Kate was just 15, far too young to be deep into the pains of addiction. She cut herself—a way to cope with her feelings—but soon the action turned into a compulsion. She didn’t know how to stop even though she had previously sought out professional treatment and talked to her friends.
Her pastor, Michael Walters at Shiloh Church, knew she was struggling when he took a group to church camp in Tennessee. There, Erik Bledsoe was scheduled to lead worship and talk to the group. He doesn’t fit the typical model for worship leaders—clean-cut with skinny jeans. The 6-foot-3-inch, 220 pound Nashville native jokes that he “has a beard that weighs more than most worship leaders.” There’s something special about Erik and the way he does things—instead of just standing on stage and singing worship songs and talking, he takes time out to get to know the students.
After the worship service, Erik started talking to Kate and her best friend. The three sat at a table as Kate told him about her addiction—and Erik talked about his. They talked for an hour even though Erik had a long drive back to Nashville ahead of him that night.
He knew taking time to speak with this teen was more important.
Erik was raised in the church, but he stopped going as he got older—stopped thinking about church things altogether. When he was in college, he got addicted to sex and pornography and ultimately had a nervous breakdown. It took some time, but he re-evaluated everything he learned about Jesus growing up and realized he was wrong on a few points.
Instead of Jesus being a “bigger, more awesome version of myself,” Erik realized He was something entirely different. The Jesus he grew up imagining—the white guy who voted Republican—wasn’t the same one in the Bible, Erik said.
Although he now serves as a speaker and worship leader, Erik openly talks about his past and his time spent running away from Jesus. He doesn’t judge the teens he meets—he’s been through too many things to start throwing stones now—but instead, he just talks about the Jesus he loves today.
“Because my fall was so great…there is no shame left in me because it has been redeemed and paid for, and I have been restored,” Erik said.
It isn’t weird for Erik to talk about the tough topics because he’s lived through so many of them.
That night he sat with Kate and her best friend, he encouraged her to open up a little more about her addiction and keep talking to those who could help her.
It’s been four years since Kate and Erik had that sit down, but they still keep in touch. That’s just the way he is. Whenever Erik returns to Shiloh Church or the church camp in Tennessee, he asks about the teens he met in years past.
Erik has been speaking at Shiloh’s church camp for years, so it wasn’t a stretch that church event planners wanted him to lead worship at the concert Shiloh has planned for next week.
“A lot of times, when you bring people in (to lead) a concert, they are disconnected,” Michael said. “They’re distant. They come in, they do their thing, and they leave. Erik is a very personal individual, and he takes a very personal interest in the lives of each and every one of the students…He hangs out beforehand and afterwards to speak to them, finding out about their lives. If he finds out someone is going through something, he stops right then and there and talks with them about it, prays with them about it, and then he follows up with them about it. And he remembers the stories of each and every individual.
“Erik stands out because it doesn’t seem fake,” Michael continued. “What makes a good worship leader is that you can see sincerity flowing out of the worship.They are not just trying to set a mood in the room, but you can tell that they personally worship as well. There isn’t this (idea of) trying to put on a show, but they are genuinely worshipping with you.”
Worship services aren’t unusual in this part of the country—we’re called the Bible Belt for a reason—but it’s Erik’s style, his passion for the music and Jesus, that set this event apart from other Christian concerts.
“There’s got to be a reality that flows out of (worship), not just trying to lead people in words in a song,” Michael explained. That’s what makes a good worship leader, connecting the song to Christ, not just getting emotional about the words in the song.”
At first, Shiloh was only marketing the concert for their members, but church leaders soon realized this event would be more beneficial if all of North Alabama got the invite.
If you’re interested in worshipping with Erik, come to the Shiloh Church concert on March 8 at 6 p.m.
Admission is free, and they will have pizza, games and prizes.
The concert is open for teens in sixth grade on up through college, but there will plenty of adults—sorry college kids, you aren’t adults yet—on site to supervise.
“If someone comes out to this concert, they aren’t just going to get to hear great music,” Michael said. “They’re going to get to talk to the guy who is up on stage.”