Friday, 27 November 2020

I Interviews

Interview: Jeff Slaughter

Few performers can do a little bit of everything and achieve success while doing it. Prime example; Jeff Slaughter. His passion as a singer/song writer inspired 46 million worshipers worldwide to sing his songs. Speaking of singing, as a performer, he has been linked with such names as Conway Twitty, Faith Hill and Loretta Lynn. That’s not exactly the bottom of the Country music chain, yet, perhaps his greatest and most fulfilling accomplishment has arisen from the last 26 years as a youth minister. What exactly does he do in that capacity? “Laughing, singing, dancing and worshiping! I love to help kids understand what a miracle it is that God made our voices to sing! When we choose to sing praise in the middle our own battles, we win! I have learned that lesson throughout my life and I want to do all I can to pass that on to this generation!”


Learning this lesson came at a high price for Slaughter, and he shares those moments of personal heartache in his first book, It’s All True. He doesn’t share for the sake of pity or sensationalism, but as a testimony to the sustaining grace of God, and to tell of the songs that were born from those tragedies. “It’s All True reveals both the tragedy and triumph of Jeff Slaughter’s life.” Here is his story.

MN-Up until the release of It’s All True, you have used your writing talent to pen songs, performed by yourself and others. How hard was it to cross over and write a book, or is it generally the same as writing a song?
 
JS-Haha! Writing this book was one of the hardest things I've ever done! Most of the difficulty was due to the deadline we were under. After I signed the contract in October of 2012, the publisher (Sky Horse) wanted the book to release in May of 2013 so that it would be available as I toured with my VBS curriculum through the summer. I'm used to expressing my feelings in a three minute song that poetically tells a story. I use various rhyme schemes, alliteration, and other grammatical tools that allow the lyrics to flow effortlessly from the tongue. The challenge is capturing the emotions you want to convey in such a short time. Writing a book, especially an autobiographical one, allows you a much wider landscape to tell the story; however, it requires you to go to a much more vulnerable, raw place emotionally as you reveal the intimate details which allow the reader to actually visualize the story. I've said many times, Randy and I laughed til we cried and cried til we were sick as we walked through these stories together.

MN-Prior to reading your book, I read numerous reviews and have to agree with one line that came up frequently; “A gifted storyteller.” Does this come naturally for you or was it something that developed while writing It’s All True?

JS-I come from a family of amazing storytellers! I grew up listening to my mama and her siblings sitting around the dining room table at my grandparent's' home telling stories for hours after a BIG, southern, Sunday lunch. We've all heard the stories so many times, we can tell each other's stories verbatim; but, because of the WAY they're told, you never get tired of hearing them. There is a definite "art" to it and I am grateful to have gotten trained by some "masters"!

MN-I lost my stepfather of 22 years last month after being his caregiver for eight years, so reading of your experiences when both of your parents passed was very interesting and a bonding moment of sorts for me. I found that being with my stepfather when he passed was a very spiritual experience. He was ready and he knew where he was going, so there was no fear. Would you agree that among the memories of your bedside vigil with your parents is the one that feels sacred and spiritual for you, as well?
 
JS- Most definitely! I believe that when someone is born into this world or when they leave it, those who are standing by watching get to touch a split second of eternity. I am grateful the Lord allowed me to watch both of my parents take their last breaths. Though it was excruciating, it was beautiful at the same time. I could "feel" their spirits leave. Also, an hour or so before each of them passed they actually saw loved ones who had gone before. They looked up and their faces lit up with joy as they began to call out the names of those loved ones. I knew it was the "great cloud of witnesses" welcoming them home. My daddy died in '03 and my mama in '09. Right before Mama passed she looked up and a huge smile came across her face as she said, "Daddy", which is what she called my father, and she went on to call other names as well. For me, it was a comfort...and it gave me the grace to let go.

MN-It takes a special and unique and slightly crazy (in a good way!) person to minister to children. You have been a youth minister for, count it, over a quarter of a century. Admit it, you have fun, right? It’s not all work and kids are amazing to minister to and you always get something in return from the interaction, wouldn’t you agree?

JS- FOR SURE!! I always tell kids that when I lead worship for them, they are actually lead ME! The Bible says we will not see the Kingdom unless we come to Him with the heart of a child. They constantly remind me of that fact. When I look out over the crowd and see the energy, the innocence and the extravagance they worship with, I can feel the Lord saying, "That's what I want from you." That's why I love to dance with them, laugh with them, cry with them and worship with them. They help me to not take myself so seriously, to not sweat the small stuff, and truly "enjoy" the Lord! Like the Westminster Confession states, "We were created to bring glory to the Lord and to enjoy Him forever!"

MN-“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched-they must be felt with the heart.” You quote Helen Keller while sharing Mallorie’s story, but I wanted to ask regarding your life, what is a “best and beautiful moment” you have felt with your heart recently?
 
JS-On October 20th, my mama's baby sister, Linda, passed away after a seven year battle with cancer. She was an incredible musician who I looked up to all my life. I can remember watching her play the piano and sing when I was a little boy and thinking, "I'm gonna do that one day." Because of this musical connection we always shared a special closeness and she played a huge part in me doing what I do today. The week before she died, I went to see her. She had been completely bedridden for six months, the tumors in her brain had caused her to go blind and the full brain radiation she had undergone a year earlier had stolen almost all the the amazingly vibrant, beautiful, charismatic personality she exuded throughout her life. She spoke only when spoken to. I laid on the bed next to her hospital bed in her bedroom and began telling her some funny stories. Hey eyes were closed and a weak smile came across her face. Before I left, I said, "Hey, let's sing something together." I began to sing her favorite hymn "Blessed Assurance." She immediately began to sing with me. The home health nurse gasped. "She hasn't sung in weeks," she whispered to me. We finished the first verse and I thought we were done...until she started back up..."Perfect submission, all is at rest..." We went through the second verse. When we finished, she got a puzzled look on her face, her eyes still closed. But, then, that sweet smile came back and she simply began to hum the third verse. I said, "Your right, we don't need words...humming works just as good. The Lord knows!" I knew that was the last time I was going to see her on this earth and I wanted that to be the last thing we did together. She always taught me about the power of music and singing and in that last visit, once again she showed me how you can press through pain with praise.

MN-You wrote candidly of the anxiety and anticipation you experienced when you left LifeWay Christian Resources after being with them for sixteen years. A lot of readers will be able to relate simply because they are losing their jobs, or having to make career changes now due to an unstable economy. Now that you have come through the experience, what is the best advice you can offer for someone being forced to jump into the unknown?

JS-The Lord is ALWAYS working for our good! That is His promise. His Word is true! It does not return void! If He leads us away FROM one thing, it's because He is leading us TO the next place He has established for us. He orders our steps. He tells us to "stay in the day", not to worry about next week, next month, or five years from now. If we will keep our eyes focused on Him, we can "step out of the boat and walk on the water with Him." If we let the circumstances around us distract us with fear and doubt, we will begin to sink just like Peter did. We must daily cast our cares on Him, talk to Him, and stay committed to His Word. On this side of that experience, I can truly say it was worth it all to know what I know now. I have another book's worth of stories of miracles that demonstrate His great faithfulness.

 MN-You are passionate about music and teaching others-especially young people-the importance of music in worship. If every song ever written was taken away, and your memory could only recall one song, what is the one song that you could sing every day for the rest of your life, and feel that connection of worship with God?

JS-That's a tough one. The first song that comes to mind is the hymn "I Need Thee Every Hour." I've played and sang it all my life. I've sung it at weddings, I've sung it at funerals. There's no telling how many times I've sung it and it never gets old. It always draws a tear to my eye and pulls my heart into a sweet, intimate, secret place with my Father.

Author Bio- Jeff Slaughter is a multiplatinum recording artist and world-renowned worship leader who has worked with some of the biggest stars in country music, including Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Kenny Rogers, Suzy Bogguss, and Faith Hill. He was enlisted by LifeWay-the world’s largest provider of Christian resources-to be the songwriter of their Vacation Bible School curriculum for sixteen years. In 2012, he began a partnership with Brentwood Benson Publications (a Capital CMG company). He lives in Nashville, Tennessee.
 
You can connect with Jeff Slaughter through his website, on Facebook, Twitter and via email. You can also order a copy of It’s All True as well as his new CD, Under God, through his website.

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