It’s been a long night at an open mic taking place at a mega church in Brooklyn. Looking around, faces seem restless as the clock inches towards midnight. Jovita Sheppard is announced and the crowd is suddenly revived. “I know y’all are tired” she says, “But just bear with us.” “How many are still awake?” Everyone raises their hands. “Oh so you’re good! Let’s do this thing!” From the moment she opens her voice, she takes us from 0-100, straight into worship.
About 20 minutes later, the show ends on a silent high and Jovita exits the stage. The crowd is dismissed, I greet a familiar face, and am then being led backstage to meet Mrs. Sheppard. But she is nowhere to be found. A jacket that belongs to her is left behind signifying that she has not yet left the building. I breathe a sigh of relief, with hopes that she may still be here as I have been trying to catch up with her for a while. A few minutes of walking around and there she is. We are officially introduced. I stretch out my hand to shake hers and she lovingly opens both arms and gives me the warmest hug with the most pleasant “Hiiiieee!” She is exactly who she appears to be.
Jovita Sheppard has a gift. There is an anointing on her that changes the atmosphere whenever she ministers in song. She is evidently excited about Jesus, each time her voice thunders God’s praise and you can’t help but to join her in worship.
Shenelle Wallace: I’ve been trying to catch up with you!
Jovita Sheppard: I know! I’ve been traveling and it’s crazy because I just got back so I was only home for about two days and I have to fly back out tomorrow. I’ve been back and forth for the last three weeks. God is doing some amazing things though, so I cannot complain.
Shenelle Wallace: What is the earliest memory that you have of yourself singing?
Jovita Sheppard: My granddad had me singing from about the age of 5. He had us recording his music and a lot of songs that he wrote. Other kids were outside playing and we were in his room recording. As soon as I could talk I was singing.
Shenelle Wallace: For you, church was never foreign, and from what I understand you have been going your whole life. A lot of us who grew up in church went because we were dragged by our parents and they wanted to get us involved. When did God start to actually mean something to you?
Jovita Sheppard: I came to know God one on one at a very young age. So I’ve always loved him. Because of my life struggles it was hard to not believe God. Although my mom and I were in church we struggled a lot. Seeing my mom struggle, and trying to provide for us, we took church seriously. We took prayer seriously. And we would watch the hand of God provide. I remember recently I was serving at a shelter and I saw this family there that I was serving and it reminded me about the grace of God. My mom never had to take us to a shelter to eat. God always provided. But I was still looking at this family thinking, man, we were in challenging times to the same extent. We struggled a lot. I remember us counting pennies. But the struggle helped me produce faith and learn about faith at a very young age. I loved church and being in the presence of God. No one had to provoke me to do it. It was love from the very beginning just disciplining myself in the things of God. It’s not like I was in church and then I met God at 18 or 19. My life put this God to the test. I was introduced to him and fell in love with him at a very young age.
Shenelle Wallace: Your mom had a ministry that you were a part of. How did that help you in your own ministry today?
In my teenage years my mom branched into ministry and I started doing praise and worship for her. I was in my senior year in high school. She told me to get up there (laughs). She had me doing devotion. The more I got into it, there was a lot of correction, but no one gave me any prior teaching on praise and worship. I was in a gospel play, and I met a few people there one being this guy on the organ who told me about this worship conference, “Coming Back to the Heart of Worship.” So I flew out to Texas and got all this information about praise and worship and that kind of catapulted me to another level to understand what praise and worship was. That was my first conference ever. Between that conference and the things that I received from there, my bible, and my time with God, that pretty much developed me. But there was no one to sit me down and give me any type of teaching or insight into what it was and what it was about and what it required. It requires a lot of inward lifestyle. So it developed as time progressed.
Shenelle Wallace: As you began to learn more about the depth of praise and worship do you feel like it’s something that you were more drawn to or called to do?
Jovita Sheppard: I honestly felt that the calling came before the drawing. Singing was a love of mine and the more I learned about it the more it was revealed to me that that was my calling. I was always drawn to worshipping God. The older I got, the more I read, the more I saw that it was a lifestyle to be a worshipper and to be a praiser. It transcends the gift. A lot of people don’t know that. When they think about praise and worship they think about the song, they think about the music etc. They don’t think about the life that’s required or the life that God is looking for. God revealed [to me] this is not just a gift that you have, this is an actual life that you’re living.
Shenelle Wallace: Your musical genre is one I’ve never heard of. What is Rock Righteous?
Jovita Sheppard: (Laughs) when I came into the music industry I wouldn’t classify myself as “Gospel” because I didn’t like the context in which it was described. I said God, this is more than gospel music, it’s more than contemporary music, I don’t even have a category for it. And in my quiet time that’s what he gave me. Rock Righteous. It’s pretty much edgy composition, but the message is all Him. It’s not defined by a style of music. It’s a type of music that allows the listener to consider Christ before they make their decision, and not after. In other words, I’m trying to get this generation to consider Christ before they fall so that falling is not an option. I want them to think about God and the reality of what their next decision is going to cost them. I feel like with our generation, we think about it after we mess up. I’m not saying that they will never make a mistake, but they will be prepared for the mistake they are making. If you consider Christ before, 9 times out of 10, you won’t go into making that mistake. You will remember who God says you are and remember who He is and think I don’t have to stoop this low or make this decision. When you mature in God you have to start considering your ways before you do them. Rock Righteous represents that lifestyle; the lifestyle of righteousness and right standing with God.
Shenelle Wallace: I remember the very first time I saw you minister. It was awesome, and you said something powerful that stayed with me. You said: “Anybody can sing, but it’s about the heart.” What is it about the state of your heart that is so important?
Jovita Sheppard: Honestly, that’s what Gods sees. There are tons of gifts out here, but it’s the purity and the sincerity in which you say a thing. I could tell a person that I love them, and I don’t have to have a long relationship with them. But it won’t mean as much unless they can really sense that my heart is pure behind what I said. And I feel that way with songs. We can sing all day because we have this melodious gift or God has gifted us to do it, but He is really looking at the heart of the message and not necessarily what’s coming out of the gift. I believe that what really moves God is the fact that our heart is sincere before Him. Our praise is no different than anything that He’s created. It’s like that scripture says ‘The rocks will cry out in your place.’ So if I was created to praise, so was the rock. The only thing that differs our worship or my authenticity is that I will to do this. When I make bold statements like that I want people to understand that your gift can be very much amazing and can wow the people, but if you want to move the heart of God He’s concerned about the sincerity and the purity of your heart. So that’s very important to me.
Shenelle Wallace: When you perform, and I’m sure you’ve heard this, there is an anointing on you that definitely changes the atmosphere. The last time I saw you was at the open mic. It wasn’t an actual service, it was just an open mic. But when you got up there, it turned into a worship experience! What I noticed, was that whenever you finish your set and are leaving the stage, you’re very careful not to disturb the atmosphere. Why is that?
Jovita Sheppard: Number one, a lot of the events that I get to go to I feel like I’m assigned to. For people it’s a great performance or just another gig, but for me I really feel like there is work for me to do. So my work does not end when my song ends. The worship creates this atmosphere so that God can visit whoever he needs to in that moment. The work is not finished until He’s done. And so, it may linger, but it’s my job to create this environment where the King can show up. If He needs to heal, or minister, or transform a life, whatever He needs to do in that moment, it’s my job to make the environment conducive so that He can show up. And when he does, the rest is on Him. I believe people are engaged in that moment to get whatever they need. It’s a free atmosphere for you to just be in the presence of God. That exchange is so crucial and the slightest thing can mess it up. So I’m very, very cautious as to what we do. It’s not about my gift at that point. It’s all about Him. I pull back when I know He’s there. I’m very cautious as to what happens in the moment and very sensitive to that time because for some people its life or death.
Shenelle Wallace: You’ve been invited on several occasions to perform on TBN. I know that for a lot of artists thats a big deal. How did that come about?
Jovita Sheppard: The first time I was invited to TBN was through a connection with Bishop Noel Jones. He was actually in New York and it was 3 times that I got the call and each time I wasn’t able to attend. Then I got the 4th phone call, and I ministered for Bishop Jones in Queens. There was an opening for TBN and the same guy who connected us was the same guy who connected me to TBN. I went on there for the first time and performed a song and I was extremely nervous. It was a huge deal. Then when they started the 15th street live a new launch for the network, they contacted my manager and asked if I could do the whole show. And my whole mouth just dropped like, are you serious! (Laughs). I was like wow! I got to take my band and do a lot of creative things. I thank God for that experience. Ever since that taping, it’s been an uphill journey.
Shenelle Wallace: The funny things is, I actually watched that video through YouTube, and I kid you not, I really felt the anointing through the computer! I promise you!
Jovita Sheppard: (Laughs) Thank God.
Shenelle Wallace: How do you nurture that gift?
Jovita Sheppard: It’s a lot of time spent in his presence. I’ll never forget my pastor saying practice being in the presence of the Lord. I wrote it down and it never left me. I don’t know what other people pray for, but I pray for the immediate tangible presence of God to show up. Sometimes you don’t have 15 minutes. You have 4 minutes or 3 minutes. My thing is Lord, you’re eternal, so you’re outside of time. I need these people to feel your presence once I open up my mouth. So that constant prayer and devotion is no joke. It’s a sacrifice. You have to stay connected to him.
Shenelle Wallace: It’s very obvious that you love what you do. Whenever I see you on stage, you’re always so excited! What is the excitement about?
Jovita Sheppard: Honestly, I’m in love with Jesus. He makes me smile. When I’m up there laughing, I’m just in awe of His favor and what He’s doing. I smile because I know He’s going to show up and do something for somebody. I’m just excited that another handful of people will feel the tangible presence of the Lord. I know people say this, but there really is absolutely no greater joy than being in the presence of the Lord. It’s where my heart is. He’s real. If He doesn’t show up, then it’s pointless.
Shenelle Wallace: Let’s get personal for a bit. You’re married..
Jovita Sheppard: Yes. I love my boo!
Shenelle Wallace: (Laughs) I think that’s a beautiful thing. A lot of young adult Christians are looking forward to that. How did you prepare for marriage in your singleness?
Jovita Sheppard: I can tell you one thing, it’s better to date someone who shares the same beliefs. Because telling an unbeliever, Hey, I’m saving myself until I get married, or we can’t do X,Y, and Z, that might feel a little bit different. I don’t know how it is these days because I’ve been married for 11 years, but that would be pretty difficult. You have to be mature. I was very determined to do what God had asked me to do which was keep my virginity until I was married. And I thank God for that. I really do.
Shenelle Wallace: That is beautiful!
Jovita Sheppard: Yeah. It’s not that I wasn’t tempted, but you have to be mature to handle any type of relationship. When two people are not mature what is a blessing can become a curse if not managed correctly. My husband and I courted for two years, then when we finally figured out that we were going to get married we waited another year for counseling.
Shenelle Wallace: How were you able to recognize the man God had for you?
Jovita Sheppard: I’m not trying to be deep when I say this, but the Holy Spirit told me that this is the guy. He is a real man of God. I watched things about him, his interaction with his family, his prayer life, how he worshipped, the way he conducted himself, his mannerisms. He was a real dude. He pretty much proved himself. He was very responsible financially and able to live a single life and not have 1,000 other girls around. I was able to see what I needed to see in him. That’s how I knew. In today’s world, a lot of females don’t give themselves enough time to investigate. You’re just excited you’re going to the movies. You’re not excited to get more information out of him and to ask the right questions. What their prayer should be is God, if he’s not for me, show me the signs and help me to make the right decision. The discernment in prayer will never steer you wrong.
Shenelle Wallace: There’s a saying, “Those who are crazy enough to believe they can change the world usually do.” You have said that you want to change the world one soul at a time.
Jovita Sheppard: If God graces me to change the mind of one individual I feel like that’s another soul that is going to be included in the kingdom. I want to be a part of that scripture that says these are they who have turned the world upside down. So I’m not trying to change it as much as I’m trying to impact it.
Shenelle Wallace: Can we look forward to new music anytime soon?
Jovita Sheppard: Yes. I’m releasing some worship music, and doing a couple of cover songs. Then we’re dropping a new single in July.
Shenelle Wallace: What do you want your legacy to be?
Jovita Sheppard: I haven’t really thought about that, and if I make something up right now it’s not going to come out right. Honestly, everything that I do I want people to experience God. My life points back to Him. That’s pretty much what I live for. I want as many people to say, hey, that girl knew who Jesus was.
To hear Jovita’s music visit her website by clicking here.