During an annual retreat with his worship team, Israel Houghton stumbled upon—or was given—one of his best-known worship songs.
“This guy was walking us through a lesson,” Houghton recalls, “and he handed out a sheet with all these promises of God: ‘Nothing will separate us from the love of God,’ ‘We are more than conquerors.’ And then three-quarters down the page it says, ‘I am a friend of God.’ He says, ‘Everyone, circle one promise that stands out to you.’ I circled the phrase, ‘Friend of God.’ When asked why I chose it, I just started crying.”
Joel Augé is a busy guy. His website features tweets about innovation and hockey, book recommendations, photographs of his daughter and—seemingly as an afterthought—a small picture of a CD, suggesting he makes music. Yet Augé, CEO of a Canadian gaming company called HitGrab (the developer of MouseHunt, one of Facebook’s most popular games), doesn’t find his roles as worship leader, family man and “company vision guy” as all that different.
“Worship is an act of responding to what God has already done for us. It’s no different at work. I feel I’m constantly responding to how God is moving our business forward,” Augé says. “My act of worship at work is being a good steward of this opportunity.”
Raised Catholic, Augé once thought of becoming a priest, but that was before puberty and girls. After some wild times, which included dropping out of high school and moving (alone) to Newfoundland, Canada, Augé had a born-again experience and started writing Christian songs. Today he takes something Paul Baloche, his friend and mentor, teaches to heart: be ready for inspiration.
And just because it seems as if he has it all under control doesn’t mean he does. “My song ‘Promises’ … was [written] before our daughter was born,” Augé recalls. “I had no idea how to be a dad. I was afraid—terrified actually. It was then that I heard the Holy Spirit calm me down with these words, ‘I will never leave or forsake you; you belong to Me.’”
It’s difficult to stop Paul Wilbur once he puts his mind to something. When he became a Christian—a shocking conversion given his Jewish background and family’s lack of interest in religion—his brother stopped talking to him.
Wilbur’s response after years of trying to re-establish their relationship? He bought the house next door.
“Song of Love” has been used in a lot of churches for corporate worship. The thing that was most powerful for me was hearing it for the very first time in my own home church in Franklin, Tenn., where our praise and worship team did the song often. To hear it being sung by the congregation of familiar faces around me was a very beautiful and memorable moment for me as a writer.
One of the most powerful things that can happen in ministry is hearing other people using your songs to worship God. To know that a song has been birthed from my own personal relationship in encountering God, and that now other people are encountering Him too through the same words and music I’ve written, is a very profound experience to me.
I’m a real nature person; I love being outdoors and seeing God’s creativity all around me. That really draws my heart instantly toward worship.
That sense of God in the vastness of His great universe of creation that we see all around us was really the inspiration for this song and what it expresses. The lyric line, “The heavens declare You are God” is a very real biblical truth that is ever-present in my mind.
“Christ Has Risen” was inspired by a third-century sermon by John Chrysostom. The concept is very simple: God used death to destroy death. He didn’t even have to lift a finger. He literally tricked death into destroying itself; Jesus used the process of death to completely eradicate it. So now it just becomes a process of transformation, and death is a window or a doorway.
It became this chorus: “Christ has risen from the dead, trampling over death by death.” I wrote it and then Mia Fieldes from Hillsong helped finish it.
I love to read works by theologians. Saint Augustine, John Chrysostom, Henri Nouwen and C.S. Lewis are some of my favorites. At the time I wrote this song, it was my goal that the record would have a theme, that it would be a record someone could listen to from start to finish and have been taken on a journey—the journey of transformation because of what Christ has done for us.
The reality is that the conception, birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ is a journey that, if we allow it, takes place in our hearts every year, every day and, if we let it, every moment.
From Africa to Azerbaijan, that song has somehow gotten into people’s hearts and languages. Just that simple prayer: “Open the eyes of my heart.”
It was one of those phrases that a pastor friend of mine would pray before he would preach, and ... I would take that phrase and just sing it over and over again. I thought, “Man, this is something we need to sing [as a congregation]. We should get another section to this.”
I looked in the Word and saw, “high and lifted up.” [The other phrase] is from Ephesians chapter 1. And then the song just came together naturally.
People ask me, “Do you ever get tired of singing it?’ And honestly I don’t. It’s like, “Do you ever get tired of praying the Lord’s Prayer?” Repetition isn’t a bad thing.
Songwriting has actually been a helpful exercise for my spiritual life because I’m able to prayerfully construct a musical prayer that others can join in with me. You take a profound truth that you hear on a Sunday morning and you just explore that [in a song]. The Bible says, “Pray without ceasing,” and to me, songwriting has always been a way to carry that out.
Leonard Jones, a worship leader for MorningStar Ministries, will never forget what happened on the final day of a worship conference in 1996. After nine hours of nonstop worship, he started playing a version of the song “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by the Beatles.
“The praise grew to a supernatural level because we were all physically worn out,” recalls Jones, who became a Christian in 1970 during the Jesus People movement. “All at once, a glory cloud appeared in the middle of the stage and stayed for like two minutes, and then rose up all at once and disappeared. It greatly impacted my life . The result was four CDs that changed the direction of worship in the church.”
Jones continues to play marathon praise sessions, including events where people worship for 50 straight hours. “I’ll be doing a lot more of those this year,” he says.
As a leader at the International House of Prayer, Misty Edwards is charged with staffing and encouraging those involved with the 24-7 prayer room. “Keeping it going ... is a lot of work,” she says. “It’s the primary place I pour out my energy.”
But despite the demands, Edwards is able to write songs and lead worship because of the Holy Spirit, whom she calls “my closest friend.”
“Worship-leading and songwriting with Him is exhilarating,” she says. “When we pray and sing the Scripture, He actually teaches us—often through our own lips.”
Moment you knew you were called to be a worship leader:I was a teenager and my dad took a group of us to a Petra concert. Toward the end of their set, they did some songs that were ... more about drawing us into the presence of God. I was touched by God and wanted more!
Hardest thing about music ministry:Doing your best in a way that’s deep, transparent and vulnerable—and it being dismissed.
Best part about your life:Getting a hug from my 11-year-old son, Isaiah [who has Fragile X Syndrome and doesn’t speak]. He knows life is about giving and receiving love!
Why it’s better to live in Canada:Our politics are more peaceful, and we are a bridge culture between Europe and the U.S., so we get the best of both!
Worship is ... Surrender. Sometimes we forget that’s what the word means ... and don’t realize the most profound expression of worship may be the times when we are willing not to play or sing.
Leeland Mooring, frontman for the band Leeland, is only 22, but he’s already preparing for the day when he no longer performs before big crowds and receives the attention that follows. Maybe that’s because his second home was once his family’s Lincoln Town Car. His parents had a band, Majestic Praise, and traveled with two evangelists, conducting revivals around the country.
“We did that for 2-1/2 years. I was 11, my brother was 13, and my sister was 9,” Mooring says. “We weren’t sure whether we’d be able to pay the bills, and it was then as kids that we began to see the sufficiency of God, the power of God.”
Mooring’s parents eventually started a church in Baytown, Texas, with Leeland as the unofficial youth-group worship leader. These days his band has the ability to make a leap into mainstream pop music, but Mooring says of the group: “Ultimately (praise and worship) is what comes out of us.” And as for all the attention? He could live without it. “If all this was taken away, I could go back to Baytown and continue to pursue God’s purpose in my life.”
As a teenager, Chris Quilala asked God for one thing while attending church camp: freedom in worship. “That night, during the worship service, I lifted my hands for the first time. At that moment I felt His presence so strong,” Quilala says. “It was such an intense experience in which I felt the love, peace and fear of God all at the same time. From that moment on I knew that God was such a huge, loving and real God.”
Today, as a worship leader with Jesus Culture, Quilala helps people experience the same freedom. “My prayer over the past few years had simply been, ‘God, more than anything, I just want to know You.’ For me, worship is [an] intimate opportunity to express the love and burning passion that’s in my heart.”
Never the churchgoing type, Lincoln Brewster grew up in Alaska and California surrounded by domestic violence and drug abuse. His stepfather was a gruff fisherman now known to millions as a boat captain on the reality TV series, Deadliest Catch.
“The fact that I’m married with kids and a worship leader at a church? That’s the miracle story,” says Brewster, 39. Even more unbelievable for Brewster—who, at 19, was former Journey frontman Steve Perry’s lead guitarist and had a mainstream record contract—is that one of his songs was recently published in a Baptist hymnal. “If you had my background, you would’ve been voted least likely to be a worship leader. So to have a song in a Baptist hymnal? It’s God having a sense of humor.”
“Leading worship is not what I thought I’d be doing, and it’s not what I wanted to do,” says Brewster, a staple on Christian radio and a worship pastor at a church near Sacramento, Calif. “But when God got a hold of my heart, I realized that this is what I was born to do.”
Kari Jobe doesn’t just have a soft speaking voice and gentle demeanor. The 29-year-old worship leader is also blessed with the singing voice of an angel. And it’s the combination of these qualities that often allows her to help people lower their guard, release their burdens and truly worship God.
“When David played before Saul it caused the tormenting spirits to leave. I’ve always loved that,” Jobe says. “When you ask the Lord to come, He does come and it changes the atmosphere. That’s how it was for me. That’s what worship is for me.”
Not that Jobe is any different from the rest of us. She finds it difficult at times to fully lay down her burdens before the Lord, and sometimes those experiences become songs—as in the case of “You Are For Me,” which she wrote while in an anxious “season of waiting.”
“I felt like I could see some things that God had promised through a chain-link fence, but I couldn’t get to them yet. God was teaching me that His timing is perfect,” Jobe recalls before quoting Psalm 27:14: “‘Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart.’”
Imagine a 19-year-old college student looking out the window while driving through Asheville, N.C. She goes home and writes a song about how she felt. Years later the song is on the radio, sung at her college and heard around the world.
If that sounds odd, imagine how Laura Story felt. She wrote “Indescribable” and was more surprised than anyone that the demo she sent to Nashville, Tenn., ended up in the hands of Chris Tomlin, who eventually recorded it. “All of a sudden we started hearing the song everywhere,” says Story, 33. “It wasn’t anything I was looking for ... that’s the story of my life.”
Story lacked so much confidence in her musical ability—namely, her singing—that she’s still surprised to be leading worship at her Atlanta church and at events around the country: “I grew up listening to people who could do all these vocal acrobatics and I knew I couldn’t do that. I have a decent voice, and I sing in tune most of the time. But when I realized this was something maybe God wanted me to do, I wasn’t going to shy away from it.”
Church-planting pioneer Billy Hornsby, who worked for more than 30 years with church leaders nationally and internationally, passed away on March 23 after a battle with cancer.
"On March 23, 2011 at 9:44 p.m., our father and friend Billy Hornsby went to be with the Lord. Billy's passion for God, family, life and leaders around the world will be long remembered," announced Chris Hodges, founding and senior pastor of Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Ala. Hodges is also Hornsby's son-in-law.
Married for more than 40 years to his wife, Charlene, Hornsby was a published author who directed a nationwide church planting organization, the Association of Related Churches (ARC)—one of the most successful church-planting organizations in the world—and served as the senior European consultant for EQUIP, John Maxwell's global leadership training organization. Since Hornsby formed ARC in 2000 with a handful of pastors, the network's congregations have often been recognized among the fastest growing churches in the nation.
Just weeks before passing away, Billy Hornsby sat down with Charisma Publisher Steve Strang to talk about coping with the process of dying.
Watch Billy Hornsby deliver an inspirational message at Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Ala., only months before he went home to be with the Lord.
Honoring a General
Prior to Billy Hornsby's death, friends and leaders from across the nation paid tribute to ARC's inspirational co-founder, president and spiritual father. We've gathered some of those tributes here to honor Billy and give you a sense of what a true spiritual general he was.
What does David Green have in common with Warren Buffet, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, and Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg? First, they are all billionaires. Second, they are all giving away half their wealth to charity.
The CEO of Hobby Lobby, Green, a devout Christian, is among a growing list of billionaires who have pledged to give away most of their money. Green and his wife, Barbara, are officially part of The Giving Pledge, an effort to invite the wealthiest individuals and families in America to commit to giving the majority of their wealth to the philanthropic causes and charitable organizations of their choice either during their lifetime or after their death.
“Coming from a family of preachers, the idea of giving back has been part of my life as long as I can remember,” Green wrote in his pledge letter. “My parents and their parents before them were what some would consider poor, but they gave back whenever they could whether through small contributions of money, or through acts of kindness,” God has blessed me with a wonderful family, a successful business and outstanding employees. I do not take these blessings lightly.”
When Hobby Lobby was created in the early 1970s, Green says he was committed to use his profits to help ministry work. He says knew from an early age that ministry work, at least in the sense of preaching from a pulpit, was not his calling. But, he adds, he also knew that God gifted him with a mind for understanding business, and that gift would allow him to carry out God’s work through contributions to great missions throughout the world.
“We honor the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles. From helping orphanages in faraway lands to helping ministries in America, Hobby Lobby has always been a tool for the Lord’s work,” Green wrote, pointing to a verse in 2 Corinthians that says, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work…You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”
What's your take on wealth? Did Green make the right move?
A gospel song is dominating the playlists in nightclubs and bars in east and central Africa.·
MTV Africa host Emukule Ekirapa, also known as VJ Kule, reports that the song “Tobina,” which means “to dance” has been a smash hit in clubs, bars and churches in East and Central Africa. The upbeat praise song by Congo gospel artist Daddy Owen has secular and Christian listeners swaying to its worshipful lyrics. Whether the listener is in church or a club, VJ Kule says the song’s message is clear: “Thank God for the beautiful life that you are living. Thank God for your health. Thank God for your family. Once God has sorted all of that, the only thing left to do is dance and praise Him.”
During much of our life we measure time by its duration: how many years have passed, how many remain before us. We rush through one task in order to hasten on to the next. We use up time, often squandering it like wealthy millionaires.
But as we reach late life, this preoccupation with quantity gives place to an appreciation of quality. The slowing of our lives allows us to meet each person and situation with greater attentiveness. Each moment, each day becomes more precious.
We are finally able to sink into the present moment. In Number Our Days, Barbara Myerhoff describes this capacity to live life fully as one of the secrets of aging well.
She quotes a Jewish friend: "I think this paying such attention to life is what we mean by 'a heart of wisdom'...In the psalm it says, 'So teach us to number our days, that we may get us a heart of wisdom."
Learning how to number our days means cultivating a capacity for wonder, for solitude and for prayer. Deepening our understanding of these dimensions of the spiritual life can enrich our aging immeasurably.
Adapted from Winter Grace by Kathleen Fischer, copyright 1998. Published by Upper Room Books, www.upperroom.org/bookstore/. Used by permission.
In the early days of my ministry, 50 years ago, I would go to a place to run meetings and stay for perhaps a week. The people would come, and I would preach, and it was wonderful.
Then I pastored for 20 years in a church south of London. I was so fulfilled in that church. I loved it. This, too, was wonderful.
Then all of a sudden, God said to me, "Go." I said, "No." A second time God said, "Go." But again I said, "No." After my second refusal, God began to deal with me. When He did, I learned something: The God of Jonah still lives!
I realized that, in the whale's belly, Jonah was brought to a place where he would either declare, "Salvation is of the Lord," or bewail, "Salvation is of the Lord," one or the other. And in that place God began to deal with him.
As a result of the Lord's "dealings," I was a dying man at age 51. I persisted in my disobedience for a time, but finally at 2 a.m. one morning, I surrendered to God.
I said, "Lord, I'm going." He said, "Yes, you're going." I said, "But I had decided to stay!" God replied, "No, you're going. You'll either go and do what I've purposed you should do, or you're going home
So I moved out--but not because I wanted to. God has a way of making us give in. How much easier if we just cooperate with Him in the first place!