Shades of Jason Gray: Christian performer to share message and music at First Baptist Church

WORTHINGTON -- In the midst of talking about World Vision, a Christian relief organization he supports as part of his ministry, Jason Gray throws in this little tidbit about one of his lesser-known talents.

WORTHINGTON -- In the midst of talking about World Vision, a Christian relief organization he supports as part of his ministry, Jason Gray throws in this little tidbit about one of his lesser-known talents.

"I can blow balloons up with my nose," he said. "It comes in handy at camp. You get a lot of respect if you can blow balloons up with your nose."

In fact, on his Web site Gray claims to be able to blow up two balloons at a time with his nose. Impressive as that may be, Gray's true talent is in sharing his faith through words and music as a Christian singer-songwriter. He will demonstrate those abilities during a concert at 6 p.m. Sunday at First Baptist Church, 1000 Linda Lane.

"I've been doing this full-time for nine years," Gray said. "I signed with a record company last year and released a record last year, so I've been on tour with that. I was only home eight weeks last year."

Home is Janesville, where Gray lives with his wife, Taya, and their three sons, Kristopher "Kipper," Jacob and August "Gus." His formative years were spent in the Lynd area, and he also lived in Jackson for a short time as a kid. Growing up as a chronic stutterer in an abusive home has shaped his message and his music.


"I think we often feel or are afraid that our weaknesses and disabilities -- things that we are insecure about, even our failures -- that these things disqualify us from doing anything significant," he explained during a phone interview. "But the beautiful thing about the Gospel is this idea that in our weakness, God's strength is made perfect. One of the great hopes of Christianity is that our list of insecurities actually becomes our qualifications. ... If I open up to you about my own weakness, it makes you feel like you can open up about your own weakness, and I believe God does his best work with weak, broken people."

Gray talks frankly -- and with a few stutters along the way -- about his speech disability and how that handicap has become his greatest asset. He finds it ironic that a guy with an obvious speech impediment is hired as both a musician and speaker at places such as Camp Shetek in southwest Minnesota.

"I was never given the opportunity to pretend that I was perfect," he reflected. "Every time I open my mouth, it was clear that something was wrong with me. It made me deal early on with the fear of looking like a fool, and by the time I began to do the work I do now, I was kind of over it. Increasingly, what I hope I can do and what I think my next album will be about, too, at least in part, is this idea of removing the power that shame has over us. If there is a way to undermine that power or make those things impotent, then I think that is a way to move forward with our lives and our potential and what we are on earth to accomplish with our lives."

As far as his music goes, Gray characterizes himself as a "singer's songwriter" at heart.

"I'm like a folk artist in terms that it's all about the lyric and a story to tell that's worth hearing about," he explained. "I have to dress it up like a pop song, but my hope is that people will hear there's a depth in the lyric and thought behind that. Hopefully, it's pop music that makes us smart."

Being involved with an organization like World Vision brings added purpose to Gray's ministry. According to , World Vision is "a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice." One of World Vision's programs is a child sponsorship effort that helps children who have been impacted by the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa.

Gray has visited Africa twice in support of World Vision and says his involvement helps bring purpose -- "a why" -- to his ministry.

"The most succinct way I can explain why I work with World Vision is (to tell a story about) when I was in high school, 16 years old, and I was a new believer, and I was riding home from school in my car," Gray related. "At that time, I was in an abusive home situation, so things at home were rough, things at school were also rough, and on top of that, my girlfriend had just broken up with me. So I was driving home, and I was so sad, and I was crying out to God, and I had this moment in the midst of that where I thought, who does God go to when His heart is broken? Everybody goes to Him. Who does He go to? Who is there for God? In this grand moment of naiveté and innocence, I said, "Lord, I want you to know that if you ever need to talk to someone, if you ever need a shoulder to cry on, I'm here for you.'


"As hokey as that sounds, I believe that God honored that and at that time began to break my heart for the things that break His heart, and a large part of that is found in the work that I get to do with World Vision, serving the poor. In fact, one of the things that really seemed like a sign for us that we were supposed to work with them was when we learned that the man who started World Vision more than 50 years go, it began when he prayed, 'Lord, break my heart with the things that break the heart of God.' That's exactly why I'm doing what I do."

Gray hopes people in the Worthington area will attend Sunday's concert and open their hearts to the message of salvation that he will share through music.

"What I love about music is the power it has to wake up countless virtues in the human heart; virtues like compassion, tenderness, conviction, devotion, and wonder," he writes on his Web site. "It can heal, inspire and makes us feel again in a culture that often leaves us numb. Music is a key that can unlock the most unyielding rooms of the human heart, and I believe it can make us better."

On the Net:

What To Read Next
Get Local