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Listening In … with Jeff Deyo and Dave Ramsey

  • CCM Magazine
  • 2004 30 Mar
Listening In … with Jeff Deyo and Dave Ramsey

For this month’s “Listening In…” we’ve arranged for you to “eavesdrop” on a candid conversation between Gotee recording artist Jeff Deyo and national radio talk show host/author Dave Ramsey.

Deyo, of course, co-founded Sonicflood before going on to pursue a solo career as a worship leader. He recently released his new album, "Light," which features duets with Third Day’s Mac Powell, Natalie Grant and Rita Springer. Ramsey, meanwhile, can currently be heard on almost 200 radio stations discussing finances. While some Christian programmers carry “The Dave Ramsey Show,” his cut-to-the-chase advice is primarily broadcast on mainstream outlets. (For more information visit

Jeff:  So here I am, an artist; and I’ve been in Nashville since ‘93. There are some traps that happen for artists when they come to town. They have these big dreams of making lots of money. You think, “OK, those people are probably making serious money.” In fact, one of the guys in my band said he had a friend of his who came down after he joined my band; and he said, “Come on, Fred, tell me the truth: You guys are making six figures, right?” They’re barely on salary.

Dave:  [laughs]

Jeff:  “And Jeff’s making a million dollars a year, isn’t he? He’s making at least a million!” And I said, “Well, not quite.”

Dave: [laughs] Not quite.

Jeff:  Guys like us, we come in; and we’re trying so hard to make it, but it’s a challenging thing because you need a lot of stuff to make it happen. You’re trying to get a great guitar so you can sound good; you’re trying to do all these things to get a record deal and get noticed. You end up in debt. And you’re all trying to do it for the good cause of the gospel. But in the music industry, the money comes nine to 12 months after the success. So you’re kind of in this mentality where you’re spending the money before you get it. You know it’s coming, but you never get to enjoy it because when it comes in, you’re  paying off those credit card debts. So how do you talk to musicians about all this stuff?

Dave:  Getting into debt to live your dream is not a new story. It’s the story my wife, Sharon, and I lived, too. We got married. Then to live our dream, we were going to be real estate moguls. We got four million dollars worth of real estate, starting from nothing, by the time we were 26 years old. We made $250,000 at 20-something years old one year. Sometimes you hear people say, “All those rich people are miserable!” Uh-uh! We were having fun! But the bank got sold, and the tellers were making the decisions. They called our notes, and the short story is we spent the next two and a half years losing everything we owned. We were sued; we were foreclosed on; and finally, with a brand new baby and a toddler, scared to death at the bottom of that mess, we were bankrupt. That was 15 years ago, and we started over. At the bottom of that, being a financial guy – a broke financial guy – I decided I was going to learn how money really works. As a baby Christian, I had met the Lord on the way up – I do everything backwards – and as a baby Christian, I was going to see what the Bible had to say about money. Nobody talks about it much because it’s like a lot of things in the Bible: It’s apparently uncomfortable when you start realizing: This is the truth, and I’m going to have to apply it; or I’m going to have to ignore it.

Jeff:  Yes.

Dave:  What’s a good plan to handle His money His way? How do you deal with that when you dream yourself into debt, and it creates a mess for you? It sure is a painful way to learn. Hopefully we can catch a few young artists with this conversation and go, “Stop it! Don’t do it! Please, don’t do it! Don’t finance your dream!”

Jeff:  But what’s the alternative? For guys like that, they think this is the only option. They believe it because the culture tells you that, society tells you: “Make the sacrifice now, and then you can pay it off later.”

Dave:  Well, as an old guy now 15 years later, talking to young artists and running a business  that we’ve never borrowed a dime to run (with almost a hundred folks on our team, a couple hundred radio stations and with our third New York Times bestseller), I can tell you it can be done without debt. This sounds like a little Bible-thumping, but the truth is if God wants something done, the money will come – if it’s His dream. Sometimes it’s His dream, and I’ve got the wrong timing. I don’t know about anybody else, but I can go ahead of Him.

Jeff:  Absolutely. That’s the thing that happened to me. I moved to Nashville into this duplex, and this friend of ours let us live there for free. We said, “OK, we’ll live there for free for six months. By six months I should have a record deal and be a national selling artist.” But that didn’t happen. Sometimes our dream is the wrong form of the dream. I knew I was gifted musically, but I assumed certain things based on my gifts – my dream was to be a performance artist. So I tried and tried and tried, and I spent money trying to do this for five years in Nashville, trying to get a record deal but spinning my wheels going, “What is going on here?” Finally I realized I was supposed to be a worship leader. I had distorted what God had called me to do, and He was all the time saying, “Hello, Jeff, are you down there? Are you listening?” “No, I got it figured out, God. You want me to be a rock star for Jesus.” It seems like we end up taking God’s calling and turning it into something that’s more of our own. Then we get off the path, and that’s when we make decisions He’s not blessing.

Dave:  Well, you can be sure of this: If you’re going in to debt to do it, you’re out of God’s will. Oh, that was a bold statement!

Jeff:  Yeah that’s so black and white, Dave!

Dave:  Just show me once in Scripture where God used debt to provide a dream, where God used debt to protect or provide. There’s not even a single positive reference to debt. Every time it’s mentioned, it has a negative connotation. Now, you’re not going to hell for using a credit card. A credit card is not the “mark of the beast.” This is not what I’m saying. But it’s just when Proverbs says, “The borrower’s slave to the lender,” get a clue! God didn’t come to put you into slavery – He came to set the captives free. And so if He wants you to have a guitar, guess what? You’re messing up your spiritual walk when you go get one instead of letting Him give you one. He’s got a plan. You’re messing up your spiritual walk when you dive headlong into a really bad record deal.

Jeff:  Can I ask you one more question? I was in a band and saw a lot of success and then saw my solo debut, "Saturate," come out and do well; but, my gosh, it probably sold a tenth of what the band’s album sold. So you know, my expectations were high. My record company had high expectations; and you get lots of encouragement from people whose lives are touched, so that’s a good thing. But I’ve come to a conclusion in my life: I feel there’s a misconception out there that if things are done from the godly, correct perspective, it’s going to be successful. Meaning, it’s going to sell lots of units; it’s going to touch millions of people. That’s not always the case. Something that reached tons of people doesn’t necessarily mean it has the hand of God on it. And the opposite is true as well: If something is not getting out there, it doesn’t mean God isn’t one hundred million percent behind it. Do you have any thoughts or wisdom on any of that?

Dave:  We face exactly the same thing sometimes. We go to an immense amount of trouble sometimes, and we lose a pile of money to pull off a certain deal. We did a deal a little while back that we thought was going to touch 60,000 to 70,000 people in one fell swoop. Instead it did about twelve thousand and, consequently, we lost a couple hundred thousand dollars on that little deal. And one of the things God really spoke to me in my prayer life after that happened was: “There’s one guy in Maine or Seattle or wherever who watched that deal you did. Do you not think I would spend $350,000 to get him into the Kingdom? By the way, it’s my money, Dave. I’m crazy about him. Do you not have my perspective of what success looks like?” So I said, “OK, I’ll shut up.”

Jeff:  We’re the tool.

Dave:  He would’ve brought several tools to bear, several of His dollars to get that one because he’d leave the 99 sheep to go get the other one and drag it in. I’m convinced that when we get to heaven, we’re going to find out that some of these projects that were “flops” were laser shots, and that they picked off somebody important. You may have just led Billy Graham to the Lord and didn’t know it. I don’t know.

Jeff:  Sure.

Dave:  And so what I constantly do is step back as we’re running this business, when I have 42 different things running through at a given moment. I say, “OK, let’s redefine what success is. Yes, we’ve got to be good stewards; yes, we’ve got to be wise; yes, we’ve got to be diligent; yes, we’ve got to do everything we can to make this thing both a spiritual and a financial success.” But every time one isn’t, I don’t have to automatically assume I missed God. I might have been doing exactly what He wanted me to do to go get that one.

I had a band here the other day, and they were struggling. Their record deal had fallen apart. They were finishing up the tour with their lips stuck out, and we put the 13-week series Financial Peace University, which some of the record companies are putting their artists through, on the bus with them. That band may fall apart. Or one of those guys may be the next Jeff Deyo, maybe leading worship at a youth camp where my 12-year-old increases his walk with the Lord. You don’t know how this stuff works; it’s just way too complicated. All things work together. It’s the only thing that keeps you scratching and clawing and fighting through these businesses that you and I have chosen to minister in. 

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