Jonathan McReynolds: Transparency Is The Best Policy

Who is Jonathan McReynolds?

Jonathan Caleb McReynolds was born September 17, 1989 in Chicago Illinois. Raised by a single mother and a very supportive church, New Original Church of God in Christ, he would soon become a Grammy-award winning African-American Urban Contemporary Gospel artist. He began creating music in 2012, while in college, with the release of his first album Life Music. Success soon followed with the release of Life Music: Stage Two  in 2015 which reached number one on Billboard Gospel Albums and another number one in 2018 with Make Room. He recently received his first Grammy with a single off his most recent EP People, titled “Movin On” featuring Mali Music. With his success musically McReynolds was offered the opportunity to be a judge on BET’s hit show Sunday Best for two seasons (2018, 2019) and starred in a BET+ original movie in 2021.

Through all his musical success McReynolds was able to graduate from Colombia College Chicago and went on to obtain his master’s degree in Biblical Studies from Moody Theological Seminary. He also serves as an adjunct professor in the music department at his alma mater Columbia College Chicago, an official contributor to the Huffington Post, and the founder of a non-profit, Elihu nation that promotes wisdom and has awarded over $30k in scholarships. To put the cherry on top, Jonathan McReynolds is also a member of Mensa, an international high IQ society.

Urban Contemporary Gospel:

Key Takeaways:

  • Urban Contemporary Gospel combines Traditional Gospel and Pop musical genres to create songs that better appeal to keep praise and worship relevant in newer times.
  • Time Period: Late 1980’s – present day
  • Characteristics: Ambiguous lyrics, themes centered around love, praise, and worship, and an overall upbeat and joyous tone. 
  • Elements of Urban Contemporary Gospel: expressive devices, higher pitched, 3-4 minutes in duration, combination of traditional gospel and pop timbre. 


Transparency and Testimony in Urban Contemporary Gospel

Testimony is a key component of African-American Christianity. The telling of stories goes back to ancient Africa and is an important way for peers to connect and establish a sense of community. A testimony is a personal faith story that serves to declare God’s grace and work in someone’s life. A very important aspect of testimony is complete transparency. Without transparency the message would most likely not reach the hearts and minds of its listeners and connectivity is a driving force of the church. Urban Contemporary Gospel music includes many songs that involve the performers personal struggles and how their faith in God and His grace helped them to overcome those obstacles.

Jonathan McReynolds is an artist that uses his testimony to create music so that other people understand that no struggle is experienced alone and that faith in God will grant peace and redemption. In McReynold’s song “No Gray” he talks about his struggle with being in a sinful world and staying true to his faith, which is a constant battle that people of the Christian faith fight everyday. Another example of this transparency can be heard in his song with Tori Kelly, “Just As Sure,” in which they both profess that God will always accept and forgive us and that :

” Just as sure as a touch
From Your hand can turn grey skies to shades of blue
I know You love me
Just as I do love You”

McReynolds and the Evolution of Gospel

Gospel music has three major transitional periods; the first being Transitional Gospel that includes work from Thomas Dorsey, the second being Traditional Gospel that showcased music from the Golden Gate Quartet, and finally Contemporary Gospel in which many artists like Kirk Franklin and Yolonda Adams continue to inspire people worldwide with their praise and worship. Although many elements of Traditional Gospel survive within Contemporary Gospel the genre has successfully assimilated into modern pop culture with hits like Kirk Franklin’s “I Smile” and Tasha Cobbs’ “Break Every Chain.” With Jonathan McReynold’s enormous magnitude of talent and transparency, Urban Contemporary Gospel is sure to continue, improve and evolve as the times of today do as well. 

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