Interview With John P. Kee
Part 1: The Ministry
No doubt, many will enjoy John P. Kee's Not Guilty: The Experience
double CD project for its innovation, diversity in style and straight up
interview by Stan North —
But a true appreciation for this project only comes knowing its
root why and how it came into being. Kee calls it an
'experience' for a reason. GospelFlava.com spoke with Pastor Kee
about the birth of Not Guilty, plus a whole lot more:
"I was preaching one Sunday under the anointing, and God
gave me this message. Not Guilty. We had so many
ex's coming to church. Ex drug offenders, ex drug
users, ex prostitutes, all really feeling guilty, and
really feeling 'less than'. And the Lord spoke to me
and said, 'Instead of sending them to hell, tell
them that they are loved, that God loves them too.'
"It was just one of the greatest experiences of my entire
life. I'll never forget that altar call, because not 10,
not 100, not 1000, but everybody in the whole church came
down that Sunday. And the message was clear, before you can
go another step in your life, you've got to forgive yourself
for all the things that you've done, and know that the blood
of Jesus works for you too. Not Guilty birthed out
of our church."
"I went on tour for two weeks, every house was filled to
capacity. I went all over the country and carried this
message. Not only did it happen in my church, but guess
what, they came [to the altar in the other churches too].
People need to know that they're not guilty. I'm sitting
back counting down the days till the release date, just
like everyone else, I can't wait! I can't wait to see
what impact this message will have on the rest of the
The Gospel industry veteran delights in telling the story.
Pastoring his New Life Fellowship congregation in the very
community where he used to run his drug dealing activites,
he's blessed to be giving back.
"I call it an experience because it's divine destiny to be
back in this Double Oaks neighborhood after 20 years, knowing
that I sold drugs right across the street. And to know
that I can come back and affect this community in a postive
way, it's more than a blessing. I mean, how many people
get the opportunity to really face their past. I'm very
Kee's congregation is not typical. Anyone who's been
to his concerts or seen his videos has heard about it, and
anyone who has visited New Life Community Fellowship will
tell you that the diversity of life experiences within
that large church body is evident. In worldy situations,
this would create conflict. But as a church body, Kee says
that there's no real difficulty.
"With regards to ministering [to that diversity], there's
absolutely no challenge whatsoever. It's about giving the
Word. The people want the truth and that's the common
denominator of the people of God. It's just a joy to have
a doctor, a lawyer, an ex-crack user, an ex-prostitute, all
sitting on the same row praising God. That really says
something about ministry itself. It's informal, people can
come as they are. A couple weeks ago, I was ministering to
two prostitutes on the street. I gave them 7 dollars apiece
to come to church, they've been here for the past 4 weeks, given
more than that in their love gifts, and been excited about coming.
I think the church has failed the community when they don't go
out and get those they've labeled 'less than'."
With the release of Not Guilty: The Experience coming
less than one year after moving to their new Double Oaks church
facility, it's clear that this body of believers has done anything
"I'm excited about where God is getting ready to take our marketing.
The community loves our church. About 10 months ago, before we got
here, the crime rate out here in the area was up like you wouldn't
believe. There were two murders in the neighborhood, two young men, drug
offenders, and they literally shot their way out. Well, when I got
here, down in the bottom end of Double Oaks, I had them cut down the
trees. (We own 42 acres here; we purchased all the land that surrounds
the church.) A lot of the crime element, the prostitution from the upper
state, would come down here because of the wooded area and hide. They
liked the cover. And now, the crime element has almost gone, it's dissolved. We don't
charge for anything here, so as far as the community is concerned,
whether it's school supplies, adopt-a-family, food, are blessing the
community with all of the programs in our church."
The concept of partaking is one you'll find in the lyrics of the CD. Even to the point of the "Not Guilty" remix
being performed by a group called the Partakrew. Obviously there's a meaning, and Kee explains:
"'Membership.' I hate the word. For years, we were
all members of church, and it almost puts us in a place
where were confined by the spirit of religiousity, allowing
us to give more strength or credence to sitting on a bench rather
than being an active part of ministry. So we took out membership
and put in 'partaker', which means partner with, or sharing in the
vision. It's when we get to the place where we actually understand
what fellowship is. It has nothing to do with just warming a bench.
It's really coming together and doing something to affect change in your surrounding. We've been criticized by it in a major way. [They say,]
'They're not Christians, they're partakers.' But nobody threw the word
Christian out of it, we threw the word 'member' out of the door."
"After altar call now, after people surrender their lives to the Lord,
many stay there at the front and say 'Do we get the right hand of
fellowship?' And I say to them, not only do you get it, but you get
it when you surrender your life to Him! So it's really kinda shutting
down that 'John P. Kee' thing, the 'Bishop' thing. And you really get
into a relationship with the Lord that you understand. When you tap
in to HIM, that's when you tap into Godly success."
Avoiding The Trap
It's probably one of the oldest tricks that Satan has in his book bringing
the high profile pastor or Gospel artist to a point where popularity , acclaim and personality get in the way of ministry. But Kee addresses that age-old
temption head on.
"I think I shut that down at the door. First of all, I don't practice
how to sing. New Life hasn't had a choir practice in 20 years.
And this might sound really corny, but what we've been able to do
is play that [high profile thing] down. We understand that singing
and recording is really just 'attention getting'. For example, I
called my daughter this morning on her 16th birthday, I'm on the
third floor, she's downstairs, and I call her up on the phone and
sang to her. I wrote her a beautiful song in the parking lot of
Walmart, and I couldn't wait to sing it to her. Even to my kids,
I'm not 'John P Kee'."
"But I don't want to stab it too much, because it's not a bad thing.
People have learned to respect the [John P. Kee] name and the
music ministry. To us, it's a gift God's given to us. Those
kind of things just keep you level headed."
Now as far as the
ministry, one way I play it down there is, I know a lot of people come
looking for 'this guy I saw on TV', or 'this guy I saw
on the album cover'. But I've been preaching in a sweat suit for a
year and a half now. Let me blow your mind for those who say, 'Well
that's not a good image for the growth of your congregation'.
We've got 1500 seats, and it's so packed in here on Sunday
we're nervous, so we need to go to the next level. The architect is paid,
land has been secured, we're getting ready to build a 3500-seat
conference centere. Right here in the hood.
And the joy of this is, is that we're going to
have all these major preachers, singers, teachers, they'll come to the hood.
You'll see TD Jakes in the hood, Bishop Carlton Pearson in the hood,
and this is going to take place! God's
raining on is."
John Kee Talks Music
|In our second part of this interview, John P. Kee sheds some light on the musical background to Not Guilty.
"Don't get me wrong, people honestly respect me as
pastor, that's' mindblowing some times. Sometimes I have to
pinch myself and say, 'hold on, you're more than just that guy
singing that song, you have responsibility'.
So to be a pastor, see the fruit, see people
really get saved and delivered, and then still maintain that line of being
humble is a blessed thing."
But What If You Still Feel Guilty?
Kee brings home the message that in Jesus Christ, we are not guilty. But what happens when we still feel guilty? Those feelings come to all of us do some degree; how do we deal with that?
"That's when the ministry gets place. This is where you get in to my mind about the lyrical content of the CD. If you notice, before the song "Not Guilty", I put a song ("Stop Hiding") which says that "the thing you want to hide, is the thing that God wants to use". I speak to that question. For those that feel guilty, once we surrender our lives to the Lord, that that guilt and the shame has to go. Even if you feel guilty, you must understand that according to the teaching of the Bible, we're not saved by our feeling, we're saved by understanding that Jesus died for us, and regardless what our sin is, we are not guilty. See, we classified sin for years, with [statements like] 'if you're a prostitute, then that's worse than being a liar.' But you and I both know there's no degree of sin. Sin is sin. But who's really preaching this message?"
"We're coming in, telling everybody, you've got to be responsible [and confess] the things God's delivered us from. No, you can't get up and tell everything, when the Bible says confess all your sins, no it doesn't mean getting up and telling everyone your business. But it does mean that at least admit that you were once there.
And once we do that, not only will the babies be delivered, but for me to have 72 year-old crack heads coming down the aisle, it's just a joy from Sunday to Sunday."
Excusing The Sin?
Kee is talking about a topic that has historically generated much discussion in the church. Where does one draw the line, and how does one we avoid an excusing of the sin?
"I only began to deal with that lately. Do we teach 'not guilty', or do we say, 'you're still guilty, you're on your way to hell.' We're not using this as an excuse to sin, for the truth of the matter is, (and this is what the devil wants us to never know and to never understand) is that not as many people are going to hell as he planned, because of the love of God. I figured that with love and kindness, I'll draw them."
"So I'll tell you, I've got tattoos down my back, tattoos down my arm. Some are saying, 'Well you're going to hell fast with tattoos.' No. When I'm out there on that corner, ministering to drug offenders, I don't want to look like Pastor Kee, I don't want to look like Preacher Kee. I want to look like a man that God sent out there just to love them back to Him. So for all those, who are saying that
I'm just giving them an excuse to sin, I'm saying, no, no, no. I'm giving them an excuse to get into an area of covering so they can be taught. So that the same Word that pierced your spirit and mine, will pierce theirs.
So, no it's not an avenue to let them escape, but I believe that if we love them, then they can tap into the same Word of God."
"Some call it conviction, I call it my anointing. And when I would do the wrong thing, God can speak to my heart and keep me in line."
Whew! The ministry from Pastor Kee is strong. We barely had time to switch the tape on our recording equipment, check the batteries, and catch our second wind before the 'Prince of Gospel' started to get into the details behind the music on Not Guilty: The Experience.
Kee talks about his retirement, the album and more in the second part of our interview.
All content in GospelFlava.com ©
copyright 2000. No
information to be reprinted or re-broadcast from this site without the expressed
written consent of GospelFlava.com. All rights reserved. The opinions expressed in GospelFlava.com articles do not
necessarily reflect the opinions of GospelFlava.com