by | Sep 12, 2019 | Christianity Today | 53 comments

Jeffrey Craig “Jeff” Fenholt (September 15, 1950 – September 10, 2019)
Some people have wondered why I have remained silent about Jeff’s passing. The reason is mostly shock and grief.
I can’t talk about Jeff unless I first tell you about the supernatural way I met him. I’m walking out of a supermarket and a complete stranger confronts me. He says, “Mario, the man who was the first to play Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar on Broadway has been born again. He is singing for Jesus now. Here’s his card. You should call him and work with him.” I had no idea how that man knew me or how he got Jeff Fenholt’s card.
About a week later a pastor said the exact same thing to me, but that was still not enough to make me call Jeff. A few weeks later, however, something happened that made it impossible for me not to call him.
I was having lunch in Manhattan with David Wilkerson.  He was having soup and didn’t even look up when he barked at me, “JEFF FENHOLT. WORK WITH HIM.” With that, decades of doing outreaches with Jeff began. Mechelle and I knew him for over 30 years.
Nobody—and I mean nobody—ever sang, nor will ever sing, I Exalt Thee, like Jeff. It was common for me, when he sang that song, to skip my sermon and go straight to calling the lost to Jesus. It was as if the crowd’s resistance to God melted as Jeff sang. Only a soul that knows they have passed from death unto life can sing with that kind of anointing.
Others have felt compelled to say, “He was no angel.”  But, only angels can say something like that. Why is it even necessary to say something like that? Maybe you just didn’t get Jeff. He was no hypocrite.  He could be brutally honest, and often hilarious in the process.
Jeff was giving his testimony to a big crowd in the Anaheim Convention Center. Suddenly a heckler yelled at Jeff about his long hair: “YOU LOOK LIKE A GIRL!”  Without a moment’s hesitation, Jeff marched to the edge of the stage glared at the heckler and said, “If I look like a girl to you, you’ve been hanging with some really ugly girls!” If you didn’t crack up, you weren’t human.
Maybe the issue wasn’t Jeff at all. Maybe the problem is the Body of Christ’s inability to handle superstars who start to follow Jesus. The messy aftermath that happened with Bob Dylan, after he turned to Christ, comes to mind.
For my wife and me, Jeff was an endless experience of laughing, crying, and seeing multitudes come to Jesus.  Jeff carried an effortless kindness—a kindness that was easy to take advantage of.
Toward the end, he demonstrated a rare courage when he publicly announced he was a conservative who loved America. His posts on social media were given the ultimate compliment—many were censored.
This is a painful time for Mechelle and me, and our hearts and prayers go out to Jeff’s family. Jeff is a good man. He is a true friend. He had the greatest singing voice I ever heard, and now the angels get to see why he was such a gift to us.  God bless you, Jeff. I love you, my friend.


P.S. There have been many kind remarks made to Mechelle and me. We must remember that the real loss was to Jeff’s family, his children especially. Please pray for them and if God makes a way, share your love with them. -Mario




  1. Teresa Myers


    Sent from my iPad

    • Shaye Fenholt Leeper

      I’m Jeff’s oldest daughter and want to say thank you for this post and your concern for us. ?

      • mariomurilloministries

        Shaye, God gave you a singing voice just like He gave your dad! We love you and are praying for all of you to be comforted. If we can help let me know! Mario

      • Trisha Brucker

        Honey i had no idea Jeff has left. The Lord has used him in my life so many times. Like stories you wouldnt believe.. whens the funeral ??

      • Aaron

        I am so sorry for your loss,
        I will be praying for you.
        Just as the Lord had a destiny for your father he has a destiny for you.
        May Gods love bring you closer to him in this time of grieving than you ever have been before.

      • Carolina

        To Shaye Fenholt Leeper,
        My husband & I absolutely LOVED your Dad, and knew he loved Jesus Christ impeccably.
        May God’s Grace and Comfort be with you all at this time, in Jesus Name.


      • clovenfire21

        I am so sorry for the loss of your precious father. I was so touched by this writting about him. I did not know a lot about him so it showed me a lot about his heart, it was precious.

  2. Jane

    Im so sorry Mario. I used to watch him on TBN…I thought it was cool he was saved, long hair & everything. (He touched my heart)… Cuz everyone I hung out with had long hair & I was barely saved @ the time,
    using drugs & drinking . God used him greatly!

    • Carolina

      Mario, Oh what a loss for the Body of Christ.?
      Jeff was thrilling to listen to and to be around because he already had the Gift of God within him before he was born again, after he was born anew his passion for Christ Jesus and the things of God were self evident. My business at the time of Jeff’s entrance into The Kingdom and mainstream Christianity, was a very large Beauty Salon Spa campus in East Scottsdale and another very large downtown Beauty facility. Between the 2 Beauty Centers we had some 85 employees and contractors. Most of them were very worldly wise individuals and partiers. Due to my involvement with Pastor Tommy Barnett, his lovely wife Marija, & TBN coupled with Jeff Fenholt’s prior reputation as a secular singer, when he came to the metro area to perform at a small local church in the city, dozens of my business associates came to that local church just to hear him sing & give his testimony.
      After that evening of Jeff’s anointed witness, some of my most wild & popular designers were changed, they began to act differently and were more introspective less superficial, some went onto become ministers themselves, some I knew would take longer to interface with Jesus and his ways, BUT I knew the LORD was at work inside their hearts. Another thing I know is that Jeff Fenholt witnessed more effectively to these worldly wise people than any evangelist, pastor, or preacher could have done, to a crowd that I knew was way to world savvy. My husband & I absolutely LOVED Jeff Fenholt and knew he loved Jesus impeccably.
      Bye bye dear rocker friend Jeff… until we see you again in the place where Jesus is.?? ⛅️

  3. Roger Culwell

    To many look with natural eyes at the outside, at what natural eyes see, when the beauty and what is real is on the inside, and what God really see’s, or they go by our past and what we use to be, thats why when I want to know about someone, I ask the Lord if there ok, I listened to him plenty a few years ago, sad to hear of his passing. sorry for your loss be Blessed

  4. CHRISTINA Crissman

    What a loss,for us. And gain for a Heaven. I remember meeting him here in Bakersfield, California. He was with Mario, I became a member of the ministry and team member helping at the events here in town. What a great memory. Thanks C.Crissman

  5. Mark Stripling

    I just listened to his Melodyland video where he sang Hosanna, and I Exalt Thee. The anointing, even in a video, brought tears to my eyes and prayer in the Holy Ghost. What a gift to the body of Christ. He now sings in the presence of Christ, accompanied by angels.

  6. Pastor Mark Green - Fresno, CA

    I was just thinking about him these last two weeks. I had no idea that he passed into eternity. Jeff’s voice was touched of God as he worshipped from a place of spirit and truth. I saw him live once and the worship experience was so incredible that I cried for nearly 3 days. It causes me to cry out to God and to pray that I would be able to worship like he did. He was a gift to the body of Christ that would be missed.

  7. John Clark

    He left an indelible mark on my heart as a young believer

  8. Greg Dean

    He was my age.

  9. Kim Barrett

    Thank you for sharing Mario. I wondered what had happened to him. I remember seeing him on tn as well. I loved his voice, it was incredible & I was a teenager in the 70’s so long hair never bothered me.

  10. Ellen Bartel

    I just listened to Jeff praising ?
    “I Exalt Thee”
    I have no words. ? Beautiful.
    I will be attending Mario Murillo service in few days. I am expecting God to show up in this service!

  11. Kim Bankston

    In the early stage of the Jesus Movement “ Jesus Christ Superstar “ had a initial impact on my life before I was ever saved. Thank you for this post Mario. It gave a another appreciation for the love and grace of God.

  12. Jo-Anne Jaynes

    My husband of 3 yrs. took me to see Jesus Christ Superstar. I knew I was different after seeing that day. That’s when I started my “research” to find out who this Jesus was, & thank you Jeff, He found me.

  13. Karen

    I work at a Christian radio station. Earlier this year, Jeff’s name came to mind.
    I mentioned it to the general manager. We dug up some of Jeffs music from the archives and began listening and reminiscing about certain songs and what they meant in our lives. Great memories surfaced. We picked several of our favorites, and added them to the current rotation, so they pop up on occasion. I got saved in the mid-70s and remember being advised not to listen to ‘that guy’ and ‘that music’. RIP Jeff, and condolences to the family.

  14. Denise Pitts

    I was blessed to meet Jeff at a church I was leading worship at several years ago. He was an amazing person and anointed worshipper. He will be missed. ??

  15. Brenda k Castillo

    So sorry to hear we lost him, I just recently was looking up a song he sang.
    He had an awesome testimony.

  16. LuAnn Morton-Earl Blueheart

    OMG… Mario, Thank You. Where I first saw you, Resurrection Fellowship, Loveland CO. Is where I first met Jeff. He was truly unforgettable…. just like Kim. I took care of his product tables several times. I was able to meet him he laid hands on me and prayed for me. He was… a Superstar!! Dirtballs for Christ. My birthday is September 14th. Jeff, Kim Clement, and me… we all were born in September. I have always wondered, what happened to him. He’s in heaven now. <3 I don't know what else to say through the tears. I had no idea…. Jeff, I miss you!! This world is just a little less, Brite. <3

  17. Stephen Carl Patton

    Jeff was indeed a rare person unfiltered if you will. And someone who keenly and quickly identified anyone possessing the spirit of God. I remember when he and his wife were hosting Praise the Lord I believe Crystal Lewis was doing the music that evening, and he quickly recognized here anointing. He loved being in God’s Presence. And all of us were Blessed because of it. Thanks Mario for such a warm tribute to a giant in the Kingdom.

  18. Nancy Enke

    I watched him on TBN and yes his anointed voice was indescribable . Some remanant religious spirits left me at last when I saw Jeff , Hallelujah

  19. Laura

    I’m heartbroken

  20. Linda Gomes

    I have survived the aftermath of my husband killing himself and the hell my 3 children went through. I have told the “church” for many years they are not equipped to handle this tragedy and yet no one listened. I would love more than anything to start training the saints in leadership on how to win this war and the war from the aftermath.

    • Bobbie

      Linda Gomes: Please do something; make a difference-2 Corinthians 1:3-end. I’ve been thinking of creating a Blog of why NOT* to commit suicide based on Deuteronomy 30:19 and Psalms 139:all and Jeremiah 2:all! Years ago addressed these issues to a famous talk show host on addressing these issues so they did number of shows on Grief and Bereavement again because wasn’t learning anything in church as had friends Mother’s dying at ages 16, 22, 35 and no one helping them with coping skills and or advice at all. Nothing or no one prepares you for death until going through it. Had great brother in the Lord killed by a DUI hit and run; first experience to hit home on that endeavor; which took me to Theresa Rando, Janice Harris Lord, Elizabeth Kubler Ross, Earl Jabay, Rebecca Springer’s Books on Death, Dying, Grief, Loss and how to get through and deal with and Derek Prince teachings and Books, Bible living in Psalms and Proverbs during loss.

      P.S. Just read Jeff Fenholt’s Wiki Page and Charisma Magazine article posted. Just in getting older and quality of life went to a Nutritionist and Supplement; Herbalist. Longevity/Food Conference people, know our generation is dying 25-30 years before their parents, it’s a big topic of discussion, reading lot on watching Video’s. Jeff was definitely the Prophet calling it like he saw it.
      *Had a front row seat to death and dying and all the true stories and aftermath of sorrow and grief, loss. Prayers!

    • Carolina

      Linda Gomes, are you inferring that Jeff Fenholt committed suicide?
      There is nothing I can find on the net that indicates that as the cause of death.
      Further more I am sure Mario would’ve mentioned that within his article blog today regarding suicide if Jeff had done that, particularly due to the topic of self murder & the much needed Faith filled discussion it should be among us as Believers.
      I’m left scratching my head at this point.?

      • Bobbie

        Carolina: Believe she is referring to the 30 year old Pastor Jarrid Wilson that took his life; please pray for that family. Also, note: Remember years ago seeing a T-Shirt “if, i knew I was going to live to be this old I would have taken better care of myself”. Remember chuckling at T-Shirt, but now that Older and aches and pains, hearing and seeing my friends dealing with aging as we all know it’s a fight to stay on the Planet in great health and seeing the gran-kids grow up; enjoying family, quality of life/health. I was stupid to NOT take care of Body sooner; the vehicle that God gave us as “we’re a spirit being in a physical Body”. God gives us these Bodies to take care of, wished had paid attention years earlier especially exciting time of being born here and now and to fulfill why born here and now as not born 1621, 1776, 1875, 1927 we were all born in this time frame!

        • Carolina

          Thanks for the input it helps to clarify my question.
          Yes, regarding Mr Jarrid Wilson I read about that and it made me sad for Greg Laurie, because it pained him so, & his church and all Mr Wilson’s family and friends.
          I get what you’re saying about growing old and wishing we’d taken better care of our human vessels (Physical bodies). My husband and I are Baby Boomer agers and have our health struggles, our greatest consolation is knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that Christ our Lord is with us and will never leave or forsake us… in the here & now and especially in eternity.
          Thank YOU Jesus?

  21. Bobbie

    I’m SO sorry for your loss Mario and Family, entire World. I was there in Anaheim, Ca you and Jeff Fenholt. I also, in mourning for great friend of 40 years who was like Family and a True Patriot who went home to Glory and buried on 9/11/2019. I’m encouraging myself in “Ultimate Healing” by David Wilkerson-1979!
    Prayers for you and the Jeff’s entire family! Thank you for being obedient and being part of Jeff’s life.

  22. rogerholloman

    Mario my brother, I morn with you at our loss, what a great gift The Lord allowed us to enjoy, and from the sounds of it, the personal relationship you got to enjoy and grow in through the years.
    It’s heart breaking, and even have us asking “why now”?
    He could have reached so many more.
    Considering the time we live in..

    But know that he’s not dead, far from it, and when you are that close to someone that long certain aspects of them become part of who you are, so certain parts of him will shine from you as you continue the great path the Lord has put you on, Also thanks to all the media outlets his voice will be herd for much longer.
    There’s nothing wrong with morning this loss, it’s ok to feel the pain, take some to to process this, it’s part of the journey, but most importantly of all, not the end of it, my you find solitude in our Father brother, my prayers go out for you…

  23. jlmc8J.L. McKelvey

    WOW could that guy sing! I lost track of Jeff, but since his passing I’ve check out some older footage of the tbn days with that great hair! One of a kind voice and anointing! I’ll never forget Jeff, or those glory days of TBN. God bless them all.

  24. jlmc8

    Thanks for sharing about Jeff. He is just now finding out what he meant to Christians like me, and whoever had the opportunity to see him on TBN! Never can anyone match his voice,or his great anointing! Man could that guy SING!

    Sent from my iPad

  25. kingskid48

    I’m so sorry to hear that he has passed. I loved his testimony, his outspokenness, and his voice. He was at our church years ago. What a treat that was. I remember he said some woman came up to him and told him that his wife wore too much makeup. He said that he either did, or wanted to, tell her, “Here’s twenty dollars, Lady, go buy some.”. That was typical Jeff. That’s all he had to say. No sermon necessary on religious spirits, critical spirits, or small-mindedness. What a loss for us and a gain for Heaven.

  26. Andrea

    I loved his voice. I loved his testimony. I loved hearing him sing “I Exalt Thee” and “Hosanna.” But I think my very favorite was “It’s the Anointing.” I am rather certain that he would say that “the anointing” was the secret of his success. “It makes all the difference.” I will never forget the day I walked into an auditorium in Portland and heard him sing that song. I have never forgotten the thrill and the tears and the beauty of His Presence. I was “never the same.”

  27. kingskid48

    That was real worship music. Thank you for posting that, Pastor Mario. It gave me chills. That’s what is missing in the “worship music” we now have.

  28. Larson David

    Great post Mario, thanks for sharing…

  29. Aaron

    I Was privileged to be at one of your Christmas dinners in So cal when Jeff Fenholt led worship.
    I happen to love unfiltered people.
    He seemed genuine to me.
    (Maybe) Even beyond principle Jeff loved Donald Trump because they shared the same characteristic, what you see is what you get.
    I hope out of all of this tragedy today more young people will be introduced to Jeff Fenholt and even more his testimony.
    I know there’s a big push to be fashion forward, what’s strange is it seems to be more so in the church than the world, to dump anything of the past,the music the old preachers the old standards.
    Jeff Fenholt and his contributions should not be a casualty of such foolishness.

    • LuAnn Morton-Earl Blueheart

      Thank You for posting this. Jeff was such a huge impact on my life!! The Lord used him to help keep me going when I didn’t know if I could. What can I say? As a young teen, I had the albums of Jesus Christ Superstar. I know he said it was atheistic. I followed Black Sabbath… and I had the album where his songs were on there with BS. And, then when I was born again… there he was. I met him, not like Mario or like you… but, I served for him each time he came to our church. I had his first tape & played it all the time. He gave a signed picture, “Dirtballs for Christ”. He was a precious gift from God.. no matter what came. Man of God, you are missed!! Yesterday was my BD. Today would have been yours. We’ll celebrate together in heaven!! I know you have finally found peace!! <3

      • LuAnn Morton-Earl Blueheart

        Oh… and I still have his T-Shirts, 3 of them!!

  30. Aaron

    Oh Lord I started watching this and he had me in stitches between 17:00 and 20:00

  31. Ron Giovanetti

    We are deeply saddened with this loss too ?

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

  32. Jacqueline Munch

    Thanks, Mario, for a beautiful tribute to Jeff and also your life experience as his friend. I will never forget hearing him many years ago at my church – powerful and truly anointed! I was an altar counselor that evening as many accepted the Lord. He has always been a favorite of mine and I have never stopped listening to his CDs. After my husband’s death, I listened to his singing “He will carry you” every night as I went to bed. I will be forever grateful for his life and ministry! How blessed you were to know him as a friend. May God comfort all who were close to him!

  33. Jeanie Ruprecht

    For years Jeff Fenholt radiated the love of God. He was very kind and compassionate. Such a beautiful voice that brought glory to God.
    Just last week I thought of him and wondered whatever happened to him — and yesterday, as I was on FB I found out that this brother passed away that very morning.
    It’s a comfort to know Jeff put his faith in Christ – he has arrived in the dwelling place of the God he always sang so passionately about.
    So sad for his family – but so happy he’s found his forever place of eternal song and celebration. Thank you Jeff for the years of using your gifts – you have a beautiful heart that touched millions.
    My condolences to Jeff’s loved ones. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  34. Robert Bigham

    By dear Brother Murio. Oh how I appreciate and love your passion for all things Kingdom and the lost. These are precious to Our Father’s heart! I was honored to be at the Extreme Dream Trip in DC, at the Trump Hotel a few weeks ago. My spirit was leaping at each word that was coming from the heart of our God for His Church in this season. As you spoke, my spirit so longed for my granddaughter, Summer, to be with me to hear your heart and meet you. When Lance asked you how we could pray for, you said “Workers”. I rarely hear such passion and concern for the lost like you have. Yet I kept connecting the passion of my granddaughter, Summer Dawn Roden- Guterriz, 23 with that same cry in her heart that you spoke of. She hates religion, loves to see the lost come to know Jesus and His love. And will sacrifice whatever is necessary to follow the call from the heart of God on her life. She is currently in transition and living Uplands, California. I Believe that in God’s supernatural and perfect timing, He will connect the two of you. Summer would be an asset to the ministry of your calling. Her email is I’m CC this email to her also. Love and Blessings, Ruth Bigham ASONE!

    Sent from Mail for Windows 10

  35. ritafkurian

    I had no idea…kind of shocked. so sad to lose him, felt it was too early but he is with Jesus. God bless you for sharing…

  36. Sam Cortese

    Your father is the reason I came back to the Lord in 1994 .I met him once and told him the impact he had on me.
    I have been a Worship Leader since 1994 and if you saw my FB profile pic you would.see many people said I reminded them of your dad
    God bless, Sam Cortese

  37. Dana Foster


  38. Bobbie

    Hey, if anyone wants to post more Video’s as been playing Jeff’s music as getting totally blessed. Celebration of Life; wouldn’t it be awesome to NOT only share about Jeff but WORSHIP for hours, come together a weekend of Worship and Prayer or how about week? THAT WOULD BE AWESOME! Make a Video of of People’s Testimonies how Jeff impacted all our lives. Look at all these awesome testimonials, make a weekend/week of it like a Retreat or Class Reunion. To have Video Feed playing to encourage Family/Friends how Jeff impacted each and every life. Went looking for song mentioned, “he will carry you”. That would be one awesome week, when and where (Arrowhead, Big Bear or rent a Church Camp, ideas, suggestions)?

    Psalm 27:4 King James Version (KJV)
    4 One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.
    Please, all fulfill call, destiny why born here and now; hope, place and purpose as not to go before your time!

  39. Kimberly Schlosser

    So sad to just now hear of the passing of Jeff Fenholt. I was thinking back to the night I gave my Heart to Jesus and decided to find where Jeff was now. It was under his ministry and because of his testimony that I gave my life to Christ. Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, November 30th 1990. A night I will never forget! I have never looked back! I am an ordained minister and a graduate of Jerry Savelle Bible College.

    My heart and prayers go out to the family. Thank you for sharing your dad with the world so that people like me could hear his testimony and be moved to receive Christ. I can only imagine the reception he received as he entered heaven! Blessings to all of you!

  40. Roxanne minnick

    I want to thank Renee Jeff Nicki Mr Wilkerson and the whole beginning of teen challenge .the cross and the switch blade and the power team and all of tbn got praying in the Spirit and thanking and praising God for salvation and fighting the warfare that it takes to lead treasures out of darkness into the light the True light !!! God bless for saving snake sabo and sqeeky and Linda I hope some one is still receiving collect calls for them
    Collecting souls is better offering to God than collecting money Amen and Amen



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