(Photo: Deitrick Haddon)
Deitrick Haddon, gospel music star and former Detroit pastor, talked recently with The Christian Post about his new album, "R.E.D. (Restoring Everything Damaged)," how his failed first marriage changed him in the eyes of many, and his decision as a teen to turn down a major record contract to fulfill his calling of preaching the Gospel.
Below is a transcript of CP's exclusive interview with Haddon (conducted via phone), in which the Dove Award winner and multiple Stellar Gospel Music Award winner relates one of his favorite Bible passages and explains how it reminds him that "sometimes good people go through storms that they didn't bring upon themselves." The transcript has been edited for clarity.
CP: Tell me a little about your 12th studio album, "R.E.D. (Restoring Everything Damaged)" and how it has been received.
Haddon: "R.E.D. (Restoring Everything Damaged)" is probably, I feel, the best piece of work that I would've been able to produce because these songs are songs that encouraged me during my storm. In other words, these are songs I would sing to myself when I needed encouragement. They're the soundtrack to my life over the last three years. I'm excited that the album came in at no. 1 across the country, the no. 1 gospel album across the country. It seems that people are really gravitating to the message in the record, so I'm excited about that.
CP: Comment on the League of Extraordinary Worshippers (LXW), such as how many members are in the group, where the idea or inspiration came from, etc.
Haddon: LXW, League of Extraordinary Worshippers, is a vision of mine, it's my baby. … So what I did was just brought together 150 voices here in Los Angeles and made them sing together. We get together twice a month and I share with them all my experiences in the gospel music industry, I'm able to teach them new songs. It's more like a family, and it's been a blessing to me. Their new album is set to be released in March 2014. We recorded it live in Los Angeles in a packed house of over 6,000 people, and it was amazing. Some gospel greats are going to be on there like, Donald Lawrence, Ricky Dillard, Bishop Hezekiah Walker.
Watch Haddon and the League of Extraordinary Worshippers in the "Church Rock" music video:
CP: Do you have any tour plans in the works?
Haddon: Absolutely. We're now set to do the "R.E.D." tour in February. The dates are being confirmed as we speak, so I'm excited about people coming to be able to experience those songs live.
CP: Talk a little about the industry. What are some good trends you've noticed in gospel music, and conversely, some not-so good trends that need to change.
Haddon: I'm finding that even though gospel music is more traditional and traditional-driven with the sound, I'm finding that people are being more receptive to something new in this generation. They're opening up and it's getting ready to bust wide open for contemporary gospel music, because now people are understanding that we have to connect with the culture where there's been a disconnect. That's the beautiful trend, there are more artists being birthed in our genre. Where artists have been kind of smothered by the traditions of men in gospel music, but now you have these innovative, contemporary gospel artists coming out and they can't stop it.
The not-so good trend is that in some circles, they still don't receive it, they still don't understand it, and they want to hold on to the old way. But everything was meant to evolve. Everything that God created that don't change, grow or evolve, it's a freak of nature. I think that's why gospel music, even though it is rich in its texture and in its message...but it's been light years behind every other genre of music when it should be the head and not the tail. It's because there's so much friction from within, and people holding onto the traditions. But now, I think people, the grip that they had on it is being loosed, so that we can grow and take the lead in the culture, which gospel music was designed to do and be in the forefront.
CP: We can't talk about your story without mentioning what was made public about your divorce and relationship with your current wife before you two were married. Is any of that, you feel, still a barrier to you continuing your career? Or do you feel like it's added to your testimony and attracted more people to your music and ministry?
Haddon: The truth of the matter is, everyone that will read this post has had their journey, and the journey has not been perfect, if they tell the truth about it. The reality of it is, I'm not the first person that has gone through a divorce and I'm certainly not the last. Things happen. So you have to move on beyond your failures, your mistakes. And I definitely look at it as a failure, because when I set out to be married it was for the long haul. When people get married they want it to work forever and live happily ever after, but life happens and things happen and beyond anybody's part it happens and sometimes you move on.
So that right there has not been a barrier at all. As a matter of fact, it made me in a lot of circles human. It made me reachable. It made me connect with so many people. Millions in church and out of church that have gone through it and they appreciate that I can continue on, holding on to God after that. Even after being divorced and then having a baby out of wedlock would seem like failure on top of failure. My message to everybody is, your mistake doesn't disqualify you when it comes to God. It makes you better and it qualifies you if you do the right things, if you repent. See, I can't sing and preach to people about repentance and when I fall short, I can't show them how to repent, how to move forward, how to get things right with God. So it has humanized me, and I have embraced it. Because before in people's mind, we as preachers are perfect. We're certainly held to a higher standard. But what happens when you fall short of that standard? Are you supposed to go somewhere, sit down and die? Or live on, move on, press on? Let that be your testimony. Let your mess be your message. Grow from it as a man and as a woman, and keep preaching the Gospel. That's where I am with that.
Thus far...as a matter of fact, it has all been a set-up, because honestly I feel like a lot of things in my life have been out of my control. … Everything on my journey has been on purpose to make me the man that I am today. It has opened up so many opportunities for me to share my message on a whole nother level that I had not been able to share the message of Jesus Christ on as a result of my mistakes. So I give God Glory, I'm humbled, and I give God glory for another chance, another opportunity to be an example to millions.
At this point, Haddon, acknowledged that his remarks might make some "church folk mad." He told CP that one can't do or say much about someone else's personal journey, and went on to recount the story of Naboth found in the Old Testament.
Haddon: I'm very careful about putting my mouth on anybody's situation, because you could be putting your mouth on good people. You could be putting your mouth on a David that was really anointed by God at some point and still have it, but he messed up. You could be putting your mouth on a Naboth (1 Kings 21) who was a good man, not a perfect man, and he was minding his own business and went through a storm that killed him. … Sometimes good people go through storms that they didn't bring upon themselves, and sometimes good people go through storms that they bring upon themselves. Sometimes good people make bad decisions. There are all kinds of scenarios in life.
Listen to Haddon recount the story of Naboth and his vineyard from 1 Kings 21, which the recording artist and former pastor "called one of [his] favorites":
CP: Do you still occasionally preach, or are you focusing more on the music nowadays?
Haddon: I preach all the time. I used to pastor my Dad's (Bishop Clarence Haddon) church (Kingdom Culture Church). I stepped down as a senior pastor to move to Los Angeles to do other things in ministry, like my independent films that I've been able to produce since I've been out here. But I preach all the time, I take preaching engagements and that's what I do. I've been called to preach since I was 10. … I was called to preach at 10, I preached my first sermon when I was 11. So I've been preaching all along. My whole life has been dedicated to spreading the Gospel and winning souls and just helping people and touching people to the point where I use my singing platform to do that. Nobody forced my hand to sing gospel music.
As a matter of fact, I walked away from three major record deals. My first record deal was when I was like 16 years old, with Arista Records. I had like 15 songs in the can to get ready to be released. I signed the contract and the next day after I signed the contract, a conviction came over me in my bedroom at my Daddy's house — I'll never forget it. I feel like it was God that just spoke to my heart and said, 'You are being disobedient to what I told you to do when you were a kid. You're a preacher, and it's your job to spread the Gospel, and you have to sing gospel music.' So I called the people up and never looked back. They could have sued me. I guess they left me alone because I was a kid. But I've never looked back, and I've been on the path to spread the Gospel for years. For me, it's not one or the other. It's both. Singing is definitely my gift, writing songs is a gift from God, but preaching is my call.
I feel like people shouldn't do one without the other. There are a lot of people that are gifted but they don't care about what God wants to do with that gift. They neglect their calling. I say gifts and callings go together, even though they come without repentance, they flow together. The calling brings you God's favor. It's what God wants to do with the gift that He's given you. That's how I operate, so you may see me singing and entertaining, making movies and writing songs, operating in my gifts, producing TV shows, but you will see the message of Jesus Christ, my call, the preaching, the message of truth, love, giving, in everything I do. You're gonna find it in the song, you'll find it in a TV show, you'll find it a movie, you'll find it in anything I put my hands to do because I'm dedicated to spreading the Gospel in whatever I do.
CP: Now, you were born in 1973, grew up preaching, and you're a preacher's kid, so you've seen a lot on that front. And you're also among a generation of younger Christians who seem to be growing increasingly tired of the institution of the church. What are your thoughts on that?
Haddon: I think in the past, the church has failed on that front in many ways. That's why a lot of people have left church in droves, a lot of young people [are] not really paying attention to church in this generation. There's too many distractions out there and the church is not becoming progressive enough. In the past, they were so busy with rules and regulations and all this stuff and trying to make these people perfect when they weren't. They set these standards, and young people just said they can't do it. They're doing the best they can. But now, there are churches that are being birthed where the pastors, like myself, come from church. They know the rules and regulation, but they have a different way of presenting it to the young people, they're using wisdom on how they do it.
Unfortunately, there are still a lot of churches that are still back on a prehistoric, ancient way, because they feel like if they do anything progressive, it's against God's laws and they're going to hell. But if the church does not find a way to get in the culture, to be progressive, to counter-attack against what is being presented to our young people everyday, we're going to see our own young people, the preacher's own kids walking away from God. We're going to see people that know God leave, because of our lack of understanding, our lack of progressiveness, our lack of innovativeness. We have to get in the culture, and that's one of the reasons why God moved me to Los Angeles.
I realized, I got to get in the culture, I got to get in here, I got to position myself. Somebody has to be there to produce something that will counter what's going on as things get worse. That's why I'm doing it. That's why I was so compelled, and I just let go of that position. I had a good salary, the church was growing. We were at 3,000 members, we went from 400 to 3,000 members in two years. But that was not it, for me in that season. I'm right on the pulse of where God wants me to be right now, so hopefully we can get some souls saved. I'm praying that we can go fishing in the deep.
Read part two of CP's interview with Deitrick Haddon, in which the gospel music industry veteran explains why he believes the conversation on the controversial "Preachers of L.A." docu-series needs to change and what Christians need to do instead of "throwing stones" at the faith-based program.