Diversity in Worship

A few days ago, our pastor told us about a big worship leader conference that is coming to our area and that he would support us if we thought it would be beneficial for us to attend. He sent us the link to the website, and as we looked through the site we didn’t see one speaker, worship leader, guest performer, board member, or oversight committee member that looked like us. By “look like us,” we mean they were all Caucasian (mostly male) with the stereotypical Christian contemporary, spikey hair, skinny jeans, rock look. You know, “the look.” Please understand, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that style or look. Those who know us know we lead this style of music frequently and have found some of our deepest moments in worship during some of this precious music. It’s all sacred to God when it is delivered through a sincere heart. We just haven’t been able to copy “the look.” 🙂

The funny thing is our pastor called us not too long after he sent the link and commented on the fact that all the people involved in the conference were white–he being white himself but a sincere advocate for diversity in the church.

So this is interesting. The conference is presented by an organization that supports worship leaders, in general. So how is it that their leaders, board, panelists, and performers do not mirror the colorful culture in the kingdom of God? Who could an aspiring African American, gospel-sounding worship leader relate to in this group?

Maybe it’s not supposed to be that kind of conference. Maybe they didn’t think about how to make it diverse. Maybe to them worship music is only that contemporary Christian sound.

You must understand that just because we are people of color, we are not automatically diverse. Diversity is a choice–a deliberate choice, actually. There are many monotone worship teams and churches around. Yes, we used “monotone” to refer to skin tone and not “a single, unvaried key or pitch.” Monotone is easy and comfortable for most people, but it isn’t OK in the body of Christ. It is especially not OK when an organization formed out of the body of Christ comes together to present and resource specifically gifted brothers and sisters in Christ and only gives voice to one people group and one style. Perhaps it would be different if it was a conference for worship leaders who spoke and sang in Spanish or Mandarin. But a general American worship leaders conference for English-speaking people should represent a cross section of the American church.

An American worship conference should bring together various cultures, styles, and ethnicities to one place to fortify the diversity of the kingdom. This is perhaps a lot more challenging than it sounds, although we absolutely feel that it is worth the trouble and way past time for this to happen. We also humbly recognize that we’ve never organized a worship conference, so we can really only pose this as a question for discussion.

Can William McDowell, Ricardo Sanchez, Eddie James, Freddy Rodriguez, Stephen Hurd, Danillo Montero, and Micah Stampley be panelists or guest artists on the same stage as New Life Worship, Chris Tomlin, and David Crowder? Then what about the ladies of worship: Kari Jobe, Mandisa, Kim Walker, and Misty Edwards? Some of these, we realize, maybe too busy for a worship conference, but you get the idea of the kind of cross-section we are saying could really benefit the whole body of Christ and cause us all to embrace diversity and learn how to worship freely regardless of what the worship leader looks like or the style of music. Having a diverse panel and artist list would also be an encouragement to a new up and comer who needs solid role models who he or she can look up to and gain wisdom from regarding his or her specific passion, style, and gifting.

We are diverse because of the beautiful diversity we choose to surround ourselves with. At our church, our worship team consists of Caucasians, Latinos, and African Americans. Our church is made up of Latinos, West Indians, Caucasians, and African Americans. We make every effort to choose music that represents all of that. We love it, and we want more!

The band for Will and Jevon consists of Haitian Americans, Latinos, Caucasians, and African Americans. We have been asking a couple of our very gifted Asian American friends to join us. The timing just hasn’t been right, but we know that’s coming soon. The whole motivation behind our WorshipATIC Summer Tour is diversity of culture and style. Three bands–one Christian contemporary, one Christian Hip Hop, and one contemporary gospel–coming together to show that it’s all right to worship God in the way that He created you. You don’t have to fit the ‘”mold” to be considered a true worshiper.

We are off our soap box for now. Sunday does not have to continue to be the most segregated day in America. It can start with the powers that be or maybe just a few voices rising up to say “monotone” is not OK. Our organizations and planning committees can make deliberate plans to bring together people who don’t all look the same in general forums like worship conferences. Then people who aren’t exposed to certain styles and cultures will have a chance to sample and enjoy the beautiful mosaic of kingdom culture.

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The Greatest Romance of All

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For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only son, so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. –John 3:16, NLT

God loves us all so much. He loves us, specifically. He loves you, specifically. If you are having any doubt of His love, ask Him to reveal that to you in a very real way. He will do this for you.

There are times that, even as worship leaders and Christians, we get lost in the shuffle and need to feel the real love of God. This is what we love so much about Holy Week and Resurrection Sunday. We have the opportunity to focus on this amazing love story. We make it very personal. We think about the fact that Jesus would have gone to the cross just for us. He would have done it just for you. And He would do it again.

This week we came across this bit of revelation that took this all to a new level for us. All the stories in the Bible center around one pivotal event–the Cross. The story of how Jacob worked for Rachel was a foretelling of how Christ would labor and sacrifice for us. Check this out:

Throughout the Bible we see that a bride must be purchased with a dowry. Jacob served fourteen years for Rachel. What would drive a man to serve for fourteen years in order to gain a woman’s hand in marriage? One thing: LOVE! Fourteen years of hard work “seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her” (Gen. 29:20).

     As the bride of Christ, each of us must realize that Jesus paid the bride price for all He has redeemed (1 Cor. 6:20). It was a price that in the natural was so great that as He prayed in the garden, He desired to relent. But He did not. He knew that the bride price had to be met, and only He could meet it. Many think He hung on the cross–marred, mangled, and mutilated–the nails held Him in place. But what held him there was one thing, love.

     Jesus paid the bride price for you because He loved you. He believed you were worth it. There’s not a love song or love story that has ever been written that even comes close to that. The romance of redemption is the greatest romance of all. –Taken from Jim Raley, Hell’s Spells

“When I look at the cross, all I see is LOVE, LOVE, LOVE–LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!”

Have a blessed and holy Resurrection Sunday!

Click here for free music from us in honor of the Risen King Jesus.

A Moment of Silence for a Dear Friend–RIP


“A friend loves at all times, and is born, as is a brother, for adversity.” — Proverbs 17:17

One of our dearest friends and her dearest love are both being laid to rest this week, and we want to be present during their transition from this life into eternity.

So we are taking a few days away–a moment of silence in our blogosphere and Twitterverse, if you will–to just be present here.

Thank you so much for your understanding, kind thoughts, and prayers.

To eternal love…

Sunday Set List Recap – Week #165

We’re here once again to share with you and the Worship Community what God is doing in our church, Way of Grace Ministries in Orlando, FL.

This was an unusual Sunday (September 18, 2011) in that there was a sense of freedom and liberty that is not common in churches these days. It is unfortunate when we say that freedom and liberty is a rarity in our churches, because the Bible says that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17).

Here’s what happened:

The set list was:

1. Here I Am to Worship (chorus and bridge only)

2. Celebrate by Freddy Rodriguez

3. Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble by Hillsong United

Let’s break right here, because this is the song that took the worship in a wonderful, new, and wide open direction. Pastor Grant ran up on stage during the chorus of this song and invoked such a high level of praise as he yelled to the deacons, exhorting them to open wide our church doors and let the praises go out. This was right in line with the lyrics of the song that say, “Open up the doors and let the music play / Let the streets resound with singing / Songs that bring Your hope / Songs that bring Your joy / Dancers who dance upon injustice.” The deacons ran to action and as the power of God increase and began to leak out of our doors and onto the streets, Will left the stage and started marching around the auditorium.

What? Who does that? Who leaves the stage during a worship set? But the action became infectious as the next worship team member followed, and the next, and the next, until there was a parade of worshipers dancing around the whole congregation, singing to the Lord. It was a beautiful move in the Spirit that “opened the door” to the next song–all hearts were ready to receive as the worshipers returned to the stage.

4. Open Up the Sky by Deluge

5. Pour My Love on You

God is doing something so great at Way of Grace. He is shaking off the boundaries of religion and opening up to us the limitlessness of true intimacy and relationship with Him. He is teaching us like He taught the children of Israel: “no matter how strange My ways seem to you, trust Me, follow My lead, and be sensitive to my movement, and you will be delivered into your Promise Land.” (See Isaiah 55:8-11 and Proverbs 3:5-8.)

Don’t you just love Him?

Do You Want a King or Will God Do?

You ever catch yourself praying or wishing for a mentor or for a woman or man of God to teach you or tell you something? Remember when the children of Israel begged God for a king? What did He say to them? (See 1 Samuel 8.)

A few months ago, I found myself really praying consistently for an earthly mentor. When I was quiet enough to hear, God quickly and clearly answered my prayer with a question: “Am I not good enough? Am I not leading you and guiding you in the way you should go?”

Hmm…

I started thinking of how He first introduced Himself to Moses: “I AM who I AM” (Exodus 3:14).

You AM? Amazing. So I guess I could just fill that in with whatever it is I think I need? You AM my mentor?

“I am Your mentor. Do I satisfy your need?”

Why, yes, God, especially when You put it that way. Yes, You do. You are more than enough. I would hope to never knowingly reject You from being the leader of even this portion of my life. Wow. I will be careful to listen for Your voice and obey Your instruction. I would rather have You lead and guide me than any man or woman. END OF DISCUSSION.

Several things are occurring simultaneously to prove to me that He is mentoring me:

  1. He is speaking clearly to me about specific actions I should take (clear directives that say “no,” “hold on to that idea for just a second,” “proceed,” “get that in NOW”).
  2. He has led people to me to speak His words of wisdom, encouragement, motivation, and warning.
  3. He has graciously allowed me to be faced with situations that challenged my knowledge in certain areas or preparedness to deal with things that are next-level sort of things. Nothing embarrassing. Just very delicate reactions or responses from select interactions with people that tell me I need to sharpen up and do my due diligence. No need to place blame on someone else for not telling me whatever it was I missed. He tells me what I missed and the way to guarantee it won’t be missed again. (Grateful for that, ’cause if I don’t get it the first few times around, I’m sure it could eventually become embarrassing–so that I get it.)

These things happen in timely phases to teach me that true and sustainable increase does not come from man but from Him. He says that He has given me every resource to perform every good work (Hebrews 13:21), and wisdom is there for me without limit (James 1:5).

“So, yes, My child, sharpen up. You’re doing well. Just do a bit more. You are capable and able because I am able. You have My blessing and guidance. I am leading you through an open door to the knowledge and wisdom that will carry you to the next level.”

Yes, God.

Do you find yourself looking laterally for an answer for something in your life that seems rather earthly or something that seems to have a quick practical fix, like career or finances? I challenge you to quiet yourself long enough to hear if your answer is already present but vertical. Look up. Sometimes we get caught up in the stuff of earth, especially in this information age. There is a blog out there that can answer all the questions in my head about what steps to take, but does it know the desires of my heart? Can it know the naive prayers I prayed as a child? Did its writer know me before I was formed in my mother’s womb?

I’ve known God most of my life and still sometimes forget that I have direct access to His throne and can hear Him directly and that He is not just concerned about my salvation, but He is concerned with it all because I am His. I, along with billions of others, represent Him and His majesty here on earth. So yeah, He wants to help us do well.

God’s customize package for my life takes into account every prayer, every hope, every wish, every tear, and so much more, from here to eternity, because He knows me. And I trust that.

What is your Mentor saying to you these days?

Sunday Setlist Recap – Week #164

This week we thought it’d be cool to use videos to show how our worship set went this past Sunday. We asked Jevon’s brother to record a few of the songs on our iPod Touch.

The setlist for Sunday, September 11, 2011 was

  1. O Beautiful (commemorating the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11/01 Twin Tower attacks)
  2. Say So by Ricardo Sanchez and Jentezen Franklin
  3. The Dessert Song by Hillsong United
  4. The More I Seek You by Kari Jobe
  5. How He Loves Us by David Crowder Band/Jesus Culture featuring Kim Walker
The worship was very high. The youth band joined us this week, which was great. The Spirit of God was thick even in rehearsal. Some of us couldn’t stand by the end of the set.
Here are a couple videos. Enjoy and be blessed!
Singing “Say So”

“The More I Seek You” and the first verse of “How He Loves Us”

Thank you to the Worship Community for inviting us to share our contribution to the kingdom of God.

Less Talking, More Walking

Many of us saw the year 2010 just like the parable of the talents. Those of you who don’t know the parable should really consider checking it out in Matthew 25:14–30. It’s one of my favorite pieces of Scripture to read. There is so much wisdom to chew on, I’m like, “Serve me up anotha’ bowl of that, Holy Spirit!” Hahaha!

The Master (our Father who created us) left us with gifts. In the parable of the talents to one He gave five, to another He gave two, and to a third He gave one. The point is we have all been given talent. Just like in the parable, there is a time where the Master releases us fully to increase our gifts.

To be practical, our system is set up to educate and discover the natural talents in children at an early age. They are told they can be anything they want to be in life—preschool, elementary, middle school, high school, and finally college. Graduating from college can be compared to a releasing—releasing into your gifting or talent, if you will. The Bible says, “Train up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6, KJV).

That was 2010 for a lot of people…

2011 is the year of executing the plans God has for you and for me. It is full of release parties and graduations. In this season there will be less talking and more walking. And if you have not made a plan for how you will increase your gifts, do it now. God has given you the power. In Joshua 1:8, He says that when you follow His ordained plan for your life, you will be able to make your way prosperous.

OK, really when you stop reading this, do not pass go or collect $200 dollars. Grab your most high-tech device—your computer, iPhone, or Blackberry—and write the vision and make it plain.