I am so pleased to announce that the official release concert for my new album Thunder will be hosted at the prestigious John Legend Theater in Springfield Ohio on February 22nd.
The John Legend Theater opened in the fall of 2016 to serve the Springfield City School District and the Springfield community.
The John Legend Theater is located within the Springfield Center of Innovation: The Dome in Springfield’s Promise Neighborhood, where there is a real opportunity to make a positive difference in young people’s lives.
The concert will start at 7:30PM on February 22nd.
Tickets are $15 a person.
Groups who buy 5 tickets and get one free.
Expect a full evening of music where I’ll be playing the entire new album live. We will also be giving away signed copies of Thunder on CD and on Vinyl to ticket holders whose names are drawn.
Seating is limited so call the box office to buy your tickets today at (937) 505-2945.
Tickets are also available online but online orders will incur a $2.00 service fee so we recommend calling or visiting the box office in person.
NOTE: The only way to get the 6th ticket free is by calling.
I hope you can join me for a wonderful evening of celebration.
Attn: Writers, Bloggers, Podcast Hosts, Music Reviewers, Peer Musicians etc…
I have a new album releasing on February 8th and I could use your help. I need people who would be willing to review the album, blog about it, and/or do a podcast interview with me..
To make it easier for you, I’ve written a track by track synopsis with my thoughts on each song on the album. I know as a podcast host and occasional reviewer that pre-written talking points can be quite helpful.
I also need volunteers who would be willing to share a press release on your sites and social media pages closer to the album release in February.
To paraphrase The A-Team: I have a problem, and no one else can help, so if I can find you, maybe I can hire the A-Team.
Hire = A free download of the album
A-Team = Writers, Bloggers, Podcast Hosts, Music Reviewers, Peer Musicians…etc.
If you can help please email me: Rick@RickLeeJames.com
Cedarville University’s Department of Music and Worship has announced its annual songwriting competition. The competition is open to all current Cedarville University students, and its goal is to develop musical resources for congregational singing.
“The heart of the worship degree is to prepare students to serve the body of Christ, and this competition challenges our students to write theologically sound, musically compelling songs for congregations,” said Dr. Roger O’Neel, director of Cedarville’s worship program.
“It is our goal to give God alone the glory for the talents that he has entrusted to us as well as be good stewards and use these talents to serve the body of Christ.”
– Susan Plemons, assistant professor of worship
The worship department sought out an internationally renowned, award-winning panel of judges for the 2017 competition. The songs will be judged by Laura Story, Rick Lee James and Mark Harris, all three of whom are accomplished songwriters.
Story wrote the No. 1 worship hit “Indescribable,” which Chris Tomlin recorded in 2004, and her 2008 national debut won a Dove Award for Inspirational Album of the Year. She also earned two consecutive nominations for Female Vocalist of the Year. She serves on staff at Perimeter Church in Atlanta, Georgia, and is an artist with INO Records.
Harris is a former member of 4Him, winner of eight Dove Awards and author of 24 No. 1 hits. He joined the staff at Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas, in 2013 where he serves as lead worship pastor. His project “Walls,” by Gateway Worship, was the No. 1 album on Billboard’s Christian chart in October 2015. He will be on campus leading worship with Gateway and teaching at Cedarville University’s Worship 4:24 Conference in January 2017.
James has more than 15 years of experience in ministry as a worship leader, singer, songwriter, preacher, author and podcast host. His latest album was released March 2016 and has been featured in CCLI, CCM Magazine, Worship Leader Magazine and other national spotlights.
The contest entry deadline is Wednesday, February 15, 2017. Students must submit original songs that are intended for congregations for the competition and include an mp3 file for an audio demo as well as a pdf file of the chord chart or lead sheet. Submissions should be sent either by campus mail or electronically to Susan Plemons, assistant professor of worship (email@example.com). The winners will be announced in March and will receive $300 for first place, $200 for second place and $100 for third place.
“Soli Deo Gloria” is the motto of the music and worship department,” said Plemons. “It is our goal to give God alone the glory for the talents that he has entrusted to us as well as be good stewards and use these talents to serve the body of Christ.”
Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University is an accredited, Christ-centered, Baptist institution with an enrollment of 3,760 undergraduate, graduate, and online students in more than 100 areas of study. Founded in 1887, Cedarville is recognized nationally for its authentic Christian community, rigorous academic programs, strong graduation and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings, and leading student satisfaction ratings. For more information about the University, visit http://www.cedarville.edu.
A couple of years ago I came across a book in my local public library that literally changed the way I think about forgiveness and the mercy of God called, “Unconditional?: The Call of Jesus To Radical Forgiveness”.The author of this book was a man named Brian Zahnd. I’ve since read and re-read every book that he has written. I guess you could say that in man ways I became a disciple of Zahnd. One of the greatest honors I’ve ever had was to share an advance copy of my book, “Out of the Depths” with Brian Zahnd in order to get his thoughts on it. What I received back from him was an incredibly gracious endorsement of the book that I am so happy to share with you. I wanted to share it here with you.
There are only 6 days left to give at Kickstarter.com to help get this book published. If we can raise $290 more we will be able to print the book in hardcover. I hope you will consider pre-ordering Out of the Depths on Kickstarter.com and in turn be a part of publishing this new project.
Recently a movie called Courageous was released in select movie theaters across the country. I haven’t seen this movie but really enjoyed other films that the producers have made including “Fireproof” and “Facing the Giants.” As a believer I found these movies inspirational and they even made me very emotional. They are certainly better than the low-quality, low-budget Christian films I grew up seeing in church.
I applaud the efforts of believers to make not just films, but good films. I think quality is very important especially in the jaded culture that we live in. I play music that is definitely written from a Christian worldview and I do my very best to make it good quality even on a limited budget. I realize it’s not accessible or appealing to everyone. As much as I would like to write the music the whole world sing, I just can’t get away from my calling to write about the love of my life, God.
Obviously I wrote those lyrics to be provocative and make believers think about what God they really serve.
Many people love their country and also love God but true believer’s know God doesn’t favor one nation over another. Every life is precious to God from unborn Americans to murderous Al-Qaeda terrorists. To love the U. S. A. to the detriment of another nation is to not love God, and if we choose to love our country more than Christ then we do commit idolatry. All this is to say that I have no problem with Christians making art for other Christians. But should Christians only make art for other Christians?.
As I said before, I haven’t seen courageous yet, but some movie reviewers got me thinking about some things. All of these quotes were taken from various national reviews posted on RottenTomatoes.com:
“While the filmmaking is fairly competent, Courageous is overall worthless to anybody who doesn’t subscribe to its dogmatic agenda.”
“Courageous literally preaches to the converted, delivering ham-fisted messages of responsibility to the most receptive audience possible.”
“The many topics raised – gangs, drugs, immigration, absentee parents, poverty – are examined with didacticism and platitudes instead of by mining their inherent complexities.”
I don’t know if these reviews are fair, but they do bring up my main complaints with most “Christian”art. We don’t allow ourselves to be accessible to anyone who doesn’t already believe the way we do. We literally preach to the converted. We talk about sins and social problems without examining their roots and complexities.
Why is it that we allow Hollywood Movies, and secular writers to do the work of the church for us, and then we cast judgment on them for confronting us with the very things we should be bringing to them? The truth isn’t always sterile and lovely. Prophets in scripture were highly offensive and were never met with popularity by the religious establishment. Why does it seem like the real prophetic words addressing our culture are not words from the pulpit but words from the cinema?
A couple of years ago I sat in a movie theater watching Clint Eastwood’s masterpiece “Gran Torino” and I couldn’t stop crying as the credits rolled. All I could think of was John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. After everyone else left the cinema I found myself in a prayerful state asking God to forgive me for any racist stereotypes I may have in my heart and for not looking deeper into people’s needs, choosing only to see their faults. I saw Jesus in the outstretch arms of Clint Eastwood’s racist, profanity spewing character Walt Kowalsky. The film has many deep levels and shows us that the wages of sin is death and that violence always leads to more violence. Ultimately I saw the movie as a profound love story about a man who was clearly in the wrong about many things in life, but he becomes transformed by agape love into a selfless symbol of the cross of Christ. Some believer’s would never see this movie because of the language, and I can’t fault them for it, but I’m also not sure the movie could have been as effective without it in showing who Walt is and the world he lives in. it’s not a Christian movie but Christian spirituality and imagery is interwoven from beginning to end.
Many secular filmmakers seem to be doing our job for us in the parable department. Here’s a list of secular films with Christian messages compiled by Thom Parham at CERC.org. It’s not exhaustive and ends around 2004 but they are all critically acclaimed movies.
Chariots of Fire (1981)
Tender Mercies (1983)
Places in the Heart (1984)
The Mission (1986)
Grand Canyon (1992)
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Dead Man Walking (1996)
The Apostle (1998)
The Prince of Egypt (1998)
The Iron Giant (1999)
Jonah: A Veggie Tales Movie (2002)
About Schmidt (2002)
Changing Lanes (2002)
In America (2002)
Bruce Almighty (2003)
The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003)
The Passion of the Christ (2004)
Now here’s a list of the films made by Christians, and most are quite unwatchable. (Most but not all).
Entertaining Angels (1996)
The Omega Code (1999)
The Joyriders (1999)
Left Behind.. The Movie (2000)
Carman: The Champion (2001)
Megiddo: The Omega Code 2 (2001)
Mercy Streets (2001)
To End All Wars (2001)
Hometown Legend (2002)
Left Behind II:’ Tribulation Force (2002)
Finding Home (2003)
Parham asks a great question, “If Christians want to make successful films that incorporate their worldview, why not learn from those who are already doing it — non-Christians.”
Frank Capra, a Christian director of movies like “It’s A Wonderful Life”, was hugely successful in marketing his movies to mainstream audiences. He did a wonderful job of portraying themes of the gospel without turning his movies into a Billy Graham crusade where everyone has to say the sinner’s prayer before leaving. Art is intended to be parabolic, not blatant and Hollywood film directors understand that. A lot of Christian artists don’t seem to get that.
Aren’t the very best paintings the pieces that make you stop and consider what you are looking at? The really good ones have you grappling with meaning. They don’t leave you when you walk away from them. It’s the difference between art by Thomas Kinkade and art by Banksy. KinKade’s work is beautiful but doesn’t change your thinking. Banksy, on the other hand, grabs you by the conscience and makes you re-think your life choices. Both are art, but only one really does art’s job of inspiring an individual to think differently. One shocks while the other soothes. One impresses while the other implores. One makes you feel fuzzy and one alienates. (I mean no disrespect to Thomas Kinkade, who has more talent in his pinky that I will ever have).
All this is to say, I want to see great films, great music, and great art being made by Christians. I even want to see it made for Christians. But, I also long to see brave, true, reality based art made by Christians that can stand up to the test of time and rival it’s secular counterparts with creativity rather than preachyness. Christians serve an amazing creator and should be the most creative people on the planet.
My songs aren’t where I want them to be so I’m certainly not casting stones. I just think we could all do better. Can Christians make good art and be glorifying to God without saying Jesus name in every lyric? Let me introduce you to some people who do just that.
My friend Michael Logen is such a great singer, instrumentalist, and songwriter. I’m envious of his ability. I have always known him to be a person of great faith and a generous spirit. If you spend 5 minutes with Mike you will find he reminds you so much of Jesus you would swear he was related. Mike makes great, great music. It’s deep, beautiful, heartbreaking, and joyful. People who record his music are not people like Bill Gaither and Chris Tomlin. His music gets recorded by the likes of Kelly Clarkson and Matt Kearney and has found its way into many of the TV shows you and I watch. I think God loves his music and I know that such creativity would not exist without God supplying it to Mike.
Eric Vinson is one of the godliest and humblest people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. His heart for serving God puts me to shame. He is another songwriter that amazes me. He writes rich, beautiful harmonies and smart lyrics that really take you to another place. He also has written music you may have heard on TV has shared the stage with some of the top talents in Nashville. I wish I was more like him. His music isn’t preachy but man it’s filled with God stuff.
These are guys who get it. They make good art because God gives them a big world to write about. They see the beauty of God in a sleepless night and a Ferris Wheel. I want to be more like that. I want to make good art that glorifies God yet also engages the culture. I have a long way to go but like the verse below says:
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. — Phillipians 3: 12
Let’s keep pressing on Christians. Let’s not just make Christian art, let’s be Christians who make great art.