Anthony Evans: There are many times in your life you don’t necessarily want to do something, but there is a plan and a purpose behind it. And a lot of times, your feelings will catch up with your feet when you just move into action.
Following Christ Toward Your Unique Calling: Anthony Evans and Jenny & Tyler – Episode #159
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Today’s guests are musicians who know the importance of having strong spiritual influences in their lives from an early age, and what it means to continue that legacy of bringing light into the world: singer and author Anthony Evans, and Christian singer/songwriting duo Jenny & Tyler.
Growing up as the son of pastor Tony Evans, Anthony Evans struggled to find a place where he could be uniquely used by God. Today he shares how encouragement from his parents gave him the freedom to pursue his own calling by navigating his way through Hollywood as a person of faith, and how he’s passing on his dad’s encouragement of being yourself to readers of his new book Unexpected Places.
Anthony Evans: Hey there, my name’s Anthony Evans. I am originally from Dallas, Texas, but right now I live in Los Angeles, California. I’m a worship leader and an author now, which is crazy. And I also have the unique opportunity here in LA to work in TV and film and in the music industry.
I come from a very unique and amazing family. I’m so grateful for them. I do not take it for granted that I have two amazing parents.
Dr. Tony Evans [and] Dr. Lois Evans are my mom and dad. He started a church, oh man, forty-five years ago at this point. Same church he’s been at my whole life, and my mom has been right by his side. His ministry has grown exponentially since I was a kid, but both of them have stayed so down to earth. The same house that I grew up in is the same house they live in now.
They love being simple, honestly, as it relates to their life. And they’ve imparted a lot of that to us—to make the main thing the main thing, and don’t go chasing stuff that doesn’t really last or matter.
I have a few siblings: Chrystal, my oldest sister, is the analytical one. Priscilla [is] Ms. Personality. Both my sisters are authors. And my youngest brother Jonathan, he’s an ex-pro football player but works along with my dad. That’s my family.
My parents were the same people at the house that they were on the stage. And because there was no difference with them from the stage, and the books, and all that stuff to home, that’s why we are solid kids—or trying to be solid kids. Preacher’s kids are always, like, one degree from crazy. But because my parents were solid at the house, we knew that faith was real.
My dad always loved having us around the table. We were kids, so he would do devotions with us and Bible verses. And we were all like, “What? What’s happening? I want to go play!” But now that I’m a little bit older, I’m very grateful for that.
They really laid a foundation of us knowing God is the most important factor in all of our lives. Beyond anything else, I believe the reason why I’m having the opportunities I’m having as it relates to ministry is because of the foundation they laid.
Anthony Finds His Own Voice
Coming from a family like mine, and having my dad’s name—ahh, that’s crazy!
Listen, when I was twelve years old, I will never forget: I was in Texas Stadium. My dad was preaching at Promise Keepers, which at the time was, like, the biggest thing ever. I think it was a hundred thousand dudes at Texas Stadium. The crowd was roaring because my dad was getting to his points—he’s so good at analogies and landing the plane and making everything all make sense. The audience was roaring, and all I could think while they were in total agreement with my dad is, I could never be him. That’s what I thought, having his name.
So there was a lot of pressure undue. My dad never told me, “I want you to be a preacher.” My mom never said, “I want you to be a singer one day.” There was none of that.
It was, “Anthony, find your voice. We want you to choose faith over fear, knowing that God will work all things together for your good. We want you to choose courage over comfort, because a lot of times, your comfort zone is where you will get kind of get stale as a person spiritually, emotionally, physically.”
So I’ve always been challenged to move outside of that. And that is where I found my voice.
I have never tried to take on the identity of my parents or siblings because I know that God has created me with a very unique build, and [it’s] the same thing with you. You have a very unique design and purpose that only you can fulfill.
“I have never tried to take on the identity of my parents or siblings, because I know that God has created me with a very unique build, and [it’s] the same thing with you.” – Anthony Evans
And once I realized that it became my desire to make sure that I fulfilled my individual purpose, in spite of what my last name was.
The discovery of my ability to sing and my knack for music was actually discovered by my father.
My dad heard me singing. My parents didn’t even know that I sang. They heard me at the age of 15, 16. At my church, you have to be involved in a ministry. You can’t just go to the church—you have to go and be involved.
As a preacher’s kids we’re gonna be involved, so I chose the youth choir. And there were moments in choir rehearsal where the director would go, “Anthony, sing that part again,” and then I would I’d feel panicked because you don’t want to be called out. But I would sing the part, and he’d be like, “Everybody does that!”
I had no idea that meant I had an ability to sing. I just thought, Oh, I just happened to learn this quickly.”
And the passion for singing happened when I actually started to do it.
Being a Light in Hollywood
Working in Hollywood, it was new to me. When I came here six years ago, I was asked by an artist to be a part of his project for three months. I was gonna be in LA for three months, and it was new and fresh and different.
And over the course of time, I’ve been asked to do quite a few things that’s stuff you never get asked [to do] when you’re leading worship at a church. Soon thereafter, I learned there is a delicate balance when it comes to being here [in Hollywood] and doing what I’m supposed to do.
I believe that my faith in my abilities was not just built for the inside of the four walls of a church. The light that we have, that I have is needed mostly by people who aren’t in a church. You know what I mean? So I’m always challenged to make sure I’m not compromising my faith in order to connect.
“I believe that my faith and my abilities were not just built for inside of the four walls of a church.” – Anthony Evans
And I’ve also had to redefine what success is. Success is not always being a part of the biggest, latest, greatest project with the A-list artists. That’s not always success because that fades away.
“I’m always challenged to make sure I’m not compromising my faith in order to connect.” – Anthony Evans
I define success by, Am I at peace internally? Because you can’t go out and write a check for peace after you do the biggest thing in the world. So I approach a project and say, Am I going to be at peace when I do this? Because if not, then that’s not success to me.
“I define success by, Am I at peace internally? Because you can’t go out and write a check for peace after you do the biggest thing in the world.” – Anthony Evans
Carving a Trail for Those Behind us
I’m a busybody. And I used to try to make myself sit down and be quiet on my couch at home and read the Bible. And five minutes in, my mind goes somewhere.
So what I do is I make a point to spend time with God in whatever I’m doing. If I’m driving, I will have conversations with God. Here in LA, I’ll carve out a drive to the beach, and I’ll go and sit with Him for a while.
But I make sure I invite God into every moment of my day. That’s the way I would do it in a real-life relationship. I would want somebody to be there with me all the time. Like, “We’re gonna do this, we’re gonna do that, we’re gonna hang here.” That is how I do my relationship with God. I invite Him into everything. I’m at the gym lifting weights and praying at the same time. That’s what I love to do is make Him a part of every aspect of my life.
Jesus Calling, for one, it’s concise. That helps a lot for somebody like me, who . . . I need poignancy, and I need it concise so I can have something to think about and chew on all day. And that’s what it’s been for me.
But then to hear it the way Sarah wrote it, the perspective that she gave on it, the way that she spoke those words—the way that she spoke God’s words, really—impacted me in a deep way.
I have people in my life here in LA, in Hollywood who don’t know church, but [Jesus Calling] has impacted their life. And to watch how those words can translate across all lines, but it’s still the truth of God’s Word, that has made me very very proud and [given me] a sense of being able to give this book to others.
“I have people in my life here in LA, in Hollywood who don’t know church, but [Jesus Calling] has impacted their life.” – Anthony Evans
Narrator: During his time in LA, Anthony has seen the power of being a light in a dark world, which he reads about in the July 20th entry of Jesus Calling.
Do not be afraid to be different from other people. The path I have called you to travel is exquisitely right for you. The more closely you follow My leading, the more fully I can develop your gifts. To follow Me wholeheartedly, you must relinquish your desire to please other people. However, your closeness to Me will bless others by enabling you to shine brightly in this dark world.
Reading this passage, I think about a conversation I had back when I was on The Voice years ago with Christina Aguilera and Jewel. And Christina said to me, “Anthony, I know what we do is different. But when I was a pop princess and everybody thought I should be doing this kind of music and I decided to do another kind, I was so scared. But I walked into what I knew I was supposed to do, and although I had no idea the direction I was going, I didn’t realize I was carving out a trail behind me.”
And she said that to me, and I know we do totally different things, but I was like, That’s crazy!
Although I may not know [where I’m going], God will guide me, and my purpose actually may be to carve out a trail behind me for others who want to walk in this direction and who may be dealing with the fear and can go “Hey, Anthony followed God on his exquisite path, and I’m going to do the same thing.”
Finding God in Unexpected Places
When I when I first got called to write my new book Unexpected Places—which I’m so excited about now. Initially, I was like, “Wait a minute. Are you trying to get to my dad and sister? I’m confused because I’m the singer, I’m the songwriter, I’m the worship leader—that guy.”
But then I started to think about the people in my life who, along my journey, have decided to be honest, vulnerable, and transparent with me about what they’ve been through and how lifegiving that was for me when I was facing hardship.
So I decided, You know what? I’m going to take a chance. I’m going to try this.
I have, like, this much attention span in general. It’s an issue I’m working on. Every couple of seconds, I’m like, ‘Squirrel!’ That’s how my brain operates. How was I going to sit down and write a whole book?” But I decided, I’m going to try this. I’m going to make this chapter short chapters that I would want to read.
My desire was to encourage you to discover your specific voice in your calling by being honest and vulnerable and transparent with you. I’m not trying to be anecdotal and cute and funny just for the sake of that. My objective is for this book to have an impact in your life that people had in my life when they decided to tell me the truth of what they were going through.
When you step boldly into the unknown, God is always faithful to light up the next step. He may not light up the whole path, but when you step, He will light it up as you place your foot down and whatever is next. And in those unexpected moments and unexpected places is where I found the deepest lessons of my life.
“When you step boldly into the unknown, God is always faithful to light up the next step.’ – Anthony Evans
Your best starting point, the place where you can actually start making changes in your life is when you decide to be truthful beyond the facade that a lot of times were taught. Unbeknownst to us sometimes, in church, we’re taught to act like we have it all together. Nah. That doesn’t work. That does not work. Be true, be honest, and also be open to growth, and be open to doing what you have to do to experience yourself at another level.
I spent three months of 2017 in total silence, complete silence.
It was the most miserable moment of my life because I found out I was overworking [my voice], and I hemorrhaged one of my vocal cords because I was doing so much. And I wasn’t just doing so much. I was doing so much and was sick as I did it. So I was pushing and shouldn’t have been doing that.
I hemorrhaged the vocal cord. I kind of listened to the doctor but wanted to go sing and hemorrhaged it again. And she finally said, “You have to shut down. You have to stop.”
I went through three months where I was depressed [because I couldn’t] do the only thing I know how to do at that level. But because of that experience and my kind of pushing through that miserable moment—I had to do a laser procedure on my vocal cord. I mean, it was a crazy moment—I not only healed, but I healed and was in a better position than I was before vocally.
And then after I did what the doctor said, I was offered one of the largest opportunities of my life as it relates to Hollywood. [And I] I was able to do because I listened and went through the time of hurt and despair.
I stood on the Hollywood Bowl stage here in LA opposite Zoey Deschanel as Beast in Beauty and the Beast. And that’s something that’s so outside of my box, but I was able to do that because I was obedient through the thing that was hard.
And my desire for everybody reading Unexpected Places is to get to a point where you’re like, “I’m going to be honest and truthful, and I’m not going to be fearful of what God’s going to ask me to do because I know on the other side of that, there is something great coming.” And it always won’t be the Hollywood Bowl stage, but it’ll be something as big as that emotionally, as big as that spiritually that will happen in your life when you’re obedient and patient in the process.
Narrator: Stay tuned for our conversation with Christian singer/songwriters Jenny & Tyler after a brief message about a free offer from Jesus Calling!
Are you looking for a way to keep track of your daily prayers along with Jesus Calling? The Jesus Calling family prayer calendar goes right along with your daily readings from Jesus Calling. Each day begins with a guided reflection, followed by a space for you to fill in your prayers of thanksgiving and special requests. You can get your free Jesus Calling Family Prayer calendar by visiting JesusCalling.com/offer
Narrator: Jenny and Tyler Summers are telling the stories of their lives through harmonies and thought-provoking lyrics. When the musical duo met at the University of Delaware, they found unlikely partners in music and life. They tell us about growing up in music-filled families, about the important messages God is laying on their hearts to tell through music, and how they’re learning to balance it all.
Jenny: My name’s Jenny Summers.
Tyler: I’m Tyler Summers.
Jenny: And we make up the duo Jenny & Tyler. Very original name. We’re a married couple. We travel and make music together and write songs. And we have three kids.
Learning “You Can Do Music” as a Career
Tyler: We both grew up in musical families. I grew up as the son of a classical composer and a church music minister/organist/choir director who would also play jazz three nights a week. My mom was more into the folk kind of scene, so she brought Simon & Garfunkel into my young ears. And it was very much a culture of “you can do music.”
Jenny: I grew up in a military family. We were Air Force, and so we moved every three years. My dad was a pilot.
My parents are from western New York, which is a very rural part of New York kind of near Buffalo, a lot of farmland. I refer to it as a kind of backwoods-y. And so there’s a lot of country music and bluegrass music that I grew up listening to. My dad was in a bluegrass band in college, and he brought his love for all of that to our house. My mom would sing.
We had family nights where we would just sit around and sing together, and my dad would play guitar. And eventually us kids picked up different instruments, and I wouldn’t say that any of us were fantastic at what we were doing. It’s not like we were a super talented family, but we just loved it, and it was part of what really brought our family closer together. It was something familiar. Everywhere we went, we always had that.
Finding a Partner in Music and Life
Tyler: We met actually at the University of Delaware on a bus that was taking students from campus to a nearby church. I think it was the day before the first day of classes. I was a sophomore, she was a freshman. I was on the bus to welcome the freshmen as the leader of this student ministry.
Jenny: We started leading worship together, and then just started hanging out outside of that. So we just said, “Hey, maybe we should say we’re a little bit more.”
Tyler: After about three months of hanging out for hours a day and not just playing music but talking about our lives, our families, our struggles, we eventually had a DTR. I think is still a common saying on college campuses. It means “defining the relationship” and you just say, “Yeah, we’re dating.”
Jenny: We have always made music together in some capacity since we met.
Tyler: Yeah. Early on, Jenny was doing her solo projects, and I was backing her up. I was doing mine, and she’s backing me up. And sort of like the DTR, eventually, we were like, “This doesn’t make sense to keep doing solo stuff. Let’s just say we’re a duo.”
Jenny: We got married in 2007. And when we were about to be married, Tyler was going to take a job with a tool company as an outside sales representative, because he majored in marketing and I majored in English.
He came to me a few months before we were going to get married, and he said, “You know, Jenny, if I take this job, I’m gonna be working a ton because it’s sales. It’s all commission. And we’re not going to have time for music anymore.”
I remember thinking, “Okay. If you think you’ll be unhappy in this and that we need to have more time for music, let’s rethink this.”
And he said, “I can work at Starbucks and get benefits.” That was very important. I have epilepsy, so health insurance is super important.
And I was like, “Okay, I guess we could give that a try.”
So when we graduated and got married, we didn’t take traditional career jobs. We just never did that.
Tyler: When we know who we are in Christ, when we know that we have been crucified with Christ and it’s no longer us who live but Him who lives in us, it’s a lot easier to live beyond our circumstances and live in hope and in victory.
“When we know that we have been crucified with Christ and it’s no longer us who live but Him who lives in us, it’s a lot easier to live beyond our circumstances and live in hope and in victory.” – Tyler Summers
Remembering How to Abide in Him
Narrator: Throughout their music, Jenny and Tyler weave in stories from their faith journeys and explore their walk with God. One of the tools they use to deepen that relationship is Jesus Calling.
Tyler: The book was on my parents’ dinner and breakfast table at their house. And a few years ago, my dad was like, “Hey, man, have you ever checked this thing out? It’s pretty cool. It’s like devotionals from the perspective of God, of Jesus, and it’s a great way to start the day.”
I’m like, “No. It sounds cool, but I’ve not heard of it.”
And I just love how personal [Jesus Calling] is. It reinforces the relationship, which I think is very good, especially for people who feel like they’ve gone years and years without hearing from God. It takes scripture, and it puts it in a way that’s like, “Oh, this is a letter from God. And it can be this intimate,” you know.
Rest in the deep assurance of My unfailing Love. Let your body, mind, and spirit relax in My Presence. Release into My care anything that is troubling you so that you can focus your full attention on Me. Be awed by the vast dimensions of My Love for you: wider, longer, higher, and deeper than anything you know. Rejoice that this marvelous Love is yours forever!
The best response to this glorious gift is a life steeped in thankfulness. Every time you thank Me, you acknowledge that I am your Lord and Provider. This is the proper stance for a child of God: receiving with thanksgiving. Bring Me the sacrifice of gratitude, and watch to see how much I bless you.
We wrote a whole record about abiding in Jesus, and that passage basically references that. I think we’ll never get past that message of “Abide in Me.”
“I think we’ll never get past that message of ‘Abide in Me.’” – Tyler Summers
Becoming Advocates for Justice
Narrator: Through their songs, Jenny and Tyler share their lives as parents, as husband and wife, and as Christians. They draw inspiration from a variety of places, including scripture. Their song “Waters Roll” is based on Amos 5:22–23. Tyler explains the vision he is trying to impart through this song.
Tyler: That scripture says, “Away from me with the noise of your songs to the melody of your harps. I will not listen. But let justice roll on like rivers and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
God is speaking through this prophet—really, to the people of Israel. And He’s basically saying, “You are doing all this religious stuff, and I can’t stand it. I just want you to get back to My heart and do the things that I love.”
There are quite a lot of good mercy ministries there. There aren’t a whole lot of justice ministries or missions that I know about.
One that we do know about that we felt God led us to, it’s called International Justice Mission. And they work to fight slavery and modern slavery and the oppression of the poor all over the world by fixing broken justice systems. And it has been a privilege to talk about them at shows and share stories in the videos and that sort of thing.
It’s become part of our life. Our kids know about slavery, and our kids pray for the end of slavery. Our three-year-old and our five-year-old, I don’t know how much they actually understand what it is, but we just want it to be in our family’s culture, and we want it to be in our music and in our lives because we believe it is such a vital part of following Jesus.
Finding Identity in Christ, Not in Music
Tyler: How do we balance kids and music and marriage and the rest of life?
Well, the short answer is we don’t. We are constantly behind in something. When one area is doing relatively well, it means most of the other areas are doing pretty poorly. For example, my emails right now are about twelve days behind.
Jenny: I will say that especially with the music thing, we are constantly evaluating what is working and what is not working, especially when it comes to travel, and to know how much is it okay for us to be away from our kids? How often can they come on the road with us?
We did some tours with them, and it’s good for our family unit to be together. But our marriage was really suffering because on the road with three kids [can be so] intense, especially when it’s the sort of thing where you’re in the car driving somewhere new every day and playing a show every night. It’s not like going on a road trip where you can stop for a couple of days and enjoy each other, you know? So that was intense, and we were discovering that we were only seeing each other on stage, because Tyler’s managing all the business side, and I’m trying to manage the kids. It wasn’t good.
Tyler: So our solution now is we don’t take the kids on the road.
I love being home with our kids, and actually, we’ve started touring midweek so that we can be home Friday, Saturday, Sundays with our kids.
Jenny: Man, I’m just so glad that we have our family this way, and that we have the freedom to be home them. Because when you get to a place where you’re really successful, the pressure to travel and play is so much greater. It would be really difficult to be in that position, and I’m pretty grateful that we’re not guessing at this point.
Tyler: Yeah. For sure.
We’ve tried to keep a loose grip on music because we don’t want it to be our primary identity. It’s so easy to hide behind the artist facade or to look at ourselves as artists instead of as children of God who are loved deeply.
“It’s so easy to hide behind the artist facade, or to look at ourselves as artists instead of as children of God who are loved deeply.” – Tyler Summers
Narrator: You can find Jenny and Tyler’s music at your favorite music retailer or streaming provider.
Narrator: If you’d like to hear more stories about artists whose calling it is to spread light through their artistry, check out our interview with singer/songwriter Ellie Holcomb.
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we speak with author and evangelist Matthew Kelly. Over the years, Matthew has created countless resources that have brought millions of people to Christ. He tells us the key to sharing the living water of Jesus is to become what he calls “a dripping tap.”
Matthew Kelly: I think the dripping tap is the life of the spirit. It is our spirituality, it is our commitment to daily prayer and to reflecting on the scriptures and our commitment to the Christian community, and growing in generosity, and in growing in the foundational virtues of the Christian life.
The best way, I think, to set yourself up is to get that tap dripping and just make yourself available.