Let your light shine before others so they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:26
On October 15, hundreds of people will gather in Nashville, Tenn., for a night of fellowship and worship.
A night of story and song.
A night when the God of creation, creativity, beauty and salvation will be honored.
Most people call this night the Dove Awards. And as this year marks the 44th Annual Awards Show, it’s easy to get lost in the accolades, the glamour and the ‘red carpet moments.
But for those who are there—those who have committed their lives to cultivating their God given talents and created music that has stirred the hearts of people all over the world, this is not just another awards show.
This is a family reunion—brothers and sisters, linking arms, encouraging each other and honoring their father.
And despite the challenges that have nearly brought this annual tradition to an end, this year marks a tangible show of strength, story and the songs that have gotten us through.
Committed to honoring the industry we represent, CCM endeavored to present these awards to you through the eyes of family. Laura Story and Mandisa symbolize everything that sets this occasion apart. From their style, their stories to their music, the two women couldn’t be more different. But as “Glam and Granola,” as they affectionately call each other, share their hearts, their friendship, their sisterhood with us, the image of God, His family and the Body of Christ comes into crystal clear focus. Their personal journeys of trial, adversity and resiliency parallel that of the Dove Awards. The stories they have poured into their music are the foundation of the Dove Awards. Follow us now as we take a stroll down a red carpet that doesn’t just lead to a stage; it leads to an altar.
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:31, 37
Life is hard. It’s overwhelming, confusing and, at times, just too much. However, with the smallest measure of faith, even the hardest of times can become victories .
Mandisa’s latest album, Overcomer, is a sonic beacon of just that. The former American Idol contestant has literally transformed before our eyes—losing over 100 pounds, coming to terms with and celebrating singlehood, sharing her strength with the world.
Likewise, Laura Story has traveled a path unplanned and, honestly, unwanted. Her husband was struck with a brain tumor that has left him disabled. As Laura navigated the waters of confusion and fear towards total restoration of faith and trust, her heart and her words have invited countless others around the world to do the same with their own trials and tragedies.
In the same way, the Dove Awards, now in their 44th year, along with the Gospel Music Association that presents them, have encountered mountains of adversity that would have sent most organizations under. Music delivery has become increasingly digitized, changing the economic infrastructure within the music industry itself. Simultaneously, our world has become increasingly secular, posing challenges to those within the community of faith to have their voices be heard and even bringing into question the need and purpose of the Gospel Music Association and the Dove Awards at all. But, just as Mandisa and Laura have both found renewed strength within the arms and the words of the Father, so too has the Gospel Music Association rediscovered its purpose and foundation.
“The future of the GMA lies in the hands of our community,” says GMA Executive Director Jackie Patillo. “As long as there is a thriving body of believers who have the same mission, there will be a need for the GMA. This past year has been about the task of assessing how the foundation needs to be re-laid. I believe that together we are going to move forward as a united front in a way that will allow the GMA to be relevant and serve the Christian and Gospel music communities.
“The Dove Awards have long been a time for Christian music to come together under one umbrella and celebrate,” says Jackie. “God gave me a scripture regarding this event: ‘Let your light shine before others so they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.’”
To be sure—the lights are shining. And just as Mandisa and Laura continue to direct their gaze upon the one who has already overcome the world, the GMA and the Doves have diligently, intentionally fortified its foundation and from their newly solid footing are also looking up with anticipation, faith and a healthy dose of realism that God will honor the heart of the event and see it through not only to completion, but to victory, even when the terrain is daunting.
“It’s a major responsibility for me to be at the helm of bringing our community together to celebrate the diverse styles of music,” says Jackie. “Right now I’m looking at a steep mountain, but trusting that the Lord is goig to put all the pieces together. it’s a huge responsibility… I don’t know that I have anything poignant to share – I’m looking at a steep mountain – trusting that the Lord’s going to put all of the pieces of the puzzle together.”
But they went out and spread His fame all over the region.” Matthew 9:31
When Jesus was on the earth, teaching, healing, living His perfect fully human and fully divine life, He used stories to paint the spectrum of God’s love for all those. The mustard seed, the ten talents, the solid foundation. His imagery brought the eternal and divine down to all of us in a way we could understand and believe.
Since then, others have passed on His love, legacy, truth in the very same way. Unlike Christ, however, the stories of man eventually fade and are erased from the memory of human comprehension. It’s the story of Alpha and Omega that endures. Generation to generation, the chapters of our Sovereign God graciously include us, lending credence and significance to the briefest tales.
“Every story, mine and yours, only finds its purpose in light of His Greater story of redemption,” she says. “Because at the end of the day, they really are all His stories.”
“We all have a story,” Jackie echoes. “We want to celebrate the impact of those on culture.”
Just as the music within the industry finds its genesis with the stories inside the hearts of the songwriters, those songs are the genesis for faith, hope, healing, restoration and more for people throughout the world. After prayerful consideration, the GMA made a decisive move to include these stories within the arch of the event. Encouraging fans, artists and others to share the stories of how certain songs have impacted their lives, the GMA is removing the veil between artist and listener; theologian and lay person; you and me and everyone else. As people out there in this great big world share their stories of this music, the notion of spreading the fame of God becomes a tangible manifestation of Jesus’ example and direction.
By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35
So here we are—a celebration to honor success.
Gold records to frame, awards to place in a display case, life-long titles bestowed…All the thing this world reveres. But that’s not what this night is about.
As Mandisa says, “I appreciate the nominations, the occasional win…it makes you feel good as an artist, but the moment I define my life by success, I’ll fall in a pit. I try not to put my value in that.”
Laura shares a similar perspective particularly in light of the unprecedented success of her song, “Blessings,”
“If you know me at all, you know that what God did thru the song ‘Blessings’ is so much bigger than some yahoo like me could ever make happen, and I love that about God! He calls us to be part of something bigger than ourselves. ‘Blessings’ was more an adventure God called me to be part of, and I will be forever grateful for that,” she says.
Adventure, abandon, compassion…these are the themes, the fuel, the passion behind so many artists in this industry. Full aware that any success they’ve enjoyed is borne only of God’s grace and goodwill, they have committed not only their musical talent to the expansion of His kingdom, but also their time, their hands, their feet. And this year, the Dove Awards are shifting the focus onto those sacrifices and offerings. Most notably on the red carpet, which is officially being referred to as the “Doves Care” carpet.
“Our artists are more than just them music,” Jackie Patillo offers. “They are giving sacrificially to humanitarian causes. We want to bring those philanthropic endeavors to the fore.”
In doing so, the vision behind the event comes full circle.
GMA, CCM Magazine and Salem Communications, UP Entertainment, Kia and several other generous sponsors have seen the faith come alive within the music and the music makers. And as Matthew 5:16 encourages, they are shining a light onto the good works of these overcomers, storytellers and servants. Not for self-adulation or self-indulgence. With egos checked at the door, arms ready to link to the brother or sister beside them and hands raised to the God who is the only reason any of them are there, The Dove Awards is an inspired kaleidoscope of faith, art and family.
When you see two women as different as Laura Story and Mandisa love each other as sisters, encouraging, inspiring and simply being friends to each other, you see a glimpse of what this whole thing is about anyway…
October 15 will come and go.
The event will be magical, beautiful and inspired. But the intenral, eternal purpose, plan and intention set it apart as a city on a hill. As the artists who make the music we love, love and celebrate each other and their Abba as friends and family it’s crystal clear that this event isn’t about unveiling the winners—it’s about revealing, sharing, shouting the glory of the one who made all, knows all, loves all.
And so, for the glory, the show…the story…go on.