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Derek Minor Doesn’t Fit the Mold Anymore

Derek Minor Doesn’t Fit the Mold Anymore

“I have always been a little edgy for the Church, but not edgy enough for the world,” Derek Minor admits. “I’m a bit of a nomad.”

Minor has spent the last several years working through the hurt he experienced after witnessing the hypocrisy of the church up close and personal, both from the hands of his pastor but also the people who were supposed to be his “brothers and sisters in Christ.”

“I mean honestly, there was a time when I was done with ‘church people,’” Minor says. “I tried my best as far as music is concerned to find any way away from Christians. I felt like I needed to find something else to do besides be around this. And in that isolation, as I was in different places, I realized you can leave the Church, but you still are faced with the fact that people aren’t perfect.”

On the outside, Minor was cautious of what he let slip out. But on the inside, he felt like his faith had been completely shaken.

“Religion and faith is the innermost part of us,” he said. “Whether you’re religious or not, whatever that thing is that you hold, that faith that you have that there is no God, that’s a core essential part of your being as much as it is my faith that I do believe there is a God. And when you’re shaking at your core, that gets all shaken up. You’re like, man, I’ve got to get out of here.

“So you go somewhere else and you find out those people aren’t perfect,” he continues. “And then you go somewhere else and you find out they’re also not perfect. Then you look in the mirror and you say, well, ‘I’m not perfect either, so what’s the point?’”

That’s the question Minor has spent the last few years seeking an answer for: what is the point of all this? The triumphs and turmoil, the infinite and the finite, the love and despair in our world. Surely someone out there has the answer… right?

Living Authentically

Minor has spent his entire career carving out his own path and determining what works for him. Born Derek Johnson, Jr., he co-founded the hip-hop record label Reflection Music Group later signing to Reach Records in a joint venture in 2011. After releasing two studio albums with Reach, Minor announced he would no longer be working with the label.

For years, Minor lived as a nomad on his own. He felt like he was on an island, trying to get off through his own strength without letting people know he was stranded.

“Truthfully, I think people could tell something was up,” Minor laughed. “I’m pretty honest all the time, so they knew something was going on. They just didn’t know exactly where I was.”

Minor struggled with maintaining his identity as a Christian hip-hop artist while questioning not only his faith but also his life calling.

“For so long, I was so busy trying to make it as an artist and I was so busy trying to be a good father and a good husband while trying to figure out my place in this world that I was so stressed out I wasn’t achieving any of those goals,” Minor said.

It wasn’t until Minor began creating his latest record, Nobody’s Perfect, that he began to find healing.

“I had to have a come to Jesus moment just as a human being,” he said. “As I began healing and working on my process, I had to let the people around me into my process.”

Part of that process was working through the loss of his dad. Minor’s relationship with his father was complicated, he shared. When he died, Minor was left feeling unsettled, longing for conversations they’d never have and wanting answers to questions he could never ask. But thinking back on the conversations they did have, Minor realized something not only about his father but also about everyone.

“I know that he loved me, but he was an imperfect man,” Minor said. “And to be real, he needed therapy. He’d been through some traumatic stuff that just had been bottled away. And when you bottle things up, it just spills out in other ways. For him, it spilled out in addiction and in fear. Fear crippled him, so he thought it was better to keep his distance from people.”

Inadvertently, Minor had picked up that same fear from his father. Instead of leaning on others through times of uncertainty and confusion, Minor would bottle his thoughts up as best he could.

It’s why he felt hesitation to share his full thoughts on social media about presidential elections or political uprisings. He might let some jokes slip out on occasion, even make a few pointed comments, but it took him a while to decide he wanted to speak fully on issues that were important to him, whether it be media, finances, racial discussions or faith.

It hasn’t been easy. In fact, many people within the Christian community have hurled insults at him and cast doubt over his faith. But Minor knows the truth about his journey.

“It’s not like I’m lukewarm,” he clarifies. “When you look at my life, I would say that I definitely bear fruit as a Christian in my life. But I know that I don’t fit the typical infrastructures that have been created for Christian creatives to thrive in.

“But I’ve discovered that the more vocal I’ve been about the position where I’ve lived for the past decade,” he continues, “the more I find that I’m not alone, that I’m not strange. There’s a large group of people who love God, and they don’t know how they fit within Christian structures.”

Through his tours, album release listening parties and even daily social media posts, Minor has discovered that there’s a large group of nomads out there who have been wandering, lost in the middle of a culture they no longer recognize and a church system they struggle to find footing in.

“I’m one of them,” Minor declares. “I love God, I believe in Jesus. I try to live as best I can according to his word, but as the structure of what I believed didn’t line up with what was reality, I didn’t know if or where I fit.”

If he’s being honest with himself, he admitted, he still isn’t entirely sure where he fits. But now, he knows he’s not alone.

“What I’ve started to realize is that we’re still a part of the Church. But we need a space where we can talk and actually be seen and not judged. There’s people on different levels of their journey. Some people are killing it and fully walking in their purpose. We need them as much as we need the people that are still figuring out their purpose. And when the body of Christ comes together like that, then you get the power.”

Over the last several months, Minor has realized his place in the world and the Church is among the nomads.

“I found my purpose in helping other people find their purpose,”  he said. “And it’s been a reawakening for me as far as creatively. I intend to speak to them and help them feel seen.

“I’m going to show them how to be vigilantes.”

The Christian Batman

There’s a scene at the end of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight where Batman, one of pop culture’s most well-known vigilantes, has the realization that in order to bring about the hope and peace he desires, he has to take on an image that people will hate; an image that they won’t understand and will conflict with the good guy persona the hero has built up thus far.

In lieu of the reality of Harvey Dent’s deception, Batman accepts that his place in Gotham isn’t the path of a traditional hero, but of a complicated anti-hero. In the eyes of the people of Gotham, he’ll be seen as a bad guy, but he knows it’s what has to happen in order for hope to live on in their world.

It’s how Minor sees his own story these days.

“That’s kind of where I land,” Minor says. “If being honest and authentic is going to make me the ‘bad guy,’ but it pushes culture to a place where the other people that feel like they don’t fit can actually say that they found something they could latch on to, then I did my job. And I’m going to let God sort out the rest.”

Minor doesn’t necessarily see himself as the poster child for being a vigilante, but he does know what it takes to become one.

“When you look at what a vigilante is, it’s a person who takes the law into their own hands,” Minor said. “They normally are normal people, but they do amazing things. Although, they don’t always do everything right. They have great successes and great failures. I really resonated with that concept.”

Vigilantes, Minor explained, don’t have to do commit a crime to get that moniker. Rather, they’re doing something counter-cultural. Whether it’s a man who has been married for 25 years and raising a family or someone who is choosing to use their finances to benefit others more than themselves, anyone can be a vigilante.

“I think sometimes we can overlook the superpower of being a decent human being is,” Minor said.

And Minor realized, if living an authentic life makes someone a “vigilante,” there needs to be a place for vigilantes to learn from and lean on one another. It’s what led him to create Vigilantes United, an online community for people who love faith, music and media to come together and find common ground. Through online discussions and events, people around the globe come together and speak about their faith, music, media and the challenges they face daily.

“I wanted to create this movement that inspired people because I feel like Christians are drawn to the sensational things,” Minor explained. “You’ll hear about a guy who prayed for 72 hours straight and think, ‘Wow, he must be a real Christian.’ That is amazing, but there are tons of other people who may not fit the structures but are doing amazing things that go unseen.”

Minor’s goal is to reach real individuals who are making changes in their communities, from their immediate family to their local church. The rapper wants everyday vigilantes to be encouraged to live the counter-cultural lifestyle they feel called to, whatever industry that’s in.

Each week, Minor sends out “an encouraging video message” that speaks to a struggle people are going through. From negative self-talk to breaking the cycle of shame to even simple life advice, no topic is too big for the vigilantes to address. Then, throughout the week, Minor facilitates conversations online via the Vigilantes United website and on social media where users are encouraged to be raw and authentic.

“I really want to equip people that are in their everyday life, that are vigilantes in their own right,” Minor said.

This doesn’t mean Minor is looking to start a brand-new church — “The title of a pastor is terrifying to me,” he said — but he wants to create a space where people can grow in their faith at their own pace, getting encouragement for their daily lives while finding solace from the chaos.

Minor, himself, has already experienced newfound growth through the initiative. Vigilantes United is just as much a space for him to be honest and authentic as anyone else.

“In the past, my honesty has been taboo for some people,” Minor explained. “But now, I’m walking boldly in my honesty, because what I realize is being honest is helping others. That friction is helping grow people, and it’s helping grow me. It’s helping me grow to be able to speak my mind in a way that is God-honoring and powerful, but also at the same time, it’s helping people who have never been exposed to someone with this level of honesty. It’s helping them stretch, and making them even feel able to be more free and less guarded.”

For the first time in a long time, Minor sees freedom and power in his future. He knows he’s not the only one walking toward that these days. His fellow vigilantes are walking alongside him, arm-in-arm as they pave their own unique path forward.

“That’s the goal,” he said. “That’s the body. That’s what we should be doing. That’s the church. Bringing our full selves to the picture and loving one another, ultimately with the goal of improvement and progress towards being more like Jesus. That’s all I want for my life.”

© 2023 RELEVANT Media Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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