T-Bone GMA 2005
After two Grammy Nominations you would expect T-Bone to be a little arrogant, he turned out to be very casual and upbeat, very easy to talk with and very open, but very serious about preaching the gospel. In speaking with him, he openly shared about the hiatus he took from public ministry because he felt like he had begun to get caught up in the industry. He said at one point around 1998, he decided to step out because in the industry it was beginning to be all about who’s doing the better show, who’s selling the most records, etc. Being who he was, frank and very blunt, he decided that wasn’t what he got into the business for. He acknowledged most artists wouldn’t have done what he did because it was their livelihood and they needed to feed their families, but he said, “I’m out of here”. He went back to his pastor and sat under his teaching and also spent a lot of time talking with Carmen, another Christian artist who loves to minister. He told God that he had left the Christian music industry and that he was done. He told God that if He ever called him back, he’d go back. God took him to a different place. T-bone had always been into ministry, but then decided he didn’t just want to do concerts, but wanted to see people saved. He wanted to see miracles, see people healed. He wanted to see whole gangs find the Lord. He wanted to see people who were about to shoot each other, get saved, and embrace one another. T-bone spoke about the lack of accountability within the Christian music industry. Whenever someone is on stage, they look happy and are smiling. You never see them sad or unhappy. Therefore, others don’t think they need prayers, because it looks like they have everything going for them. But the reality is, artists go through a lot of stuff. They have pain. They cry. They’re human. After 3 years, T-bone’s finances went from $150,000 to nearly zero. He had about $800 left in the bank, not enough to even pay the rent. He didn’t have enough to get a haircut. He was with his fiancé and he told her he didn’t have enough money to even get married. He told her, “Let’s pray”. He got on his knees, started crying and told God, “Take everything. Strip me of my home. Strip me of my cars. Strip me of everything. Make me a homeless person on the street with nothing and that way I can show you I will serve you.” T-bone said it was easy to serve God when you’re on top, but not so easy when you’re struggling, when you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, when you don’t know how you’re going to pay the rent. He told God to send him back to 24th and Mission, in the middle of the projects where he grew up. He told God he would preach the gospel with a bullhorn like he did when he first started in the ministry. God saw his heart and decided he could trust T-bone and that’s when God called him back into the music ministry. The next day, T-bone got a call and the people told him they were supposed to bless him and they gave him a couple of thousand dollars. Since then it’s quadrupled. At the time, he didn’t own a house, and now he owns five. God has been blessing and blessing. He put T-bone with Mark Stuart of Audio Adrenaline and they became partners of a record label. Then God restarted his music ministry. He ministers to other folks in the industry and shares a lot with Mark Stuart, so much so that Mark says, “T-bone’s almost like my pastor.” T-bone’s is trying to help Christian artists, who are lost. He says some try to use the gift that God’s given them and prostitute that gift. They use that gift as a foothold into the industry and prostitute Christian music to get to where they want to go to get into secular ministry. He tries to show them that God will not bless them with that attitude T-bone says, “I’m one of the last true soul winners. I do an altar call every night. What’s the point if all we do is entertain?” He continues, “I could be a big star. You can’t talk about what you’ve never done. I was offered lots of money and a big part in a movie, but when I read the script and saw all the foul language, I turned it down. I’d rather go God’s way. I’m a fun guy, but I don’t play games. The reason I’m doing this is because I saw one of my best friends shot and killed; one shot in the chest and one shot in his back. My sister was hooked on all kinds if drugs. I’ve seen family and friends prostituting their bodies. I’ve told people that when we’re doing these shows and you have 15,000 in the crowd and you don’t share the gospel, you’re a selfish Christian. You’re saying, ‘I’ve got the answer, but I’m not going to tell you. You’re basically saying ‘you can go to hell’. It’s like we’re out on a ship and you see others drowning and you have the life jackets, but you won’t throw them to them. You just sit and watch them drown. T-bone finished our interview by saying that there are a lot of people who say they’re planting seeds, but he says that if you don’t lead them to the Lord, you’re letting them drown. If just a seed is planted today and God calls them tomorrow, they’re lost. He says we need to pull the lost in right now.He surprised those within hearing distance when he said he would do country music if it would save more souls. This reporter found T-bone to be a dedicated, responsible Christian artist who is open to ministry where and when God calls and in whatever format God stipulates.
By: Linda Brown
Michael Cook GMA 2005
Coming from Canada to the United States was only one of the major journeys Michael Cook has made in his life. Leaving a fulltime music ministry in a church he helped start in Indianapolis to enter fulltime into the Christian music recording industry has been an even greater on-going journey. For this married young artist, he says the biggest challenge was leaving his job at the church and leaving his wife at home to work fulltime so he could go out and make pennies.
This journey began in 2003 after Jaci Valesquez heard him, liked his music, and asked him to tour with her. He had previously worked independently; singing regionally and cutting two CDs.
Michael believes that humility is the key to keeping grounded in this business. He says it’s so easy to get caught up in how many records are being sold or how much radio coverage his songs are getting. He has told his people he doesn’t want to see those reports. He wants to focus on the ministry aspect, not the business aspect.
He wants to go out each time fresh, knowing that although he’s singing the same songs, the people in the audience are hearing them for the first time. He wants his music to connect with the people and for them to get to know him. He wants to keep things more real and in perspective.
Michael believes his music is a tool which God can use to show people that it’s okay to talk about their problems and struggles. His unique personal human experience comes out in his songs; struggling with faith, the good times, and the bad times. All are part of his journey. He says it’s so difficult because even in the church, people put on masks, get dressed up, go and play church. He emphasizes how church is like a hospital where people need to come broken to receive healing. He believes Christians need to be honest with God and those around them.
Listening to Christian music while growing up wasn’t something Michael was into and he says he really doesn’t know what other Christian artists hope to convey with their music. One Christian artist, Rich Mullins, who he’d seen in concert, really impressed him and by the time the concert was over, Michael felt like he knew Rich. He decided then that if he ever had the opportunity to work in the music industry, he’s like to pattern himself after Rich. He’d seen that people left Rich’s concerts in meditative moods.
The one thing Michael wants people to take away from his concerts, is that regardless of the struggles and challenges each one has gone through, each needs to know that God’s love is faithful. He says if we know we are loved by God, it can change our identity. It changes our need to be defined by something other than that.
Knowing God loves us keeps us from trying to find out who we are through quick fixes. Even seemingly good things can ultimately become bad if our ideas are out of focus. Working on a church committee is a good thing, but when it becomes obsessive, then it becomes a bad thing.
Michael says, “I’m real. There are no pretenses. I want to encourage listeners who’ve made mistakes, to learn from them.”
Michael continued his amazing journey in 2006 by ministering and touring with the group, Grand Prize. He and his wife, also, traveled to the Ukraine where they enjoyed working with an organization which strives for pro-social justice. Because there is little money available to the people and some already have several children, oftentimes, abortion is used for birth control. They work with the mothers, counseling them; striving to show the sanctity of life, and dealing with major health concerns which follow abortions. American doctors volunteer for this and they, also, assist with the numerous disabled children.
One major issue Michael spoke about was the numerous adoptive children available in that area. If an American couple wishes to adopt a child from Russia, it often costs $20,000, but a child from the Ukraine can be adopted by paying expenses of about $4-5000 after purchasing a filing document which costs $125.
By: Linda Brown