Vince Carr: A man of many hats, but one heart
When I got the assignment at the start of this semester to interview someone and do a semester-long profile project on that person, I knew immediately who I would choose: my pastor, Vince Carr. I have been blessed to have him as my pastor and friend for about a year and a half, and love him so much.
I have also grown spiritually through his teaching, have found a mentor in his wife Rena, and have become friends with his two oldest daughters. I have laughed countless times at his amazing sense of humor. Being Chinese-American, it is highly probable that I will marry someone of a different race. Because Vince and Rena are an interracial couple, I know I can learn from their example.
This project, beginning with the interview, has been my chance to spend time with him and get to know him better, as well as to share him with others who may also be blessed to learn about him.
I had a chance to talk to Vince on the first Sunday that I was home. I asked him if he would be willing for me to interview him for a class assignment this semester. Without any hesitation, he agreed.
I sent him a formal letter with the detailed project requirements spelled out so he would know what he was agreeing to participate in. I let him know that in addition to the interview, I would be using audio and video images of him, along with some creative non-fiction writing techniques, to compile a multi-media profile of who he is. I also told him that the finished project would be posted to a blog and shared with my professor and classmates. Even knowing how his life would be on display for so many to see, he still agreed and we scheduled the interview.
I was at Panera on the day of the interview, waiting for Vince to arrive. We were supposed to meet at 2:00, but he had texted me earlier saying he would be there at about 2:15. I arrived and then chose to stay in my car so I could keep an eye out for him. He pulled in a few minutes later, about 2:20. This came as no surprise. It is a common joke at our church that things run on “Carr time.” Our church service that is posted as starting at 11 am never starts before 11:10, and it is the same with any other church event. A twenty-minute delay is pretty much on time for Vince!
I saw his vehicle pull in – the vehicle is, of course, a big SUV with third-row seating. (With five kids, including two still in car seats, having a big vehicle is the only way to go!) When the whole family is together, seven people need plenty of room.
Vince wore his usual: jeans that sagged a bit (probably a reflection of the hip-hop artist side of him) and a forest green t-shirt with a brown bear and some trees on it, the shirt that he designed and printed for the fall youth retreat to Gatlinburg. No matter where he goes, this is his standard outfit.
I’ve seen him wear a button-down shirt only a time or two, usually of a pastel color, and he usually has some sarcastic comment about it, like his wife dressed him or he feels like an Easter egg. Rena, his wife, is with him, too. Because she works at night and Vince owns his own business, pastors a church, and does hip-hop ministry, spending time together in the daytime is one way to fit in “couple time.”
I greet both of them. “Hi, Vince. I’m so glad you could come and do this for me. Rena, what a great surprise!
Rena greets me with a big hug, saying “Hey, Linnea. It’s great to see you. How are you?”
Vince also gives me a hug, a little more reserved, and says “Shanghai, how are you? Good thing you came to church this past Sunday. I didn’t want to have to slash your tires!” I always laugh inside a little when Vince hugs me since nearly every Sunday he will include the fact that “I am not a hugger” somewhere in the homily that he gives.
I also noticed he was wearing a bracelet with the initials H.W.L.F. on it. The emerald green bracelet stood out against his dark skin. From a recent sermon, I knew that it was given to him by one of the youth from our church. The letters stand for He Woulda Loved First, a reminder for Vince to daily be a guide to what he says, does, and how he treats others.
When I chose a place to interview Vince, I knew that it had to be a restaurant. One of the first things I noticed about Vince when I first saw him was his size. He is not really tall – just average height – but is stocky and overweight. In his sermons at church and in his Facebook posts, I have lost track of the number of times that he calls himself a “fat kid.” and speaks unashamedly of his love for Krispy Kreme donuts and the siren song of the infamous hot light.
It came as a big surprise to me, then, that he ordered the Mediterranean salad and water to drink. I admit it looked really yummy – purple onions, red tomatoes, green olives, little round chickpeas, and some cucumbers. I’d eat it in a heartbeat, but it sure isn’t something I’d expect Vince to order.
I find out later that the reason for this choice is that he recently started a Keto diet, something that seems to be all the rage today. I was curious to know more about this diet and what the benefits might be for Vince. According to an article in Everyday Health “the diet calls for consuming high amounts of fat, a moderate amount of protein, and a very limited amount of carbs…After you follow the diet for a few days, your body enters ketosis, which means it has started to use fat for energy.” For someone who is overweight and has a health problem related to his diet – gout – this diet could be just what he needs to lose weight and get healthier overall. I do find it a little ironic, though, that the main hallmark of this diet is eating A LOT of protein, especially meat. After all, Rena and all of their kids are vegetarians. It must make for some interesting mealtimes in the Carr house! As we got into the interview content, the motivation for this change became clear.
During the interview, I asked, “Vince, what is something you are afraid of?”
He said “I’m afraid of dying and not seeing my kids grow up. That is why I am making these changes.” Of course, with his ever-present sense of humor, Vince tried to lighten the moment, turned to Rena, and asked “what would you say I am afraid of?
Rena replied “Mice!” There was a hint of a smile and a look in her eyes that made it clear she was getting a little teasing in.
“I am not afraid of mice, I just don’t like them,” Vince was quick to counter. I was curious to know the story behind this easy exchange between them.
Vince’s love for his family, especially his children, came through in nearly every response that he made, no matter what the topic or the question, but considering his own upbringing, this came as no surprise.
“What do you value most?” I asked.
He responded, “I value my family. Probably because I grew up with a single mom who wasn’t there much. My dad was living the fast life.” He continued with, “I am committed to making sure my kids have the stable, two-parent life I never had.”
His father was verbally and physically abusive to both his wife and his three children. He abused drugs and alcohol. Because I know that the cycle of abuse usually passes through generations, I asked Vince how he avoided falling into the abusive behaviors of his father.
“It took a lot of prayer and forgiving my father. It was almost impossible NOT to be that person since it was all I knew about men and women,” he said. He continued by saying, “God grew me out of it. If it were up to me, I’d probably be that same person. I had to allow Him to shape and mold me. When I was younger, I had a temper. In marriage, at first, I was verbally abusive until I turned it over to Him.”
His father came up again when I asked, “What are your regrets?”
“Not fixing my relationship with my father before he died,” Vince quickly answered. “I was so focused on who he was that I didn’t take time to see who he was becoming.”
One look through his Facebook page indicates that he has forgiven his dad and has come to peace with that part of his past. He posted this picture of his dad one year on Veteran’s Day.
To protect herself and her children, his mother divorced his father. She went to school to further her education, eventually earning her doctorate. Between work and school, the kids were quite often on their own. In the family he has created, his kids are rarely home alone. They are home-schooled and often with him as he runs errands for his job and they do nearly everything together as a family. It isn’t easy, though.
This led me to ask, “With being a husband and father, owning your own business, being a pastor and having a hip-hop ministry, how do you manage a work-life balance?” (His business is named Meat and Potatoes – another indicator of his love of food. It is a company that makes promotional items with a company logo/slogan, such as t-shirts, pens, etc….)
“I don’t sleep,” he responded, somewhat jokingly, but also with some seriousness. “It was until recently that I realized how much my family was on the back burner. It’s easy to do God’s work by forgetting that family is the first priority. Now I schedule time with family and don’t allow anything to take that time, even if the world is falling apart!”
My next question for Vince was, “What are your biggest accomplishments?”
Vince’s response, yet again, focused on his family. “Being married to my wife for seventeen years and having my five kids, everything else is just a by-product of that.” He continued with, “If I hadn’t married Rena, there’s no telling where I would be. If we hadn’t had kids, no telling where we would be. Our kids keep me grounded – I want to see them grow in their faith with God.”
Vince publicly shares his love for his family nearly every day – he talks about it in his sermons most weeks and shares posts about how much they mean to him all the time on Facebook. The post he made on March 24, 2020 for his wife Rena’s birthday is one perfect example:
“I don’t know what I did to deserve you, but I’m glad I did it. I thank God everyday for allowing our paths to cross, and allowing the two of our lives to become one. I love the way our kids love you. It makes my heart smile when we both walk into the door, and they push me out of the way (while screaming mommyyyyy) to be able to get to you… they see what I see. They see an amazing person that will stop the entire world, for her family. They see an amazing person that will (and does) carry the whole world on her shoulders, for her family. They see a selfless superhero that doesn’t need a cape to do what is right. They see a amazing person that doesn’t just talk about her faith, but lives it out every single day of her life. They see someone that makes sure that they eat more than just Taco Bell and Ramen Noodles 😳 They see someone that brings joy to the lives of everyone that has the honor of encountering her. They see all this, and so much more, and they wrap it up in one word, mom. Like I said, I don’t know what I did to deserve you, because I can’t hold a candle to how amazing you are. You not only complete me, you force me to be/do better. You not only encourage and push me, you support me. My prayer is that as we grow old together, that we never feel like we’ve been together forever. That as the years grow that I will continue to see and discover how amazing you are…that you never question how much you are loved by us and so many others.”
Another place where Vince shows his love for his family is in his music. Vince has a Christian hip-hop ministry where he uses his music to tell others about the Lord. The name that he uses when performing is iDie, taken from the verse from the Bible found in Galatians 2:20 “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me”. On the album “Recovering Sinner” there is a song entitled “Beautiful”. This song is written about Rena and Vince’s love for her and their children (iDie Music).
As much as Vince loves Rena and his kids, he loves God even more. His life mission is to tell others about Him. He does that when he gives concerts as iDie, reaching the young people who come with their youth groups or are invited by friends. In 2000, Vince took the name iDie and began to “tour nationally, perform at many different venues and opened up for/performed with nationally known and touring acts at festivals (Michael English, Newsboys, Apologetics, Kirk Franklin, etc.) …performing at city-wide festivals (i.e. Riverbend – Chattanooga, TN), youth rallies/concerts (i.e. Gospel Expsure USA – Atlanta, GA), and nationally known venues (hifi buys Amphitheater – Atlanta, GA)” Since 2003, he has released five albums (iDie Music).
“Tell me more about why you do hip-hop ministry,” I said to Vince.
“It allows them to realize we can relate to them,” he said. “It is a tool to bring them in. When Jesus fed the 5,000, he fed them and then spoke to their hearts. Hip-hop feeds them music and then allows me to speak to their hearts.” He continued, “Christian hip-hop doesn’t pull [church kids] away, but instead offers the same caliber of music [as secular] with the right message. It encourages you spiritually and doesn’t fill you with all the junk.”
He also shares his love of the Lord every day through his ministry at North Church of Rockmart. He preaches on Sundays, leads Bible study each Wednesday, and now leads an online prayer meeting on Mondays and Fridays. He also posts videos and words of encouragement on Facebook, both his personal page as well as various pages for North.
About two years ago, Vince stood at the podium in a small church in Rockmart, looking out into the sanctuary. The church wasn’t in a traditional church building, but rather a small converted storefront in an old building downtown. The sanctuary was a large room with folding chairs arranged the traditional way – seats on each side with a center aisle. He was there to preach a sermon as an audition, so to speak, to see if the church leadership wanted him to become the pastor. Looking down, he saw about 20 or so people, the entire church membership, and he knew they were all the family members of the three or four families that made up the church. Every face, other than those of his own family who were there to support him, that looked up at him was white. He was a black guy, with sagging jeans and tattoos up his arms, and one question ran through his mind – “Why, God?” He already felt called there by God, but sure didn’t know why, but he says “I felt it was where we need to be, but I didn’t want to go.” He was comfortable at the church he was at, and his family had found their fit. There he ran the sound, which allowed him to be a part of the ministry team while remaining in the background. His kids had friends there and the church had an active youth group. It was in Cartersville, close to home. North offered none of those things.
Today, North Church has grown so much that it has moved to a new building. It is much larger and the church owns it, instead of renting. The motto of “Love God, Love People” is in action from the moment you approach the church. On Sundays, the pastors and other ministry leaders congregate outside of the front of the church on the sidewalk. As those coming to church park along the street and begin to approach the church, the greetings ring out. You can’t make it to the door without high fives and hugs.
Once you pass through the door, you are in the area called the Cafe. Every Sunday you can grab a cup of coffee and a donut. You can hang out and catch up with your friends, get lots of hugs, and prepare your heart for the service. As you file into the sanctuary, you see rows of chairs, a stage with TV screens mounted overhead, and get a rustic feel from the raw wood used to line the walls and sound booth.
Worship begins with the song “Waymaker” and continues through another 3-4 songs. The worship band leads worship, always careful to not cross the line to make it feel like they are performing. It is truly an interactive experience where the Spirit is leading.
Following worship, Vince steps to the lectern. It is the same one he used in the previous location. Vince again wears jeans and a t-shirt as he delivers today’s message entitled “ColorBlind – Addressing the Elephant in the Room” (North Church 2020). He looks down into the congregation, and what he sees is vastly different than his view two years ago. The sanctuary is twice as big and nearly full. Those who listen and look up to hear the words God has given him are a mix of races; white, black, mixed-race, and Asian. Vince comments on this saying “It’s beautiful to look out and see the different tones in this room. It’s beautiful to see different backgrounds.” When he followed God’s leading to North, he says “the intent was to integrate the church and make it more diverse.” He was very intentional in asking friends who were black and friends in interracial marriages to come and be a part. They stayed and invited others because they felt comfortable with someone black in leadership. As Vince says “now people come, see themselves in leadership and see our heart and stay.” The church in America is the most segregated institution we have. In fact, according to the expert Aubrey Malphurs, “only 8% of all Christian congregations in the U. S. are racially mixed to a significant degree. Only 2-3% of mainline Protestant congregations and 8% of other Protestant congregations fit this standard.” Vince addressed this in the sermon, saying “There’s racism in the world, but I’m more mad at the church because we should know better.” This is certainly not what God intended. “The Bible reveals that in heaven, people of all races will worship God together. Since heavenly worship will be diverse, shouldn’t earthly worship be, too?” (Hopler). North Church, with its motto of “Love God, Love People”, is changing that every week as more people join in worship in a diverse body of believers.
The diversity is not only racial diversity, but also diversity of all types – old and young, men in suits and others wearing shorts, some who are clean-cut and others with lots of tattoos, families and single people, and everyone in between. Vince can look down from the platform, see who surrounds him, and know that God’s call has led to the development of a church that is rarely seen but is one that is reflective of the diversity that believers will encounter once they get to heaven. Those who attend can look up and see someone who may or may not look like them, but who sets a daily example of what it means to hear God, step out in faith, follow His leading into uncomfortable places, and see the blessings that follow.
(For some reason, this audio file won’t load without the big space between the photo and caption – please scroll for the remainder of the text)
If you listen to iDie’s song “Look at Me”, he says he is “nappy-headed” and that his pants are too big (eMinor). Some people would look at this negatively and feel it is promoting racial stereotypes or putting down the Black community. I disagree. In the time that I have known Vince, I have seen him make light of racial differences and stereotypes all the time. One example is how he started to call me Shanghai because I am Chinese. So I made up what I thought to be a black-sounding name – Donquarious – and that is what I call him. At church, he makes light of “politically correct” racial terms and prefers to be more real, calling people black and white, not African-American and Caucasian. Some people would probably be offended by this, but to me, it makes a lot of sense. People often use race as a weapon to try to hurt others. Something can’t be used as a weapon if it doesn’t hurt the person it is being used against. So by making light of race, stereotypes, and names and embracing them, it takes away the ability for others to use those things to hurt someone. It also helps to understand that racism comes from a heart that isn’t right with God. In his “ColorBlind” sermon, Vince put it perfectly – “If you still have racism in your heart, God isn’t done with you yet…Racism is a sin issue, not a skin issue.”
As I look at all I know about Vince, from knowing him and spending time with him, from looking at the videos of him preaching and doing hip-hop, and seeing pictures taken of him, one thing stands out to me. His appearance, his words, and his message are the same regardless of the environment he’s in, what his role is at the time, or who he is talking to. Some people change their persona based on the audience, but Vince is always simply himself. The pictures show him in jeans and t-shirt in all his roles – pastor, performer, parent or friend. I would imagine he is the same while he is working as well. And his words and message are consistent as well. In his interview, it was obvious that the two things most important to him are his faith and his family. In “Look At Me”, one line is “I used to crave sin, but now it’s the thing that I despise.” This shows how his faith has changed his life. He also says he is “trying to show the world His glory.” He does that in every aspect of his life: giving a concert at a youth event, preaching at North on Sunday, leading his family in devotions, or using his business to help meet some need in the community. In “Look At Me” he speaks of his wife and family – they are never far from his thoughts and make it into most of his songs, conversations, and sermons. Everything that Vince says and does shows the things that he most values in his life – God and family.
If you listen to iDie’s song “Look at Me”, he refers himself as a nigger and says he is “nappy-headed” and that his pants are too big (eMinor). Some people would look at this negatively, feeling it is promoting racial stereotypes or putting down the Black community. I disagree. In the time that I have known Vince, I have seen him make light of racial differences and stereotypes all the time. One example is how he started to call me Shanghai because I am Chinese. So I made up what I thought to be a black-sounding name – Donquarious – and that is what I call him. At church, he makes light of “politically correct” racial terms and prefers to be more real, calling people black and white, not African-American and Caucasian. Some people would probably be offended by this, but to me, it makes a lot of sense. People often use race as a weapon to try to hurt others. Something can’t be used as a weapon if it doesn’t hurt the person it is being used against. So by making light of race, stereotypes, and names and embracing them, it takes away the ability for others to use those things to hurt someone. It also helps to understand that racism comes from a heart that isn’t right with God. In his “ColorBlind” sermon, Vince put it perfectly – “If you still have racism in your heart, God isn’t done with you yet…Racism is a sin issue, not a skin issue.”
As I look at all I know about Vince, from knowing him and spending time with him, from looking at the videos of him preaching and doing hip-hop, and seeing pictures taken of him, one thing stands out to me. His appearance, his words, and his message are the same regardless of the environment he’s in, what his role is at the time, or who he is talking to. Some people change their persona based on the audience, but Vince is always simply himself. The pictures show him in jeans and t-shirt in all his roles – pastor, performer, parent or friend. I would imagine he is the same while he is working as well. His words and message are consistent as well. In his interview, it was obvious that the two things most important to him are his faith and his family. In “Look At Me”, one line is “I used to crave sin, but now it’s the thing that I despise.” This shows how his faith has changed his life. He also says he is “trying to show the world His glory.” He does that in every aspect of his life: giving a concert at a youth event, preaching at North on Sunday, leading his family in devotions, or using his business to help meet some need in the community. In “Look At Me” he speaks of his wife and family – they are never far from his thoughts and make it into most of his songs, conversations, and sermons. Everything that Vince says and does shows the things that he most values in his life – God and family.
Vince, like most people, is very complex. His experiences in his family life as he was growing up, coupled with his faith in the Lord, have given him the conviction and tools to become a very different person than who he could have been. It took his faith, and God’s guidance, to take him out of a lifestyle that was leading him down a path that could have resulted in him becoming much like his father was. But his desire to be better, and the strength that God gave him, have led him to become a committed husband and father, breaking the cycle of abuse. It has also led him into ministry where he can share that important message with others. Although the paths he’s taken to share that message have changed – youth ministry, hip hop ministry, and now being the head pastor – his convictions, compassion, and love for others has never changed. Going back to our interview, he summed it up perfectly when he said “I find my happiness in memories that are made. I find my happiness in lives that are changed. I find my happiness in my relationship with Christ.”
When I look at all that I have shared here about Vince, despite the length of the writing, I haven’t even scratched the surface of sharing with you who Vince is, how deeply he thinks about things and feels things, how much he loves God or the huge impact that his relationship with his father had on his life. I’ve barely shared what I learned about him in our interview and discussion, let alone what I’ve seen in his life in the year or so I’ve known him. I literally could write a book about him, so limiting myself to the constraints of space and the time a reader is willing to spend here has been hard. I don’t feel that I have done Vince justice but do hope that I have given you just a glimpse of who he is, what motivates him, and how those of us who know him are blessed to have him to learn from and to follow his example. I encourage you all to check out his music videos and listen to some of the archived sermons in the links provided in the works cited. If you ever want to come and attend a service at North Church, please know that you will be welcomed by the most loving church family and pastor I’ve ever known. But most importantly, read about the influence God has had in his life and know that He can do the same for you. I know Vince’s greatest hope is that one day each of you can say the same thing he said to me “I got my life right and came to the realization that God has called me to be more. He changed who I was and who I was becoming.”
Carr, Vincent. “Text from Facebook post.” Facebook, March 24 2020, 9:04 am, https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10222179468339489&set=pcb.10222179576742199&type=3&theater.
eMinor. “IDie: Christian/Gospel from Cartersville, GA.” ReverbNation, www.reverbnation.com/idie.
Hopler, Whitney. “12 Ways Churches Can Welcome People of All Races.” Crosswalk.com, Salem Web Network, 12 Apr. 2018, www.crosswalk.com/church/pastors-or-leadership/12-ways-churches-can-welcome-people-of-all-races.html.
“IDie Music.” IDie Music, www.idiemusic.com/.
Malphurs, Aubrey. “7 Steps to Becoming a Multi-Ethnic Church.” The Malphurs Group, malphursgroup.com/7-steps-to-becoming-a-multi-ethnic-church/
Migala, Jessica. “What Are the Benefits and Risks of the Keto Diet?: Everyday Health.” EverydayHealth.com, 14 Jan. 2019, www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/ketogenic-diet/what-are-benefits-risks-keto-diet/.
“North Church Livestream 3-8-2020.” Facebook Watch, 8 Mar. 2020, http://www.facebook.com/gonorthchurch/videos/512994189601806/.