There are many stories in the Bible that show how gifts precede age, gender, culture, and time. David, who was just a young boy, defeated Goliath. Abraham and Sarah gave birth to Isaac in their elder years. Even Esther, a Jew, became queen to a Persian King. No matter what cultural rules or norms are in place, the gifts and talents that God has given us will place us before great men at His appointed time no matter your age, gender, culture, or condition (Prov. 18:16). This is apparent in the life of gospel artist Stephen B. Steward.
Steward grew up as a “country boy” in Smithville, Mississippi. He was born the ninth of 12 children and acquired a love for music at a very early age. He recalls his father was a great singer and guitar player, and this is where a large portion of his gift originated. His roots lie at Miracle Revival Center, a family church where his aunt and uncle were senior pastors.
“Living in Mississippi, I was raised around a predominately Caucasian culture;’ Steward said. ”So I listened to a lot of country but I also had a mixture of R&B and gospel influence:’ In college, he sang for a contemporary pop group called the Kaleidoscopes.
“My mother was unaware of me singing in this group until one of her friends complimented her on my voice. I was totally busted! Her words to me were, ‘ Don’t ever forget who gave you your voice and why He gave it to you:”
Around age 13, Steward’s close friend told him he had given his life to Christ. That week, Steward did the same. Like most teenagers, he felt he took many things for granted. Growing up in a home with 12 children and living in Mississippi during a time where the population was mostly white and black, there was lots of discipline, sharing, character shaping and singing. There were also challenges to overcome.
‘There were high school teachers who told me I was not college material and that 1 should acquire a job in a factory. Although I was an all-district athlete, I was told I was not big enough or fast enough to play sports at the next level. Nevertheless, I received a basketball and music scholarship to attend college:’ Steward went on to say “l learned growing up not to accept words spoken against my dreams and destiny, because I know I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me:’
Steward vowed that if God ever gave him a wife, he would show her nothing but love. In turn, he taught his father how to love by expressing it to him verbally in his early adult years. Despite his struggles, his father was a great singer and guitar player, and this is where a large portion of Steward’s gift originated.
As a young adult fresh out of college, Steward had a dream, but it had to be pursued in God’s time. He deferred his dream for a while to pursue a bachelor’s degree in psychology as well as a career in law enforcement. He also became a husband and father. He and his wife Onesha have two children; Stephen II and Erica.
“I wanted to raise my children. It was very important to me that my children had an involved father in their lives:’ After the children graduated from school, Steward heard God clearly tell him, “Now, it’s time:’
The journey to his destiny included leading praise and worship for over 18 years at Exalted Word Tabernacle of Praise Church in Lynwood, California.
While rooted at Exalted Word, Steward began leading a number of worship workshops. Currently, the Stewards worship at Harvest Rock Church, led by WWWEPITOMEMAGAZINE.ORG Pastor Che Ahn, in Pasadena.
While Steward has been serving in his gift of praise and worship for years, it wasn’t until he had a late-night studio session with the legendary Dr. Benjamin Wright that his wife truly saw him in his element. She sat in amazement and her love and support for her husband grew stronger. While she was always a fan, she wasn’t a true believer. On their drive home, with tears in her eyes, she asked for forgiveness for not realizing his gift.
She has been in his corner ever since. Steward is currently an emerging worship artist with a contemporary worship style. His debut single” With My Whole Heart;’ is a collaboration with his mentor and friend, Grammy award winner and gospel icon Andrae Crouch. The song earned Steward a spot on the Billboard Top Gospel Single Chart and three 2013 Prayze Factor People’s Choice Awards.
He met Crouch in 1994 at a writer’s conference and the two have been friends since. Crouch has been an advisor and encourager to Steward throughout his journey. “This was an amazing opportunity to meet and work with him since I grew up listening to him and clung to his music as a child;’ Steward said.
Being a parole agent is a striking contrast from being a singer/ songwriter, but he said they are both “ministry:’ while pursuing his career in law enforcement and his gift as an artist,
Steward released his first album, Enter Your Gates, on May 20, 2014. It debuted in the top 10 of the gospel billboard’s best-selling albums. This collection is more than just an album. It is a musical portal to help listeners enter a place of pure praise and worship.
“There is a time and season for everything. I had to work at my music ministry for 25 years. Make the best out of what God has given you;’ he said.
“There may be a hidden breakthrough to elevate you and maximize your opportunity with your gifts. Your gifts will make room for you. You must always operate in ‘now’ faith. Without faith, it is impossible to please God, and any dream can be brought to fruition if you don’t give up:’