Interviewed and written by Mozella Malone
Multiple Grammy-Award winning gospel singer Smokie Norful has recently released his new book titled Take the Lid Off: Trust God, Release the Pressure, and Find the Life He Wants for You, a book of powerful meaning and messages that resonate with the masses. In correlation, Norful has also partnered with Motown Gospel, his long-time label to release his digital-only album Nothing Is Impossible that consists of 12 tracks. The album features songs of empowerment and inspiration, such as “Still Say Thank You,” “No One Else” and “Run Til I Finish,” just to name a few.
In the Chicagoland area, Norful is the senior pastor over Victory Cathedral Workshop Center where he has 5000 members. Over the course of his music career he has sold more than three million albums nationwide.
I had the opportunity to interview a man of faith, who is filled with over-flowing prudence and wisdom. Nonetheless, who has an abundance of knowledge on the Word of God. Here is what the beloved Smokie Norful has to share with the Consciousness Magazine readers.
Mozella Malone: You are the founder and Senior pastor over Victory Cathedral Workshop Center. You have 5000 members. How do you maintain the balance between pastoring and family?
Smokie Norful: Well, first of all, I don’t do it by myself. I think that’s the first mistake that people can make is that they think they can do too many things too well without having adequate teams and/or help. It takes a whole host of people and a team to actually make it possible and to make it happen. My wife, being one of the instrumental components of holding it all together, she definitely makes sure that when I come home, that I have a house to come to [laugh] and that my children are covered, even while I’m ministering and serving other people. They make great sacrifices in order for me to be able to do what it is that I’m doing. And of course, it’s the same thing at the church. There’s a team of people that actually helps me. I can’t do it without them. It’s the same thing with the music business. That’s one thing. Prioritizing is the second component of that. You have to keep the main thing the main things. It’s easy to get side tracked. It’s easy to get caught up in the business and the ministry – other people pulling at you and you are not wanting to disappoint them and you want to be able to satisfy everybody. So, every time that I add a new venture, a new opportunity, and a new exposure, it means that I have to have greater discipline. A lot of time for people, I don’t think that God allows those doors to open because he knows that we’re not prepared – adequately prepared to be able to manage and handle it. And if you’re not, it will kill you.
Mozella: Your book “Take the Lid Off’, I was reading it, it’s very interesting! I would like to know, how does one take a lid off of their dreams to be focused on their calling and purpose?
Smokie Norful: In the book, I give a four-fold focus. It’s the framework. It’s not the whole of the book. There are other components. That framework is very helpful to pushing people toward practical applications and actually taking the lid off. It starts with an inwardly focus. If you’re no good to you, then you’re no good to anybody else! All of our lives are designed to be a service and to be of help to others. Once you realize that, you would stop chasing things that benefit exclusively you …you’ll change your pronouns of I, me, and my. You’ll go to theirs and ours. It will become more exclusive in its content. Inward focus, really just helps you to realize that God is forgiving. It’s nothing that you have done that He will not forgive you for. It gives you the opportunity to just sensor yourself and really just clean up the inner-self, the internal man. The second focus is outwardly focus. It’s being able to recognize that the true value of life and purpose is really being outwardly focused – being centered or focused on others. We’re the worst and the best at being self-centered. [Laugh] Humans by nature are selfish. Nobody has to teach a human-being when they are born how to be selfish. [Laugh] Nobody tells a baby how to say mines! [Laugh] We have to try to break them from being selfish. Then there’s upwardly focus. Upwardly focus is simply recognizing that you really can’t do it by yourself. You need God, that you need His power, that you need His might, you need His strength, you need His encouragement, you need His wisdom and His guidance. Without it, you’re literally going to be a wonderer and you’ll forever be trying to take the lid off. He’ll be standing their saying, “It’s too heavy for you! You can’t lift this!”. “I can help you if you want me to, or if you allow me to.” Then lastly, is onwardly focus. What you need before you move forward is strategy. That’s one of the things that the bible gives you, and also to be able to practically apply the bible. There are a lot of people who don’t know how to use it and don’t know how to apply it. If you don’t know how to apply it, it doesn’t matter if you know it. That’s where a practical, step-by-step strategy has to be put into place. Those four things actually allow people the privilege and the opportunity to take the lid off.
Mozella: That’s so true, even when I’m on my journey and my Christian walk. That’s amazing! In a sense to it, it sort of answers one of my other questions, ‘how does one identify and answer their calling and what signs are there to look for?’ Can you share with the readers, where this book idea was born and what inspired you to write it?
Smokie Norful: The book I wrote was born out of my own teaching experience. I preached a series called Take the Lid Off at my church. It was so powerful and effective, that I had so many dreams unlocking, so many people released that I decided that this would probably be a really good place to start, in writing an empowerment series for other people to grow and to increase in every area of their life. I took the series and compiled it into a book format, then added a lot of things to it, and a lot more discovery. It just grew and grew and grew. It became what now is the book Take the Lid Off. That’s where if came from and of course I’m just like any other pastor, preacher, artist, and songwriter. I’m inspired by life. Experience and knowledge is the best inspiration, because once you’d experienced it, I don’t want to say you are the authority of it – you have a vantage point on it that’s absolutely centered and helpful for other people to come through it.
Mozella: Wow! Those are some Words of Wisdom. Regarding writing, how has it impacted your faith? What have you learned through the process of writing?
Smokie Norful: Writing didn’t impact my faith, I will clarify that. I don’t think it impacted my faith at all, I think my faith impacted my writing – my ability to live through these circumstances. There’s a whole lot of me in this book. I tell a whole lot of my own personal stories, business ventures and things that I have gone through – mistakes that I’ve made, and challenges that I’ve overcome. It’s antidotal in those regards. Those experiences are what help strengthen my faith. That couples with the Word of God and learning more about Him. That’s what built my faith, and of course my faith helped me build this work. It’s not the other way around.
Mozella: With your answers, I’m really getting encouraged myself. This is really encouraging to me because of the things that I am dealing with through my ministry and going through with myself. With that, being said who do you see as the audience for your book? Can anybody read it, or would they have to be already implanted in faith?
Smokie Norful: No, there’s no specialty for this. It’s for everybody and anybody. There is no person in life that doesn’t deal with pressure, that haven’t had to deal with disappointment and failure and just feeling lost and purposeless. There is nobody that hasn’t gone through seasons of bad. I don’t care who you are, and how together you think you have it and how together you make everybody else think you have it. We still have moments like that; we all do. Everybody who has a moment like that can benefit from this story.
Mozella: Can we expect there to be another book from you in the near future?
Smokie Norful: Yes, absolutely! This is the first of many. I think this has opened up a floodgate of opportunity for me to tell my story and to communicate the messages that I sometimes preach or sing about to a mass or broader audience. For that reason, I am absolutely determined to continue to put out books and continue to write.
Mozella: I want to talk about your music ministry in the community. Did you ever imagine that you would be a pastor?
Smokie Norful: No, no, no, no, no, no! (Laugh) That was not something on my wish list, my agenda, my plans or on my dream sheet at all! (Laugh) I grew up in a house with a pastor. My dad pastured for 45 years until I knew what it was, what kind of sacrifices you had to make, what kind of responsibility it was and how often a task it was to be a pastor. I knew that at first hand! There was no reason for me to run from it knowing what I know about it. To answer that – no, I did not know. As most people would learn, if they haven’t already discovered, it’s difficult to run from the creator of the universe with who is Omni presence. (Laugh) He’s everywhere and in all things. You can run but you cannot hide, period. I talk about this in my book. I don’t care how successful you are, the lack of fulfillment is so overwhelming that you would have no choice but to yield and say, ‘God what is it that I am supposed to be doing?’
Mozella: What are some ways that you have seen God working through others through your pastoring or music? Do you have any testimonies or stories that you would like to share?
Smokie Norful: Of course. There are so many testimonies; I don’t know where to begin. There’s so many opportunities that I’ve seen God move. I have seen Him literally step in and perform miracles of healing. I have a person in my church, who was stage 5 cancer. That was 15 years ago. I had another person who had tumors on her brain. I actually had planned her funeral to perform her services. That was 10 years ago. I’ve seen miraculous healings. I’ve seen the worse of people; the person that people had given up on – written off. I’ve seen God take their lives and turn their life around and use it to get the glory. The fact that I’m here, the fact that He chose me – the fact that I’m the one that’s doing what I’m doing, to me, is a miracle. It’s just God. You’re amazing in that way! My kids are here as miracles. We weren’t supposed to have children. The emphasis behind “I Need You Now”, was that I was desperate, because I had gone through a season. I had nobody else to call on and depend on, but God. That allowed for the opportunities of miracles to be manifested. There are a lot of stories and a lot of testimonies that I can tell. It all boils down to one key component, one common denominator and that’s just that God is faithful. He is faithful in all circumstances and situations.
Mozella: There are many that look up to you and admire you. How do you handle the praises from others? How does God keep you humble in that?
Smokie Norful: Well! Thank God that not too many times have He had to keep me humble, (laugh) because that can be a painful process that God has to humble you. What keeps me grounded? What keeps me humble is the gentle and the constant reminders of all of those who are around us. You may be that to them but to us you’re still daddy, (laugh) you’ll still honey. Then beyond that, I lived long enough to have both received accolades in the praise, and get caught up in them and to actually realize the subsequent to that – that the same crowd that cried hosanna will cry crucify him. I don’t know if there’s one thing, or a compilation of things that have afforded me the opportunity to remain humble. I’m not going to sit here as if I’m just the perfect vessel and perfect specimen. I have moments too where I have to be reminded, both about God and people.
Mozella: That’s interesting! Now on music, I’m reading where you partnered with Motown Gospel to release a digital-only album titled Nothing Is Impossible. Can you tell us a little more about it? Is there a story behind the idea for the album?
Smokie Norful: Nothing Is Impossible is a companion part or piece that goes along with the actual book. We decided that there were so many songs in my catalog that didn’t get the attention that it should have. That could have been because it will be overshadowed by whatever the hit song was on the project. So, we went back and kind of pulled those together out of my catalog and did a compilation of songs that both are pretty much unsung heroes on this project, but also that spoke the message of Take the Lid Off.
Mozella: I’m going to talk a little bit about community. Can you tell us just a little bit about what you are doing in your community?
Smokie Norful: In our church we have a para-church organization; it’s basically a sub-ministry of our church. It’s called GYA, Give Yourself Away. It’s our way and our effort of really making sure that we are not just doing church, but we’re being the church and that we’re doing ministry. There are so many churches that are so programmatic that everything is a program; everything is set around programs. You can be so program focused that you lose people focus. I just wanted to ensure that we have a vehicle that continues to remind us that the people are important. If you are not ministering to the people and if you are not feeding the people, then it doesn’t matter. I have members that give countless hours. Our goal is something like a hundred thousand hours in servicing of the community and various organizations. We don’t isolate them into one organization or another, because their passion may be different. We just ask them to report it, so that we can put it toward our numbers and knowing as a church community that we are actually making a difference and an impact. Then of course, not only that, tangible, we send money out to the organizations that are doing the work. We sponsor them because we can’t be everywhere at all times, but we know that God is using people in the kingdoms all around. We gave seventy thousand dollars to St. Jude – Sunday of Hope, and raised it all in one day and sent it to them. We sent thousands and thousands of pairs of shoes to a “Third World” country where the children and the people over there have never had shoes. So we founded The Day Without Shoes. It’s a national organization; a national celebration. We did it at our church. Everybody showed up and took their shoes off and we worshipped barefoot. I preached barefoot. When the tornados hit Oklahoma, we sent a semi-truck down. We actually have a church that we just planted down in Houston. We bought a boat. We sent them money to get the boat. They rescued over three thousand people in that time when the hurricane hit the city of Houston. Those are the kind of things that make us who we are. I tell people all the time, it’s not what we do, that’s who we are and that’s who we want to be.
Mozella: What advice would you share with those individuals who want to give up on their visions, goals, and dreams? What would you tell them?
Smokie Norful: Don’t do it! (Laugh) You’re closer than you think. God’s timing is perfect! Most people die in the process because they don’t believe the promise. If you just believe the promise, don’t die in the process. You’re closer than you think. I’ve already figured this out. Everybody who has got to a point with their dream they will all testify about the same thing…that they never seen it coming. They didn’t know it would happen, and then it happened. All of them have the same testimony. It really should go to speak into the heart of the people, that literally, you’re closer than you think.
Mozella: Wow! Now that one was for me! (Laugh)
Smokie Norful: (Laugh)
Mozella: This actually is the end of our interview. Thanks again so much for this! I know this has truly inspired me. I appreciate you!
Smokie Norful: I appreciate that. Thank you so much.
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Last modified: July 8, 2023