Kelly McCoy makes sure his clothes fit snug. Nothing wrinkled, everything matches and for his profession, he looks presentable.
A crowd of people waits for him as he prepares backstage. Perhaps he runs over his notes. Perhaps he says a quick prayer to calm his nerves. Perhaps he scrolls on his phone to a certain scripture in the Bible to remind himself of why he does this in the first place.
People call him “Pastor Kelly”, and he takes that title seriously. For him, it is lifelong. He says he will die at the pulpit. He can’t run away from it. It is his calling in life.
And, backstage, he knows getting his words out in a clear, upbeat, and engaging way holds great importance. If he messes this moment up, they may not ask him to come back. And that would affect his ministry.
People await his commands. They want someone to tell them how to act and how to move. People stand eager to hear what comes next.
Kelly grabs his microphone and strolls to the stage. Lights flash, music bumps behind him as the crowd buzzes. His feet bounce just slightly and his body starts a smooth, rhythmic, swaying motion. Kelly looks at the crowd of thousands staring back at him. He puts the mic just under his bottom lip.
“Get ‘em up! Get ‘em up! Get ‘em up!” Kelly shouts into the mic. His left hand, reaching as far as his arm allows, flies wildly back and forth over his head. The crowd mimics this classic concert moment.
Because tonight, Kelly is not at the pulpit.
“Samsung Summer Krush, how do ya feel?” Kelly asks the fans in rhythm to the beat. The response returns mediocre. And like all pros, he refuses to let them get away with it. “No, no, no. New York, how...do...you...feel!” Kelly repeats. Each word elongates for emphasis. And this time, the crowd gets the hint.
hint. They scream back in a chorus of whistles, “whoo”s, and “whoa”s, with a splash of claps for good measure. Kelly likes this response, so he throws out a free t-shirt. The crowd likes this even more, and now they stand hooked on his every word.
Stage presence bursts from Kelly’s body. At no point do concerns of fumbled lines, stumbling on a phrase, or freezing on stage come to mind. Kelly commands the crowd’s attention with ease, and they go with it, unable to look away from this seasoned “hype guy.” People will still call him Pastor Kelly tomorrow, but tonight they call him Kelly “Dlux.” His entertainment name.
“Are you ready to rock with Lenny Kravitz!” Kelly practically sings into the mic. The crowd erupts. They didn’t show up to New York’s famed venue, Terminal 5, for Kelly. They came for Kravitz. Most may not even remember Kelly after the show.
After all, his job as house emcee means bringing high energy without upstaging the acts. And he does just that.
After the concert, Kelly pulls Kravitz to the side for a quick photo. Another paid gig, finished. Another successful night of work. Now, Kelly can jump on a plane back to Southern California to be Pastor Kelly.
To some, this may look like a juxtaposition. A pastor backstage at big concerts with musicians like reggaeton rapper Pitbull, expletive crooner CeeLo Green, and celebrity rocker Kravitz. But to Kelly, it makes perfect sense.
“I go where people need Jesus,” Kelly says.
The notion that being a DJ means being tempted all the time makes him laugh. His faith remains deep, and his ways are set. At this point, Kelly is the same person at home, at a gig, at church, or even at the gas station.
same person at home, at a gig, at church, or even at the gas station.
He is a smiler. That broad smile appears sculpted to his face. He is a hugger, too. When first meeting Kelly, he will dismiss a hand held out for a proper shake, and simply move in for the hug. Not the awkward why-did-he-just-hug-me kind. But those good, fatherly hugs. His genuine and blunt joy overwhelms conversations.
Connecting with people around him is a gift. In fact, watching Kelly McCoy, or Dlux, it’s easy to think he’s a man of many strengths. But those strengths stemmed from what the world labeled weaknesses.
A good example: Kelly always struggled in school. Throughout his younger years, summer meant summer school. Always. It became a routine for him. He walked the two miles to school in the morning, finished up around noon, and walked home. Every summer.
“I have ADHD [Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder], and focusing in class was never my thing,” Kelly says. “So, yeah, every summer I had to go to school and try to get my grades up.”
But on one warm California day, after the summer school bell rang, Kelly strolled down a boulevard in Canoga Park. Nothing out of the ordinary, really. About a third of the way home, a White Honda CRX moseyed into the parking lot just in front of him. The 14-year-old loved these cars. Remodeled to look faster and flashier, he could not help but admire the racing style exhaust pipe poking out from the back. The lowered frame and expensive tire rims looked too clean to not notice.
But his eyes lingered for a moment too long. The guy in the driver’s seat looked straight at him through the rearview mirror. He was Asian and staring in any form or fashion, regardless of the reason, drew unwanted attention. In this part of the city, race-faction gangs were common. And Kelly knew it.
The guy put his Honda in park, stepped out, and walked towards Kelly.
"Where are you gonna go after you die?" the guy asked.
Kelly looked back, frozen. Thoughts sprinted through his head. Is he gonna shoot me? Am I gonna die right here? But just as Kelly was about to blurt out, "Nowhere!" the guy’s tone changed.
“Because without God in your life, you won’t go to heaven," the guy continued. "He has a plan for your life. And you are separated from God by your sins. The only way to get to God is by accepting Jesus.”
To which Kelly responded the way he thought he should. “Well, I’m Jewish.” And walked on. After all, Kelly’s mom was actually Jewish.
Ten seconds later, a tap hit Kelly’s shoulder. The same guy stood right behind him. “Jesus came to give His message to the Jews,” the guy said. “And he died for you, too.”
Without any argument left, Kelly agreed to let the guy finish. After a few minutes of explaining some basic Christian principles, the guy told Kelly that all he needed to do was pray and accept Jesus. Then, very simply, Kelly said, “Okay, I will pray.” So with eyes closed, he earnestly asked Jesus to enter his heart.
“I just remember closing my eyes, and I kid you not, seeing long-haired, blue-eyed surfer-style Jesus in his white robe in front of me,” Kelly says. “And then I remember Him literally walking into my chest.”
Kelly felt something change in him. In that moment, outside of Judy’s Donuts in Canoga Park, on his way home from summer school, Kelly accepted Jesus.
“So, where are you going?” the guy asked.
“Heaven!” Kelly said back, excited to know the answer.
But the guy chuckled. “Yeah, that is true. But I want to give you a ride home, so where are you going right now?” he explained.
Kelly got a ride home in that tricked out Honda.
After that day on the curb of Judy’s Donuts, a lot changed for Kelly. Faith in Jesus became a huge part of his life. He attended The Church at Rocky Peak and connected with a community that had a passion for God.
Studying, however, did not get easier. A weakness, he figured, that sticks with a person. And for all intents and purposes, it did. After graduating from high school in 2000, he attended Pierce College, the local community college in Woodland Hills, California.
Frustration set in as study skills lagged because of his ADHD. For three years after high school, Kelly kept trying. And the community college kept saying sorry, he wasn’t cutting it. At times, he felt that it was all a waste. It was too difficult. Something he could not accomplish.
But even while Kelly struggled in school, God set him up for much more. Kelly interned at The Church at Rocky Peak after serving in the youth ministry for a few years, and he grew in his faith. God put mentors around him, men that never gave up on Kelly, displaying the heart of God towards Kelly. And because of that, Kelly never gave up on God. School, so far, did not work out, but God had other plans in place.
Towards the end of his third year at community college, Kelly met Cory “Live” Almaida at The Church at Rocky Peak. The now-famous television host and event emcee could tell that Kelly liked to dance, so in 2002, he hired him to work for a company that hosted and DJ’ed for bar mitzvahs. After a few gigs, a bond forged. Cory began teaching Kelly the trade.
“We used to go to bar mitzvahs and while Cory emceed it, I would be in the crowd, teaching the kids new dance moves,” Kelly says. “I was what we called a ‘party motivator.’”
Cory taught him how to DJ. And then how to emcee. And eventually, as Cory’s name became well known in the industry, his busy schedule increased as he hosted high-profile events for the television industry. So, he started giving Kelly some of his overflow gigs. Kelly took the opportunity and ran with it.
“I quickly realized that being a DJ at parties could supplement my income. And that would help if a church was not able to pay my salary,” Kelly says.
In 2007, Kelly started his own entertainment company called Dlux Entertainment.
“It is a gift. His ability to bring so much energy to everything he does is totally natural for him,” says Dave Cox, the Student Ministries Pastor at The Church at Rocky Peak, who was Kelly’s youth pastor. “Even as he struggled in school, he just kept going. He never gave up on the Lord. And because of that, he always pushes past the expectation others have for him.”
Kelly’s ability to push past expectations is heaven sent. God continually took a bad situation and turned it for Kelly’s benefit.
Growing up, Kelly and his mom rarely saw eye to eye. She, an alcoholic, frequently used drugs at home. He, diagnosed with ADHD, was unable to focus in school. She continuously brought random people to the house. He brought home bad grades. Kelly lacked a consistent role model throughout his childhood because his dad, who stayed at the house in spurts, generally lived on the streets or in prison.
On numerous mornings, Kelly would wake up, walk into the living room, and see random people on the couch.
and see random people on the couch. Friends of his mom, most likely. At the age of 14, Kelly’s bitterness with his mom’s addiction began to surface.
One night, after walking into the living room and seeing her cut crack-cocaine on the table, Kelly got angry. Grabbing the knife she used, he threatened to take it to the police if she did not get help. She grunted back, “Go ahead.” So he packed his bags, headed for a friend’s house, and the next morning, he walked to the police station. Upon arrival, the police interviewed him, saw no cuts or bruises and without any probable cause in the matter, the cops took Kelly back home.
The police told his mom they would take the knife in and test it for any contraband. She said, “Go ahead.” But nothing ever happened. And this left Kelly without any solution and an upset mom.
Interactions with her became aggressive. She frequently yelled at him, but instead of holding his tongue, now he yelled back. Not backing down, but getting louder. At one point, a few weeks after the police incident, he punched a hole through a door and started throwing the furniture around. Tension filled his home. So, his mom took the opportunity to get help.
But not for herself. For Kelly.
His mom packed his bags for him, and drove him to a group home in Santa Monica, California for kids his age.
“It was the place kids went before they were sent to juvenile hall, a last chance of sorts,” Kelly says. “All of my roommates in the home were kids that had mental illness or a history of violence.”
Most would see this as the worst possible situation. But in actuality, it was God’s grace. The time at the group home gave Kelly some peace and quiet. He did not have to worry about a wasted mom or drug paraphernalia in the house.
This period of time gave Kelly the opportunity to hear from God without any distractions. The young men at the group home were supervised at all times, except when they went to school. They were not allowed any unsupervised time outside of the home, and Kelly did what he was told. He had been to church a few times since praying in front of Judy’s Donuts that previous summer. He wanted to know more about God. And being at the group home gave him the time to do that.
He spent most of the time on his bed, content to listen to his portable radio. His headphones constantly buzzed while alone at the group home. Voices on the other end of the radio dial gushed about God’s love and why Jesus died for the people listening. The words of the local Christian station sank deep in his heart. Kelly spent his 15th birthday in the home. And for him, those six months changed his outlook on life. God spoke to him, and Kelly listened.
“I would sometimes go to the counselors with questions about vocabulary because I couldn’t understand some of the words in my Bible,” Kelly explains. “They were confused by me because instead of causing them problems, I was asking to be taken to church. They were always like, ‘Why are you here?’”
A broken home statistic would normally apply to someone like Kelly. Lost, imprisoned, poverty stricken, divorced, drug induced and uneducated are typical identities that might apply to someone with his background. Instead, Kelly gave his life to the Lord and became a husband, a pastor, and a follower of Jesus.
This past December, Kelly got married to Michelle, the love of his life. He is a proud husband. Kelly wakes up everyday set on being a man of character, while depending on Jesus more and more. Kelly went back to school at Moorpark College in 2005 after completing a discipleship training program with the international, short-term missionary organization Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in Sydney, Australia.
with the international, short-term missionary organization Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in Sydney, Australia. In 2009, he graduated from Biola University with a degree in Organizational Leadership Management. In the midst of that, he ran a youth ministry at Life Spring Community Church from 2005 to 2010.
Today, he is in his third year at Talbot Seminary in La Mirada, California while being an associate pastor for the youth ministry at the megachurch Mariners Church in Irvine, California.
“The only way I could accomplish any of this is by the grace of God,” Kelly says.
God’s grace was turning what the world labeled a weakness and making it a strength.
Had he chosen to let his past define him, Kelly might have ended up as another statistic. But he didn’t. Instead, he had a resilient faith in God’s grace, and that grace brought him to where he is now: a pastor who shares his story with as many people as possible.
Although DJ-ing and emceeing an event is a means to an end, he can’t help but see a huge opportunity. It is a unique position for a pastor. Kelly can DJ or emcee, grab the mic and walk on stage in front of large crowds of people who don’t believe in God, and bring joy to those people. Before or after a show, he openly shares his testimony to whoever asks. But he admits that if God told him to give up Dlux Entertainment, he would not hesitate to do so.
“I need to see non-believers become believers. I need to help transform ordinary people into passionate followers of Christ,” Kelly says. “I often say that ministry is my addiction, and Dlux Entertainment funds my addiction.
I want to see people courageously change the world. That is all I want to do. That is all I live for.”
Copyright © 2019 re.write magazine. All Rights Reserved.
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