Randy Stonehill, known as one of the fathers of contemporary Christian music, will be performing Sunday at Union Chapel Missionary Church.
Stonehill, currently on tour with his newest album “Spirit Walk,” did not set out to be a Christian music artist. In 1970, he moved from his hometown of San Jose, Calif., to Los Angeles with the goal of being a rock star. Instead, he encountered Christ and his life took a drastically different turn.
His first album, “Born Twice,” came out in 1971. In the 41 years since, Stonehill has released 23 other albums, including “Welcome to Paradise” which the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music referred to as, “what is unanimously regarded as one of the greatest Christian albums of all time.”
Stonehill has also been nominated and won a variety of awards. In 1978, he was nominated, along with the late Christian music artist Keith Green, for a Dove Award for a song they co-wrote, “Until Your Love Broke Through.” In 1985, he was nominated for a Grammy along with popular Christian music artist Amy Grant for their duet, “I Could Never Say Good-bye.” In 1998, he, along with other music artists, won a Dove Award for best children’s music album, “Sing Me to Sleep, Daddy.”
In 2010, Stonehill was inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame.
“It was a very touching and unexpected surprise because you just do what God has called you to do year after year,” he said. “Then, an honor like that reminds you that by God’s grace your work has had an impact on the culture. That’s not something you can plan.”
Stonehill’s current tour began on Sept. 20, 2011, and will go through the end of 2012.
“It looks like we won’t come up for air until Christmas,” he said. “The tour started in Canada. Then we went to Holland and the Dominican Republic. Then we went to Australia and New Zealand where I got to do concerts with Casting Crowns, which was great. Now we are bouncing all over the United States.”
Stonehill includes his wife of two years, Leslie, in his travels. “We decided back in February 2011 that we would always travel together,” he said. “It’s wonderful. I believe the Lord has truly knit us together as a special team.”
Leslie Stonehill does not just travel with Stonehill, but she also helps him in practical ways.
“She wears a lot of hats,” he explained. “She is my road manager and my prayer partner. I fondly refer to her as my Queen of Concessions.”
Eric Nichols, staff announcer at WTGN, had the idea of bringing Stonehill to Lima.
“I was a huge fan of the late Keith Green and that genre of music. Through a connection with a pastor in Columbus we were able to expand the vision of bringing bigger name artists to Lima,” he said.
Stonehill, who generally has around 10 concerts each month, has 16 scheduled appearances in August.
When asked why he was coming to a small church in Lima to perform, he said, “My wife and I just enjoy the liberty of going where the Lord opens the doors. I learned long ago never to second guess God. The key element — inviting the Lord to be squarely in the middle of whatever He allows — that is what gives it value.”
Stonehill is both thankful and humble about his role in contemporary Christian music.
“It’s nothing I planned consciously,” he said. “I take it as a great honor that God allowed me to have a place on the ground floor of a whole new musical and spiritual movement. God used our music to take the timeless message of the Gospel to the streets.”
Over the years, Stonehill has watched as Christian music has evolved.
“The good news is that God has grown the whole musical field,” he said. “It is a lot more stylistically diverse than it was in the beginning. There is something for everyone — rap, metal, acoustic, worship — and that is so cool.”
Although his most popular song is “Shut De Do,” a simple tune that sounds like a Caribbean folk song, his personal favorite is “King of Hearts.”
“My personal favorite is usually whatever song I just finished writing, but regarding a collective picture of my work, my favorite is ‘King of Hearts,’” he said. “I still end the majority of my concerts with that song. It’s always a personal worship experience for me up on the stage.”
Stonehill, who said the longest break he has taken from writing, recording and performing is 19 days, is now 60, but he doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon.
“My wife and I joke that we are on a never-ending tour. I love what I do. It’s so rewarding in two ways,” he said. “First, when you have the sense on stage that God is breathing on that moment, and then when I come off stage and to have someone say that God spoke to them through one of my songs, that’s humbling and amazing. I never tire of it.”
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