The Way Prepared
August 13, 2004
When Jami Smith graduated from OBU in the spring of 1993 with a degree in music education, she had concerns that her parents would not understand what she felt God had called her to do – lead worship. But he prepared the way.
Since that time she has begun to make her mark on Christian music. Her song, “Salt and Light,” from her album Wash Over Me made it to number 12 on Christian Top 40 charts, and number 18 on Billboard. “I believe that my calling is to facilitate an environment where people can worship. I serve as a launching pad, letting people go and be in the presence of God,” she says.
In the fall of 1994 Jami independently recorded her first CD with the help of her friends, the band Mercy Me, author of “I Can Only Imagine.” Her second recording followed in 1996. “It was around this time that I began to dive into worship deeper. God was revealing to me that worshiping him brings a truer sense of freedom than I had ever known,” she says. “Worship will happen because we are designed for it. We are not taught to admire or adore; God creates that desire within us. However, who or what we give our worship to remains to be seen. As a worship leader, I try to lead by example. I do not want to be an entertainer because worship is not meant to be entertainment, but rather a place and time where, together, we seek to be in God’s presence in order to actively participate in honoring our father with our words and attention.
True worship results in change – of your heart, of your actions, of your mind. Otherwise, we have simply sung a bunch of songs over and over like choir practice. So either I am a singer and I go away a bit hoarse or I am a worshiper and go away different.”
In the winters of 1996-97, she recorded the concert CD Mysterious Love, and in June 1998, she released the praise and worship CD Soul Thirst. God opened the door in 1999 when Jami signed with Vertical Music, part of Integrity Music, and released her self-titled album to an international audience. She began work on her second project, Home, in the spring of 2001. Fittingly, Jami recorded Home in a live concert at OBU, where she was “surrounded by all these great musicians who happen to be my friends, too.”
In addition to her busy time in the studio, Jami and a band of four other musicians have traveled extensively throughout the U.S. and to several other countries including Australia, New Zealand, and the Netherlands. “I love meeting people from all over the world,” she says, “and being part of their fellowship, to see how they pray and reach out to the poor and needy in their communities.”
Being on the road has had its challenges. “I broke down in 1999,” Jami says. “I was touring 26 days a month. I had no community life, and that is very important. I believe that God works through the community. We need to be plugged into a local body. As a result, I am now traveling about 15 days a month, and I have formed many new friendships – with my pastor (Bridgeway Community Church) and other intercessors at the church. I know that I can call them 24 hours a day.”
In a word, Jami is intentional. Before every concert, during sound check, she takes the band through ‘Strip My Name,’ a song she cowrote some years ago. The song brings to light the realities of idolizing others – whether it be an athlete, actor, or worship leader – rather than Christ. “We do this to a fault,” Jami says. “We set these people up next to God. This song helps me to focus on why I’m there. It puts things into perspective for me. If I give the audience me, I cheat them, but if I point them to God, they can walk out changed.”
Jami says OBU prepared her well. “There are so many things I learned at OBU – both inside and outside the classroom,” she says. “I was deeply impacted by the music professors because I was encouraged to learn more. I had had no music theory before coming to OBU. I knew very little about music in general, and I did not grasp it at all at first. Musically and spiritually, there was so much to learn every day in the classroom. As I travel, I tell students who think they know what they want to do that four years of learning at a liberal arts institution will enhance what you know. And it helps you to grow up.”
God continues to prepare the way for her as a worship leader. To learn more about Jami and her itinerary, visit www.jamismith.com.