

Christianity was taken on by Roman Catholicism that relegated much power to the priest. Without going into too much history, the Dark Ages and other historical milestones saw the Bible being taken away from people experiencing it themselves. Now, it was belonging to an organization. Even the Reformation was to clean up Roman Catholicism. Protestant tradition transitioned from a priest to a pastor. There have been many changes historically, but it was widely accepted to have a point person speaking and others listening, rather than being engaged.

Presently, where Christianity is exploding is where people are engaged and connecting. Let Your Voice Be Heard serves to help people share the Gospel wherever they go.

RF: Would you concede that while the advent of technology has spread the Gospel in a global fashion, it has also been a proxy voice for Christians rather than Christ-followers speaking up themselves?

JR: In terms of technology, even before its boom — it was an attraction model. If you have good preaching, singing and a good environment, it is attractive. But, the “modern church” mentality is about filling churches in order for people to give to maintain the church. It’s a maintenance mentality as opposed to a Great Commission mentality.

Around 86% of people come to church because they were personally invited. Technology has its place but doesn’t replace relationships. I use technology. God uses it. But, it should never replace the importance of interacting with others.

RF: I noticed on the cover of your new book — you have a photo of young people. I’m sure that was intentional. Why did you include young people and do you believe this book is for everyone of every age?

JR: The first answer is yes — the book is for all ages. As Christians, we are here to seek and save the lost and connect them with Christ. As far as young people, the stats are that 85% of people that come to Christ come before the reach the age of 18. Young people are the greatest mission field on the planet. Young people, oftentimes, are the greatest minister to their generation. Ministry is what God has done in your life. I’ve seen teens and young adults to share their faith in a real, transparent way. If you are serious about the Gospel, you must be invested in the next generation.

Part of the reason why some churches aren’t growing is because their priority is keeping saved people happy. That’s the focus of the average church. In order for them to keep coming back, we have to keep them happy. Since many pastors have limited time, that’s what they do. It’s another reason why we must train the Body of Christ to do the work of ministry. The church is an equipping place. The five-fold ministry is designed for the church to do ministry outside the church walls. As it pertains to young people — they are passionate and they have time to invest. They are able to make a big difference. I was saved at the age 0f 27. If I was saved a bit younger and shared my faith with who I partied with, I would have won many to Christ. But, no one had ever shared Christ with me until I was 27.

Part of the reason why some churches aren’t growing is because their priority is keeping saved people happy. – Jack Redmond

RF: On page 99 of your new book, you have what’s called THE REDMOND SCALE. I thought it was quite good. How did you come up with this scale and what do you want readers to glean from it?

JR: I have to laugh — I have named scales after me! I wrestled with it and it almost postponed the book because of it.

But, the REDMOND SCALE is a reminder that evangelism is a PROCESS. It’s not a point in time. Theologically, yes — salvation is a moment when you are saved by faith…when you cross from death to life. The reality is that there is a process leading up to that. If someone has had a certain perspective or philosophy of life for 40 years, their perspective may not change overnight. Be prepared to invest in the PROCESS. It takes time!

Some don’t share their faith because they are in church and watching the preacher preach the message and share a call for salvation — thinking if they can’t do the same, they are disqualified or not doing right. But, every time you help someone get closer to God, you are invested and engaged in the PROCESS. If you can get a militant atheist to wonder, “Hmmm, I wonder if God is real”, then you are making an impact! That is a huge breakthrough and it may take a couple of years.

I just talked with someone yesterday who is a nanny and cleaning lady for a Jewish lady for 20 years. The Jewish lady recently gave her life to Christ. But, it took a 20 year relationship of interaction to bring this woman to faith in Christ. When we are asking people to come  to Christ, we are asking them to reject what they have known.

Here’s another example: I had a lady come to me who took an evangelism class. She was a foster parent to two teenagers who were Jehovah’s Witnesses. She was upset because they wouldn’t come to church. I shared with her that if someone is a Jehovah’s Witness (and I may not be exactly correct on their theological position), they believe the only way to God and Heaven is through the Kingdom Hall. If they walk away, they are doomed to soul annihilation. You are not asking these kids to come to church or try something new. You are asking them to risk, according to their theological position, soul annihilation by coming to church. Sometimes we don’t think about that…

RF: …what you’re saying Jack is that sometimes (or too often) we are not considering the consequences and the risks others are taking to embrace Jesus Christ as their Savior…

JR: Exactly! And what they have to wrestle with. What would it take for a Christian to go to Mecca and proclaim Allah is superior to Jesus. Think about it. When you share your faith with a Muslim, you are asking them to bear consequences. When I was in India, I didn’t know what the dot (bindi) meant on the foreheads of the females. I asked and was told that the smaller bindi are for single girls of the Hindu faith. If the women are married, they have a larger bindi. If the woman is a widow, she loses her bindi. They are deemed as worthless or useless because they are widow. So now you have a 20 year old Hindu girl who comes to the Lord. She loses her bindi. She is looked upon as worthless and useless – like a widow. Rejected by her family and no Hindu man would marry her. Yet, she may be in a Hindu village or Hindu city. When we are asking people to come to Christ, it’s a big decision. This is why it’s a PROCESS.

The REDMOND SCALE looks at the process of where people are and how to address them in a way that’s inviting and engaging. Some people may have a five minute conversation and conversion happens suddenly. Biblically, it happened with the Ethiopian eunuch. But, for many — that is a rare occurrence. For most, it will be a PROCESS. It’s the PROCESS that causes people to see Jesus as a Savior moving towards their need for the Savior.

Evangelism is a process. – Jack Redmond

RF: How long did it take you to write this book? I’m not referring to the actual writing and editing process. When did you know you were ready to release this type of book?

JR: I think I finished writing it in 2012 and then I was going through the publishing process and offered bad book deals. Then, I started up again in 2015 and re-edited the book. I was chewing on the concept for five years. I think its BASIC CHRISTIANITY. Unfortunately, the Church-at-large may not focus on BASIC CHRISTIANITY as it should – like how do I become a good this or that. When I came to Christ in 1997, this message made sense to me. I lived it before I wrote it. No more spectators but soul winners. I’ve heard people say its insulting to call them church goers only. But, the question is are you winning souls?

RF: Jack, you’re a pastor (fellow pastor with me at Christ Church), you’re a husband, a father, a coach, a mentor with many responsibilities. How do you win souls in your schedule? Do you feel satisfied in your approach to soul winning or success?

JR: I don’t feel satisfied that I have fulfilled what God wants me to do. In terms of personally sharing faith with others, I face the same challenges such as busyness. Being married with children with multiple jobs, writing and traveling — I reconcile it by standing on this truth — I’m not called to do everything. I can do what I can do. If I can help others be soul winners, it’s impact that’s beyond what I can do personally.

I found a new pizza spot and I was so excited. I received my two pizzas and a flyer was stapled on the top of the box saying that a psychic would be visiting the pizza place. I looked at that as an opportunity to build relationship with the owner. He may or may not have spiritual convictions. He may be thinking the psychic coming will help me sell some pizzas. Whatever the case, I view it as an opportunity to learn more about him and gradually ask appropriate questions that will help foster Christ conversations. But, I recognize it will be a PROCESS. Before you go to people about God, go to God about people.

RF: Jack, would you pray for the readers of this interview that they would be soul winners in their generation?

https://youtu.be/_JfeYZvsDOg

Jack Redmond is an author, speaker Church Mobilization Pastor at Christ Church in Montclair, NJ since July, 2000. He is also Founder and President of Fourth Generation Ministries. For more information, connect with Jack at www.4thgen.org.

 

DATIN: Ready for the ROAR!

DatinCover2

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” – Maya Angelou

Artists on the rise have a greater probability of dealing with adversity from those questioning their motives or raising doubts about their message. These artists have a choice: either wallow in the onslaught of attack or rise above it with their message in tack. I’ve witnessed an artist and a man of God rise above it and ready to release to the world a new sound and message. On February 12, 2016, Datin Berrios will release THE ROAR. I talked to Datin about life, ministry and this new album. This is what he had to say:

RF: If you could describe in one sentence where you are in life right now, what would you say and why?

DATIN: Being still. This is the season where I’m about to jump off the plane and the skydiver instructor is the Lord and waiting when he pushes me. I don’t get to choose on when to jump. When the Lord pushes, I trust and let Him lead me. Right now, I’m putting my all in my art. It can be a nervous time, but I also know the Lord is leading me. He has been dealing with me about going full-time in ministry. I know rappers who are struggling financially and cannot do that. It’s easier to rely on a bi-weekly paycheck but I have to trust Him in every area of my life. Since the age of 14, all I’ve known is work — and I ready to work for His glory! 

It can be nerve-racking, but man — I have God’s peace. That peace has not misled me. Right now, it’s a privilege to hear the voice of God. The same voice is telling me TO GO! I have to go! And may it be for God’s glory! 

RF: You have many around the country who are supporting your work and the message. Who would you consider your biggest supporters/backers?

DATIN: My wife (Johely), Lionel (King), my new family in Florida (who have been extremely supportive) and my Christ Church (New Jersey) family. I can always rely on them to support, to build me up and strengthen me during the most difficult times. I’m thankful bro! 

RF: Every life should be about a cause. You haven’t shied away from that. How would you describe your life’s cause? What are willing to sacrifice for and die for?

DATIN: Dude, that’s a good question. Solely to make disciples and to share the same medicine that saved me. Everything else is secondary. Even the secondary things are for God’s glory. When I serve my wife and my daughter – I want to raise and serve for the glory of God. It’s about His glory. I don’t want to do anything that distracts from that. 

RF: Since signing with God Over Money (GOM is Datin’s label), what has changed?

DATIN: GOM has been good to me. Bizzle (rapper) shares his platform with me. After signing with GOM, it has taken things to a whole new level! It’s not simply a label – it’s a family! Me and Bumps, Selah and Bizzle — we are real friends and family. It’s beyond business. It’s personal. They hold me up, keep me accountable and have helped me along this journey. I’m beyond grateful.

RF: Let’s talk about THE ROAR. ROAR stands for Rise of a Revolution What are most excited about the album?

DATIN: Ryan, you can’t ask me that man! 🙂 I can’t wait for people to hear this. When you’re in the studio and recording, you’re feeling good about the lyrics, music and production. But, when it is done, you start questioning “Is this good enough? It’s time to peel the bandaid. I’m ready for this man!  I want people to be blessed by it. I want to make good art that glorifies the Lord.

There are things on this album that are prophetic. Am I saying this because it raps and rhymes? No. It is speaking to what we are dealign with right now. For example, the single Hallelujah All Day – I talked about persecution and I’m seeing the rise of ISIS. I wrote “HAD” a couple of years back. Or when I talk about baphomet symbolism and devil worship. You then see DRAKE putting out cover art with the devil worship symbolism. Now, the baphomet statue is going on tour. I see how God used the music on THE ROAR to prophetically speak to these issues.

DATIN's THE ROAR cover caused many to raise their eyebrows and celebrated by those who feel it represents his music well.
DATIN’s THE ROAR cover caused many to raise their eyebrows and celebrated by those who feel it represents his music well.

RF: I know there has been some controversy swirling around the shock value of the album cover for THE ROAR. Do you care to address it?

DATIN: At first, I wanted to rebuke it but then received a revelation. God inspired a thought. Bizzle didn’t want it thinking it was a bit too much. But, I knew this was speaking to the core of the music. I wanted The Lion, which symbolizes the Body of Christ starring and roaring at the barrel of the gun, symbolizing the face of death. The guy holding the gun, suited guy like an angel symbolizes persecution. In other words, the world is trying to keep us quiet and cause us to embrace lukewarm Christianity and legalism. It’s an anti-Christ spirit. But, we need to ROAR the gospel everywhere we go! 

RF: You’ve heard the criticisms and read the posts about your music, tone and even demeanor appearing demonic or angry? You responded through your music to those criticism. But how does that make you feel when you are trying to rep Christ?

DATIN: Ryan, it’s about the love we share. It bothered me because it’s not who I am. Like on the song HAD ENOUGH, I’m here saying, “you’re not out here. You’re behind a keyboard. We out here representing the Kingdom!” When the put out OFF THE LEASH and we heard the criticisms – my first reaction was laughter. I couldn’t believe it because God had a plan already in the works. We had already planned to send out HAD ENOUGH featuring Bizzle and it was a revenant rebuke! God knows my heart and he provided a prophetic flow. I’ll let the music speak.

RF: What do you think is the state of CHH now?

Here’s what I like: That’s its growing and opening up doors for artists. Artists like JGivens, who I know he has a heart for Jesus, given a great platform.

Here’s what I hate: I hate that it is becoming an idol (too many false motives). CHH (Christian Hip-Hop) is becoming the pastor and church rather than becoming discipled. CHH has their own followers. This is not how it’s supposed to be. We need more discipleship and more accountability. Every rapper should have church covering. I hate that Jesus is being removed from it.

When I say this, most may misunderstand and automatically point to well known artists like Andy Mineo & Lecrae. Here’s the thing – they are doing what they are prompted to do by God. I want to make sure all of our motives are pure. For example, that’s why I like to lay down my track first when collaborating. I don’t want body anybody on a song. PRIDE – It’s the elephant in the room. When I see it, I just say “Stay right there in the corner, pride!” Otherwsie, I will be on my back.

RF: For those who are watching your career and hearing your music and are inspired to do the same, what would say to them?

DATIN: Don’t be stupid – don’t think you can get around God’s truth. Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these other things will be added (reference: Matthew 6:33) There is nothing I have done but where God has told me to do and go. I didn’t make these deals. God supernaturally orchestrated it! My salvation and my walk is divinely orchestrated! 

Seek God in prayer, read His Word and obey! It ain’t all pretty. But, it is always a privilege to serve the Master.

DATIN is signed to God Over Money (GOM).
DATIN is signed to God Over Money (GOM).

 

 

 

DATIN’s new album, THE ROAR, is available on Friday, February 12th on God Over Money. 

 

The Power of Consistency: Interview with Ken Hester

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As a part of the REFlections Interview Series, I’m honored to present an interview that speaks to the successes and challenges of ministry and our life of faith in Christ. As one of the emerging voices in our generation, Ken Hester has proven through word and deed that his faith in God is real! Ken is the campus pastor at Elevation Church, overseeing the Gaston campus in Gastonia, North Carolina. I became acquainted with Ken about 6 years ago when he was the College Pastor at Crossroads Fellowship in Raleigh, North Carolina. Presently, as an Elevation Church campus pastor, Ken shared some of the lessons he’s learned along the way.

It’s my prayer that this interview blesses you like it blessed me. Thank you Ken for sharing!

KEY – RF: Ryan Faison | KH: Ken Hester

 

RF: If I had to describe Ken Hester, how would you want me to describe you?

KH: A passionate leader. I’m not afraid of change (and I could be accused of embracing too much of it)! I like fun stuff and I’m certainly a thrill seeker. I’m a husband. This year on June 2nd, my wife and I will celebrate 8 years of marriage. I’m a coach. I’ve enjoyed my experiences as a basketball coach over the years and even thought it would be my career. I’m a pastor. As a thrill-seeker, it is awesome that every weekend, GOD WINS! Jesus is #1 on the scoreboard! There’s salvations and baptisms every week. This is my greatest joy.

 

RF: In this season of your life, what is the most rewarding?

KH: Rewarding for me is that my staff, leaders and volunteers feel cared for. I find my reward in the great consistency rather than the great moments. We often times celebrate the moment rather than the consistency. Christ celebrates the consistency. In the NBA Playoffs, Derrick Rose hit a major shot but lost the playoffs. It may be SportsCenter moment, but we may dismiss the team’s consistent effort. The same thing applies to our spiritual life. When I see a congregation consistent in giving, serving and loving, this is my greatest reward.

 

“Christ celebrates the consistency!”

– Pastor Ken Hester

 

RF: Consistency is important to you. How do you value this in your life?

KH: I value it but working on the discipline of consistency. I tried to find a formula for devotion before God. What I realized that for me its one Scripture (maybe two), praying specifically that God reveals Himself in that Scripture, worship in my car (blasting worship in my car for 20-30 minutes), praying on my way home. I realized over the years that it’s not about a formula, but a relationship. I desire to be consistent in that area of my life.

 

RF: What would you say to someone who is focused on “formulas”?

KH: It’s about how God is stretching your faith, not a set formula. Too often, our culture is focused on calculated risk. Faith is “I’m jumping out an airplane and I don’t have a parachute but I know God will catch me!” I’m encouraged by a couple of folks in our apprenticeship program. One apprentice moved from South Africa to serve in Gastonia, North Carolina to be a part of what God is doing. That faith inspires my faith. Another couple just recently got married and moved from Sacramento, California to serve here at Elevation. This is the faith that is demonstrated in the Bible. I need to be challenged in faith. I encourage others to look for everyday faith. If God did it before, He can do it again! 

 

RF: What’s the most challenging area of your life?

KH: One of the most challenging areas on my life (and my wife) is regarding family. We are beginning to share more and more about it with others. We’re been trying to start a family for five years. To say its been a struggle is an understatement. You get a monthly reminder that God has not chosen you to have a family yet. What have you tried for five years and still not seeing fruit from? Not many things. If you go to school for years, you received a degree. We’ve been trying to have a family for five years and haven’t seen that reward yet. It challenges our faith. We’re mad and hopeful. An array of emotions. What’s challenging for us is to remember that God’s promises never return void. When all you see is void — it can be a direct challenge to your faith. We’re reminded of Abraham. I hope I don’t have to wait 35+ years (lol), but we trust in God’s promise to have a family. We can’t see it now, but it doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

 

“When all you see is void — it can be a direct challenge to your faith.”

– Pastor Ken Hester

 

RF: How do you minister to your wife during this challenging season?

KH: Supporting my wife in the small things makes the difference. It’s not only about extravagant gifts. It’s praying for my wife when she’s not aware I’m doing so. Doing little things around the house that relieve pressure. When we are battling, we are in this together. My wife’s not battling infertility – we are battling infertility. It’s a team effort. We are in this together.

 

RF: In the midst of your own challenge and the challenges your church faces everyday, how do you encourage them not to get discouraged when promises come to pass in someone else’s life but you’re still waiting?

KH: I’m always reminded of Pastor Steven’s (Furtick) words: “Don’t compare your behind-the-scenes to someone else’s highlight reel!” The highlight reel is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Periscope, etc. But, what are others struggling with that they don’t want you to see? They may have a child, or a spouse, or blessed with a job that you think that you want, but they also have behind-the-scenes. They just haven’t told you about it. If you were to go through my social media platform, you would not know the struggles. Even on a campus level — people see the moments, but not the struggles. It’s death by comparison. Don’t be discouraged by a post that doesn’t tell the whole story. If someone receives a blessing, celebrate it! It’s their blessing, not yours. The comparison game is a slippery slope. Focus on what gives you joy and write them out. You’ll be surprised — you have more joys than struggles. We tend to focus more on the struggles than the joys.

 

“Don’t compare your behind-the-scenes to someone else’s highlight reel.”

– Pastor Steven Furtick (quoted by Pastor Ken Hester)

 

RF: What brings you joy being a part of Elevation Church family?

KH: I want to thank Pastor Steven for the opportunity to serve. I appreciate the passion and consistency in pursuing the vision of people far away from God being raised to life in Christ! Pastor Steven has shared with all the campus pastors that this is not his vision, but our vision. As the Gaston campus, it is Elevation but its own feel and identity. It is a joy to see the growth and the love of God shared throughout all the campuses.

 

RF: Where do you see your campus going in a year?

KH: We’re believing God for 3,000 people. Right now, we are averaging 1,100. If God did it once, He can do it again. If I see in Acts 2:41, it can happen now. It is not out of the realm of God’s perspective. It will take work, prep, innovation, creativity, people and prayer. I want our campus to align with God’s will in every way.

 

“If God can do it before, He can do it again!”

– Pastor Ken Hester

 

RF: Last question Ken. If you could talk to younger Ken, what would you say?

KH: I would probably say — don’t make too many plans for yourself because God will change them. I went to school to be a basketball coach. I was one. I won 5 championships. I was successful (or what I thought was successful). As I look back, I learned so much in coaching that informs how I pastor and serve people. I think I would be a bit more generic and leave room for God to change my plans. Let God change your plans! I was stubborn especially since I was up for an Athletic Coordinator job. But, they went in another direction. Three days later, I received a notification from the Senior Pastor of my church inviting me to be the College Pastor. The rest is history. Let God change your plans. It’s my prayer that sharing the struggles helps others see that God has a plan for your life and He will accomplish it through you.

 

ABOUT KEN

Ken Hester is the campus pastor at Elevation Church Gaston. An innovative and proven leader, Pastor Ken leads along with a team of devoted Christ-followers at Elevation Gaston to see people far away from God being raised to life in Christ. Ken studied Sports Administration from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. He is married to the love of his life, Ashley Hester.

CHARISA: The Violin Diva (REFlections Interview)

CharisaRouse2Charisa Rouse (aka The Violin Diva) is known for her great talent on the violin and her jazz-infused sounds. Charisa is a well-sought after artist on the live performance stage and in the studio. Recently, Charisa was featured with world-renowned artist Patti Labelle at the BLACK GIRLS ROCK event at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Charisa has worked with world-renowned artists and performed on the biggest stages. With her husband (James Rouse) by her side, Charisa has been able to achieve great success and the best is yet to come.

Behind the curtains and bright lights, Charisa offers her thoughts in this exclusive REFlections interview:

REF: What does an ordinary day look like in the life of Charisa Rouse?

Charisa: My day usually starts around 7:30 AM – 8 AM. God has been waking me up earlier than usual. I take some time to pray and do my morning routine. Then, about 10 AM, you will find me sitting at my desk handling business. In the music industry, we are self-contained entrepreneurs. I am running the business, talking with clients, and answering e-mails (the administrative work). It requires me to sit still. Ryan, I’ve learned that there is just some work I must do while sitting still.

Around 2 PM-3 PM, I am heading into the city (New York City) to teach one of the afternoon violin programs. Most nights, I am in recording sessions, out performing a gig or at a networking event.

REF: Besides the violin, what is your greatest passion?

Charisa: God. That’s easy.

REF: Why?

Charisa: He’s an old friend that I’ve gotten to know. I trust Him immensely. He’s constantly revealing Himself to me. I’ve had a rough couple of months for many reasons. Unequivocally, through this season, God is the surest thing in my life. I feel because of the immense challenges of the music industry — I don’t know how you can be an atheist and be a musician. It’s very difficult — people will stiff you for money (still waiting on checks). Do I get ugly and take this to small claims court? Questions arise that affect your business. Collections are hard; what time your money comes in — its very nebulous. It’s subjective. You might walk into a situation where you are credited for being a good musician but you don’t fit the mold. You are at the mercy and the behest of other’s people’s opinions and preferences that aren’t based on facts. You have to be sure of who you are, what you stand for, and what you are willing to do and not. God is such an incredible center and He is my anchor. Otherwise, people will go crazy in this industry. You must be sure footed and know who you are.

REF: Charisa, you mention God centering you. Who are you at your core?

Charisa: I’m an artist at my core. I am a passionate person. I am very hyper-analytical; I’m a thinker’s thinker. I love books. I’m about how things connect. I was that annoying kid asking why does the world work a certain way. My mother would say “Because I said so!” (laughter). She did get tired of me at times. I was always that kid. The older I get, I am still that kid. I turned 30 last year. I love being in my 30s because I feel like I met myself at 30. I know this chick — I know why she does what she does. There is a spirit of acceptance of who I am now.

I’m an artist at my core. I am a passionate person. I am very hyper-analytical; I’m a thinker’s thinker.

REF: Your future — what’s the most frustrating thing about attaining your personal goals for your future?

Charisa: Two things: (1) Not knowing. I believe God keeps some things secret from me because I can be hard-headed and stubborn. Sometimes I think I know everything. And if He gave me more information, I probably jack it up. I’m a visionary but sometimes not an executor (again, knowing you and realizations about who you are). Some have a 5 year plan. I know the long distance plan, but working on execution. The second thing: (2) Money. As an independent artist, some things take a lot of money. And you can’t crowd-fund every two months!

REF: Do you find yourself frustrated with God or just not knowing the next step?

Charisa: The process. It’s a stretching season and its never comfortable — at least not for me.

REF: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Charisa: Taking over the world (Pinky and the Brain reference)! (Laughter)

REF: And what does that look like for you?

Charisa: I say this to my manager all the time. For me, I would like to tour and play with my band all over the world. I would love my curriculum for violin other schools and programs. I have a real passion for artist development and would like to move into this more. Buy a house, a couple of kids. But, my husband says we may be done after one! 🙂

REF: Have you considered being signed to a label or do you think you thrive in your space as an independent artist?

Charisa: I’m in search for a distribution deal. That is being worked on. In terms of a production deal – if it is the right deal, then sure. I have been approached before by record labels. If it is a mutually beneficial relationship, then sure. But most of the time, it is not mutually beneficial. With the conglomeration of labels, they want 360 deals — if I sing at a church, they want a percentage of that. They have complete control and it is not mutually beneficial. These are not the days of the height of Motown where they believed in artist development. Now, they want you to have the package already set (bundled in, great visuals, great press kits, great videos and 200K followers) and then hand over the keys to the kingdom. A distribution deal is more of a partnership and I am on the hunt. I am control freak when it deals with my brand. I just don’t let just anyone in the circle. When you work so hard and you created it, you have to be a good steward of it. As a woman in this industry, sometimes I’m looked at “sideways” because of my protective nature of the brand. That’s ok with me!

REF: For you, is there a tension between sacred and secular music?

Charisa: For me, no. Both peacefully co-exist within me. I know who I am in God and I know who I am in the world. Truthfully, they are the same person. Some people who are close to me have seen me on a jazz hit in a club in New York and then see me in church on Sunday. I’m the same person wearing the same shoes!!

REF: Do you think others may have a problem with that? If so, how do you handle it?

Charisa: Sometimes. Absolutely. It’s funny. Growing up, I only listened to classical and gospel. It was not a hard rule in my house but it was my parent’s leaning. We were obedient kids (siblings), so we followed the spirit of the house. I didn’t hear a jazz record until I went away to college. I was away at college for a classical music degree. I didn’t feel any lack or void in my life about it because that was my world. To that end, when I was opening up for a big artist, it was the first show my parents saw in R&B/Jazz. My mom was so cute…she was like “Well, baby, I don’t know what you’re singing, but everybody is bopping and clapping! You must be doing something up there, Charisa!” I think they had no idea what I was doing! My mom would be on the phone like, “Guard your spirit girl because you know all kinds of demons run rampant!” That’s momma! I had to educate my own parents to a degree. It was beginning of them realizing that what I do in secular music is not compromising who I am.

I’m a married woman. There are certain things I will not sing about. I do try to codify it for those who ask. Some people are assigned to be attendants only to the house of God like nuns in a covenant. And nothing is wrong with that. That is the seal God has placed on their heart and life to serve the house of God. We absolutely need that. But, there are some of us, like my husband (James Rouse) and I who are assigned to be missionaries on the field in the music industry. And if you are a lawyer and you have clients with all kinds of backgrounds, your mission field is the legal profession. Doctors in the medical field. The same applies to musicians and artists.

God has equipped me to handle the assignment. I have been in the club where a joint is being passed around, a stinkin’ blunt and they pass it right over me. “Hey Charisa, you want a puff?” My response: “No thanks.” Their retort: “Are you sure?” My response: “Yes, I’m good thanks boo boo!” I’ve also been in environments when audience members will compliment my artistry and want to buy me a drink. They will say, “Girl, that was amazing…can I buy you a drink?” My response: “Pineapple Juice!” I don’t drink. By God’s grace, in these situations, I’ve been equipped to handle it. As a mature believer in God, the Holy Spirit helps me to discern what to do and what not to do.

We are screaming at the darkness and not lighting the candle! I choose to light a candle and watch the darkness flee!

As a musician, every gig is not meant for you. Other times, gigs turned into ministry opportunities. God has led me to give prophetic words to elite producers who were on the verge of suicide. God has equipped me to be the light in darkness and He continues to lavish His grace to accomplish His mission. We are screaming at the darkness and not lighting the candle! I choose to light a candle and watch the darkness flee!

REF: As a servant of God, do you believe the Church (universal) lacks power?

Charisa: Unfortunately, in many cases – yes. A cloud of glory is moving and we are not. We are creatures of habits — we like what we know and too often refuse to open up. God has been dealing with me this year about release. In order for God to release blessings into my life, I must be open. I must release that which I’ve held on to. The Church must release their clinched fists to receive the newness that God desires to bring.

REF: What advice would you give budding artists?

Charisa: Know who you are! Know whose you are! When God gives you a gift, it is just that — its a gift. It is the beginning of the story. You have a God-given responsibility to cultivate the gift He has given you. Honestly, there are too many lazy musicians. They don’t want to read, learn music theory, learn singing properly or music lessons. Too often, criticism is shunned and growing as a servant is dismissed. If I was going to be a writer, I must know how to read, right? As a musician and artist, how arrogant can we be to not hone our craft? My mother was approached often with the comment, “Charisa is so gifted!” My mother would respond, “Oh thank you, that’s cute. Charisa – girl, go clean that bathroom before you watch TV.” She was not impressed with the flattery. She wanted my character and integrity to be strengthened.

Think big picture. My husband and I always have a term we share – RESIDUAL INCOME! Think big! House paid off and I am making money sitting on my rooftop reading a book. A good friend of mine said, “Charisa, you’re thinking too small.” Stop thinking too small.

Know who you are! Know whose you are! When God gives you a gift, it is just that — its a gift. It is the beginning of the story. You have a God-given responsibility to cultivate the gift He has given you.

REF: Do you think it takes all that you have to achieve that BIG PICTURE?

Charisa: Absolutely! Anything worth having is worth giving your all. It’s been a process. Even my husband and I dealt with 7 months of hell. Gigs fell through, my car was hit a police chase, my husband’s identity was stolen, on and on! We even lost $3,000 in residual income. God saw us through that season. He will see us through this season and He will see us through the next. God is with us. He never fails!

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