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Interview with Dennis Jernigan

September 12, 2011

Dennis Jernigan is a child of God. After my visit with him, I gather he would like to be known as just that. Although, he has written and recorded some of the most sung worship songs on the planet (including We Will Worship the Lamb of Glory, Great is the Lord Almighty, and my favorite, Sit With You Awhile), and although he has recorded with Natalie Grant, Twila Paris, Ron Kenoly, and Rebecca St. James, it seems clear to me that his passion is to let others know who the real Dennis Jernigan is.

It is true. Most men define themselves by what they do, whether what’s been done is good or bad. We even (ladies, included) define ourselves by something major that has happened to us (again, whether it is good or bad). DJ (what I like to call him) takes it a bit further. Men and women tend to define ourselves by what we are tempted to do.

“I’ve never felt attracted to a woman while growing up,” he said to me. The things DJ enjoyed, music, art, and even the sensitive/emotional personality he expressed, gave others the opportunity to tell him that he was different than the “typical” boy. So he was called names: queer, homo, gay–just to name a few.

Sooner than later, he began to believe what others were telling him. He was different. He was gay. And this troubled him deeply. But he’s not troubled anymore. The fact that he’s not troubled isn’t because he was gay. He isn’t troubled now because he is no longer gay.

I got to visit with Dennis over this whole issue, and…I have to say…I didn’t hear any bitterness coming from him. He said nothing of a simple formula that he did to overcome his homosexuality. While there could easily have been a thousand questions to ask (which many of you reading this probably have), the scope of this interview centered on the fact that a purely gay man can be delivered, transformed, changed into something incredible. Dennis is very happily married to Melinda (a female!), and, together, they have 9 children (and are about to add their 4th spouse of children)! He is walking intensely with the Lord. His life is joyful, not miserable. He’s walking in freedom; he’s not suppressing anything.

What you are about to read is not comprehensive of our conversation but accurate highlights. Whether you are a man or woman who is struggling with same-sex attraction or porn addiction of any sort, I challenge you to see the hope as you read this. See the Lord. See the journey to freedom Dennis is on…and join him there.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011, 2:00pm

Chad: I have a Christian friend in his early 40’s who is gay. And he struggles daily with depression–wishing he could get out of this life. In fact, he’s at the point of giving up. He’s of the opinion that there is no hope for someone who is gay to ever overcome it. When I told him about you (I’ve read your testimony) he said he believes you were never really gay but just going through a phase. What would you say to him? We’re you really gay? Or were you just going through a phase in your life?

DJ: Oh my, it boggles my mind that someone can say something like that about me when they’ve never met me, and they’ve never talked with me. Here’s the truth: I eventually came to a point in 1981 that I was going to be gay forever–that I just had to accept it. There was nothing I could do about it. I’ve tried everything, and nothing helped me out of this. So I gave up trying. I even attempted suicide. Chad, I wasn’t dabbling in a lifestyle. This was no phase–I’ve never felt attracted to a woman while growing up. This was my reality.

Chad: So what happened? How did you change? Was it immediate, or was it a process?

DJ: The answer to that last question is Yes. I knew I wasn’t supposed to be gay. My body wasn’t intended to be with another man. I had listened for so long to the world telling me who I was. And I was listening to my gay friends telling me what I should do. But I knew I wanted something different. I realized that maybe the problem is on my end. So I was looking for someone real. I wanted to hear from someone who was real. I had been told by the world that I was gay, and I had been told by the church that I was going to hell and there was no hope.

It was at a concert in 1981. The group was the 2nd Chapter of Acts–and these guys were real. They weren’t entertainers. It was that night that I lifted my hands to the Lord and cried out, “If You’re real, show me Your heart!” And He told me, “Dennis, I love you. I have always loved you.” And that night He changed me. For so long I had listened to the wrong people, and now I wanted to start with the Lord. I wanted to listen to Him. And I did.

Chad: So this one event changed you?

DJ: This one event changed me. You see, as a homosexual, I was so stuck on myself. I was so selfish. Everything was about me, me, me. This experience, though, wasn’t about me. It was about my Father who loves me and wants to tell me the truth of who I am.

Chad: Wow. That’s incredible. You weren’t just dabbling in homosexuality. You were gay, but God changed you. It seems you’re telling me that this experience wasn’t something weird where you did something strange and God did something strange with you, but you just gave up yourself to God and listened to truth. So tell me how it was a process? Were you still tempted?

DJ: Of course I was! I am even to this day. I can’t forget my past; the Enemy still taunts me. But here’s what I found to be true, Chad. I am not defined by what I’m tempted by. Jesus was tempted, but He wasn’t defined by that temptation. He was defined by His Father. And God defines me. And I decided to stop listening to my temptations to define me. I decided to stop listening to world and even other Christians to define. I decided to listen to my Heavenly Father tell me from His Word who I reall am. Here’s the deal: everything in the mighty oak tree is already in the acorn. It just needs to grow. God tells us in His Word, “The old you is buried. Come be someone new!”

God told me, “Come find out Who I am, and you’ll find out who you are.” I realized that either God is God, or He is not. So I had a change of mind and decided once for all, to belief my Father–to see my life from His point of view.

Chad: God defines you. I love that! It seems that you made the decision to listen to truth–not your feelings or others’ opinions of you. And that truth created the process of continual growth.

DJ: Yes. It didn’t take away the temptation, but I’ve realized that while I don’t get to choose who or what I’m tempted by, I do get to choose the response. And here’s what I’ve come to understand about temptation: temptation is an opportunity for me to draw into a greater relationship with the Lord. It wasn’t easy. In fact, back in ’81, I knew I could change, but I didn’t want to do the work. And I know that’s where many gays are today. They know that change is possible through the power of God, but they don’t want to do the work. It’s like this: I wasn’t born with the desire to eat broccoli, but I learned to love it because it’s good for me.

Chad: So at some point you got married. What was that like?

DJ: Yes, about 2 years after God changed my life, I got married to Melinda. A very good friend had told me that since God forgot all my sin, then I should, too. So I thought, “Great! Then I don’t have to talk about it with anyone.” Then I realized later that I needed to tell her.

Chad: How did that go? Did you have other brothers to help you through all this?

DJ: Chad, I had the greatest fellowship with one brother who, when he found out I was gay, said to me, “Dennis, I don’t know how to help you, but I know the answer. And I’m gonna walk with you all the way to Jesus.” I had to go outside of the “traditional” church to find someone who will love me like Jesus. And he encouraged me to be completely open and honest with my wife. So I told her, and you know what she said? “Oh, is that all? I knew there was something. Now I can be honest about all my junk, too!”

Chad: That’s truly amazing! Honesty with your wife brought about so much freedom.

DJ: I love John 8:32, “the truth will set you free.”

Chad: So when did you share with your church that you used to be gay?

DJ: It was in July of 1988 that I shared this with my church. I had already talked with my pastor, and he was very supportive. I even told him that, if he wanted me to, I would step down. But he supported me and encouraged me to be open with it to the church. I was the worship leader and in July ’88 I shared my story. And it was totally amazing–other people began to share their hidden stories, too!

Chad: And what kind of impact did it have on your church? Negative or positive?

DJ: Chad, the ministry exploded! The worship was more authentic than ever. People were, literally, coming from all over the nation to be part of the realism of the fellowship and worship. It wasn’t all positive, though. I did have 2 close friends leave me. They had helped get my music ministry started. They both told me that if I were to share my story, then my ministry would be over. Well, I shared it, my ministry grew, and they left me. Even record labels refused to pick me up because my story was so controversial. But God had better plans for me.

As I said before, this blog is not a comprehensive report of the visit with Dennis, but I wanted to share the highlights of our conversation. I love how this is Christ-centered. DJ’s testimony is about truth leading to transformation. It’s about the true power of God and whether or not we decide to believe that He is able. It’s about hope that God can. Since the diagnosis of our daughter, Kristina, with cancer in August of 2010, one of our favorite phrases of truth is firmly engraved in our hearts and minds: Our God Is Bigger.

Perhaps you should have that engraved somewhere, too.

Dennis is now an author! He recently published his first of many novels entitled The Chronicles of Bren: Captured. Order it today!

Copyright J Chad Barrett, 2011. All rights reserved. None of this publication may be reproduced (except in quotes), unless a request is made in writing to the author.

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2 Comments
  1. Linda permalink

    Chad
    I was hanging on every word that Dennis shared during your interview, his transparency helps me see that there is hope for those we love that are still now, where he used to be. I loved him being honest about the ongoing struggle with satan….I can see where that would show that he is being real. I am assuming he has always been a believer……that would be a question for him I would ask. How do you minister to someone who is not a believer, but also involved in a pagan religion?
    Also, besides prayer, what is the best approach we can take with a gay loved one? I know it is love the person, but sometimes when the gay person pushes their lifestyle into your space…..I don’t know how to show love without hurting him with boundaries?? Chad, the timing of this is so God for me as some real struggles have raised up just in the last few weeks! Thank you for sharing!
    Blessings to you, Linda

  2. Linda, my heart aches for you. I can’t imagine having a loved one who is gay, unsaved, and pushing the lifestyle on me. I will def pray for wisdom.

    Tough love is so hard to accomplish, but He gives us more strength. Holiness hurts those who do not practice it, because the conviction penetrates to the heart. Your boundaries are holy. I encourage you to prayerfully and wisely make boundaries and keep them.

    Remember, it is God’s Spirit who convicts. So conviction is not a bad thing. Just because something hurts doesn’t mean it is bad or it destroys. God’s love is tough. Loving someone doesn’t mean to allow their sin to continue to affect you. God’s character shines because it is pure. His character shines through us into the dark places. Trust Him and keep shining.

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