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About Jason

“When I’m willing to work out of my weakness, there are more chances for God to show up and for the unexpected to happen.  My strengths–which are really quite modest–are limited to me, but with my weaknesses, the possibilities are boundless.” –Jason Gray

If we can agree with the fashion industry that “pink is the new black,” and “orange is the new pink,” then maybe it’s not such a stretch to suggest that “pop is the new punk.” At least the label seems to fit when you’re referencing an artist like Jason Gray.

The real difference being that while punk outspokenly aligned itself against established political power, Jason’s rebellion plays out more quietly as a disarming ability to utterly disregard the power that shame holds over most of us, in light of the grace that’s offered to those who acknowledge their brokenness. At its core, Jason’s understated songwriting seems to be about redefining what true strength really is, and if his songs have anything to tell us, it’s probably that “Weakness is the new strength.”

While his work has garnered gushing critical accolades, it wasn’t primarily the literate craftsmanship of his songs that drew the immediate respect of his peers and a solid fanbase to him. It was, rather, Jason’s candor, his transparency, his willingness to expose his own weaknesses night after night that created an inexplicable bond with audiences and prompted Centricity Music to sign him in 2006. When a guy who grew up as a chronic stutterer in an abusive home takes the mic and obviously cares more about loving you than about what you think of him, you know something’s up.

Gray’s discography over his career is a logical progression from his earlier indie efforts to his recent ambitious outings that find him skillfully marrying his trademark deft lyrical expressions to smooth pop melodies and a disarming passion in a way that places him somehow simultaneously in multiple camps, instantly begging comparisons to a Brandon Heath on the one hand, and a Mark Heard or a Rich Mullins on the other. For his part, Jason is content to leave the genre-parsing to others, in favor of his more pressing agendas.

“There is constant pressure in our entertainment oriented culture to be amazing and impressive,” Jason says, “to wow audiences with gimmicks, to get on the charts.  I wrestle against that because it can be a heart killer and completely irrelevant to God’s calling in my life.  I’d rather be real than impressive.”

Jason’s music chimes with a sense of exuberance and surrender, with a hard-won joy that can’t easily be shaken since it rises inexplicably from every point of defeat.  Jason’s music tries to assure us that we aren’t alone. We might be broken, but we’re a community of the broken, bearing one another’s burdens. Or, as Henri Nouwen puts it, we’re all “wounded healers,” a label Jason embraces as much onstage as he does in his relationships with his wife and three sons.

“To the dismay of some people I operate with pretty much full-disclosure,” Jason explains. “If I’m struggling with something, you’re probably going to hear about it whether you want to or not. Perfect people don’t need grace, only broken people do.  When I come clean about my brokenness, others catch glimpses of how the real grace of a real God works in the messy life of a real person.  So I share a lot of stories about where I’ve encountered God’s grace – where He meets me at my deepest points of need. It’s my hope that seeing God’s grace in my life will help others see it as a possibility in their own lives.”

“I’m actually grateful now,” Jason says, “that my speech handicap never afforded me the option of masking my weakness behind an illusion of competency.  Whenever I opened my mouth, there it was for all to see… something was clearly wrong with Jason.  I couldn’t fool others or myself.  I think the best thing that can happen to us is to be ‘found out’ for all that we are, our religious and human pretenses stripped away to reveal our sin, pettiness, and weakness.  Then we can devote our energies to better endeavors than the constant masquerade of sufficiency.  The added benefit is that people are able to see how God’s grace works in a real person’s life.  When we come clean about our brokenness, Christ becomes the star of our testimony and not us.”

The combination of Jason Gray’s onstage humor, self-disclosure, and genuine compassion coupled with his technical artistry has proved to have a highly magnetic effect. But his underlying secret lies in the fact that it’s not a calculated act drummed up for the stage. The integrity and openness that transform his performances into something like large, personal conversations are really the logical outgrowth of his desire to live all of life under the jurisdiction of a gracious God. The gospel, the relationships, the art, and the acts of service are all part of an inseparable whole that communicates God’s heart to the world.

Jason’s ongoing work on behalf of AIDS orphans as a World Vision artist has for years been a vital, shaping influence in his life and his art, affording him the opportunity to travel to impoverished areas of Africa, and bringing him recognition as one of “Ten Outstanding Minnesotans.”

“We hear a lot of talk about “authenticity” and “worship” in western Christianity,” Jason explains, “and more and more I’m convinced that if our worship doesn’t include serving Jesus in ‘the least of these’, then it falls short of the authentic ideal that we talk so much about.  I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to partner with World Vision. The chance to actively serve the poorest of the poor has infused my life and work with meaning, purpose, and a better understanding of who Jesus is and who He asks me to be.”

While his relationship with Centricity Music has broadened his audience, it isn’t likely to alter his core message any. Gray seems to have set up a more-or-less permanent base camp somewhere between Christ’s sermon on the mount and Paul’s statement about boasting in our weaknesses.

“I’m afraid most of us would prefer to be strong and impressive over being the kind of person that Jesus calls blessed.” Jason offers in summation. “But for those of us who don’t have it in us to be impressive or strong, who couldn’t get our act together if our lives depended on it, the good news is that there is a preferred place as honored guests in God’s Kingdom for us – that’s what the beatitudes tell us – and that by his love, all the outsiders and losers are being made beautiful.”

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