What does it really mean to be a Christian artist? City Radio speaks to two worshipers who have done the whole album-and-tour experience to delve into what really matters to an artist who creates for the Kingdom.
Award-winning gospel artist Kirk Franklin once said, “Just make great art and be a Christian doing it. Tonight, I saw a resurrection, and I’m telling you, make good art that comes from a Christian.”
What does it mean to make good art that comes from a Christian? Does the art have to be about Christ? Is it okay to become famous being such an artist? What is it like for a Christian artist to tour and promoting their albums?
In this follow-up to our article last month on the Heart Of A Worship Leader, CityRadio (CR) speaks to two friends of the station who are Christian artists, to find out their experiences and what is truly in their hearts as people who make good art for the glory of God.
Aarksara Foo: “The passion to worship Jesus will increase”
Aarksara is a full-time vocal coach, the vocal director of Hillsong Perth and a former artist at Integrity Asia.
We first met Aarksara—her father is Chinese Singaporean and her mother Thai—when she came to our studio to promote her album, Made It Through. She has since become a full-time vocal coach, running her vocal training school U Sing Studio. Aarksara is based in Perth.
CR: You were once an artist under Integrity Asia, and that opened doors for you to share the stage with the likes of Don Moen and Charlin Neal (of Israel and New Breed). What was that experience like?
Aarksara: It was so awesome. I think for me through all those experiences, God reminds me to be always teachable. Like, I will ask myself, “ Is there anything I can learn and change to better myself for the Kingdom of God?”
You know, if you are in a spot where you are cocky, like “I’ve got it all, I’ve made it, I know it all”, that’s a very dangerous place to be.
But being able to serve and work with incredible people, that’s such an amazing experience and something I am constantly learning from, and I’ve still got so much to learn. Doing this changes my perspective when it comes to serving. God is constantly gonna mould us to be his vessel—He is the Potter.
Working with Charlin (Neal) was amazing, I love her. She’s now a dear friend and sister. We’ve done vocal summits in Asia, and it’s amazing to see the way she teaches. Charlin and Lois (Duplessis) are not just incredible vocalists but they are incredible worshippers and teachers as well. They have such a heart to teach and equip, and that to me is so inspiring.
For me, no matter how many awesome things you do, the heart of a teacher is what is important. To never be selfish with your skills and experience, but to keep equipping people and empowering people and being humble and genuine about it.
So what was it like touring and going around performing your songs as an artist?
I felt uncomfortable being labelled as an artist. I mean, yes, God created art and all sorts of music. So if you view it that way, yes, I’m an artist.
But I really consider myself a worshipper. I just want to worship Jesus, I just want to write songs, to lead and to serve and train people for the glory of God. To me, that’s more important than putting out tracks and going on tour.
If that’s the journey that God has put a Christian artist on, bless them. Personally I love helping behind the scenes and I love to see people experiencing God’s presence. There are times you may sing to two people and they come to know Jesus. It may not be a stadium of 2,000 people, but this is where I find joy. Just to be able to worship from a deep place and to see people enjoy the goodness of God. We’re running this race to point people to Jesus, empty hell and over populate heaven.
At the end of the day, I’m just Aarksara and I’m a worshipper of Jesus and I’m on this path of walking with Him and sticking with Him all the way.
That’s wonderful. What do you hope to see happen in the Christian music?
I’d like to see that in the future the passion for God and the passion to worship Jesus will increase. More of chasing and pursuing Jesus and less of going after trends and the new beats and all that. There will always be unique tracks and new music, new songs, new lyrics. All that’s wonderful. But we really need to get back to worshipping Jesus and keeping Him the main thing.
If anything, this COVID situation makes me wonder: “Are we still worshipping? Even if there is no conference, even when the lights are off, even when nobody is looking at us. Are we still worshipping Jesus? Where and how are we worshipping?
So my hope is that the fire and passion to worship Jesus will increase all over the world. And that people genuinely fall in love with Jesus and have a revelation of who God is—that’s how true worship will come forth. And that’s what God is looking for: true worshippers , people who worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Luke Munns: “Move Heaven and earth, not just tickle ears”
Luke is a music producer, leader of thelukasband and founding member/drummer for Hillsong United.
Like Aarksara, Luke became a friend of City Radio when he came in to our studios to promote thelukasband’s 2019 album, Counter Culture. Fun fact for those of us who have been in church for a while: Luke was the first drummer of Hillsong United and was part of the band that came to play at CHC back in 2004!
CR: You have toured all over the world with Hillsong United. In fact, being in the band from the beginning, you saw its growth and popularity, and along with it, the move of God through Hillsong United. What was that experience like?
Luke: I would say it was a big move of God, honestly. I know all of us in the band weren’t the most talented; not all of us had our lives together. But we still gathered together and prayed at all those “United nights”, when the youth and young adults (of the church) met. And the move of God and the music just came, especially during our summer camps.
We weren’t trying to be successful but we were trying to do a great thing for God—for God to use us, that was our prayer. But the main thing we wanted to do was just to worship God.
We had hours and hours of worship at the summer camps. We would have our (planned) events but when worship started, that would go on and on, and then there would be a Word. And then worship would start again. It was organic—we would go for three, four, five hours.
At midnight, when they tried to shut (the meeting) down, we would go to the beach (where the summer camp was held), and someone would start a fire and there would be more praying and singing and worshipping. I would call it a mini revival in our youth ministry—at that time, it grew about 300 people to about 1500.
As the older guys, like (worship leader) Reuben Morgan, moved on to the main church service, the United guys like Marty Sampson, Joel Houston, Michael Chislett and myself, among others) became the band that started touring.
So what was touring like?
We started small, playing to crowds of 100 people and it grew to maybe 1,500.
And then in 2004, we came to City Harvest and that’s where we start to see the size of the crowds going up. We did five services with Pastor Kong Hee. And from there, we started travelling to different countries like America and Canada. As we started to do that, we really started to bring the spirit of revival that we had at the summer camps.
We would see the move of God and salvations happen just literally by writing songs and putting up in an album and touring. We ended up starting a sort of movement; we helped create a sound of worship that kind of went global.
How did being a part of this movement shape you as a person?
What I’ve learnt is to really be eternity-focused. At that time, all of us were really just volunteers and we didn’t get paid until things really started taking off.
I’ve learnt to just to serve and trust Him. I was young and wasn’t married, so I sort of like, laid my life down and really sacrificed, and He would provide—He would open doors and He would use us.
I think I really learnt to carry that into my adult life. Even today, I’m like just so open to hear from the Holy Spirit: “What do You want me to do this day, this month or this year?” So whether something is successful or not, whether it’s prominent or not, really doesn’t matter. It’s truly just about obedience. Having that eternal perspective that life is short, so you want to do whatever God wants you to do, so that when you pass into heaven, that you get to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
You don’t want God to say “I had so much more for you, but you didn’t follow”. Jesus said, “Follow Me.” That just sums up everything for me. People come and go, but your relationship with God has to be that firm foundation in everything you live by.
Beyond releasing albums, thelukasband also goes to churches to help their bands. Can you tell us more about what thelukasband does?
What we do is to travel around and go to churches and inspire them to think and create out of the box, and not just to try and copy and to sound like everybody else.
It can be so easy to go like, “I want to sound like Bethel, or Upperroom and just sort of copy and emulate it. But one thing we get out of this is that this is a sound that we are not copying from anybody—we’re just creating a sound out of who we really are.
We want to inspire you, whether you are in Singapore or in Brazil, to tap into the sound that is inside you and in your culture and your area. Use that to reach out to those who aren’t saved. I think it can be a Christian subculture where like we listen to one style of music and the world listens to another.
That being said, what impact do you hope to have on the next generation of worshippers?
One thing I feel is that between generations passing to the next generation, there is a real struggle or challenge for them to worship in spirit and in truth, and out of the heart—being in genuine worship, abandoning themselves to God. Worship that’s just between you and God.
So sometimes when I see the younger generation of Christian musicians, I want to say to them, “You have to switch off your brain, switch off everything you know, because you can Google all that information from your phone.”
Growing up with Darlene (Zschech) and also seeing the bands like Bethel and Maverick City, what I love is that they worship from the heart, in spirit and in truth.
And for me, even when I’m working with the Hillsong Young and Free guys, I’ll tell them: “That’s a great beat, that a great hook, that’s a great chord structure. But let’s put heart and anointing and soul into it.”
Because worship has to be a conduit or a vessel of the anointing, and that comes from a lifestyle of worship and getting the presence of God on your life and having an authentic relationship with God, so that when you get up on the stage or the studio, that presence of God will flow through you.
The people who are leading worship are not doing a performance; they’re not leading worship with words and head knowledge. They should move heaven and earth and not just tickle ears. That’s my challenge to the next generation.