Tony Cummings looks at the emerging worship ministry of Norway's DAVID OSTBY
For proof that guitar-driven rock worship is now an international language of the Church look no further than the album 'Because Of You' released recently by Norway's David Ostby. The project, produced by Britain's Julian Kindred, is a fine example of ringing guitars, husky, sensitive vocals and songs nearly all written by Ostby which declare a passionate love for the risen God. Said Ostby, "I hope this album will be a soundtrack to people's lives. God's saving arms reach over all our lives, not just what we go through on Sundays. My prayer is that these songs may be a comfort in hard times, that they might help people lift their eyes to see that God is bigger, stronger and higher than us."
David has been based at a church in Filadelfia (a suburb of Oslo) since he was eight. He explained, "My father was a pastor there and I've been a part of the church and worship ministry ever since. I started leading worship at the age of 16 and I've been involved in church and the youth ministry for many years - still leading worship in our Sunday services. Ever since I got my first Casio keyboard I've been playing and writing songs. It's been natural. I got this keyboard for Christmas with this beatbox, so I could have my own band in the keyboard, and I was playing in my room. Suddenly I started writing songs and it evolved from there. Now my main instrument is guitar. But I'm not good at playing guitar, I just sing and I have the guitar round my neck and pretend. You don't need to play guitar well if you pretend well."
David filled in a bit more of his background. "Before I was leading worship full time I was a journalist and writer. I was face to face with former child soldiers in Northern Uganda, with those living in the poorest areas in Peru and among refugees in Georgia. Those kinds of experiences broaden your perspective of the world and I know that they've been valuable in helping to develop my skills as a songwriter. A few years back, when this century was just beginning, worship in Norway was completely redefined. Worship leaders and churches all over the country picked up the torch and it was clear that it was the beginning of a new worship movement, uniting Christians from all churches and ages. My youth group - Ungfila - was privileged to be a part of this wave. When our first album 'Today' was released in 2002, we didn't imagine anything big was going to happen; we were just a group of young people with a passion to worship God. It was only after our second album was released that things really started to happen. Our live worship DVD was broadcast on national television several times - as far as I know the first time a worship concert of this kind has ever been shown on national television."
Ungfila recorded two live albums, 'Today' in 2002 and 'Highest Of The High' in 2004 plus the 'Highest Of The High' DVD in 2005. But it was two years later with the release of David's solo debut 'Saving Arms' in Norway and Sweden that the full sweep of his gifts began to emerge. With the addition of one song 'Saving Arms' became the internationally released 'Because Of You'. Said David, "I recorded the album together with producer Julian Kindred in London. And we did some additional recording in Oslo in my church. We brought in a group of other worship leaders to join in on a couple of the songs; you can hear them all on the last track 'Saving Arms'. I wanted to have some of my local people involved in the album as well, so we got a Norwegian guitar player. I wanted to have some connection to my church back home."
David said that most of the songs on 'Because Of You' were composed specifically for his church in Filadelfia. He told Mike Rimmer, "Most of the songs I've written for my church and through things we've experienced as a church. So I would say that a lot of the songs are both personal for me and also reflecting the life of the church. But I think that a lot of the thematic content in the songs, the lyrics, are adaptable to other parts of the world. We struggle with a lot of the same issues, we have a lot in common when it comes to what we are thankful for. I feel that there's not too much of a cultural barrier in worship: when I come to other cultures leading worship, or just joining in worship with other Christians in other parts of the world - I've been to many places - every time I feel this unity, this connection. We are sisters, we are brothers, no matter what culture we come from; whatever cultural background we come from, whatever language, we speak the same language through worship. So I have a strong feeling that this project will translate just as much into other cultures, not only the Norwegian, hopefully."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.