Stop, Look and Listen


Charles White

In a society that values fame and fortune above most things, it is rare to find a reluctant celebrity. However, given the success of his recent album, Grace Like Rain, Todd Agnew has reluctantly assumed the role of a celebrity in the Christian Music genre. He is quick to point out that the real star in all of this is not him, but God. To know Todd is to understand why.


Todd Agnew grew up the adopted son of two loving parents who raised him in the church from an early age. “ I was one of those kids who was born on Tuesday and was in church on Sunday. I was really fortunate to grow up in a strong Church. The Church was a vital part of my life growing up.”


Although he never remembers a time when he didn’t know he was adopted, Todd never struggled with it. Instead, his parents treated him as a regular member of the family.  “I’ve never struggled with that. My family is my family and they’re my parents and they love me and that’s what my life is. I don’t wonder about the rest of it. It has given me a unique perspective on the Christian life. I understand what it means to be born and to be loved by a family that I couldn’t do anything to deserve.”

As Todd grew older, he became more involved in his church as a worship leader. Serving as a worship leader awakened his love of music. "As I grew as a worship leader, I realized that when I learned a song at a camp, I sang it with all I had, but when I sang in church, it was just routine. I've been in church all my life, and it was just habit for me. I knew every word to every song, and there was no speaking of God in that, just rote practice."

His love of music led him to compose music and perform covers of artist like Dave Mathews Band and Counting Crows as well as some of his own music in coffee houses and similar places. However, Todd felt God calling him in another direction. “God said ‘Hey, I made you a song writer and you’re already doing the whole rock band thing and you’re a worship leader. I want you to combine those talents into one album. The outcome of all that is this new record.”


As Agnew explains, even though he felt the call to pursue a larger music ministry, he never thought he’d sign with a record label. However, God had different plans. “I didn’t want to be on a label. I had seen friends change and have bad experiences and I wasn’t sure that’s what I wanted. I had my life all planned out for the next couple of years and God comes in and says, ‘No, I want you to go and record an album.’”


To his dismay, Todd learned that it would cost about $50,000 dollars to record the album.  Undaunted, his friends pulled together and helped him to raise the money to cut the album as an independent artist. However, Todd realized that money alone was not enough to create a great album.


On advice from a friend, Agnew relocated to Memphis to use the studios at Ardent Records. As he began the recording process, Dana Kelly from Ardent Records realized that more people needed to hear Todd’s album. "Walking by where Todd was recording, I found myself stopping and listening to his music. It wasn't long before I wanted to get involved. Similarly, whenever I play some of Todd's music for people, it has the same effect of stopping them in their tracks. His music is definitely not background material-it's music that demands attention."


Given his amazing journey and the incredible success of his first single, Fragile Breath, it would be easy for Todd to credit himself and all his hard work as the reason for his success, but he doesn’t.  “The new chart came out yesterday and Fragile Breath was #7. If you had told me this would happen two years ago, I would have just laughed in your face. That’s not me. I have no capability to do that and God’s been reminding me of that.”


So how does Agnew define success? He doesn’t. God does. “God defines success for us. The goal is to follow Him where He is going. It’s also about people and loving them and bringing them into a relationship with Christ from wherever they are. I think for me that is what it is all about. It’s about ministry and the people.”

In fact, when people listen to his music, he simply wants them to find God,
“My desire is for people to come into contact with God. Whatever way he wants to use the album to come across to them is fine with me! I don’t need to have an agenda anymore because I’ve realized that God’s ideas and his dreams for me are bigger and better than mine.”


When asked to offer teens one piece of advice, that advice was to stop, look and listen. “Most people that take an honest look at their life will struggle with depression and lack of fulfillment. I think that alot of that has to do with the fact that we don’t understand what God really wants for our lives. Life is tough. If you’re reflective of God and you’re being who He wants you to be, He’ll put you where He wants to put you. Learn the voice of your Shepard. When you learn what that voice sounds like, it keeps you going in the right direction.”


When talking with Todd and hearing his story, one can’t help but hear Elvis singing, “Stop, Look and Listen” in the background. So many of us go through life with blinders and ear plugs that we miss the voice of our Shepard calling.  We need to remember the humble words of the Christian warrior monks of the Knights Templar, “Not us, but to You be the glory” and live our lives Christ-centered.