Music has been Derek and Jenie Oliver’s business for all 21 years of their married life but it took a life-threatening attack on their daughter’s health to turn their musical talent into a ministry.
During five years in which their daughter, Jessie, battled Crohn’s disease, undergoing five life-saving operations, they witnessed miracles and realised that life was short and unpredictable — and that nothing was more important than bringing people to Christ, said Jenie.
After seeing a performance by dramatic Irish singers Celtic Thunder, Derek said: “Wouldn’t it be exciting to do something musically that gets people excited about Jesus?”
The Cross Plus Nothing
That led to the birth, two years ago, of their travelling music ministry, The Cross Plus Nothing, in which they literally share the Gospel message in song and have the joy of seeing people come to Christ or becoming excited about Him again.
But what their music ministry looks like today is not how they started out. With Derek’s background in rock music and music recording, and Jenie’s years as a professional singer, they initially set out to create a high-impact media production.
But God led them to adopt a much simpler approach which would keep the focus on Him. They built their performance around simple worship songs, and were amazed at how moved people were by the music.
Only after putting their song list together did they discover that, without having planned it, they were sharing the story of the Gospel. This made them realise that the Lord was in control.
God gave Jenie the name, The Cross Plus Nothing — as they came to the understanding that their core message was that there is no place for believers to go, further than the Cross, said Derek.
“Our message is the all sufficiency of Christ, the fact that the work of salvation was completed through His death and resurrection and that through our surrender to Him, we are saved and sanctified. We are free from a works-based faith, from adding anything to this free gift of grace,” he said.
The Lord also led the Olivers to change their approach from rehearsing all day and hustling for audiences, to spending much more time in prayer, while rehearsing enough to deliver a smooth, distraction-free performance. He also changed their minds from wanting to charge a fee for performances, to ministering for free. And he led them to get bookings by going out and meeting people face-t0-face, rather than by sending out emails.
Their first bookings were near to Cape Town, and on each trip they would travel a little further, to secure future bookings. In this way, in two years, they have ministered around much of South Africa, in churches, schools, homes, rehabilitation centres, businesses, a municipal council chamber and a prison.
It has also been a stretching faith journey. During their first ministry trip their cheques bounced on all of their payments, including their daughter’s expensive medical aid. Jenie said she was in despair at first but God came through for them as somebody unexpectedly gave them R20 000 which covered everything.
On their trips they often have just enough money to cover their petrol costs. But God always undertakes for them. Jenie said not charging for performances deals with their motives and frees them from the pit of chasing after money.
They are on the road for up to seven weeks at a stretch and leave much of their itinerary to the people who book them. On one trip they were told, one day, that they were going to perform in a prison. They were a little nervous as they entered a dingy room where they came face-t0-face with 200 prisoners.
Rays of hope
But as they began to perform, people who had been looking away from them turned towards them, and they saw tears and rays of hope on faces. Derek told the prisoners that everyone was a prisoner until they experienced liberty in Christ. He said many people received that message and there was a great presence of God in the room.
To their original hour-long performance which includes backtracks, as well as their live performance, they have added a simpler acoustic guitar version, which they say is getting a great response. They are also currently working on “something else”, said Derek.
Each performance is different. “There has never been one time when we felt like nothing happened,” said Jenie.
They did not make altar calls as a rule, but sometimes they happened, as perhaps a pastor felt the moment called for a response, or as they sensed it was time to pause and give people space to deal with what the Holy Spirit was bringing to the surface.
Wherever they ministered, it was always their desire — and prayer — that communities would experience revival.
“I think at the beginning of a ministry it is like a little plant that is easily knocked over by the wind. Once the roots start going down and start growing, you learn to never to stop doing what you’re doing and you are prepared to go out there and keep doing it, and leave all behind, because you know the Lord is in it,” said Jenie.
The Cross Plus Nothing welcome ministry bookings from anywhere in SA. You can contact them by calling +27 72 424 5663 or by emailing or via their website at https://crossplus0.wordpress.com/contact/