Chart-topping gospel singer Kelontae Gavin has a stern message for churches that overlook someone's trauma for the sake of their gifts.
The 21-year-old is gearing up for the release of his second full-length album, titled The N.O.W. Experience, and is using his platform to openly talk about his molestation and recovery.
"I was molested from [age] five to 13, which led me into a lifestyle of perversion,” Gavin said to The Christian Post, revealing that his cousin was the perpetrator.
At 17 years old, he served as a worship leader who helped bring other people hope but he found himself in a very hopeless situation. Noting that his life did not align with what he was singing about, he found himself wanting to walk away from God.
"It's scary to be gifted in the Church because sometimes your gift can cloud and block the thing that God really requires of you most, and that's your heart,” he said, admitting that his molestation led to a life of exploring his sexuality.
“I was giving God a lot of my gift but I wasn't giving Him my heart, I was doing what I wanted to do. I just found myself — I didn't care, like many people today, they don't care. They serve God. We have to make sure that we're doing what we do for the glory of God and our life aligns with our lips.”
Gavin first gained fame by going viral on YouTube in 2014 at age 15 after an impromptu performance of the Rev. Paul Jones gospel classic “I Won’t Complain” while in his high school cafeteria. Following that video, he was offered a record deal with a gospel label but said his character in no way matched his calling at the time.
"It was in that faithfulness season that I became faithful because God was faithful,” he testified. “And man, I'm just excited to share my story — that all of us have been in a season where we needed God to hold us close.”
Gavin’s new lead single, “Hold Me Close,” has become a success already, marking its highest ranking on the radio for the singer, at No. 2 on the latest Billboard Gospel Airplay Chart.
"God is the only one, the only person in history, in the world, in the galaxy, that can still use us but not fire us,” he declared.
Gavin gushed about God’s faithfulness despite his life of sin.
"I made a conscious decision that 'God, if you would deliver me from this lifestyle, or this feeling or this perspective of homosexuality, to think that it's OK and to still serve you, then I promise you I'll tell it until my lungs collapse, that you're not just Lord, but you are a deliverer, and you do love us enough to pull us out what we want to come out.'"
His transformation came because Gavin no longer wanted to only sing about God, he wanted to experience God in all of His fullness, he explained.
"It's a conversation that the Church has to have because we're not willing to be transparent,” he noted. “I knew when God was dealing with me about my life, I had to make a conscious decision, am I going to be concerned about what other people think? Or am I going to do what God has called me to do and see souls won to the Kingdom?”
"So many people walk in guilt and shame, female and male, because of what they've done but not realizing, the Church doesn't know, that is just fruit. That is not the seed. There is something that has happened; there is something that they had to encounter or experience that gave them sexual maturity before they had spiritual maturity,” Gavin said. “But because we focus more so on the lifestyle of the person, we don't want to sit down and have conversations.”
He then shared advice for ministries on how to really help their people heal and grow.
"Let's stop the service, cut the microphones off, cut the lights on,” he suggested. “Who touched you, or what’s your experience? Is this how you feel? Do you believe he was born this way? No, you wasn't born that way, you accepted something in your life that you said, 'OK, this is who I am.' But that is not your name. That is not your identity and I wanted to make sure that God, if you gonna really get the glory out of my life, I'm just going to share with them my story that's connected to the crucifixion of Jesus, that He took the nails, but He leaves us with splinters.”
The young minister said many people love to talk about God giving people free will but he said really God gives people the freedom to choose. The choice is on the individual.
"I think it's hard for the Church to have that conversation because we throw around free will so much, and not free choice, which means whatever somebody chooses, that's their choice. It has nothing to do with Holy Spirit, Jesus, God, because He gave us a free choice,” Gavin commented.
"My gift, my innocence, my choice was taken at an early age for a couple of years from five to 13. I thought at a young age, now, I don't know nothing about Jesus. Now, I know nothing about guard your heart. I know nothing about Holy Spirit. I know nothing about turning the other cheek or repent or ask for forgiveness. All I knew was what was happening was in their eyes, my violator, OK, and in my eyes is like,' Oh, so this is OK,'" he revealed.
Once Gavin spoke of his molestation, he discovered other people close to him had a similar experience yet it was never discussed. All he had heard growing up was how anointed he was and how gifted he was.
He again stressed the importance of transparency, not only in terms of allowing people to open up about any abuse they faced but also engaging those who then find themselves in a homosexual lifestyle.
"We can talk love all day, but at the same time, are their hearts OK? Are their lives right? Are we having these meaningful conversations?” he asked of the Church.
Gavin now has his parents as his spiritual covering and is growing immensely in his faith. The young singer could not help but even preach throughout his interview. He encouraged pastors and leaders today to get the resources needed to learn how to identify and help their people imitate the life of Christ to have these meaningful conversations.
"It's so important for the Church to understand that, I've got to make sure that if Kelontae goes to lead, we got to first have these conversations. Before we look at their gift, check their heart, and check if they have had a traumatic experience or whatsoever it be, we got to like really get more intentional about how we lead as leaders and also as followers what we follow,” he maintained.
"This generation, they need more transparency, we need authenticity, we want to hear that. We want to know that you care, we want to know that you're not just interested in how well I sing or play or produce or operate or manage, I want to know if you really care about me, the gift, rather than me having a gift.”
The South Carolina native wants everyone to know that God can still use someone despite their brokenness.
"Pastors, leaders, woman of God, man of God, are you having necessary conversations with your leaders to not just be your NBA draft pick and you post to say, ‘This is who I have in my church.’ But are you interested in who you're bringing, that's going to lead people into the knowingness and the truth of God?” he posed.
Gavin has generated over 15 million streams in his career to date. His new album will be released March 5. For more information on his release or resources on sexual abuse, visit his website.