HILLSONG: God is Able
If you attend church regularly, chances are you’ve sung, or maybe even know by heart, the words from one or more of the worship songs from the group Hillsong. Millions more watch and listen to their music on YouTube which include favorites like “Shout to the Lord,” “Inside Out,” “Hosanna,” and “Mighty to Save,” – which was awarded the 2009 Dove for Worship Song of the Year. The local Australian church has global influence with Hillsong locations in nine different countries and the worship team has a commitment to inspiring and empowering the authentic worship of Jesus everywhere. Worship leader Dave Ware carved out some time for Risen before Hillsong took stage on the final stop of their, God is Able, tour.
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine in San Diego, California
Risen Magazine: I think any band would be happy with just one or two huge hits, but it seems like everything Hillsong touches is incredible. What is it about your songs that resonate with people?
Dave Ware: It is like Proverbs says, “Do not be wise in your own eyes…” [Proverbs 3:7] so we are still figuring it out. Different seasons have called for different methods, but the one thing we have been strong believers in is being a church of the new song. That’s why we bring new songs every year. And some of those songs get on an album, but we fully believe that bringing new songs as a church, brings freshness, vibrancy, and a motivation for people to draw near to God and connect with him. That is something we’re passionate about.
RM: Such a great mindset. It seems like it would be so easy to make it about routine and think it’s just another show, getting on a stage, doing your thing, blessing people… all of that is true, but how do you keep your heart continually in the right place?
DW: Well we don’t even consider ourselves a band. We are all just part of the church and we happen to be on the worship team. We like to call our shows worship nights, because we are not trying to push a certain album, that’s not our motivation. Our motivation is to bring people together and worship God. And every single person on the platform tonight is heavily involved back home in church. This is probably our longest tour so far. We are never away from home, our families, or our home groups at church for more than three-and-a-half weeks. That’s a pretty long time for us. That in itself kind of demands you to have your heart checked because you are not just flying around the world doing all these big events, but you are actually part of a church, and you’re accountable, and you have leaders and people who look out for you and sharpen you and love you. So the main thing is we are just part of a church family who happen to do albums, which happen to send us out, and enable us to go into the world and spread the gospel and gather people and worship God together.
RM: Tell us about how this collaboration works, and how the group changes as people come and leave. Is there a try out, or way for potential members to prove themselves? How are those decisions made?
DW: I know at the core of our church, at the backbone of our church it is based on relationships. I personally didn’t have to do an audition to be part of the team; I kind of just started serving back in the day in youth [group]. I was actually a drummer then and they needed singers. So a lot of it is need as well. I started singing in church and relationships opened doors. Whenever there was another need to be filled, then I’d be around, and that’s just how I kind of got here. But there’s not a grooming process, as such. People definitely give you feedback and help you to get better, but I don’t think that all those years ago, people were like, “David is going to tour in five years, let’s get him there.” I think it’s just like everyone on the team puts their hand up for whatever is needed and for some of us that turns into being on a tour going across the world and showcasing what we do at home.
RM: Tell me about the God Is Able, album. I’ve read that it talks about current events and seeing God at work, but how do you view the album?
DW: My personal view of it is that it was very timely. It was the middle of the year last year when it was introduced, and it was a time when our church comes together; we call it a miracle offering. It’s where we see the need across the world and within our church, and how we as a church can give into that. At the same time, all these things were happening, floods and what not. For me personally, I saw a lot of people’s lives being impacted by that song [God is Able] because of the time it came out and it was very inspirational. I also think it’s one of those songs that is kind of timeless. Everyone is always in a situation where you just need to know God is able. God did bring it out at the time that it needed to be out.
RM: I’m sure people often say how much your music has helped them. Are there a couple of stories that have helped motivate you, where you think, “Oh, this is why we do this!”?
DW: Yeah. You hear a lot of good testimonies – a lot; whether its people saying thank you to me personally, or to the team, or whatever. One of the biggest compliments that I got on this tour was from a lady who came up to me and said, “I can tell by the way you guys worship that you actually have a relationship with God, and that you guys have a testimony.” So, I sat down with this lady and she said, “You specifically, I know just by the way that you sing and you worship that you have a testimony.” I [then] told her my testimony and we were blessed by that. What you want to come across is authenticity. You want people to know that you are singing to a real God. It’s not a show at all. It’s not a show.
RM: For people who wouldn’t know what a relationship with God is like, what do you do?
DW: Well, I’ve heard it preached so many times: our job is not to heal anyone, or set anyone free, or to save anyone; but it’s to paint a picture of a God who loves us. We show the truest picture we can, with the tools we’ve been given, which is [through] song and lights, and what not. [We try to] really point people towards God in the hope that they would open their hearts to that. I reckon anyone in that kind of a situation, where they just open their heart to God, God would reveal himself to them. I think sometimes we carry the weight of other people being saved a bit too much. We need to depend on God and just do our best, and where we fall short, he picks up the slack.
RM: Being with Hillsong, how have you seen God use and grow you?
DW: The most significant part of my story is being part of the bigger story. We were at a few churches that didn’t really know all of our songs and saw this journey happening before our eyes.
I come from a small campus back home and we’ve quadrupled over the last five years. Seeing that journey, people coming in, and [being] kind of uncertain with the style and what not, to now having a campus that from a worship perspective is flourishing, [has been amazing]. Everyone is just into it every Sunday, and gives everything. We got to see a few places where there would have been a bit of uncertainty at the beginning, but then during the night, [we saw] God really open up their hearts. And being able to be used to point people to God in such a passionate way was such a rewarding feeling. I love it. Sometimes I love it more than being in places where they’re pumped from the very beginning, because you can actually see the change in front of your very eyes. People coming in, with folded hands, and all this presumption, because I don’t know what their hearts are saying, or what they’re thinking, but just seeing them come in like ‘this’ [arms folded] and eventually be like ‘that’ [arms outstretched]… it is pretty rewarding.
RM: Well yeah! Talk to me about that because it’s rare for the average person to see so many different cultures worship. You get the opportunity to be in South America, or Africa, actually you’ve probably been in every continent, seeing people’s hearts and the way they worship. Does it seem universal, or do you have to adapt your style for different cultures?
DW: Every time we leave, people [from our church] remind us, “Just do what you do at home. Just lead people how you would at home.” And even if they are a bit uncertain at the beginning, it always ends up being the same. Everyone is crying out to God, everyone is surrendered. That’s how I treat it. I treat it like I’m leading worship at home.
RM: What would be a defining thing that, when people think of Hillsong, you would want to come to mind?
DW: There are a few things that come to mind, but they all start with God. I’d really want people to walk away with a sense of knowing that God is real and that God is able. I think that’s such a throw-away line in prayers and what not, but if you look at the average person who comes in [to a service] and maybe they were abused as a child, or maybe they’re on the verge of being homeless… and they hear these songs of hope pointing them to a God that is able, it becomes such a life changing statement. To really know that God is a healer, God can save you, is so very important.
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