By: Steve Wildsmith
When Christian rocker Jeremy Camp came to the end of his contract with BEC Recordings, the label he’d been with since his 2002 album “Stay,” he thought long and hard about how — and whether — to move forward.
In the end, he turned to the ultimate arbiter of all of his life decisions.
“I prayed and asked the Lord what the next step was,” said Camp, who brings his “I Will Follow” tour to Chilhowee Hills Baptist Church in Knoxville next Wednesday. “I could have kept doing music, but I wanted to make sure the Lord was leading me and every single step. And once I felt reassured, the songs came so quickly and in such a good way. I had such a clear-cut vision on this record — creatively, vocally and for the next step in my life, and I was able to step out more than ever.”
As a result, “I Will Follow,” released last year, is a bolder, more muscular effort than his previous albums. He’s never been one to waver in his faith, but on “I Will Follow,” he showcases it with a renewed vigor that’s grounded in fist-pumping anthems like the title track to the tribal rhythms of “Can’t Be Moved” to the chest-thumping jubilation of “Only In You.” Camp has always celebrated his spirituality, but on “I Will Follow,” he champions it.
“I wasn’t writing for anything other than what God was laying on my heart,” he said. “I’ve always done that. I think honestly, it’s pretty simple for me. When I first started doing music, I felt God called me to be a minister of the gospel. I studied at a bible college, and I wanted to be a minister and go out and share my heart and God’s word with people. When God opened the door to music, that made me a minster of the gospel wrapped up in music. Why it comes out so naturally is that God has given me a platform to minister his word and who he is.”
And the world has taken notice: Over the past 14 years, he’s sold more than 4 million albums, won five Dove Awards and been nominated for three American Music Awards and one Grammy. He’s also an ordained minister, and he’s maintained his faith through unimaginable tragedy: When he was 23, his first wife, Melissa, died of cancer. His example, which he credits to God, has inspired countless others over the years.
“The only way I got through it was honestly just understanding that even in my weakness, he is strong,” Camp said. “God’s word was the biggest comfort for me, and even when I didn’t feel like reading, scripture would pop in — ‘trust in the Lord with all your heart.’ Not just part of it; all of it. ‘Lean not on your own understanding, but acknowledge him in every part of your ways, and he will lead the path.’
“That continued to pursue me, even when I was upset or bitter, and I did have some bitterness in my heart. He pursued me with his love, and I’m so thankful that I was dependent on the great faith I had. And I’m thankful I still hear stories about what God did through that.”
Today, he’s married again, and he and his wife, Adrienne, have three children. And, he added, God continues to give him strength, especially in troubled times — he and his wife publicly discussed a 2009 miscarriage, and as the political and pop culture climate grows more visceral, he relies on that strength again when he looks out and sees that faith is a slowly withering vine in the lives of many. He sees people — Christians and non-believers alike, he added — on a spiritual starvation diet, and many of them don’t even realize it. Complacency, he said, is the enemy of the faithful, and he sees part of his mission to help encourage and bring about a great awakening.
“People are inundated with over-stimulation; they’re constantly in a barrage of their minds being fixed on something else,” he said. “There’s no state of urgency in a lot of people because they’re fine — they have all the things that comfort them artificially. They have their devices to run to, and what’s sad is that many of those people don’t even recognize it. But then you have people poking their heads out of the cloud and going, ‘Oh my goodness, I was just kind of asleep.’
“I think that for me, what it’s made me do is press them more. It’s harder sometimes, because my flesh says take it easy, because we’ve been working hard for years. But these times when I get in front of people and minister his word, I do it because God says, ‘I want you to press even harder.’ It’s called counting the cost through Christ.”
This article was first published in The Daily Times. INSPIRED was granted permission to republish.