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.


WorshipATIC Summer Tour 2012


On June 1, 2012, we stepped out on faith, put aside all the excuses of why we couldn’t move into the things God created us to do, and launched WorshipATIC Summer Tour 2012 (ATIC = All Things in Common; more on that soon!). Everything wasn’t pretty or perfectly set up, but we moved forward anyhow. We asked ourselves, “How long would it take to really get started sharing what we have with others if we waited for all the variables to line up perfectly?” “Too long,” we answered. We looked at what we do have:

  • Gifts and talents (maybe debatable by some)
  • Music (maybe not perfectly mixed down and mastered but good, nonetheless)
  • Photos (albeit, old)
  • Relationships with area ministries (some small, some large, some whose schedules are too full to fit us in)
  • Amazing support from friends and family
  • Incredible musician friends and vocalists
As we ran inventory, some of it was a bit discouraging, but God kept saying, “My strength is made perfect in your weakness. Go on; move forward. Exercise your faith in Me. It is for My glory.” We believe He led us this way so that we will not be able to take credit for the outcome once this summer ends. It will be all Him.
So we were resolved to think that what we had in our hands was a good enough start.
So the next thing was should we go at it alone or invite some local artists to join us? Again, we say this was all by faith because with the health and life issues we’ve been challenged with over the last 18-24 months, we just weren’t sure who’d want to share the stage with us. We had essentially “fallen off the map”! We prayed about it and God led us to ask Kendall Brooke, a contemporary Christian singer-songwriter, and Deraj, a Christian hip-hop artist. What a combination, right?
But look at what God was trying to create: Contemporary Gospel, CCM, and Hip Hop all under one anointed mission–to touch Central Florida with the diverse culture and sounds of heaven. Don’t you think God is blessed by all styles of music arranged to highlight the magnitude of who He is? And you’ve got to hear Kendall Brooke and Deraj. These are special and unique offerings of pure worship directed straight to the heart of God.
We’ve done four incredible nights of worship together so far:
  • Way of Grace Ministries, Orlando, FL – June 2
  • ReaLife Ministries, Apopka, FL – June 9
  • Manna Ministries, Deltona, FL – June 15
  • H.O.P.E. for Life Ministries, Orlando, FL – June 16
There is a special bond forming between the three bands–one that is sure to stick for life. If you haven’t been out to see this new movement of this beautiful mosaic of worship, we have several more worship nights planned. One may fit your schedule:
  • The Lounge 360, Orlando, FL – July 6
  • WorshipATIC Summer Tour Party, TBD – July 14
  • The Upper Room Christian Lounge, Kissimmee, FL – July 27
  • Kairos Community Church, Kissimmee, FL – August 3
  • Resound Missions Base, Orlando, FL – August 19
For details on exact times and addresses, visit www.facebook.com/worshipATICSummerTour2012. Also, you can help us build momentum behind this in very simple ways:
  • Find the WorshipATIC Tour artists’ Facebook and Reverbnation pages
  • “Like” their pages
  • Sign up as a fan
  • Buy their music
  • Like, comment, and share their music, videos, photos, and updates on your FB page
  • Invite your friends to the nights of worship
  • Write reviews and testimonies about how their music is blessing you
Local artists need your support. Yes, there’s Hillsong, Israel Houghton, and others, but Central Florida is rich with gifted bands, singers, and musicians. We don’t have to go far to find excellent worship that reaches into heaven. And that’s a beautiful thing. There can never be too many worshipers in the kingdom of God.
Well, the summer is not over yet and we know that God is still completing what He has begun. This is all for Him and all for His glory so that people can be drawn into an intimate relationship with Him. We hope to see you at our next night of worship.

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.

10 Things to Know About a Worship Leader’s Wife

Hi! It’s me, Jevon. I wanted to write something personal today. I wanted to write this because I remember being on worship teams and looking at the worship leader’s wife and wondering, “What in the world is she thinking? What is she about? What does she do all day? Is she connected with us? Now where did she get THAT outfit? She was fly last week too!” It may honestly just be me who goes around thinking so deeply about the people I serve under, but I doubt it. We all are pretty nosey about people’s lives, else reality TV wouldn’t be as popular as it is.

Now that I am a worship leader’s wife, I feel that I may have some insight into the innerworkings of the BETTER half. So in case you’re curious like me…

Here are 10 things to know about a worship leader’s wife.

1. Yes, she has an opinion about where the worship is going. She has many opinions about where the worship is going–the skill and heart of the team, how the church responds, how the pastor responds, and her husband’s leadership style. She works hard to keep it to herself, but will release it directly to whom it may concern, if appropriate, and in God’s time.

2. She is equally gifted (if not more so–oops, did I say that out loud?) as her husband. He just doesn’t have to take care of the kids as much or make dinner every night. LOL!

3. She is sold out and in support of her husband’s gift and may cut somebody if they try to quench his fire. Just saying. Watch out!

4. She is crazy in love with God.

5. She loves her family more than the trouble of ministry, but loves ministry too. An artful balance indeed.

6. She is very busy during the day–very busy working a full-time job or managing her domestic empire and fielding the concerns, comments, suggestions, requests, complaints, thoughts, or praises that may come across the wire. She barely sits down–physically or mentally.

7. She cares very much about the worship team and the church she serves and prays for them all regularly.

8. She knows when people are talking about her. Oh, but no, she doesn’t care. Sorry. She just can’t take it personally because she is fully aware that the glorification of God is bigger than she and the talking heads. She still loves them and wants to see God’s best for them. (Word of advice: They should probably go to her if they have issues rather than resorting to gossip. It’s a divisive sin, and God hates disunity in His body. How can true worship flow in that environment? Same team, people!)

9. She is level-headed and smart. Many times, she is the problem solver, communication expert, administrative assistant, and PR professional that helps her husband appear as neat and tucked in as he presents himself at rehearsals or on stage Sunday morning. Oh, what? He doesn’t look all that good? Trust me. It could be worse. 🙂

10. She is a woman, a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend, a leader, a teacher, a student, a musician, a singer, a voice of wisdom, carries a makeup case full of resources, and is specially anointed to be right where she is.

How did I do, ladies? Does this sum you up? What did I miss? I’d love to hear any funny stories or comments.

Sunday Setlist Recap – Week #163

Each week we are excited to send out a report on what God is doing in our neck of the woods. The Worship Community has provided a great platform for all of us to see how the body of Christ is going about the plans and orders God has given us.

It’s so cool that it’s not about one church having better worship than another or a more fire-and-brimstone message than another, but it’s all about each church following faithfully the vision that God has given them. The church is not the pastor’s. The church isn’t even the members’. We’d all like to claim ownership, but we gave up all ownership to anything, including our buildings and inititives, when we gave our lives to God. All that we have is His, especially His church. His church body is there for  us to find other faith-filled believers to connect with. It is also there as a community center of sorts for people who are hurting and just need some hope. Hope can come in many forms. And it’s interesting to philosophy over the certain ways each church has been commissioned to share hope.

Some churches share hope through a strong homeless outreach. Others have a gift for redeeming prostitutes and drug addicts. Still others are charged with bringing supernatural healing and freedom to people overwhelmed with negative emotions and depressed pasts. Isn’t God diverse and just so good?

There really is no time or room for competition. It’s about staying busy with our Father’s business.

These past few weeks, our focus at Way of Grace has been about discovering why our particular church is here. This week we grasped a new understanding about our call to support missions and missionaries. Pastor Grant pointed out that one of our favorite and commonly quoted scriptures–“And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory” (Philippians 4:19)–was Paul specifically speaking to the only church that gave to him, the Philippians. He was their missionary, and like they were rewarded for supporting him, our church and those others who obey their call to support missions will also be rewarded.

Understanding the church’s vision in this way helps every ministry understand the purpose for why we present excellent worship and service to the Lord and to His people. If each of us add the piece we are called to do with passion and God-confidence, then the whole is in place to fulfill the collective call.

This week, worship was excellent. The team is continuing to grow and gel together in our mission to bring authentic and Spirit-filled worship to the people. It was amazing that even with a really good worship set, it just wasn’t about us this week. It was about missions and going out to find lost sheep. But for the record, our set for this week was:

  1. Beautiful One by Jeremy Camp
  2. Come Alive by Deluge
  3. Worthy by Paul Wilbur
  4. Jesus Blood Never Fails Me by Hillsong

What was your church service like this past weekend? What special message did God speak to your heart?

Sunday Setlist Recap – Week #162

Hello, friends!

We are extremely late in getting this out, so this will be short and sweet. Not sure if the saying, “Better late than never,” is actually true or not, BUT here we go. We want to share with you and the Worship Community how our worship set went last Sunday, August 28, 2011, at Way of Grace Ministries.

The set list for Sunday was

1. You Are Good by Israel Houghton

2. Your Grace Is Enough by Chris Tomlin

3. Let the Church Rise by Jonathan Stockstill

4. Your Latter Will Be Greater by Martha Munizzi and Israel Houghton

Everything went very well. The team sounded great. We made small changes with how some team members were placed and it seemed to actually make a difference. “Your Latter Will Be Greater” was led by one of the members of the team and she did a fantastic job. Our keyboardist was out last week, and though we missed her A LOT, the electric guitarist stepped up to fill in the void. With just a bass, drums, acoustic, and electric (and all the host of heaven), not an element was missing.

We are so proud of the team of people we worship with. We are seeing God do some awesome things as a result of their prayers and faithfulness–healing, deliverance, and freedom! There is still so much more. “Our latter WILL be greater.”

If you don’t have place to worship and you’re in the Orlando area, you’ve got to stop by Way of Grace  on any Sunday morning at 11:00 a.m. You will not be disappointed!

Sunday Setlist Recap – Week #161

Happy Monday, good people!

We are here to share with you and the Worship Community our weekly recap of our worship setlist from Sunday, August 21, 2011.

We had a fantastic worship experience at Way of Grace yesterday. The worship team was in great spirits even though our Thursday night rehearsal got bumped due to another event in the sanctuary. And because of that we had to make some adjustments to our setlist Sunday morning. Our original setlist was going to be:

  1. Our God Is Love by Hillsong
  2. For All You’ve Done by Hillsong
  3. Chasing After You by Jonathan Stockstill
  4. Your Later Will Be Greater by Israel Houghton and Martha Munizzi

With adjustments, our final setlist was:

  1. The chorus to Fire Fall Down by Hillsong
  2. Our God Is Love by Hillsong
  3. For All You’ve Done by Hillsong
  4. Chasing After You by Jonathan Stockstill
  5. The Stand by Hillsong

But something was different altogether about yesterday. Will felt led to call the choir members (past and present) to the stage just before the chorus of “Fire Fall Down.” He publically let them know that we love them and need their worship–and we want them back! They had the summer off, but none of them returned after everything was back up and in full swing. The ensemble/praise team remained on the stage throughout the summer, but the choir felt like a summer break would be good with all the vacations going on.

When the choir members joined us on stage, the worship went to a new and higher level. We blasted through the roof on “Our God Is Love” and had even more breakthrough on “Chasing After You.” We tried to end “The Stand” with dignity, but the Spirit of God wouldn’t have it. We all began to sing out in the Spirit in our own words. Will exhorted the crowd to worship freely. Then the youth pastor/resident bass player came to the front of the stage to do the welcome, but God wasn’t done yet.

All of a sudden the vamp for “Fire Fall Down,” softly began to bubble up all around the stage and then into the audience. Louder and stronger. Stronger and louder. “Fire fall down. Fire fall down on us we pray!” It was a beautiful fragrance of worship before a most worthy God.

The room was warm with the presence of God as we moved to greeting each other, worshiping with our offerings, and receiving the Word from an anointed guest speaker.

How was your worship experience this past weekend? What song or move of God ministered to you the most?