In Part 1 of the interview, Dr. Naima Johnston introduced herself and her passion to share her past mistakes in ministry to help aspiring artists. In Part 2 she shares how she overcame many obstacles to respond to her call to sing, and gives even more advice on finding your calling. Her new book Called To Sing: 13 Mistakes To Avoid When Starting In Music Ministry addresses issues that many artists fail to recognize as potential problems that can stunt the growth of their ministries. If you missed it click here to read Part 1 of the interview.
Dream in Soul: How do you think someone knows what their ministry calling is? How do you know if you are called to sing?
Dr. Johnston: I think that we have to pursue our healthy passion. What’s that thing that you’ve always wanted to do? What’s that problem you’ve always wanted to fix? What’s that thing that’s a burden to your soul? I think you take that and begin to pursue that passion or try to fix that problem, or work to relieve that burden.
Sometimes I think we make the call of God so deep and difficult. Like it’s this elusive thing we can’t seem to get a grip on. But I think deep down most of us know what we’re called to do, it’s implanted in us before we are born. We just need to know how the Lord would have us to live out that call. Some folks have a true burden for missions work, then it gets specific, to a particular country and they go. Some people wind up living their entire life on the mission field, some go once a year. Some folks are called to full time music ministry to travel and share with others, some are called to stay in the local church and lead worship.
Prayer… lots of prayer about the thing that you are most passionate about and then start walking in that. I truly believe if you go forward with a sincere heart and an open ear, God will correct if you’re off course.
DS: How should Christian artists regard their craft, and how do they stay focused on the task of ministry vs. industry?
Dr. Johnston: Wow, I just wrote a whole blog about that at www.naimajohnston.blogspot.com called Chasing The Dream. I had just finished reading, “No Compromise, The Keith Green Story.” That book impacted me greatly. Keith Green was one of the founding fathers of Contemporary Christian music, he died in a plane crash when he was only 28 years old. I recommend all music ministers and Christian Recording Artists read this book. He walked away from the industry when he was it’s biggest star to focus his music on a more ministry minded level – the fruit has been huge. Thousands of people have had their lives changed because of his ministry. And that’s a question artists need to ask themselves – are you doing this because you want to sing or are you doing this because you want to change lives?
If you’re doing it to change lives you’ll accept and be content with wherever the Lord leads you. We can’t all be CeCe Winans and Fred Hammond. But that does not mean our ministries are not as important or as needed. You have to do what you the Lord calls you to do, be faithful there and be happy with where He takes you.
As I get older and more mature in the Lord, industry becomes less important and ministry becomes the most important thing. People are dying and going to hell, that’s why God gave you the gift He gave you. And the saints need to be encouraged as well, and music ministry or “Christian Entertainment” plays a big role in that as well. It’s a fine line and you have to learn to walk it. Artists have to ask themselves, where is the fruit? I know the Lord told me I was going to sing to nations, and in my mind, I had a very specific idea about what that meant. Recently I learned that people were downloading my music in Japan. I’m about to send off a box of donated CDs to a ministry work in the Philippines – seems to me that’s singing to the nations. I may never be well known on earth but I’m living my dream and sharing the love of Christ with as many people as I can.
As for craft, I believe that all artists should “perfect” their craft. You should take voice lessons and study your instruments, you should practice daily and you should read books about songwriting and attend conferences, lectures and workshops. And you should find a mentor if you don’t have one. You’ve also got to practice the craft of being a Christian, prayer, church, the word! When the anointing meets a prepared vessel – watch out now!!!
DS: Do you have a favorite Bible Scripture that is your mantra, or that sustains you in difficult times?
Dr. Johnston: That changes depending on where I am at the moment, but right now it’s Psalm 32 Verse 8: :
And now with the recession and people afraid to walk into fulltime ministry I really love Psalm 37, especially verse 19: They will survive through hard times even in famine they will have more then enough!
DS: You’ve been through so much in the past few years. How have you been able to overcome it all, and what advice do you give to others to overcome their obstacles to follow their God-given dreams?
Dr. Johnston: Keep turning to Jesus and be honest with Him. He knows it all anyway. If you’re mad, doubting, upset, angry let Him know. He’s big enough to handle it, just be big enough to handle the answer. I told the Lord that I didn’t understand most of the stuff that happened, why did He let it happen and I was bitter and angry. And then He began to show me, me! All the times I ran ahead of Him without asking for wisdom, all the times I did something the way I thought it should be done, listening to so called experts! All the things in me that needed to be worked out.
There are still areas in my life I struggle with, thank God for grace! My advice is to run to the Lord in every situation, be honest and ask for the help you need and most importantly just go and get started. Ecclesiastes 11 verse 4 in the Living Bible says… If you wait for perfect conditions you’ll never get anything done! Stop waiting and get going! The world needs you!!!
Dr. Johnston is a licensed minister of the gospel through the International City of Refuge Christian Ministries. She holds a PhD in Education from The Ohio State University and preaches and teaches at various churches, women’s groups, colleges, youth, and community entities.
As an educator Dr. Johnston empowers people to accomplish their destiny and discover their purpose through seminars, workshops, life coaching, conferences and training programs that she designs.
A gifted writer, Dr. Johnston’s written work has appeared in numerous Christian magazines, anthologies, and newspapers. She is the author of Dr. Nay’s Random Recovery Life Lessons and Called To Sing: 13 Mistakes To Avoid When Starting Out In Music Ministry.