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In Step With Jonathan McReynolds
One of Gospel music's hottest stars just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger
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​Ross’ (David Schwimmer) girlfriend on “Friends.” During seven episodes on the show, Tom was kind of a lightning rod for fans of the show, some who didn’t like the fact that she had taken Rachel’s (Jennifer Aniston) place in Ross’ heart. “Fans still get angry about that,” she says. “There was a live audience [during filming of the show], and they would boo me when I came on because they really wanted Ross to be with Rachel.”
   Not to be discouraged, Tom moved on and exhibited even more of her talents, using her voice in popular animated series such as "Futurama," "The Simpsons," "King of the Hill," "Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness," "Pound Puppies," "Teacher’s Pet," "Batman Beyond" and "Mulan 2." 
   Now, it’s all about Andi Mack, the much talked-about series, where Andi, played by 13-year-old Peyton Elizabeth Lee, was abandoned by her teenaged mother. Enter Lauren Tom as Celia Mack, Andi’s grandmother who made her believe that she and Andi’s grandfather were her parents––and her real mom was her sister.
   There will be more to this continuing story when Andi Mack returns to the Disney Channel on Mondays in June.
Photography courtesy of Disney Channel
–– Walter Leavy
Photograph by Liz Lauren
  GOSPEL sensation Jonathan McReynolds, a Grammy Award-nominated singer, has traveled a lot of miles and performed in a number of places––nationally and internationally––during his young career, so much so that now his favorite vacation spot is his Chicago home. 
   The 29-year-old’s inspirational music has touched people in various generations, cultures and also has gotten the attention of those who prefer other musical genres, with many of them embracing the young star during this year’s extensive, 22-city “Make More Room” tour, which supported his 2018 album Make Room that reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Gospel Albums chart. Following the tour, he was inspired to author Make Room: Finding Where Faith Fits, a book in which McReynolds appeals to readers to make room for God in every aspect of their lives.
  And when it comes to “making room,” the author/singer/songwriter doesn’t just talk about it––he is about it. “First of all, I had to change the way I thought about God––some of the beliefs that I had that didn’t come from the Bible, came from me and my friends, from the generation and from TV,” he says. “I also had to literally make room in my house, literally make my house preach to me, so every time I was in it I would remember who I am, whose I am and what I need to be doing. It was very important to make room in my circle, to make room in my group of friends, make room in the people surrounding me all the time, not necessarily getting them out of the way, but it was making sure that our time together reflected God a little more than it was. More prayer, more worship, better music choices, all of those things have something to do with how much God can influence you every day.”
   That approach has worked for McReynolds, and hit songs such as “Not Lucky, I’m Loved,” “Make Room,” “No Gray,” “Cycles” and “God Is Good” have prompted fans to describe him as “a beautiful, authentic soul who’s passionate and a rare find in music.” As further evidence of his appeal, on the biggest night of gospel music, McReynolds was the top winner at this spring’s Stellar Gospel Music Awards, winning in eight categories, including Artist of the Year, Song of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, CD of the Year, Producer of the Year, Contemporary Male Vocalist of the Year, Contemporary CD of the Year and Urban/Inspirational Performance of the Year.
   While growing up on Chicago’s South Side, Jonathan, who wanted to become a meteorologist, played drums and organ in church, and, like his friends, listened to the music of Boyz II Men, Eminem, Nelly and often went to sleep listening to Mariah Carey’s “One Sweet Day.” Other times he read himself to sleep. His reading selection? The encyclopedia his mother bought for him, and his most popular choice in the set was “I” because he could read about Illinois. After completing studies at Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, he graduated from Columbia College and later got a master’s degree in biblical studies at Moody Theological Seminary. 
   All of that prepared the adjunct member of the Columbia College faculty for the bright lights. Since McReynolds’ 2012 debut album, Life Music, his influence and appeal in the gospel arena have been astronomical, opening various entertainment doors for him, including television, where he co-stars as a judge with gospel legend Kirk Franklin, and singers Kelly Price and Erica Campbell on BET’s “Sunday Best,” considered by many as America’s most inspirational singing competition.
   Even with so much happening in his life, McReynolds has not lost his focus, and he has a message for his followers: “If you really believe Jesus is Jesus and God is what the Bible says He is, please read the Bible. Because when you do, you will find a lot of clarity on stuff that somehow society has muddied up. I promise you that if you make room for God and the true totality of our faith, then you will get the total benefit.”
                                    ––Walter Leavy
Internationally renowned singer/songwriter Jonathan McReynolds was the big winner at this year's Stellar Gospel Music Awards, winning (below) in eight categories.
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