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Rock gospel singer ‘sells out,’ encourages teens to do the same

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Rebecca St. James isn’t hesitant to describe herself as a “radical.” She’s proud of it.
But her “in your face” musical style isn’t steering teenagers toward drugs, sex or rock ‘n roll. It points them to God.

“I’ve always had a focus on being very biblical in my music,” the 19-year-old Australian native and current resident of Franklin, Tenn., said in an interview. “It’s very straight ahead, very ‘in your face’ about what the Bible says about how to live. And God has convicted me to stay that way, to always be challenging and encouraging others to live a radical Christian life.”

St. James’ direct nature even impacted the name of her current album, boldly titled: “God.” Only her second major musical release, it was recently nominated for a Grammy Award for best rock gospel album by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. She wrote eight of the 11 songs on the album, addressing themes such as obedience, servanthood, prayer and the consequences of sin.

She also was a major player in the Baptist Sunday School Board’s newly revamped Vacation Bible School materials for youth. She hosts the “Saddle Up! For the Adventure of Your Life” video, which supports the daily VBS Bible studies. She also wrote an article for the “Saddle Up!” student newspaper which will be used by class members.

“I really appreciated the opportunity to be part of this ministry,” St. James, a member of First Baptist Church, Franklin, said of the VBS project. “Bible study is so important. I couldn’t do anything that I do without having that daily time with God.”

Richard Barnes, manager of the youth biblical studies section of the BSSB’s Bible teaching-reaching division, said he was “thrilled to have Rebecca as part of this project. She relates so well to her generation. I know teenagers will be impacted by her involvement.”

Barnes said the BSSB expects approximately 160,000 teens to use the new VBS materials for small-group Bible study later this year.

That’s good news to St. James, who also has written a best-selling devotional book aimed at getting teens to “dig into the Bible.” “40 Days With God: A Devotional Journey” topped Bookstore Journal’s Christian best-seller’s list last year and includes Scripture passages, sections from St. James’ personal journal, lyrics from her albums, “scrapbook photos” and an “AudioVision CD” which features three music videos, five songs and several short interviews.

“Someone asked me once, ‘What does 40 days signify?’ Well, they say it takes 30 days to make a habit, so if you make it for 40, you’re doing pretty good. But more than that, Jesus was tested for 40 days out in the desert before he really even started his ministry. So, it’s there to help teenagers get into the Bible during times when they are tested themselves.”

St. James knows firsthand about tests. Born in Australia, she moved with her family to America in 1991 after her father, a Christian concert promoter Down Under, was offered a job here. But shortly after arriving in the States, the job fell through.

“We all had to pitch in, cleaning houses, mowing lawns, baby-sitting. It not only put food on the table, but it taught us the secret of life: It’s all about giving of yourself,” St. James recalled.

And that’s exactly what she’s been doing in recent years — giving of herself to help reach her peers for Christ.

In concert, she’s fond of telling the story of Shadrach,
Meshach and Abednego, who were saved from death in the fiery furnace because they refused to bow to idols. She challenges audiences with a similar vision for her own generation.

“So many are bowing down to false gods — drugs, sex, materialism. But you and I need to be totally sold out to God. We’re like this,” she exclaims, throwing back her head and raising hands heavenward. “We will not bow.”

With her recent award nominations and media exposure — late last year “Christianity Today” named her one of the top 50 evangelical leaders 40 and under — St. James is aware of the temptations which may come her way. But she isn’t worried about the pitfalls of fame.

“It’s not a scary thing to me. I’ve had to trust God from the very beginning to even do this. It’s in God’s hands.”
She’ll just keep focusing on her No. 1 message to teens:
“The Christian life is the only way to go. To serve God and live for him is the most exciting, most fulfilling adventure anyone can imagine.”

    About the Author

  • Chip Alford