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 musical depth.

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:

The Message
"I was preaching one Sunday under the anointing, and God gave me this message. Not Guilty. We had so many John P. Keeex'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 country."

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.

The Experience
"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 grateful."

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

A Kee Tribute

The internet's 'Number One John P. Kee Fan' brings Wait on Him CDtribute to John P. Kee. Check it out as Louis Williams explains the reason for his title.
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 but fail.

"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 John P. Kee and New Life Community Choiractive 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."

John Kee Talks Music

In our second part of this interview, John P. Kee sheds some light on the musical background to Not Guilty.
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."

"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?"

John P. Kee and New Life Community Choir"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

Other Kee Features

Check out these other Kee features on GospelFlava.com:

Not Guilty Review
Kee's Old School Flava
Kee interview (Part 1 - the Ministry)
Kee interview (Part 2 - The Music)
Kee Tribute (Louis Williams)
Kee Tribute (James Robinson)
Kee History Lesson
Kee Discography
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.

interview by Stan North

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