"The choir is actually just a window - a vehicle to use to really get the message across - that it's all about the love of Jesus. Everything that comes out of this is about us sharing the love that Jesus has put inside us."
--Lamar Campbell






Thankfully, traffic wasn't too bad when {{Lamar Campbell}} maneuvered his car onto the streets near his Indianapolis, Indiana home. It was time to pay the phone bill, and rather than take a chance that it might be delayed in the mail, he was headed down to the utility company's office to pay the charges in person.

He pulled up to a stoplight and waited for the red signal to flash green. While he waited, Lamar passed the time by tapping out a little beat on the steering wheel of his car. After a few moments, he continued his little journey through the city.

Pretty soon, Lamar realized he had the beginnings of a melody to go with his steering-wheel beat. He reached for the only paper he could find-the back of his phone bill-and wrote himself a note, thinking, I'll go deal with this later.

He kept driving.

Within a few minutes Lamar completely forgot about the trip to pay the phone bill. Almost like a flood, the melody filled out in his mind and lyrics began pouring out of his heart.

"Where's my pen and my pad here?" he muttered to himself as he reached for the phone bill once more. Then, while weaving through traffic on the streets of Indianapolis, Lamar wrote out the basis for a beautiful new song of praise to God called "I Really Love You"-on the back of an envelope!

He laughs when recalling the moment now, and explains, "As I kept driving, the Lord was just really giving me the words to the song so I had to be obedient and write the words there. In the middle of traffic!"

"I Really Love You" is now one of the hot spots on the new album by Lamar and his choir, Spirit of Praise, ==I Need Your Spirit== (EMI Gospel). And, lest you think this kind of songwriting habit is rare for the founder of the 40-voice Spirit of Praise choir and accompanying ministry, it's not. In fact, several songs on this new album were written on the spur of the moment.

"There were songs that were written like the Friday night before the Sunday of the recording" Lamar admits with a smile. "A song on the album called, 'He's Able,'-we wrote that song on Friday afternoon, and I finished the words to the song on Saturday night. And like Sunday morning, I finished the words to the song 'I'll Always Be There for You.' So I mean we were working on the record on up until the day of the last recording!"

That's not to suggest Lamar just threw together an album (one spin of the CD will refute that idea), but it reveals the heart of an artist who desperately wants to follow the Holy Spirit's leading in the music he creates.

"A concern of mine," he says, "was that I wanted to make sure that we weren't just trying to throw some songs on [the new album] because we needed some, because the recording was in three days. But you're always looking for the right song. If it's the right song, you'll take it an hour before, if you can learn it. So we just stayed open to see where the Holy Spirit was going to lead us."

For Lamar and his choir, following the Spirit's leading means more than just writing and singing songs. It means making a difference in the community, living out the Christian faith in practical, tangible ways. That's why this R&B/gospel group is more than just a choir; it's a ministry organization Lamar founded in 1995. As such, members of the choir volunteer their time and talents to be a part of the choir, and also participate in local service projects to help spread the word about Christ.

"[This ministry] really is centered around community service and mentoring young people and being a blessing to those that are less fortunate," Campbell explains. "That whole concept of using the principles that Jesus taught to love your brother as yourself is the basis of what we are about."

So Spirit of Praise Ministries has established a scholarship program to help high school seniors make it to college. They volunteer each Christmas to serve dinner and pass out toys for a local program that brings Christmas cheer to underprivileged families. They've picked up trash in run-down neighborhoods and several choir members have been informal tutors for local youth. On occasion, they've even been known to take up a collection to help pay utility bills for financially struggling families.

And where does music fit into all this? Lamar explains, "After that ministry was established, then God told me to start the choir, which is actually just a window-a vehicle to use to really get the message across-that it's all about the love of Jesus. Everything that comes out of this is about us sharing the love that Jesus has put inside us."

Local ministry notwithstanding, Lamar Campbell and Spirit of Praise intend to impact not only their community, but their world for Christ. Says Lamar, "We're doing music for the masses. But we're not just targeting one crowd -- [that's not] what God told us to do. He didn't tell us to be hip-hop, or He didn't tell us to be contemporary artists or traditional artists. He told us to write music that's going to touch the hearts of his people everywhere. And that's what we're committed to do."

So, even as their sophomore album, ==I Need Your Spirit== picks up steam, don't look for {{Lamar Campbell}} and Spirit of Praise to slow down any time soon. They've got too much work to do, spreading the kingdom of God both inside and out of the Church.

"I really feel that God is pleased," Lamar says while reflecting on the music and ministry he's involved in. "And, I mean, that's what we work for. So you know, when you get a sense of approval from Him, it's just awesome. Awesome."