Chris Johnson is the Worship Pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in Orangeburg, SC. Recently, Chris talked to Worship Links about being who you are, the evolution of worship music, and the lessons he’s learned from his daughter’s miraculous journey.
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions for us. It’s truly appreciated! The first question is an easy one. Tell us a little bit about yourself in five sentences.
I’m married to my love of a lifetime, and she puts up with me very nicely. We have five children. My daughter “Nomi” drowned, was pronounced DOA and yet lives, walks, talks, cuddles, kisses, and is the focal point of the biggest faith lesson God ever wanted me to learn. I am a Worship Pastor in a culturally and racially diverse large church in the middle of SC, in a town known for racial division, not unity. I’m passionate about helping churches discover multi-ethnicity in worship as a way to build and grow His kingdom, and their communities.
How did you get started in worship ministry?
I volunteered as the lead guitarist here at Cornerstone seven years ago. Our senior Pastor Artie Davis listened to God, and asked me to come on full time to help build the worship ministries of our church.
What’s your basic process for planning a service or worship set?
Our teaching team meets to go over tentative plans for Sunday services up to six weeks out, so I’m able to pray over the scripture references, and the topic well in advance, just asking God to breathe life into the service. Typically I will pick as many as 10-12 songs per Sunday, up to six weeks out, and ask two of our vocalists, and our co-leader to make suggestions. Many, many times they make the same suggestions as the songs I have already picked and prayed over.
Desert Island Worship Mix: You’re trapped on a desert island, and for reasons too ridiculous to explain, you can only have one CD with five worship songs on it. What are they?
Let’s see… Since it’s my island they won’t be all congregational.
- Victor’s Crown by Darlene Zschech
- Graffiti Skies by Free Chapel
- Break Every Chain by Jesus Culture
- Edge of The Water by Tammy Trent
- I Call You Jesus by Israel Houghton.
Now if my church was stranded, that list would be a little different!
I was reading on your website about your journey with Naomi. It’s been a long and tough road! What has God taught you through that experience?
Never ever give up, and never ever give ground to your enemy when you have the power and authority to stand up, plant your feet, and win. We have the mind, the power, and the strength of Christ, and we should live like it, instead of living a life of the ordinary, the mediocre, letting the mundane overwhelm the miraculous.
If you could give one piece of advice to up and coming worship leaders, what would it be? Conversely, what’s some advice you wish you’d received earlier on?
(a) Be who you are, and do it for real. Don’t play with it. God has given YOU a vision for leading YOUR church. Quit trying to be Hillsong and be who you are, right where you are. If He wants you to lead the nations, He will lead you out in the right season.
(b) Always understand that You are working to build HIS kingdom, and always listen to His voice before you listen to the voice of the stage lights. God is always true, the lights sometimes lie.
What scriptures speak to you the most about worship?
Ezekiel 37:9 has always spoken to my heart: Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” What an incredible picture of the consequences of us as worship leaders stepping into our gifting and operating as God wants us to. We can speak life, even as we sing to Jesus, and in our communion with the Spirit, people cannot help but be drawn to God. And live.
What do you think worship in the church will look like in ten years?
I think it will be more intimate. I think worship music will evolve into the genre of music that the Millennial generation is most comfortable with. Funny thing about worship: It always remains unchanged, even as the next generation adopts a different mode to access it.
Any new worship artists on your radar at the moment?
Not new, but I love Warr Acres. I love what Jesus Culture is doing. I love artists that engage congregational environments, and how music can be built up layer upon layer, and emotion follows suit. I really like a lot of what Jared Anderson is doing. His sound guy’s name is… guess what? Kris Johnson! There is one new guy named Jared Espy that I recently came across. As technology advances (has advanced), so many will be able to record their own material, we will have so many new artists that we won’t be able to keep up.
What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done while leading worship (that you’re willing to share)?
Mmmm.. I have started in the wrong key, not been able to remember a particular line, etc. All the routine stuff. I think that’s why our people love me so much (cue winks): I’m just an ordinary guy, living for a completely un-ordinary God.
Thanks again for answering our questions. If people want to find you online, what’s the best way?