You Don't Have to Be an Unbeliever to Make Quality Music, Says Montell Jordan
Montell Jordan, the R&B song writer and singer behind the 1990s smash "This Is How We Do It," left the music industry in 2010 to pursue his calling as a worship leader at Victory World Church in Georgia.
Jordan now focuses on preaching, teaching, and ministering to others through song. He also believes in "taking back the music," a point he expresses in his worship song titled "Shake Heaven."
"What I mean by taking back the music in that song is that there is a belief in Christianity that there is God's music and there is the devil's music," said Montell Jordan to The Christian Post. "We look at rap music and other forms of secular music like they belong to the devil. My thought process is that you don't have to be unsaved to be the person that makes rap music. I think that you need saved people who love the Lord to make [all kinds] of music."
Jordan feels that the art form itself cannot be inherently evil, but the condition of the person's heart who is writing the lyrics is what determines if it glorifies God or not. Rappers and singers who know the Lord still should push the creative envelope by telling stories, using quality beats, and crafting something that will attract listeners from all walks of life, according to him.
"The idea is once the attention has been brought to the music, if it's meant to be worship, it then turns their attention towards God, but not all music was created to be worship music," he said. "I think God also gave us the gift of music for us to enjoy. If I love R&B music, are you telling me I shouldn't be able to listen to and enjoy it [because it's not labeled Christian]? [It's not the music itself], Christians just need someone with a heart positioning from Christ to be able to take the gift of music and create R&B that isn't offensive to the Holy Spirit and doesn't compromise who we are in Christ."
Jordan knew he was called to ministry at a young age, but ignored it and decided to pursue a career in the music industry instead. He also illustrated the difference between operating in God's gifts and fulfilling God's calling, and states that his music career was not the latter.
"I made a lot of records, I was a songwriter, I did lots of things in music artistry, but it wasn't what I was called to do, it was what I was gifted to do," said Jordan. "Many people are gifted to do certain things, but it's not necessarily what they're called to do and so for me I was called to do ministry. I was called to preach, speak, mentor and dissect the Word of God. I was gifted to do music, which is why I could be an artist and [have accomplishments] but never be fulfilled until I was doing what I was called to do."
Jordan finally left the music industry behind and journeyed into the world of ministry in 2010.
"It was basically me finally saying yes to God and saying I know I'm gifted to do music, but I know that's not what I'm called to do," he said. "Let me go ahead an answer the calling that you have on my life and lay the gift down. In other words, let me focus not on my gift, but on the gift giver (God).
"The difference is where I may have had success just functioning in my gift; I'm now having significance in addition to whatever success that may come along with it. I don't care about the success now because being significant has more value to it as I am doing what I'm called to do and I'm able to still operate in my gift as well."
In pursuing his calling, Jordan was able to find fulfillment. He also was able to leave behind his old double life as a Christian where he compartmentalized God at times.
"I used to feel like what I did at church was separate from what I do with me," said Jordan. "I put God in a box. Part of the change that occurred with me was that I finally got to become one whole complete person when I gave myself over fully to the Lord."
"It was a transformation. The Montell before was prideful and loved having really nice things because I was materialistic like a lot of the people who are in that form of artistry," he explained. "In following Jesus, I think the Lord still wants you to have nice things, but for me part of my process was getting to a place of simplicity, sincerity and sacrifice."
Jordon sold many of his possessions including his house and vehicle in order to live a different lifestyle. His life is now far less complicated as he pursues a humble existence without worrying about how the outside world perceives him.
Jordan also discussed the current state of R&B music, an area he once dominated with crossover hits that featured hip-hop elements such as "Let's Ride" and "Get It On Tonight." The line between the two genres has been blurred in recent years with fans confusing the artists that belong to each one.
"A lot of that confusion comes from when Billboard merged the charts and combined R&B with Hip-Hop," he said. "This meant that if you were D'Angelo you were coming out against 50 Cent. It's almost like combining the country music and pop charts. Naturally if you're going to combine them, one of those forces is going to start to dominate the other. Especially with the cross pollinating that goes on with singers putting rappers on their songs [and vice versa]."
His biggest hit to date, "This Is How We Do It," has been featured in numerous films and television shows and has sold over a million copies. Jordan is frequently asked to perform the song at NBA basketball games and other events for large sums of money, but he refuses. He admits that the song that brought him much success also became an idol for him, and after totally surrendering his life to God, Jordan vowed not to perform any of his old songs unlessl the Lord told him differently.
"When I retired and left to go into full time ministry, one of the things I said I would not do was sing [my old songs]," said Jordan. "And naturally since that time, I've been offered a lot of money to perform those old songs. For me, if I said God, you're going to be my God, and I'm going to trust you without that idol that I had and that I worshipped, that you'll provide for me. I told the Lord, I don't need that, I need you because for a lot of years I looked to 'This Is How We Do It' kind of as my God, as something that would get me paid. [I felt that] when all else fails, I could always earn a living based on that song."
Jordan doesn't plan on returning to the music industry in any form or fashion. However, he will help mentor those looking to get into the businesses that also have a heart for God.
Montell Jordan currently serves as the Worship Leader at Victory World Church in Norcross, Ga.
Jordan along with his church released a worship album titled Shake Heaven in 2012 which could be found here.