Israel Houghton: One Man, One Passion
- Wednesday, April 08, 2009
Christian music isn’t quite sure what to do with Israel Houghton. And for good reason. The man who ministers to thousands on a weekly basis at Houston’s mega Lakewood Church has also created quite a name for himself in the gospel music industry as the founder of the gold-selling phenomenon Israel & New Breed.
In addition, he has written or co-written 11CCLI (Christian Copyright Licensing International) Top 500 favorites, a definitive list of the nation’s most-used worship songs; and his new solo record, The Power of One (Integrity), hosts collaborations with tobyMac, Mary Mary and Martin Smith (Delirious).
During a recent rehearsal for his spring tour with Chris Tomlin, the GRAMMY Award winning worship leader visited with CCM about his decision to make a solo record, his personal call to social action and the effort of The Power of One to help the church make a lasting difference from the inside out.
CCM: What prompted you to record a solo record now, especially considering the final product’s difference from a New Breed record is mere nuances?
Israel Houghton: What we’ve seen over the last nine years is growth of the vision around what New Breed is all about. New Breed was never meant to be my back-up group. It was always more of a gathering—an empowering and releasing kind of atmosphere. So late last year we did a live record. I’m not on it at all. Of course I paid for it. [Laughs] It was the proudest moment of my life to watch these guys I’ve been training and teaching and mentoring write, produce and put the songs together themselves.
That’s why I did the solo record. To show that space. There are a few things I want to go out and do and express. You’re right. They are pretty nuanced differences. But I wanted to show [Israel & New Breed] do things together; we do things separately, but we’re still one unit.
CCM: The Power of One seems to center around the belief that “faith without works is dead.” What inspired this emphasis of activity?
Israel: It’s something that has been burning in me, realistically, for the last three years. Maybe I was late to the party. But getting an understanding that worship and justice go hand-in-hand was new to me.
You read a passage like Amos 5 where God essentially says, “I could care less about the music. I’m not interested in these big concerts and things you guys are putting together if there is not justice attached to it.” For me, it was a very shaking statement. I thought we were just here to have a good time and honor God and get a bunch of people singing.
[Instead], let justice be the prevailing thing that is going down. When all these people come together, in Jesus’ name, what is the action point? Every chance I get to help mobilize and activate the church to action and to justice, I’m doing it.
CCM: What practical advice would you give to listeners who want to take their social justice commitment a step further?
Israel: A lot of times when we think justice, we think of big, sweeping, change-the-world-in-one-fell-swoop kind of moments. I’m convinced sometimes the power of one—and being active and pursuing justice—doesn’t always require money. It doesn’t always require a passport. Sometimes it just requires crossing the uncomfortable line that we have interpersonally and showing somebody love.
In order to get a passport, you have to drive past a lot of hurting people. In order to get to the airport, you have to drive past a lot of hurting people. In order to get in your seat in your row at church, you have to step over a lot of hurting people. In your row at church.
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