April 4, 2022 : By Jacob Couch - Office of Communications & Public Engagement
On Sunday evening, the Liberty University School of Music welcomed award-winning Gospel singer and recording artist CeCe Winans to its 15th Annual Night of Worship. At the end of the night, Michael W. Smith, executive director of the Center for Commercial Music at Liberty, announced from the stage that Winans had been awarded three Grammy Awards at the ceremony that night in Las Vegas.
“CeCe Winans chose to spend the evening worshipping and praising God with our Liberty students and family on the same night that the Grammy Awards were on,” said John Forystek, School of Music Director of Product Development and Communications, who added that she stayed on campus through Monday for a question-and-answer session with music students and to visit some classes. “It is an incredible opportunity for our students to learn from people like CeCe who are not only great artists but are even greater servants of God. CeCe took the time to talk with our students about life, careers, family, and music. It is always a privilege to be able to connect the students with the talent that is in it for the right reasons, and CeCe is just that.”
Winans won Grammys for Best Gospel Performance/Song for “Never Lost,” Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song for “Believe for It,” and Best Gospel Album, “Believe for It.”
With 15 Grammy Awards, she has won more Grammys than any other Gospel artist. In her decorated career, she has won 28 GMA Dove Awards, 16 Stellar Awards, and 7 NAACP Image Awards.
In music classes on Monday, she encouraged students to focus on ministry and become involved in their local churches while allowing the Lord to establish them in their careers.
“The local church is why I’m here,” she said. “It has been my anchor. Life happens to everybody; it doesn’t matter how famous you are. I tell people all the time that when I stand before the Lord, He’s not going to ask me how many Grammys I have, but He is going to be looking for a heart that reflects who He is. The only way you can keep that heart is to stay submitted to spiritual authority, to make sure you are getting poured into.”
Winans told the students to view their local church as their filling station and to remember that filling up each week will help to keep them from running on empty.
“You can’t pour out anything if you don’t have anything in you,” she said.
While touring or traveling to different venues to sing can be an incredible experience for artists, Winans said Christians in the music industry must surround themselves with people who genuinely know them and are not afraid to exhort them in their faith.
“(The local church) is the community that keeps you accountable,” she said. “(They are the) people who are not blown away by who you are, but they tell you the truth and they tell you things you don’t like so you can be a better person and so that you can become all that God has called you to be.”
She said that although there will be difficult seasons of life for every church family, there is spiritual growth to be found for those who stay the course and continue to serve instead of leaving for another church community.
“You’re going to have good times, you’re going to have bad times, but your relationship gets richer the longer you stay,” Winans said. “Get plugged in and be submitted. A lot of people jump around because they hear something they don’t want to hear. … Correction and rebuke is something that this generation is not used to hearing. But it is a part of you growing and being healthy and strong.”
To the young up-and-coming recording artists and worship leaders, Winans said it may be a challenge for them to travel on weekends, when they have less time to spend with their local church.
“Pray about it and allow the Holy Spirit to lead you,” she said. “But know that the Holy Spirit will never lead you outside of the order of being poured into.”
When asked what advice she would give to students who are ready to launch into the music industry, Winans said it starts with a servant’s heart.
“If you want to start out like Jesus and you want to remain like Him, then you have to do what He did, and He came to serve, not to be served,” she said. “That (mindset) automatically takes care of a lot of stuff.”
Winans said a career as a worship leader or a recording artist is not about individuality and building a kingdom on Earth, but rather trusting in the Lord’s plan for our lives while pursuing the passions He has given us.
“God has wired us all up — He has given us all gifts for a purpose,” she said. “He already has a plan. But we have to take out time to seek His plan and His way and then we have to trust Him enough to open those doors at the right time. I have learned over the years to thank God for the doors that He has opened and to thank God for the doors that He has closed.”
She said that trusting the Lord has to be partnered with also working hard, a balance that she recognized can be difficult to figure out.
“You’ve got to work and you’ve got to be skillful in your craft because God does deserve the best,” she said.
To remain grounded when success arrives, Winans said music students should know who they are before the world does.
“Sometimes doors are opened and you aren’t ready,” she said. “If you don’t know who you are, then the world will dictate who you are. And that’s dangerous. So find a home church, continue to pray, and ask God to bring people into your life that will help you.”
“I don’t want to sound like a broken record here today but it’s pretty simple,” she added. “It isn’t always easy, but it’s simple.”
School of Music Dean Stephen Müller said the Night of Worship is always a wonderful, memorable event.
“The students and faculty worked so hard preparing and did such an amazing job,” he said. “What blows my mind is how the dynamic changes when God shows up. The hearts of the students and their desire to offer genuine praise combined with their talent, training, and preparation formed a perfect storm of worship and praise. Combine that with the ministry of CeCe Winans, and I really shouldn’t be surprised that God showed up as we magnified the Name above all names — Jesus.”