Touré Roberts excelled in technology, marketing, and sales, working for a major insurance company. But 15 years ago he began to feel a sense of unease. Going to church helped, and there he had an awakening, realizing "that God had greater things in store if I would just connect to him," he says. After seven months of prayer, Roberts ended his corporate career and founded the nondenominational One Church International in South Los Angeles in 2002.
Now his business savvy and pastoral experiences combine in Purpose Awakening: Discover the Epic Idea that Motivated Your Birth (Faith Words, Mar.). "Coming out of the business world and understanding how important it is for employees to be motivated, I believe my book can help [readers] understand how to move in one direction."
Purpose Awakening, a slim motivational volume that combines biblical and scriptural references with Roberts's encouraging prose, focuses on ways readers can use faith to conquer fear, self-doubt, and sin. "I want people to prepare their palate with discipline and organization, things that successful people do automatically," Roberts says of the aim of the book.
Roberts's business expertise had not been in a creative field, but when he moved the small church to North Hollywood in 2004, "the fastest growing demographic [in the congregation] was artists”—musicians, actresses, and actors. “They were full of faith, ambition, talent, and ability. But they were getting beat down by the system of the entertainment industry," he says. One Church International now has more than 3,500 members, a number of notable performing artists among them.
Having left the business world for ministry, "I developed a love for the artists, who were leaving the comfort of their families to follow their dreams, because I was doing almost the same thing," Roberts says. "I also developed an indignation and anger with the oppression of the industry. I believe God gave me the language to speak to the heart of the artist community."
Roberts used that language recently to apologize to Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland, R&B singers who, along with Beyoncé Knowles Carter, have been condemned by some Christians for the salacious content of their songs. Williams transitioned from Destiny's Child to singing gospel but was maligned for her previous work. On YouTube, Roberts apologized to tearful Williams and Rowland on behalf of Christians everywhere. "People in the Christian world really just bash Hollywood and artists. Because I'm surrounded by this community, you're talking about my friends, and a lot of it is said in ignorance," Roberts says. "I don't believe that the message at the center of Christian life is condemnation. I think it's about bringing out the best in people.”
He adds, “When we allowed Michelle Williams and others to perform in our church, she mentioned how the church had come down on her. That just riled me. We judged when we should have loved." Speaking to artists in general, Roberts says, "That doesn't mean that we condone some of the things that come out of your creativity, [but] we are going to cultivate an environment that brings out your best."
As an outgrowth of his ministry to performers, Roberts developed an Artist Resource Center to create mentoring relationships between the aspiring young artists and those who are more established and successful. The only requirement for participation in the ARC, he says, is that artists create something that will further good in the world.
Beyond his book, Roberts intends to create "a movement of purpose, since the message of purpose transcends religion and a lot of things that divide people," he says. "I believe the message of purpose unites the world."