Lakewood Church’s senior worship leader Cindy Ratcliff and her band lead praise and worship at City Harvest Church. City News catches up with her and her husband, Marcus.
By Yong Yung Shin
If anyone can pull off a rock version of the timeless, hymnal Psalm 23, it’s Cindy Ratcliff—blonde and vivacious, with a voice to match. Over the weekend of August 17 and 18, the senior worship leader and her band from Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, pastored by Joel Osteen, ministered to the City Harvest congregation in praise and worship, bringing a message of renewed hope and triumph over adversity.
Ratcliff is an accomplished singer-songwriter who became the youngest licensed American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) songwriter at the age of 9. Having recorded three live worship albums at Lakewood Church, We Speak To Nations, Cover The Earth and Free To Worship, she released her solo worship album Twenty Three last year, a 12-track album with an eclectic mix of rock, ballads and Latin music. It also features the talents of Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter and fellow Lakewood song-leader Israel Houghton.
City News sat Cindy Ratcliff and her husband, Marcus (with whom Cindy co-owns the record label RPM that produced Twenty Three) down for a chat about her music, their ministry, working together as husband and wife, as well as their experience of ministering at CHC for the first time.
Tell us what Twenty Three is about.
Cindy Ratcliff: Most of the message is a message of hope, goodness and love of God. This album sends the message that God really loves us, He is for us, that He covers and upholds us. The reason we chose that name for the album is really the 23rd Psalm and what it has to say; it really embodies the message of the entire CD.
Why a rock twist? After all, Psalm 23 is about caring shepherds, green pastures, and still waters, not typically stuff rock numbers are made of!
CR: Well, I cut my teeth on American ’80s rock, so I still have a lot of that in me! On that particular song, Lincoln Brewster is on the guitar, he also does the backing vocals and he’s a rock kinda guy so that it all contributed to how the song turned out. It’s one of my favorites too!
How did the making of this album challenge and enlarge you as a musician as well as a worshipper?
CR: The day before we went into the studio, my producer had to pull out because he had to attend to some family issues, so I ended up producing the album by myself. So that was a real challenge because I’ve never done a project completely by myself. Fortunately, Marcus is a good businessman so he made sure all the t’s were crossed and all the i’s dotted!
Our band at Lakewood played on the CD, they were loving, generous musicians…so it all worked out well. As far as a worshipper, my desire is to usher people into God’s presence; so if there’s a challenge in writing the songs, it’s always to make sure they have that touchdown—that when they listen to the songs, they can really get into God’s presence.
So what is it like working together on a record label as husband and wife?
Marcus Ratcliff: Well, it actually works out really well. I’m not a musician and I don’t sing—except in the shower—but I love to worship, and I have an appreciation for great music, so it helps to confirm the music we put out. It’s a nice balance. I don’t get into her lane. It never really crossed my mind to have a record label but that’s not really the goal. The label is just a formality; the goal is really just to minister to people by creating an atmosphere where they can experience the presence of God and be changed.
CR: We have a great respect for each other, without trying to control but yielding to and encouraging one another.
CR: Yes, I think the Lord uses every bit of our lives to shape us for His purposes. Also, my family is a family of ministry. Every step we take in life is used by God to take us down the path He has for us if our heart is following after Him. So yes, I think I would be misguided if I did not think all those hours in church and ministry didn’t have a profound effect on what I was to do later on at Lakewood.
Marcus, tell us how you found your calling in the pastoral ministry.
MR: To start with, we’re both pastor’s kids. I went into the business world upon graduating from college but I found myself doing it primarily for the money whereas my heart was really in seeing people excel and being all they could be. I had a heart to help people find answers to questions like what it is God has gifted them to do, how they can serve more, how to have great relationships, be in health both physically and financially…basically every facet of a person’s life. That naturally brought me to a pastoral position.
Look at the obvious things, the anointing that’s on you—when people around you tell you that you did really ministered to them and encouraged them; you kinda pay attention to what you love doing, what you would do for free; things that when you do, you feel God smiling at you, whether that’s singing, writing, being a physician or an accountant. Really, we’re all part of the kingdom and it’s a team effort.
You collaborate with many artistes on your music. What do you make of the trends taking shape in the Christian contemporary music (CCM) scene nowadays—for example the diversification into folk, Latin American, rap sounds and cross-genre collaborations?
CR: I think that really is the future of Christian music. Even if you look at popular music, it’s that way. Rap artists are working with jazz, with country, rock…everybody is collaborating now, and that’s our world. The world is so small now—you can hop on a plane and be back in the USA in 14 hours. The Church at large is recognizing that, and that’s what heaven’s gonna look like; there’s not gonna be a section for Caucasians, one for Hispanics, one for Asians …
There’s so much diversity in our world. If we’re gonna be relevant with our worship, then our music has to be diverse; Christian music has to be diverse. We have to appreciate and respect the different element and value each genre brings to music. When I came to Lakewood, one of my goals was making sure our worship music was diverse. And when Israel Houghton came onboard, that was his desire as well.
Lastly, how has the experience of ministering at CHC for the first time been for the both of you?
CR: The last two days have been just overwhelming. First of all, it was a dream come true for us to come to Singapore. We are thrilled to be here for such a time as this, and we’re grateful just to make the connection with the church. We felt such a heavy anointing, not in the weighty sense, but full of joy and victory in the place.
MR: There were moments when the congregation just sang and flowed as one, and the lyrics being sung, the proclamations of God being One mighty to save, it’s awesome, moments pregnant with expectation, creating an atmosphere for God to work miracles, and I just know that He’s already worked it out. The best days are ahead. I’m excited to see what God will do. There’s a joy in this place, and the joy of the Lord is our strength.