From as young as nine years of age, I remember admiring the way my elder brother, Wayne, played the guitar.
How easily an ordinary gathering could turn into a wonderful time of togetherness, when the guitar came out. By the age of eleven, I could resist the urge no longer, and picked up my mom’s budget acoustic guitar, and with an instruction book open before me, strummed my first chords.
Within the first year, I had advanced enough to lead the music at the youth group, and by the age of fifteen, began to write songs. Throughout my teenage years, passion for live performance of original Christian music that identified with the hearer, drove me forward. I rehearsed more hours than I can count, dappled in sound equipment, recording software, midi sequencing software and machines, drum machines, effects processors, and everything else sound related.
After a few unfortunate performances, by which some people will always remember me with an embarrassed giggle, I began to audition people to form a band. By this time I was in my mid-twenties already. The band was set for failure from the start by the significant distances that we had to travel to rehearse together. I was playing with a reasonable bassist and an absolutely brilliant lead guitarist, yet never managed to secure a drummer of any skill level.
I continued to do live performances alone, at venues including prisons. That time coincided with a very difficult series of events in my life, and I ended up relocating and placing all of my sound gear in storage. A years-long hiatus ensued, involving the sale of my sound gear, and a significant change of focus in life. I completely submerged myself in theological studies for ten years, and gave myself to learning the art and science of preaching and counselling from the Bible.
Yet, a passion as intense as the one I have experienced to perform live, original, evangelistic, Christian music, that identifies with the audience, and for which I believe I am reasonably gifted, is not easily shaken. Opportunity to present Christ is not easily turned down, in my thinking. Although, in my mindset as a teenager, the music was a vehicle to stardom, such ideas have now had time to rub off in the face of reality.
Over the years, I have continued to write songs and rehearse them, and I have become so associated with my guitar that people are a little surprised when they see me arrive somewhere without it. It is my prayer and desire, that the Lord will be pleased to use the moderate degree of gifting he has given me, for his glory in the salvation of souls through the medium of live performances of evangelistic Christian music.
Central MotivationWhile I had minimal theological understanding throughout my teens and early twenties, the Lord has granted me a transforming experience, from the age of twenty-seven, that has changed that.
Evangelical theology has captured and absorbed my heart and mind, as it directs me continually toward Christ. The gospel of Christ is my primary motivation in everything I do, live original Christian music is no exception. In fact, if it were not for the opportunity to present Christ, I would not even pursue the medium of live performances at all.
Since the Lord took hold of me in earnest in 1998, and I have enjoyed many years of mentorship under church elders, and have preached hundreds of sermons and conducted hundreds of hours of Biblical Counselling, he has equipped me far more specifically to write songs and perform.
Life, I have discovered, through what I have witnessed in ambulance work, through the sudden deaths of people very close to me, through front-line Christian ministry, and through close association with very gifted fellow-servants of Christ, is very unpredictable, and must be seized and lived while we have it. We are not preserving ourselves for something else; this is it. This is the opportunity to honour Christ with our lives. It is entirely possible to waste it.
So, simply put, for me to live is Christ. Christ for me. Christ for those whose lives God brings across my path, whether in ordinary life, preaching, counselling, or live performances of original, evangelistic, Christian music.
Type of SongsSince 1982, I have led the worship for groups of believers thousands of times.
Often, when I speak about live performances, people mistake what I am saying for a session of praise and worship. When I speak about live original evangelistic Christian music, I am speaking about singing to people, not primarily singing with people. Some people do know my songs and it is a treat to hear them sing along, but that is not the primary goal.
The songs are specifically aimed at creating an awareness of spiritual need in the unsaved hearer. Many of them are life-story type songs that follow the life of an individual, showing either how they were transformed by God, or condemned.
The songs span different levels of intensity from very mild and thoughtful, to songs that are decidedly forceful. Some of them are written to encourage believers in their struggle this side of glory. I never fail to present the gospel in speech between songs, and to look at a specific text of Scripture. I love, more than anything else, to try to make contact with the audience, so that it is not just a dead singing of songs and a goodbye. It is the people and their souls that draw me to them, and a performance is wasted if I fail to speak to the audience in a meaningful way.
It is a constant burden in prayer for me that God will speak into the hearts of those who attend, using this means to transform them by His saving grace.
I do not conduct so-called “altar calls”, because I trust the Holy Spirit to save individuals of his choosing thorough the faithful presentation of the Gospel of Christ. I have a full statement of faith on my website.
Intended AudiencePrimarily, I aim at audiences who may otherwise have spent their evening in a night club, listening to secular live music.
The most suitable environment is one in which a local church plans a special Friday of Saturday evening event, where they invite those who may not otherwise enter a church service, yet who need to hear the gospel. People who come even out of curiosity. People who come in response to a local church’s pamphlets or posters. The performance is also suitable to more public environments such as church bazaar or other open-to-the-public church events, providing a performance can be presented in the evening. Day time events are not suitable.
It must be said that stylistically my music is not suited to all audiences. I enjoy it louder and I sing rock-type music with passion. Yet don’t interpret that to mean that I lack respect for God.
Unless a church is accustomed to more feisty, rock-type music, I am not much suited to Sunday church slots. Having said that, if invited, I would certainly take the opportunity of a Sunday evening opportunity, trusting those who invited me to take responsibility for any offense that my be caused by complaints about the style of music. For some people, it is too much, yet for some audiences, it is not enough.
It is best suited to environments where a performance can be left to proceed unhindered by complaints about the sound for approximately two hours. I need a minimum of an hour-and-a-half before the time to set up and approximately the same afterwards to pack up—depending on how long people engage me in conversation.
The Local ChurchI love the local church and am convinced that people who are saved or who come under conviction of the Holy Spirit through the presentation of the gospel, need to be directed to a good, evangelical local church. They need to be among committed Christian people in order to grow as God intends them to grow.
I am not a lone-ranger; I personally have always been completely committed to the local churches of which I have been a member. I am currently an elder at Living Hope Church in Sunnyside, Pretoria, South Africa, serving alongside Joshua Mack. We warmly receive new visitors and create an environment in which they can best grow to appreciate Christ and to experience sanctification. This is one of the reasons I focus on church-organised evangelistic events. Converts need a place to go once the Spirit has begun work on them.
BiographyNo other explanation for the continuing life of Alan Lester exists, except the grace of God.
Grateful for the privilege of a caring family, into which he was born in 1970, and with whom he lived in the small farming town of Ermelo in South Africa, and then in Kempton Park.
Military service as an operational Medic followed high school, and then a few years as a paramedic in Johannesburg, the busiest ambulance station in the Southern Hemisphere.
After making a profession of faith in Jesus Christ in 1981, Alan experienced a strong work of grace in his heart in 1998, sharply changing the entire direction of his life.
Theological studies, focusing specifically on Biblical Counselling occupied the next ten years.
He gave seven-and-a-half years to managing a rehabilitation centre for young men, interlaced with street preaching and evangelism. From this experience sprung his first title, Unending Hope for the Exhausted Addict.
He has, by the kindness of God, served in several churches in different capacities, and now functions as a founding member, elder and pastor with Dr. Joshua Mack at Living Hope Church, Sunnyside, Pretoria, South Africa.
Alan married Charleen in 1993, a 19-year marriage from which he is the father of two deeply loved daughters. His wife Charleen died suddenly in 2012, the subject of his second book, Hurting in Hope.
Alan began to play the guitar at age 11 in 1981, and began writing evangelistic music in 1985. His desire is primarily for the evangelical Gospel of Jesus Christ, and secondarily for music.
MoneyIf you invite me to do a live performance, this is my position on money:
1. I don’t charge for a live performance. There are however costs involved, and I appreciate financial help to cover those costs. If the distance is too great, and I can’t afford to get there, I will simply say so 🙂
2. If a church chooses to invite me for a live performance, it is up to them whether they charge people to attend. It is my opinion, however, that admittance should be on a “Give what you can” basis, so as not to make money a hindrance that keeps people away.
Support Graceunlimited LiveI could never adequately express my gratitude to God, and those whose hearts He has moved to support me over the years. From time to time people ask how they can support me financially, so here are the two simplest means:
My banking details are as follows:ABSA Savings Account 9090102435 Branch code 632005 SWIFT Code: ABSAZAJJ
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Thank you very much for showing the kindness of God! (2 Samuel 9:3) If you choose to offer support, please mail me so I can acknowledge all gifts 🙂