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John Gray Joins OWN
By Zon D’Amour
Published April 19, 2017

John & Aventer Gray (Photo Courtesy: OWN Communications)

There’s something innately special about John Gray that draws hundreds, if not thousands of people to attend his mid-week service at the internationally renown, Lakewood Church. As the first African American associate pastor of Joel Osteen’s nearly twenty-thousand seat megachurch in Houston, Texas, Gray’s nontraditional use of song, dance and secular colloquialisms make bible stories as intriguing as reality TV. Speaking of reality TV, Gray along with his wife Aventer and their two kids are the latest family to enter the docu-series space with their new show, “The Book Of John Gray”. Weekly, the pastor gives viewers a look into his life outside of the pulpit as well as his selfless quest to be of service to others in his everyday life. In an exclusive interview with the L.A. Sentinel. John and Aventer get candid about the tests before their testimony.

LAS: With OWN having so many phenomenal shows, what was missing in the docu-series space that made you all want to open up your lives and be a part of the network?

John Gray: It wasn’t that something was missing; we had something to add. “What The Book Of John Gray” does is give a perspective of life that hasn’t been seen on TV. We’re at the intersection of faith and humanity. We know that faith and being Christians doesn’t anesthetize us to pain but it’s the filter through which we process our triumphs and our tragedies.

My wife and I made an agreement that if we were going to produce this show, we would do it in an authentic way where we would show our scars and our flaws and invite people in to gleam from our lives what they will.

The crux of our show, which makes it different, is in every episode we’re helping someone else. To me, that’s what we added to the docu-series space.

LAS: What advice would you share with millennials who are constantly in a state of comparison and in need of validation from social media?

When we’re in a tough, transitional season, how can we possibly be present in whatever God has us going through when it seems as if other people are thriving in areas where we’re failing?

Aventer Gray: The biggest enemy to our minds is comparison. When you look on social media, people are only going to present themselves in the best light. They don’t post a photo in rollers and you can’t smell their morning breath; everything is dolled up and filtered. People present their best because that’s what we’ve been conditioned to do. So I think that social media can sometimes lend itself to the not real reality of what’s actually going on. Oftentimes we’re comparing ourselves to things that don’t matter.

If you’re content to stay in your lane, God is going to get you to wherever He has purposed for you and eventually, you’ll get to the expected end that the Lord has for your life.

When one of my friends got married, I knew what her past used to be like, even though I had two failed engagements to the same person, I questioned God as to why she got to get married and have this beautiful family before me? But her life isn’t mine and is she not redeemable? Does she not deserve a wonderful husband and children regardless of past mistakes she’s made? I don’t know what her brokenness was; maybe it was losing her father at an early age and seeking validation from men that said that they loved her—I don’t know.

But I think instead of looking at where people are right now, do a little research on their back stories and maybe it’ll help you understand how they got that way or why you shouldn’t envy where they are now based on the processes and they hardships that they had to walk through to get to where you currently see them.

JG: There’s no greater distraction than trying to compare your life to another individual, it just doesn’t work. I’ve always been able to celebrate other people because I never wanted to be anyone else. And I think in a social media age, which is very impersonal, we’re really finding value and trying to live vicariously through people’s photos, tweets and posts because we’ve lost the art of conversation. There are times when I’ve had some very spirited dialogues with my wife over social media and what I realized is maybe if I’m more engaging as a husband and more involved with the things that she’s passionate about, maybe she  wouldn’t scroll as much. So I stopped looking at her proclivities and started looking at my activities.

Millennials need to determine how and what they want to spend their time on. Social media is a great escape but does it really generate value and revenue for you? Is it helping to push your career forward? Those are things that you want to consider because you can be scrolling and look up and you’re 43-years-old with none of your dreams accomplished and you’re bitter because you’re living through someone on social media who seems as if they’re excelling.

LAS: When people see your present successes, they may not be familiar with the tests that came before the testimony. Is there a particularly challenging time that makes your present situation even more humbling?

AG: A few years ago I spoke at a conference called “Arise” with Pastor Lisa Osteen (Joel Osteen’s sister). Towards the end we were discussing the preparation for receiving my husband. I hadn’t realized that every obstacle I had been through was preparing me to have the shoulders to carry such a great legacy along side of my husband.

Even though I grew up with both of my parents, my father was an amazing provider but he was gone a lot so I have abandonment issues. He was working a lot so that I could have the life I did. My parents were conditioned to stay because that’s what they saw. So I thought I wanted a marriage like that.

(Photo Courtesy:OWN Communications)

I went through a lot coming out of high school. I was very sick, my mother had three aneurisms my freshman year of college and my brother was diagnosed with cancer and he passed away when I was graduating.

I think losing my brother early, having an appendectomy, a tonsillectomy and then I took a year and a half off school to go home as my mother battled and survived breast cancer I used to wonder why I was going through so much.

I remember going to God and asking, ‘What’s going on? I’m a good girl. I make good grades.’ It was no easy road for me, there was challenge after challenge and each time I went to God and He was layering me with the substance that I needed to be able to walk with the man of God that God had purposed for my life.

JG: I didn’t see this, this wasn’t my dream–I just wanted to serve God and whatever that looked like, I wanted to do it. I grew up in a 2-bedroom apartment with no air conditioning but I still felt like I had everything I needed. My mother is a phenomenal woman who gave me every opportunity to pursue my dreams and goals but I had no idea that God would do all of this.

My job was to be obedient to serve him and remain faithful and because I did that, all of the doors are opening and these aren’t doors that I prayed for. I didn’t pray to go to Lakewood, I didn’t pray to have a show on OWN, I prayed to be obedient.

Now the one thing I do ask God for often, almost everyday, is to make me a better husband because I know that’s the legacy that will have the most impact particularly on our children because they’ll see authentic love and if I love my wife right and do what I’m supposed to do, that’ll be the best example that I can give to my daughter and son.

There are pastors that I wanted to mentor me that wouldn’t take my phone call and now they ask me to come to their church, which is interesting. Now that the world validates my gifts and my calling, now they want to come knocking—but when I was asking you, when I was nobody, I couldn’t get a returned phone call.

So it’s funny, the people that value me now didn’t value me then and I never want to be that person.

“The Book Of John Gray” airs Saturdays at 10/9c on OWN

Categories: Entertainment | Religion | TV
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