Famed Gospel singer talks non-profit, embracing insecurities...
By Tamara Young
Gospel singer Jonathan McReynolds has the voice of an angel. But that’s not all that he’s up to. The Grammy-nominated artist has started Elihu, a non-profit created to expose a generation to the wisdom of God. The organization seeks to celebrate, promote, and work to create young seekers and models of wisdom.
JET sat down with Jonathan to talk about his new 501c3 organization and what he hopes to achieve in the lives of college students of faith.
JET: How did you come up with the concept for Elihu Nation?
Jonathan McReynolds: I was studying for an assignment in college for my master’s degree in Biblical Studies. We were studying Job among other books in the old testament and literally, when I read Job 32:9, I stopped! It says, “It is not only the old who are wise, not only the aged who understand what is right.” The writer goes on for a few chapters declaring what he believed about God and what he believed about Job’s situation. I thought it was amazing! Being someone who is young, I have always felt like I had something to say, but I didn’t always feel free enough to say it. So I got very excited when reading this verse and about Elihu’s overall response to Job! There’s so much at this point in my life that has been pinned up! So many questions, so many things to say, so many approaches to life, and suggestions that I have now that I didn’t feel free enough to say.
I realized at that moment that not only am I feeling like this, but there are a lot of young people from all around the world who may be thinking to themselves, “No one talks to us. No one listens to us…” They care about our contribution to church, they care about our talent and our tithes. But, they don’t actually care about us or what we know and think about this Christian life. So over time, the idea of Elihu Nation started to grow and evolve. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it at first. I just knew that Elihu was a very intriguing character, and I knew that a lot of people feel just like him. The question I was asking myself was, how can I introduce this guy as a way to empower young people to not just be young people – but to actually rise above what maybe society and even church tells them they can be and do? That’s what this organization is all about! It’s about celebrating, promoting and creating young seekers and carriers of Godly wisdom.
JET: You do so much already between music and teaching. Will you be spearheading this company? If so, what will that look like for you?
Jonathan McReynolds: Well, we have a board of incredible educators and incredible people in the community who are really spearheading this. Of course its my idea, but I’ve been so busy that I didn’t want to take the helm completely—not the execution part of it at least—just the vision part of it. In the future, we want to be able to gather possible Elihus. I think that’s the most important part for us right now—identifying who cares enough. Who cares enough about actually being a deep Christian? Not everybody does. And by “deep Christian” I just literally mean being converted and having a transformed mind.
JET: There’s a scholarship component to Elihu Nation. Who is eligible?
Jonathan McReynolds: Scholarships will be for anyone who is looking to directly use their gifts and their education for the purposes of the Kingdom and the local church. That’s what I was doing while I was in college. Maybe I didn’t know what I was doing in the beginning, but by junior/senior year, I knew that this was the Kingdom I wanted to represent. I want people who are in college trying to figure things out, and who may be asking “Does anybody care that we’re here, and that we’re trying to bring something new to gospel music or something fresh to the church?” I want them to know that Elihu Nation cares!
JET: How have you pushed through your own insecurities and fears so that you can freely be yourself and do what you believe God has called you to do?
Jonathan McReynolds: People think that insecurities and flaws impede your ministry when in actuality, they are your ministry. So if you’re insecure, write about it. Let that lead. Because I’ll tell you, I keep going places and singing about how many pimples I have and people keep saying, “You’re so confident.” I’m like, did they not listen to the song I just finished singing? Really, if you look at the Elihu mascot, that’s who I feel like I am! I feel like a 5 or 6, not fat, but definitely not lean or anything with glasses and I feel like I’m just kind of stumbling around.
When I look at myself on TV, I’m like man…I’m skinnier, taller and a lot cooler than I feel! That time when I tripped, it didn’t even look that bad. That time when I messed up the words, nobody noticed. You realize when you get up there with all of those insecurities, that you’re actually doing exactly what God wanted you to do. All the things that he created, all of the mountains and all of the plants are all asymmetrical. Every river is crooked, every mountain is jagged. The stuff that God did looks imperfect. That’s what God does. The stuff that we do, we try to make flawless. So, when I’m asked how do you tell others to put their insecurities away so they can get on stage and be bold, I say-don’t! Get up there with your insecurities! Do it scared! You’re never going to get over it. Insecurities are only going to get magnified, so do it anyway.