NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–When Annointed, one of Christian music’s most popular groups, ministers in predominately white congregations, the irony isn’t lost on group member Da’dra Crawford.
“My grandparents couldn’t even walk through the front doors of these churches, and now, not only do my brothers and sisters walk into the church, we’re actually invited to be on stage and to minister to people,” Crawford said.
Over the past 10 years, Crawford, and her brother and sister, Steve and Denise Walls, have not only ministered to thousands of Christians, but they’ve scored two Grammy nominations, four Dove Awards and more chart-topping singles than they can remember. And in a subtle way, they’ve managed to talk about an issue that isn’t widely discussed in the body of Christ — race relations.
“I think the music we sing has helped in racial reconciliation,” Crawford said during a recent stop on their national tour. “And I think we’ve come a tremendously long way within the church, but we still have a long way to go.
“The mere fact that Annointed could sing in the churches we’re singing in says we’ve come a long way,” she said.
Their ministry to bring people of all colors together started shortly after the siblings began singing in Annointed. “There was a pastor and he began to pray for us,” Crawford recounted. “He told us that he felt the Lord was going to use the group to bring about racial reconciliation within the body of Christ in a way we haven’t seen before.”
And nearly 10 years later, Crawford said she is beginning to understand what that minister was talking about. “There was a radio personality who came to a concert several years ago and at intermission he came backstage repentant and in tears because he had refused to play our music because we were African Americans. After experiencing the ministry that night, he personally came back to apologize because he felt the power of God’s Spirit while we were ministering,” she said.
But there have also been some difficult times, like the Christian radio stations that would only play “white” Christian music or the incident that happened to her brother Steve just a few months ago.
“It’s difficult for him to walk in a store without a security guard following him around, or the time just recently when he was jogging through a parking lot and cop cars came out of nowhere and chased him down. They figured he was black and running so he must have been doing something wrong,” Crawford recalled.
Those are the times when she said they’ve had to depend on the Lord for strength and forgiveness.
“You’re always tempted to be upset and angry, and really there are no words to describe how disgraceful and humiliating it is to be treated badly because of the color of your skin,” she said. “And it hurts even more when it comes from fellow believers.
“But our parents always taught us that we never had a right to respond in a manner unfit for a Christian — no matter what,” she said.
So when those times come, Crawford said she prays. “I want to please the Lord in every area of my life,” she said. “And I ask the Lord to show me how to respond. The Scripture says we should bless our enemies.”
Still, Crawford said she is excited about the bridges being made through Christian music to reach out to all races. “That’s what it’s going to be like in heaven, you know,” she said.
“I’ve noticed a great change in the Gospel Music Association since we’ve been in the industry. When we started, you didn’t see a worship service being led by Fred Hammond and Michael W. Smith on the same stage. Now, there’s so much variety,” she said.
As far as musical styles, Crawford said more and more people are beginning to listen to gospel music. “We want to continue to tear down the barriers with gospel and contemporary Christian music and we’ve been able to accomplish a lot of that,” she said. “Many people told us that it would be impossible to do.”
Many Christians have a tendency to limit themselves when it comes to music, Crawford said. “The body of Christ has so many wonderful ministries,” she said. “God didn’t make everybody the same way. We limit ourselves by not exposing ourselves to the variety that God has placed in his garden.”
As for Annointed, Crawford said she continues to be amazed at what God in doing through the ministry. “The reason why we got into this was to take the talents and gifts God gave us and use them to present music that is edifying, uplifting and encouraging, and to win souls for Christ and to challenge believers to grow even more in the Lord,” she said. “And that is still our goal.”