Mel Crothers is living her calling. She has a job many would envy, touring the country, writing and recording her own songs.
“I love being able to sing and lead people in worship,” she affirms. “That fills me, that’s my greatest calling.”
Music and performance are the only things the Perth singer-songwriter ever dreamed of doing. She knew they would be her life – but the journey to where she is now took many unexpected turns, and the destination isn’t quite what she imagined as a child.
Teenaged Mel was sure she was headed for the big time when she was accepted into the prestigious Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. WAAPA, producing world-class alumni like Hugh Jackman, accepted only the cream of the crop – for Mel to enter straight out of high school, at barely 18, was a huge testament to her talent.
It also placed a lot of pressure on her. The academy was all about being judged. “With every class you go into, you’re always being critiqued,” she recalls.
Such an environment was far from a culture of grace. When Mel met Daron, a saxophonist also studying at the prestigious institution, both wore the label of “Christian” but didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus.
Taking Jesus seriously seemed antithetical to a career in musical theatre. Realising that her convictions would severely limit the roles she could accept, Mel decided fame and fortune would no longer be her dream.
She and Daron married shortly after her graduation and embarked on the more modest enterprise of building a music teaching business together. By day, they taught music, dance and theatre to students; by night, they played gigs with various bands in the Perth area.
It was far from the stage lights and billboards of the theatre, but it was still music.
At the same time, they took on voluntary leadership roles at their local church. Daron obeyed a call to full-time ministry, becoming worship pastor, and Mel later followed him into ministry as creative arts pastor. They were beginning to see how God was drawing them – and their musical giftings – into His mission.
It has now been two and a half years since Mel made the move into full-time itinerant ministry. It was a big step of faith and one that she was able to make because of unwavering support from her husband and church leadership.
Pursuing God’s heart over worldly success has given Mel a contentment that achievements in musical theatre could never have done. She now sings at churches and events all over Australia almost every week, and often also ministers by delivering a spiritual message to the congregation.
Success, for Mel, isn’t about how many followers she has on social media. “It really is about the individuals you meet along the way, and the role that you can play in their journey with God,” she affirms.
In fact, Mel is wary of the self-absorption that performance can cultivate, not only in a place like WAAPA, but even in ministry. “It can very quickly become about us, and very self-focused.”
Mel makes sure the emphasis is on Jesus, not on her. She accepts only freely given offerings for her worship and speaking engagements, and is happy to minister to groups of ten or ten thousand.
Another important way in which Mel has sought to stay grounded and give all the glory to God is by becoming a Compassion advocate. She uses the platform that her music and her ministry give her to share about Compassion’s work and encourage her audiences to make a difference by sponsoring a child living in poverty.
Mel’s song ‘Speak’, from her second album Faithful, is a declaration of the purpose that she sees for herself and her listeners:
Be the voice of the ones
Who are lost and broken-hearted
Be the hands and the feet
Take a light into the darkness
Speak for those who cannot speak
For the weak and suffering
Speak up in the name of Jesus
For Mel, music and performance are all about speaking up – and singing up – in the name of Jesus.