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.

Sweet Dream or a Beautiful Nightmare

Not sure what to call this, but I (Jevon) had a dream last night that Will and I were the guest worship leaders at this church that both of our families attended when we were children. The church had grown up a lot in my dream. It had an orchestra versus your standard contemporary worship band. We did not have a chance to rehearse with the band, because it was fairly short notice, but we figured it would be OK since we had chosen songs we all knew.

Anyhow, we were sitting stage left, when we received our cue to take the stage and begin worship. We walked up the stairs and up onto the stage clapping our hands and praising God, letting the audience know it was time to worship the King of kings. “Everyone stand on your feet and let’s worship the Lord together!”

The music began and it was full and beautiful. For some reason we were doing “Victory Is Mine”—a very old song. As we were about to open our mouths to sing we noticed there were no lyrics, no charts on the podium, no big screen in the back of the auditorium. Honestly, I am not sure why this was a problem. For the most part, Will and I memorize the lyrics to the songs we lead. It’s something we have really tried to train ourselves in for moments like the one I was dreaming.

It seemed like the floor had dropped out from under us, but we tried to recover and start the set anyway. Some how the band started the song in a different key and Will and I both were just ad libbing and doing free worship trying to find the melody. No such luck.

We dropped back to the rear of the stage and tried to see what the band director had on his podium. What charts was he reading? Do we need to start over? Do we have time to change the set? Can we rehearse really quick?

Absurd questions of course. It’s showtime, dawg! You’re on! But it was a dream, and sometimes dream exaggerate spaces of time and even emotions.

So while we are trying to get our footing, the elders filed onto the stage and took their seats. The one who was responsible for the morning welcome and announcements got up and did his piece. They were moving on with the program. Oh, well…

We went back to our seats on stage left and actually did not feel embarrassment. We had that feeling of “these things happen.” Very strange.

Are you a dream interpreter? Maybe you can share what you think. Or maybe you’ve had a dream similar to this. What did you gain from it?