Kirk Franklin is easily one of the most recognized names in the world of Gospel music. Over the past 25 years, he's released a number of record-breaking albums, collaborated with some of the industry's biggest stars, started his own music label, and won dozens of awards, including a staggering seven Grammy Awards.
In November, Franklin released his 12th studio album, "Losing My Religion," after a nearly five-year hiatus. The album debuted at number 10 on the Billboard 200 and includes the chart-topping single, "Wanna Be Happy," which earned the singer his latest Grammy nomination for Best Gospel Song / Performance.
While "Losing My Religion" has found tremendous commercial success, the album is much more than just a collection of uplifting songs. For the 46-year-old Gospel pioneer, it's a call to Christians to look beyond the doctrines of religion and focus on a deep and meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ.
"I believe that one of the reasons there is a decline in churches and why Millennials are no longer professing faith is because the doctrine and the dogma that we place on people when they come to faith is getting in the way of us pursuing a relationship with Jesus Christ," Franklin told The Gospel Herald in an exclusive interview.
"Instead of allowing the love of God to compel people, we place too much emphasis on trying to control thinking and actions and developing discipline," he continued. "When people fall in love with Jesus and realize how much He is in love with them, that affects how we live and what we do and how we think. So, we begin to read the Word, not as a manual on how to be better, but as a book of love letters. In the spirit of that love, we become transformed...My hope for this album is simply that it inspires people to lose their religion and really pursue a relationship with Jesus Christ that can truly transform us from the outside in."
Franklin revealed that he prays "Losing My Religion" is not only a continuum of his past albums, but a reflection of his walk with Jesus Christ and personal spiritual growth since breaking into the music industry in 1990.
"My music is inspired by my faith and what the Lord has compelled me to write; what He's given birth inside of me to write," he said. "I've grown closer to Him...It's so easy for Christian musicians to allow what we do to become who we are. We find our identity in our art. But God didn't give us art to for that; He gave it to us so it could be an expression for Him, so that we could walk through that and speak through that. But, very often it's easy to forget that our identity isn't in our art, but in a new birth experience."
He added, "That's a difficult walk sometimes, it can get kind of gray and blurry, because you're still proclaiming His name, so you think you're doing it right. You don't always realize that even though what you're doing may be for Him, you can still miss Him. Your life is too consumed with what you're doing, and so you become a human doing instead of a human being."
Franklin is currently gearing up for his "20 Years In One Night Tour", which launches this Spring and will travel to 24 cities. It's the star's first-ever solo tour and promises to be an uplifting overview of his career.
"People can expect 20 years of music in one night. It is my goal to give people the whole history and the whole gravity of my life, which is in these songs. God's been really kind in giving me songs; I don't know why He's done it, but it's been the greatest gift He's ever given me besides my wife and kids," the singer said of his upcoming tour.
"It's my first tour on my own, and we want people to know they're going to hear music; I don't believe in wasting people's time and money," he emphasized. "I want people to leave having had the experience of a lifetime, knowing that we really put a lot of time and energy and passion into the presentation. We're celebrating the life of the music allowing the music to point people to Jesus. We want to go across the country doing that on this tour; we're really excited about it."
When asked how he's able to remain humble despite his tremendous success, Franklin didn't hesitate to point heavenward.
"God does a very good job of that," he said with a laugh, "Whatever happens in my life -- the good, the bad, the ups and downs -- those are all things He allows. They paint the picture of who we become. I think that God will always do what He needs to do to make sure I'm reminded that it's about Him and not about me."
"Losing My Religion" from RCA Records and Franklin's own Fo Yo Soul Recordings, is officially in stores and features Kim Burell, Tamela Mann, and Tasha Page Lockhart.
For more information about Franklin's upcoming tour, please click here.