Kirk Franklin came for a visit to our CLC Bookcenter this past week and it was a night that I will never forget. For those who have never heard of Kirk Franklin, he is the most popular urban gospel music artist of his generation and has impacted both Christian and secular music charts for over twenty years. He is a song writer, a musician, a choir director and a performer like no other. On this night, he was celebrating the release of his new CD, Losing My Religion, and came to meet his fans, provide autographs and take pictures. His fans in Philly did not let him down and he returned the favor
As Kirk pulled up to the store, he saw a line that stretched far down the sidewalk with hundreds of people waiting to see him. The event had been well publicized on radio and social media and the weather cooperated as well. Almost immediately after he arrived, he ran outside the store to greet the crowd and was overwhelmed by their appreciation for him and his ministry. Kirk is a ball of energy and got started signing right away and greeting people. He is not a man of pretense and is sure that everyone who meets him feels special. He is particularly fond of families and children and often stopped to hug them and to answer questions they might have.
This was not Kirk’s first visit to CLC, but it was the first time that he had visited in ten years. His first visit was in 1998 and was a night that became legend in the gospel music community. Our little store was hosting its first “midnight” release of his album called the Nu Nation Project. We had asked our music rep if Kirk could be a part of the celebration and were told that it was not possible as the project was going to ship one million units that week and we were not a part of the launch plan. We decided to host the event despite this information and were amazed at the turnout that late at night. As sometimes happens in our lives, God had other plans for that night.
What we did not know was that Kirk Franklin did come to Philadelphia that day in 1998, but not for our event. He was in town for a funeral of a friend’s father and as he was driving around he turned on the radio to the local gospel music station. He heard the commercial that we were running and called the station to ask about what we were doing. That night he showed up unannounced with his wife and two body guards. A good number of our customers were still there when he arrived and were completely shocked that it was really him. They quickly got on their cell phones to tell friends and took lots of pictures. What did not seem possible in our eyes was very possible in God’s. As a direct result of the buzz created by that event, we were blessed to host six major midnight releases the following year.
Success of the kind that Kirk has experienced over the years can change a person. Some artists become aloof, self-absorbed and very demanding of others. To God’s glory that is not Kirk’s story. He is a model of humility and love for people, no matter who they are. On this particular night, he turned our store into a party that felt like a family reunion. He stayed until the very last person got their CD signed, their picture taken and their hug given. No one was left out. He was in no hurry and clearly got energy from the people that came to see him. At several points during the evening, I could not help but think about the story in the Bible where Jesus told his disciples to bring the children to him as Kirk made every child feel like they were someone special.
At a time when bookstores are closing, people are downloading their music and music artists have stopped visiting retail stores, this was a moment to remember. Hundreds of people showed up to support an artist who matters to them and their community. Our bookstore was able to host this event because of the many volunteers that helped out and everyone had fun. We sold over 200 physical CDs that night and praised God for his blessing on our little store. A lot has changed since 1998 when I first met Kirk Franklin, but one thing has remained the same. The same God who brought Kirk to our store so many years ago has remained faithful to our ministry. He gets all the glory for this wonderful night and Kirk Franklin would be the first to applaud that notion. What a good God we serve.