The singer shares why she decided to take a risk, quit her job and follow God's call for her life.
- Posted on Apr 15, 2016
Singer Kim Walker-Smith never dreamed she’d be a professional musician.
Though today she's one of the worship leaders for the international ministry Jesus Culture-- a music group that has sold one million albums worldwide since their debut in 2005--after college, Smith had begun a career in banking.
During the day, she'd help people get loans, and in her free time, Smith became the events coordinator for the youth group at her local church. That's when she learned that God might have a different vision for her life than the one she had imagined.
In 1999, the singer, along with worship pastor Chris Quilala and worship leader Melissa How, lead a summer youth conference that her church had dubbed Jesus Culture. Having seen the effect popular Christian music could have on the young people there, Smith and Quilala decided to record some covers of worship hits to send home with teens attending the conference.
“We wanted all of these young people that were coming and encountering God to have this thing to take home [so they could] keep encountering God,” Smith tells Guideposts.org. “We didn’t want them to go home and lose that momentum.”
That next summer, Smith saw the fruits of her team’s labor. The kids coming back seemed to have an even deeper relationship with God and were able to build more upon that strong foundation.
So Jesus Culture recorded another album. And another. They uploaded live worship videos to YouTube, they even started writing some original music to mix with their popular covers.
Still for Smith, who continued her work in banking, the idea that she should be leading others to Jesus through music didn’t start to sink in until a video of her singing suddenly went viral.
“Somebody put the ‘How He Loves’ video on YouTube and my little brother – probably 12 at the time –called me and was like ‘You’re on YouTube.’ And I said, ‘What’s YouTube?’”
Smith went on to do another conference and tour with Jesus Culture before she found herself at a crossroads. The band had gotten big, adding more members and amassing thousands of fans. With a schedule that had her on the road more and more, Smith had to choose: stick with the safe plan she had made for her life, or take a risk and see where God was leading her.
She chose Jesus Culture.
“It felt like I was making a decision to trust God completely with my life, my finances, my dreams, my successes, and my future,” Smith says.
Just eleven years later, Smith has seen that decision pay off with the band’s latest record Let It Echo – their 16th – debuting at No. 2 on Billboard’s Christian Albums chart. The 12-track project marks a departure for the group – instead of covers, they’re now singing only original material and doing it live in front of their home church in Sacramento, California.
It also features songs that show Smith and her bandmates at their most vulnerable. Just a year and a half ago, Quilala and his wife gave birth to a stillborn baby boy. Three weeks later, Smith gave birth to a son, her second with husband and fellow worship leader Skyler Smith. Five months after that, Smith suffered the loss of her father. It was a rough season for the band, one they channeled into their new music.
“It felt like God really taught me this past year, ‘You’re not alone in the fire. It’s hard, it’s tough but it’s not meant to destroy you and I’m not going to let it either,’” Smith says. “It’s meant to refine us and make us stronger and to come out of the other side with this renewed trust in the Lord.”
She hopes songs like “Alive In You” – which was written from that difficult time – will inspire others struggling with hardships. It’s opening lyrics "From beginning to the end/All my life is in Your hands/This whole world may hold me down/But it can never drown You out" speak to the power the singer has found in trusting God through good times and bad.
She’s also grateful that God moved her toward singing all those years ago, allowing her a platform that lets her connect with others wanting to strengthen their faith and live a more fulfilled life.
“Being a part of Jesus Culture has brought fulfillment to my life in many ways. The most important way is in knowing that I’m doing what God has called me to do in this time in my life. I feel the most fulfilled when I’m at the center of His will for my life.”