I am accustomed to coffeehouses, bars and clubs. As a writer, I frequent local coffeehouses to share my latest spoken word pieces, usually carrying the messages of hope for injustice and choosing to live a life that focuses on change that has eternal implications. As a member of the secular hip-hop band Elements of the Outer Realm, I also take the stage at bars and clubs in the Los Angeles area to deliver the same messages of hope and change.
Surprisingly for most, I am also a pastor at a local church in Harbor City, California.
Writing and music have always been a part of my life, even long before I chose to follow Jesus. The difference between then and now is that today I utilize my writing gift to poetically preach and musically magnify the message of Christ in environments that usually slam the door shut on the religious community. I choose to share my music and poetry in these venues, as opposed to church settings, because the people who usually gravitate toward the club scene are the very people who need to hear God’s message of love, hope and change. Without condescension, I transform the stage into my pulpit and the audience becomes the congregation. And, because my writing style is filled with imagery and metaphors, those who normally would not be caught dead inside the walls of a church easily digest the spiritually-charged poems and songs.
God has given each one of us a gift. From writing to wrestling, or from music to miming, each talent we possess has the sole purpose of blessing the overall progress of humanity. I believe that when we use these gifts outside the realm of edifying others, we fall into the perpetual downward spiral of selfishness. And because I am so passionate and spiritually driven to do what I do with the pen and microphone, I further believe that it is essential to the human story that followers of Jesus continually look for opportunities to put their gifts into practice.
I have been following Jesus for over 15 years, and one observation I have made seems to be something most new and veteran Christians share—most find it difficult to share their love for God and their faith in Jesus with others. The fear of coming off as too pushy usually becomes the silencing factor for many Christians. However, I have discovered that by utilizing natural gifts and talents to share the Gospel, the opposite effect occurs. Rather than leaving a sour taste in the mouths of my audiences, most are left with a whetted palate for deeper conversations about faith and spirituality. Although words are the driving force behind my evangelizing vehicle, using your own God-given gifts and talents can share the Gospel in a loving way, rather than shoving it down people’s throats.
Simply put, when you are doing what you love, backed by the power of God, the journey of sharing your faith becomes a lot less complicated and far from being a rehearsed speech that outlines the four steps to salvation.
With that said, as fun and as exciting as it is to evangelize in this way, I have certainly had my share of challenges. The band I play for is a mixed bunch. Although more than half of the band does follow Jesus in one way or another, a couple of the other members adhere to the Buddhist faith or polytheism. Because of barriers like this with band members and with the audiences we perform for, I have had to make an extra effort to build trust in these relationships. However, through the course of many religious discussions, trust has been built over time, and our friendship has only deepened. In addition, because of our shared journey, the Buddhist and the polytheist are more open to the message of Jesus than in previous years.
Another challenge I face when performing in different venues is the temptation to conform to my surroundings. I am constantly challenged to be light in areas of darkness and to not let the darkness consume me. Even as a pastor, and having all the theological training and spiritual experience that comes with the job, I can easily succumb to the environment if I am not careful. Prayer, being immersed in God’s Word, and daily accountability become more vital. These practices not only help in tough environments, but help bring out the simple reality that God wants to live and breathe in every single human being. We just need to let Him in.
Either way, challenges or victories, I love what I do. When I grab the microphone and jump onto the stage, there is a beautiful collision of God’s spirit and the willingness of a fallen man to be used that produces a magnetic message that even the world’s staunchest atheist would find hard to resist. –Derrick Engoy
To read or hear some of Derrick Engoy’s works you can visit www.derrickengoy.com, or keep up with his band at www.elementsoftheouterrealm.com