As Russ Lee looks back on his 40-year career in the Christian music industry, he sees the handiwork of God. He’s amazed at the exciting things God has done throughout his life.
The lead singer of NewSong has been around the world multiple times. He’s performed for troops in Iraq twice. His wife and kids got to join him for the I Will Go Tour, where Lee gave away concerts for a year and a half in developing nations. He’s worked with World Vision, Reach Beyond Ministries, the International Mission Board, the Southern Baptist Convention, and many other prominent Christian institutions.
“It’s just ridiculous what God has allowed us to do,” he says. “And I’m living proof that if you say, ‘God, we’re available,’ and you mean it, God will enable you to do extraordinary things—just ridiculous things!”
Lee doesn’t say this out of false humility. He knows nothing good in his career has come apart from God’s power because he knows what God rescued him from.
A Rough Past
The popular singer didn’t grow up with a pristine childhood. His father battled alcoholism. His mother battled mental illness. By 13 years old, Lee was using drugs recreationally, and by 15 he was using them regularly. He was only 17 years old when he became a drug dealer. Soon, he started playing guitar in a bar band for drinks—still a million miles away from the truth.
But no matter how far into sin Lee ran, the seeds of God’s Word within his heart remained. Growing up in the rural Bible Belt community, Lee went to Vacation Bible School as a kid (or, rather, his mother made him go). Each day he went, he heard the truth. And somehow, by God’s grace, he retained it.
One Thursday night while driving home after performing at a bar, Lee began feeling miserable. Not physically, but spiritually and emotionally miserable.
He couldn’t figure out why. He was making a lot of money selling drugs, he had the girlfriend he wanted, he had the car he dreamed of, and he was about to graduate from high school.
That’s when it hit him—he felt completely empty.
A Simple Prayer
“It’s like I had an awakening to the emptiness of my life,” he says. “There was nothing for me to look forward to. Freedom for me was really just this prison where I was bound up in confusion.”
In his misery, Lee prayed: “God, I don’t know who You are, and I don’t know how to talk to You. I don’t even know if You’re there. But if You are there and You care that I’m alive and You do have a plan for my life, maybe You can find me.”
Friday came, but the misery only got worse. He felt like no one was listening to his prayer, so he tried again: “God, if You’re real, show me!”
The very next morning, a young man showed up at Lee’s house—someone Lee had grown up admiring.
The young man said, “Russ, you’re going to think I’m crazy, but I don’t care. I got saved Thursday night and asked Jesus to forgive my sins and to be my Savior. And since you’re the first person who ever told me anything about Jesus, I was wondering if you’d please come to church with me and watch me get baptized.”
Lee was terrified. Now, he knew there was a God, a God who heard his prayer and knew everything about his life. Despite his fear, he agreed to go to church with his friend.
That Sunday, the pastor presented the gospel and Lee gave his life to Christ. There were no explosions, no fireworks, nothing crazy. But Lee said yes to God that day, and because of that, his life changed in a big way.
From that day on, Lee has tried to keep saying yes to God, no matter what. And as a result, he has seen God move in his life, in his career, and in his concerts in amazing ways.
In fact, in just a few months, Lee is expecting to see God move again at an upcoming performance for the 40 Days and 40 Nights of Gospel Music event at the Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Kentucky.
Join the fun from August 2 to September 10 and watch dozens of Gospel singers and bands perform live as well as listen to powerful preaching. Get your tickets here!