So it all began over lunch at Downtown Disney, in Anaheim, California. The folks from 89.7 KSGN (Bryan, Brandi & Steve) invited myself, Raymond, and Jadon to meet with them as they shared their vision for the station's annual pledge drive. You see, KSGN is a listener-supported radio station, meaning they don't have any major sponsors air commercials, like Coca-Cola or VONS, etc. By avoiding this kind of support, the station is FREE to air their current, faith-based, line up of music and commentary. So they depend on their listeners to financially support the station...thus keeping them on the air!
The artists at the table all had music featured on the station. Jadon has had music on KSGN for sometime, while Ray was fairly new with his "Happily Married" song entering the airwaves just recently. I land somewhere in the middle, with my song "Love All Over The World" entering the KSGN rotation in January of 2009. The station has since added a 2nd song of mine, "None Compare", and both songs continue to find their way on the air to this day! I'm telling you, the folks at KSGN are awesome!
Their vision was simple, "we want to have a tour of the inland empire (Southern California) featuring all three artists..." The tour would allow the station to give the gift of free concerts to their listeners, while offering the station a new platform to communicate their financial need. You see they usually have a "pledge-drive" or "friend-drive" on the air where they encourage listeners to call in their pledge of support. This runs for a few days and is bathed in prayer as the station believes God to move on the hearts of the people and provide....and keep them on the air!
Now each artist would donate their service to the tour and promote the heck out of it to get people in the doors. The people would receive each artists' very best, fully produced, LIVE concert, all for FREE! During the evening's event, a small message to communicate the station's need would be delivered and pledge forms would be on hand. After praying about who they would have communicate this need at each event, the station asked me to do it. I was humbled and thankful. You see, the station has done so much for me, that I was excited to finally be given an opportunity to give something back to them! YES! Thanks God!
After a few weeks of logistics and conference calls, we were ready to start KSNG's Making A Difference Tour! First stop: Chino Hills, California.
Arriving early to sound check and set up the artist booths, we had no idea how many would attend the evening's concert. The hosting church set up to prepare for the masses... just in case. They emptied their book store, and filled it with chairs, in addition to the extra seating in the main sanctuary. As afternoon turned to evening, it was obvious by the long line outside that the church would fill up fast. The doors were opened at 6:30 PM and the room was filled in minutes. Then the bookstore area filled. So the church moved quickly to create an overflow area just outside the main entrance with chairs and speakers feeding the LIVE event outdoors. This area quickly filled as well.
As we gathered in a back room to pray, there was a sense of anticipation as our eyes beheld the kick off of the tour. As soon as our "amens" filled that back room, Raymond and his band took to the stage.... he was amazing. My set would follow, as a three-piece with Chris on an acoustic guitar and Stevo on the cajon. After I closed my set, I stepped up to the mic and began to share. I felt lead to share some of my personal story before giving the concert-goers a glimpse into the KSGN vision and purpose. The crowd seemed very responsive as I extended an invitation to prayerfully support KSGN financially. Jadon closed out the night with a smooth unplugged set that united everyone in worship.
After the event, the people surrounded the artist area where all three had booths set up. This was definitely my favorite part of the night. Meeting the people up close and personal. Hearing their stories, testimonies, and comments on how God is using the music in their lives. It was a roller-coaster ride of drama and victory, smiles and tears and new-found friendships. Our friends, Scot and Amy, manned the table and worked so hard addressing the needs of each person. Making sure that everyone had their attention. They were amazing.
We closed the evening by packing everything up with a chill in the night air. The first tour-date was now behind us, and His presence was evident. With hugs and words of thanks, we made our way home.... only to do it again the very next night.
The tour's 2nd stop was my home church, The Rivers Edge! For obvious reasons, I was especially excited about this stop in Rancho Cucamonga, California. Not only was this my home, but it was centrally located in an area I had ministered in for years. The evening promised to be a reunion of sorts, as friends, old and new, would come out to worship together. The folks at the Rivers Edge worked hard to prepare for the evening's event. Having moved into the building recently, this would be their first major event under this roof. It was exciting!
Once again, the three artists loaded in gear, and set up booths.... all indoors. Our friends at C28 also set up a booth, and of course KSGN's booth was up with their huge logo on top. In addition, the kitchen was buzzing with preparations of hot dogs and snacks, along with a coffee booth. The hustle and bustle in that room was contagious, and everyone wanted to be doing something.
Just like the previous evening in Chino Hills, the people started lining up outside early. I was told the line stretched around the building! With Lucky in charge of the security and parking details (OneLite Ministry), he waited for the green light to open the doors. Word spread fast in the main sanctuary that they were about to let everyone in.... sound checks were completed for all artists, everyone was in place, we were ready. The people came in like a flood! The huge 17,000 sq ft area was immediately filled with concert-goers. Night two of the tour had officially begun.
With an estimated crowd of over 1,000 people, the evening was power-packed. High energy and intimate worship were delivered from the stage as all three artists brought a full-band set to the people. A highlight of the evening for me was worshipping with everyone during "None Compare" (see video clip above).
And of course I'll never forget the support that came from all the youth at Bloomington Christian School. They filled the area in front of the stage with their "ra" tattoos and some of them even made their own "ra" t-shirts! It was awesome! My special thanks goes out to Principal Steve Avalos for getting the word out to the student body!
As that first weekend of the tour came to a close we were exhausted. We had met some amazing people and enjoyed some of the best Christian music has to offer. We felt so blessed!
The tour continued the following Friday evening in Riverside, California with the folks at Living Word Christian Center. Let me start by saying the 'green-room' was awesome, with an aerial view of the stage and sanctuary. Sweet! Once again the evening found Scot and Amy setting up the "ra" booth and of course James K. was work'n hard loading in our gear and setting up for sound check (did I mention what an amazing blessing this guy was to us?). Our friends Liz and Tony showed up with pizzas and cake in hand....which we quickly inhaled before sound check :) Thanks for the pre-show grub you guys!
The evening was off to a great start as we gathered for prayer in Pastor Edgy's office. Me and the guys were the first to take the stage. It was LOUD in that room! Oh boy! But the people were into it. With Stevo on the bass, Tom's amp turned to 11, and Chris's kick drum right behind me.... it was time to make some noise :) Several young people rushed the stage early on... and I immediately recognized some faces from the previous tour dates in Chino Hills and Rancho. And some of the BCS kids were out there again too. "Very cool guys!"
Our 2nd-to-last song was "None Compare". I knew in that moment that God was speaking to someone. I could feel His presence.... as a peace fell over the room in the midst of worshipping men, women and children. I could have stayed in that moment all night. We closed out the night with "Give Your Life To Jesus" (SweetHomeAlabama). After playing this song for the last 15 years... and God still uses it to reach people. By that time half the building had left their seats and filled the front of the stage and the aisles. It was definitely a great way to close out our set.
After speaking with the crowd for a few minutes, Raymond's keyboardist delivered a couple songs (solo). I was really impressed with his sound check.... this dude's got skills! Raymond and his band weren't far behind and took the evening to a whole new level and he ministered to the people. They were completely focused on his LIVE performance, as we watched from the green-room upstairs. I am definitely a Raymond Gregory fan peeps!
Once again we found ourselves meeting new friends after the concert was over. So many wonderful people... it has left us speechless. And everyone has a story. A journey they're on. And a sincere desire for more of Him. Humbled? How can you not be, when God uses you to speak to one of your brothers or sisters? And of course I LOVE getting them to grab a picture with me! Did you catch that? I want MY picture taken with THEM....not necessarily visa-versa :) Amazing people out there in Riverside... and we all loved Pastor Edgy! "You rock brotha!"
The final night of this leg of the tour brought us to Corona Friends Church in Corona, California. We were on sight for less than 15 minutes before a guy names "Mike" stopped us and asked if there was anything we needed. He was wearing a yellow t-shirt that identified all the church's volunteers for the evening. Mike was so helpful! He saw that our EzUp-canopy had died and quickly offered us another one and an extra table for our booth. He was awesome!
As we navigated through the obstacle course that was our pre-concert logistics, and after the fire alarm was dealt with (oh yeah, did I mention the fog machine activated the fire alarms?) a few of us gathered in a storage room off to one side of the stage for prayer. Jadon lead us before the Lord and we moved forward with expectation. The evening had its share of challenges, so I knew that God was going to do something powerful in the lives of the concert-goers. With limited time for my sound-check, as Bryan O'Neal held the doors, I opened the evening's event with an unplugged set with Chris and Stephen. I felt the need to worship God. To sing to a break through for someone there. To give Him a front row seat and invitation to move freely in the room. It was almost like I was unaware of the people in the room, as I focused solely on Him.
For the fourth time during the tour, Raymond delivered a beautiful set to a captivated audience. I followed Ray with a short history on my journey with Christ, and a brief vision-casting of KSGN's ministry for the people. That was followed up with a smooth and powerful set from Jadon. I'm really dig'n his melodies and vocal performance. Good stuff!
The night ended like all the others with a sea of people walking through the artist booth area. Did I mention how amazing the people were that we met at all the concerts? :) Well, Corona did not disappoint, as one after another people came and introduced themselves to us. Posing for quick photo, grabbing a cd... they were so kind and encouraging to us! I had the opportunity to speak with one young man for a few minutes. He asked me questions that required an answer on the spot about my journey before coming to Christ. I felt as if God was setting us up to meet and speak. There was a calling on this young man's life. I also meant a little guy that brought such a smile to my face. He was so happy and full of energy. We snapped a picture together and then I decided to return some joy his way. I gave him a cd... and a t-shirt: which he promptly ran to the restroom and put on :) He asked me to sign it for him and I obliged.
Here's a fun fact: I was approached by not one, but two law enforcement officers who wondered if they had arrested me in my years before coming to Christ :) Anythings possible. One said I looked familiar. How cool would that be for God to allow me to minister to the officers/deputies that arrested me? Whew! And the very last person I spoke to on this leg of the tour was a very kind women... with a weight on her shoulders. She had a child who had gotten into some trouble, and my brief testimony had gotten her attention. Without going into detail, I will just say that I felt drawn to her plight and will be reaching out to child in the hopes that God will continue the good work He has begun there.
Remember what I said about all the challenges we were facing in getting things going for this particular concert? It turned out to be true.... God was indeed getting ready to move in the lives of people. Once again the enemy failed to derail or distract us from the calling on our lives.
So, the Making A Difference Tour is on a short break as Jadon, Raymond and myself continue on with our individual ministries and bookings. However, we will once again join forces next month (June) as the ministry of KSGN continues on June 26th at Harvest Christian Fellowship (Pastor Greg Laurie) in Riverside, California. We may also be stopping at YOUR church! That's right, 89.7 KSGN is having a contest and the winning church will have the tour stop by their main sanctuary! Details at http://www.ksgn.com/
Whew, that was a long one! Now I remember why I don't blog to often ;) I'd like to offer my sincere thanks to everyone at KSGN and to all the amazing people who came out to these events. I hope to see you ALL in June! Be sure to tune into 89.7 on your FM dial while in So. Cal. or listen in online at ksgn.com today!