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Grammy-Winner Takes on New Frontier

Smokie grew up as a preacher’s kid and always sat in the front row of church.  He attended seminary and accepted a call to preach.  But from the time he was a little boy, Smokie had always wanted to be a recording artist.  He volunteered to sing in church and at school and devoted his energy to becoming a better singer.  Smokie started a career in gospel music and received far more awards than he ever dreamed.  By 2004, Smokie was at the pinnacle of his musical career and by 2005, it appeared Smokie had a promising career in front of him.  For two years in a row, he was Billboard Magazine’s number one gospel music recording artist.  Two of his albums went gold and eventually platinum (one million copies sold).  He was appearing on numerous shows, like the pre-Grammy show, the Dove Awards, the Parade of Stars, and many others.  The whole time, Smokie was thinking, “I’m just a young man from the plains of central Arkansas – this has to be God!”  While he was enjoying everything any artist could ever dream of: money, celebrity status, creativity, opportunity, etc., Smokie says he sensed the Lord tell him, “Okay, now it’s time.”  “Everything was perfect,” he says.  “But I was miserable!”  He had accomplished all of his goals and fulfilled his dreams, but wondered, “Is this all there is?”  Shortly after Smokie felt he heard God’s words, he stopped going to church because going to church made him feel empty, but he had no idea way.

His disillusionment made no sense to him.  “God had opened magnificent doors of opportunity,” says Smokie.  “He’d blessed me beyond measure.”  Though it appeared that Smokie had given God his all, he says, “I hadn’t really given it all to Him.”  One day Smokie realized he had been ignoring God’s best plan for his life.  “It dawned on me that I’d confused God’s blessings with God’s purposes,” he says.  “Finally I understood: God’s future purposes are always bigger than God’s present blessings.”  So, he came up with a solution:  Smokie decided to start a bible study.  When Smokie told his friend Donnie McClurkin, Donnie asked him, “Did God tell you to start a Bible study or did He tell you to pastor people and preach His word in a church?”  His words triggered Smokie.  “The Spirit used Donnie’s voice to speak words of grace and truth to my heart.”  Suddenly, Smokie realized that leading a Bible study was still only a partial commitment.  He sensed the Lord say, “I know you hear Me.”  Smokie began to cry and during the recording session, he decided: “I have to pastor.”  So Smokie began plans to start a church in the Chicago area.  “I’m not suggesting that being fully devoted to God means a person has to become a pastor,” says Smokie.  “Our first calling is to God Himself. God wants our all.”

Smokie says his grandmother was the best cook who ever lived. One day, he asked his grandmother to teach him to cook rice. While the rice was simmering, Smokie thought it would be a good idea to put a lid on the pot.  As the rice boiled and began to steam and hiss, Smokie thought he was burning the house down.  Smokie’s grandmother said, “Just take the lid off.”  When he did, the wildly boiling water quickly went down to a simmer.  Smokie says sometimes our lives are like the hissing pot about to explode.  “When we take the lid off, the pressure subsides, allowing us to gain peace and perspective, leading to a better outcome,” he says.  When we mistakenly put a lid on our lives, tension builds up when our full potential isn’t being released into the world. “If we leave the lid on our lives, we run the risk of ruining what’s in the pot,” Smokie says. God promises abundance when we finally turn to Him.  When we finally take the lid off, we can more fully engage in the life God has created for us. When we look for God’s will for our lives, we must: 1. Look inward as our hearts are full of God’s love; 2. Look outward on the needs of others; 3. Look upward trusting in God’s strength to accomplish His purposes; and 4. We’re ready to put God’s plan into practice and move onward.  He will sing Imperfect Me.

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Guest Info


Senior Pastor, Victory Cathedral Worship, Chicago, IL

Author, Take the Lid Off, Nelson 2017

Graduate: University of Arkansas and Trinity International University

Recipient of numerous awards including 2 Grammy awards, Stellar awards, Dove Awards, etc.

Has sold more than 3 million albums

2 RIAA-certified Gold-selling compact discs

12-track project, Nothing is Impossible to coincide with his book