Every time he brought home a Grammy, it was another award for the Lord. But he was not winning any souls.
Andrae Crouch turned to preaching because it was time, he said. But still today, when he’s in the pulpit, his feet tap and his body sways to the music.
As pastor of Christ Memorial Church of God in Christ, the eight-time Grammy winner is one year into a family tradition started by his late father and brother.
“Although I’ve written a thousand songs about him, I feel like I have met God in a way that I’ve never known him before,” he said. “God gave me excellence in music.
“My ears became skilled from what I heard. Now I can pass on what I’ve heard to my congregation.”
His predominantly Hispanic Pentecostal church in Pacoima, a suburb of northwest Los Angeles, is a spiritual oasis from crime and gangs. Crouch wants Hispanics to become a part of the mostly black congregation.
“Black, Hispanic, white, Asian - it doesn’t matter,” he said. “All that matters is that they must care about Jesus Christ.”
Crouch’s father, Bishop Benjamin J. Crouch, founded the church in 1951. He died of cancer in 1993.
“We lost a lot of the older people when my father left here,” Crouch said. “They were expecting me to be him, and I’m not.”
Crouch’s brother, the Rev. Benjamin Crouch Jr., took over but died four months later, also of cancer.
For Crouch, the transition from gospel singing to gospel preaching was not an easy one, but he says he just does what comes naturally.
“People never know what to expect in my music,” he said. “People don’t know what to expect in my church. They just know it will be real.
“We’re carrying on the standard of living for God.”
Crouch, who has been winning Grammys since 1974, has toured 58 countries. His music has been translated into 21 languages.
His latest Grammy was in 1995 for “Mercy,” his pop-contemporary gospel album.
He is also a renowned producer, writer and vocal arranger for stars such as Michael Jackson.
With his success in the music industry, it is understandable why preaching came so slowly, he said.
He started singing professionally at 14. He says he’s about 47 but will not be more specific, out of respect, he says, for his twin sister, Sandra.
The average age of his congregation is about 35. He claims many don’t know his music, but they disagree.
Gidgette Myle-Burris, 30, occupied a pew on a recent Sunday holding her 2-month-old in one arm and a tambourine in the other. Her three other children were on stage in the church’s choir.
“He’s a blessed man,” she said. “He’s dedicated, compassionate, with extraordinary ability.
“I knew his music as a child. I won his album at church when I was 6. We wore that album out.”
When Crouch returned last August from two weeks in Norway, the church bulletin board welcomed him home with: “We missed you dearly from the bottom of our hearts, to the depths of our soul. We love you!”
While in Norway, Crouch performed and taught music workshops for church choirs from around the world.
“I taught refreshing things for choir directors that felt stale with what they were doing,” he said. “As long as the music has the word of God in it, it’s contagious.”
Sounds of laughter and screams of “Jesus” and “Hallelujah” fill Crouch’s church.
“He brings a presence that I can’t explain in words,” said Willie L. Green, 13, of Burbank. “He’s awesome. He brings the spirit alive.”
Crouch’s words are more like a musician than a preacher.
“I knew in time I was going to be a pastor,” he said. “It was very wellorchestrated by the Lord, but I didn’t want to play at the time.
“It was an arrangement. Once I accepted the arrangement, I went right into it.”