Placing God Before Pleasure
Jamie Kimmett was a soccer star, or he was going to be. Born and raised in Kilmarnock, Scotland, soccer was his life. At an early age, he was being pursued by scouts for professional clubs. But, at the age of 16, the world of music rocked his world. “The first cassette I ever wanted was Michael Jackson, Dangerous,” Kimmett shares. “I heard his voice on the radio and said, who is that? I had to have it.”
For his 16th birthday, Jamie’s dad gave him a guitar. He diligently taught himself to play and won first place in his town’s Pop Idol contest (a precursor to American Idol in the states). It wasn’t before long that he had to choose between music and soccer. He gave up sports, and a potentially successful career, and dove into music fulltime.
After graduating college, he was contacted by a manager in Los Angeles and had the opportunity to meet some of the biggest names in the industry. “I was working with some of the biggest names in pop, getting through the right doors, all the while, people kept inviting me to church with them, in LA of all places.”
“It’s like God was bringing all these people to talk to me one after the other. It got to the point where I’d be in line at Starbucks, turn around and someone would ask, ‘Do you know Jesus?’ and I’d reply, ‘No, I’m just here for some hot chocolate.’” Kimmett was never really interested in God. He didn’t grow up in the church and faith wasn’t really a part of his life. “I was living my life as if God didn’t exist. I wasn’t an atheist; it just wasn’t something I thought about.”
After refusing another offer to go to church and learn about God, Kimmett declined the invitation and went to the gym instead. “I get to the locker room and open a locker and there’s this book inside. The front said ‘Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).’ I looked around the room, sure there’d be someone there, like I was on the Truman Show… In that locker room I said to God, ‘Are you real? Do you exist? If you are real, the next church invitation I get, I’ll go.”’
A few days later, Jamie finally accepted the invitation. “The pastor spoke from Genesis chapter 3 and I thought, yeah, I know this story, the one with the talking snake and the apple.” But as Kimmett listened, he realized this isn’t just a story. It explains why the world is the way it is and even more important – why we need a Savior. “It explained why even though there were good things happening in my life, there was still an emptiness, a brokenness that wouldn’t go away.”
This church service gave Jamie an opportunity to embrace and grasp what he never allowed himself to understand. “It’s the first time I understood sin wasn’t just a religious concept, it was a reality in my own heart.” He sat in church and wept.
At that point, Jamie decided he needed to make a change. He wanted to devote his life to Christ. “It was a personal relationship, not abstract or keeping rules. The magnitude of realizing Jesus died on the cross for me was an overwhelming experience and became the most beautiful and important hope in my life.”
About a week later, Kimmett found himself performing for a major music label who offered him a record deal. He’d been dreaming of this moment since he received his first guitar from his dad, but something didn’t settle with him because of his new relationship with Christ. He wondered if this deal would be good for his faith.
Kimmett traveled home to Scotland to think and pray about the label’s offer. He was given an Old Testament passage from Leviticus to ponder, “Thou shall not sacrifice your firstborn to the gods of Moloch.” Not knowing what this scripture had to do with his situation, he flew back to LA. “I’m sitting in the conference room with the President, the execs and my lawyer, pen in hand, unable to say yes…questioning if this is what God wants me to do.” Upon seeing Kimmett’s hesitation, one of the executives said, “There are people who would sacrifice their firstborn child for this opportunity.” God’s Word became crystal clear in that moment. Even though he was new in his faith, Jamie knew that following God was more important than fame.
After walking away from the deal, Kimmett returned to Scotland. He started taking a course to train to be a pastor. To make ends meet, he made money by playing music on the streets. “I’d sing 4 hours of pop covers, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, John Mayer, and the last hour I’d sing about Jesus,” remarks Kimmett.
Over time, he wanted to play less pop music, and sing more about Jesus. One week, Kimmett felt lead to play his own Christian songs instead of pop covers. He made double than usual. “It wasn’t about the money, but about the Lord’s promise to take care of me… I determined in that moment, from now on my music and faith come together.”
Kimmett saved up enough money to return to America, but this time he traveled to the Christian music capital of the world, Nashville, TN. Not knowing a single person, through cold calls and one L.A. contact who had a connection, he found himself signing a deal with Reunion Records/Sony Music. “When music was my identity, I was only as good as the next song I wrote or the next performance. Finding a relationship with Christ has been the most fulfilling thing in my life.”