His groundbreaking appearances at festivals and Bible weeks and his UK tours have established American KEVIN PROSCH as one of the most influential figures in worship and evangelism in Britain. He spoke to Martin Purnell and Mike Farrington.
What God is doing in Britain with a fresh wave of youth-orientated worship music is finally beginning to be noticed by the insular American Christian music scene. The US release of the video of the historic Champion Of The World event and the American launch of albums by Delirious? and Matt Redman will no doubt start demonstrating to the American Church that there are far more creative dimensions to worship music than those normally pursued by the soft pop/easy listening outpourings of America's major worship ministries. In many ways it is the wave of young British musicians who are pioneering contemporary worship that stylistically connects with today's teenagers while resonating both with a hunger to go deeper into God and an expectation that the Lord will indeed move in revival power. So it is somewhat ironic that the man who has been a towering influence on the Matt Redmans, Martin Smiths and the other UK musicians who have put worship back in the centre of the Christian music scene should be a grizzled American from Birmingham, Alabama.
In America's CCM scene Kevin Prosch is an unknown. His music isn't played on mainstream Christian radio, his albums aren't in the record racks and it's doubtful if most Nashville record execs would recognise his name. In Britain, however, thanks to frequent appearances at UK festivals and Bible weeks, and successful tours (his most recent with veteran Bryn Haworth), Kevin is a towering influence both on musicians and Britain's worshipping church at large. During his latest visit to Britain in November he visited United Christian Broadcasters in Stoke-On-Trent and was interviewed by both Martin Purnell and Mike Farrington. Here is a selection of their questions and his replies.
Mike: In recent meetings you've spoken a lot about truth and
getting beyond the hypocrisy that can be part of each of us. Tell us a
bit about that.
Martin: "It's a journey I've been on and I feel at times I touch on it. In the past I've never let the Lord into the dark side of my life, the times I'm not doing as well with him. We all have secrets at times in our lives. I used to think in my worship that's the last thing I can bring to God, whether it's lust, or whether I've lied, or whatever it is. But I'm finding real encouragement in being able to be honest, and truthful with God. He sees those things anyway. Quite often during the worship it is a time of repentance for me, to be able to say i am going to be truthful. You see it anyway, God. I'm sorry for that thing this week.' So the revelation of truth has taken on a new meaning for me."
Mike: What about the dimension of worshipping God when you're
not at a meeting?
Martin: "There are times when I would be in the car and I feel him when I'm not feeling spiritual. I feel him come through my heart and begin to touch me during the day; for no particular reason I just feel his presence around me and on me. Everyday in my walk with him - at some point in the day. I make it a point, not as a religious act, but in my heart to want to touch God. There are times I go for seasons where I'm not feeling very spiritual. I go for days or weeks without having my time in the Word, just out of discouragement or weakness. But I feel I still make it a point to say, 'Oh man, I missed our walk in the garden today' or 'are you still with me' or 'Do you still love me?' I still need to feel accepted. Sometimes it's like that, then sometimes it's suddenly out of nowhere I'll see an orphan or an older lady crossing the street and something just floods my soul with worship to God. Knowing that he loves them. It's not like I'm sitting down every day and making worship - that kind of life style - singing songs every day and worshipping that way. It's something that rises up in my heart. I feel his presence really strongly at different times."
Mike: Your ministry has a reputation for being very emotional,
you make yourself painfully vulnerable when you're on the
Martin: "For me personally I can't be satisfied with doctrinal truth. My spirit craves for the emotional side as well. By the time a musician has learned to play music for 20 years or so he begins to realise he can stir the emotions of people and that's a tricky thing in worship because people say 'worship is in the hands of God'. Yes it is but yet we're clay vessels that he uses and you learn as a musician that you can manipulate the emotions of people. When I realised that I went 'Wow, I can take the people virtually anywhere.' Once you have their heart and the presence and the anointing of God you can almost take people where you want to. Music is such a powerful tool. Lucifer was the chief worship leader in Heaven and now he's not allowed to enter the place we can every morning, every day, instantaneously. He can only be an onlooker and he's very jealous. I have a choice to take people into a place of worship to a place of truth. The enjoyable side of that is also knowing that he's chosen vessels like all of us to be able to enter into a sacred place.
Mike: Owning up to failures in your spiritual life seems to be
a crucial part of what you bring to a congregation.
Martin: "One of the problems I have is unlived truth. More and more I feel I'm trying to communicate with something I've never experienced in my life because it's a walk of faith. So I'm not sure how to do it. In the early days I would say the systematic truths that look good to people but when I walked away from the show I was not really walking in that myself. I'd give a talk on something that's very intimate but not be walking there. So I'm trying to talk about my own experience. I was taught just to stand ridged and not to encourage the emotional side. I wait quite a while when I worship because it's a tremendously emotional thing. Then I began to realise that in Jeremiah I it speaks of keeping all the tears in a bottle that God stores up and that God is a weeping God. Chris Bowater wrote a song called 'Now Is The Time For Tears'. It's a song that's touched my heart and it's very emotional to me. I think sometimes when we come into the presence of God there's a heart thing - for me there's hardness in the heart during the week and sometimes daily. So when I go to worship God, I cry sometimes. I don't even know why I cry. I just feel his presence so strong on me I'm so thankful his life still comes to find me every day. In fact it shouldn't. But it does. This is reflected in a song I've written with Bryn Haworth; it talks about so much grace. It says, 'I'm not prepared for so much grace to come to me/Why am I not able to accept your love/Why do I feel I have to earn your love?/You always push my heart and veil apart and place your fingers deep into my heart/I'm not prepared for so much grace to come to me.'"
Mike: Are you at peace with yourself?
Martin: "I'm just now getting to the place in my life of just being able to accept who I am as a person and to push away all the unfulfilled expectations that 1 thought I was going to be in music or just in my life. And now I'm starting to take a look -'Okay, you're not like this person, this is where your life really is" - and having to be satisfied with that, compared to what every person dreams of being, whether it's an incredible worshipper, worship leader or movie star or whatever. And I'm having to take my life apart and realise what you see is what you get now and I want to be pleased with that and when I come into worship and I feel accepted now more and more, I'm learning to open my heart up. There are tears, it's very emotional, not every time, sometimes it's enjoyable, almost fun like experience, knowing I'm accepted by the living God."
Mike: You've experienced a lot of controversy recently for
your use of ethnic instruments - instruments normally associated with
pagan cultures - in worship. Tell us a bit about that.
Martin: "I use the conk shell which was on the last track on 'Kiss The Son'. I use it also on 'Journey Of Life'. The thing that has made people wonder is the conk shell used to be a call for pagan worship. We also use the didgeridoo, which was used by the Aborigines, and sometimes it was used in their worship to call up pagan spirits. So they say why do you use these instruments if they are pagan? I look to my guitar and say. 'Well, the songs I played in the world on this guitar did not in any way bring glory to God. At that time I hated God. Then I gave my heart to the Lord and I took that same guitar and wrote praises to God. So I guess when I got saved my guitar got saved along with me. About the conk shell, there are several things - it's the sound. I remember the first time I saw someone raise their hands in church - I thought if there's anything that looks demonic it's that. It scared me to death. But there I was six months later right on the front row with my hands up. So the point I'm trying to make is, that the things we see even hear, we make judgments on. We're not used to some of the sounds of India, Australia, China where if they get saved and God visited them, in their village, they would praise him on their native instruments. The Bible says, 'Every nation, tribe and tongue will come together to worship me.' And that not going to be just a white boy playing an acoustic guitar that's going to be leading everything. Also, concerning these instruments, there are different sounds which communicate different emotions and I think that's what God intended or he would have made everything that sounded like the rain or he would have made every rain sound like the wind, and rain sound like ocean or rain sound like rocks being beat together or a guitar; but he gave us different sounds because it evokes different emotions. If you look at King David suddenly there he was with every instrument known to man, every drum, every cymbal, every harp, every lyre and there came a stage in his life when he said, I can't express myself enough. Go and bring me some of those marvellous cedar trees so I can make some more instruments because I don't have enough instruments to express myself.' Because David knew that different tones and different tunings created different emotions. He was really in touch with that so it's the same with me. I use on 'Journeys Of Life' Indians and Asians praising, saying their love for God, or just different statements of how I love the earth. I use different languages and instruments. It's all very powerful, it evokes different emotions. It's wonderful to me."
Mike: I understand someone at Soul Survivor so objected to
what you were doing in worship that they threw a drink over
Martin: "It was hot coffee. There were two guys in the crowd and each had a cup and one was going one way and one was going the other way and they caught the one guy. He was talking about devil worship and being a hypocrite. He could be right on the hypocrite part but the devil worshipper thing definitely not. All the fuss was because it was a different instrumental style and some of the kids were really getting into it. The other incident that occurred was in the parking lot. I was pushed around by two other people. It was basically about 'We don't need your kind of music here.'"
Mike: Were you surprised by the violence of such
Martin: "I had a prophecy given to me a year ago that I was more and more going to be harassed by people that are possibly well meaning but are religious and it's happened on more than one occasion, in the States, in Toronto. I try to look at myself to see how I would respond.
Mike: What would you say is your major weakness?
Martin: "Sometimes I hate people. I don't even like being around people, don't even like ministering to people sometimes. Yet in all my weaknesses it still blows me away that the Lord doesn't feel that way towards me. It puts a heart cry in me to say 'Lord, I really want to love like you. Sometimes I detest being around people but you said let the people come to me and those who are weak and downhearted.' It almost makes me, not ashamed, but want to cry out even more 'God, make me like you, because I'm not like you.' It's the weaknesses in my life that cause me to cry out to God and creates worship in my heart. I am doing this radio interview today - sometimes people think Kevin Prosch is the music and all of the CDs and yet if only they could get inside my mind and heart and see that those things really mean absolutely nothing (though I am thankful for them) in comparison to what God has done in my life. The success is only a fleeting moment. You have a great concert then there you are alone in your room 30 minutes later. The anointing fading from you and you're in touch with your humanity because the anointing was never to lift you up. It was to touch the people. Then you come in contact with the reason why you're really called to be a servant. I always craved the anointing and used to say 'No Lord, don't take your anointing away from me.' As we get older we begin to mature. God says, 'I never called you to be anointed; I called you to be a servant. I called you to use this thing that you feel, this emotional, spiritual, as it were, power and high. You can enjoy that while it's on you, but remember it's never for you and if you find your pleasure in serving the people more than being anointed, you'll never be disappointed.' You can walk away from a meeting and say, well, it maybe didn't feel very anointed but I served, and that's what's he's called me to do, to serve.
Mike: You work in other areas apart from worship - evangelism
Martin: "I had a vision of forming a band a couple of years back called the Black Peppercorns for that very purpose, to bring worship and evangelism together. And they go well."
Mike: How do you relate love songs and songs about loneliness,
about pain to evangelism and worship?
Martin: "Worship has never been words that we sing. Words are just the vehicle that carry the emotion to God. You don't know how to bring that emotion to God so you'll take the words 'Jesus you are all together lovely" and that evokes an emotion in a way to which your faith and your hope and your disappointment can ride on those words up to God. Words are just the medium; it's not the words themselves. I wanted to do one thing, go into a bar and see the manifest presence of God. I'm learning more and more that it can be in the words. There's a song I've written, it talks about loneliness called 'Please'. It's the first track on the Black Peppercorns. 'Please don't leave, whisper some peace to me/Please don't go, give me some hope today/Is there anyone out there at all that understands the loneliness, understands the pain?' And yet I'm singing these songs exactly like I would 'We Give You The Highest Praise' of 'Kiss The Son'. Whatever the songs might be, I'm singing this same song although it's not saying anything about God; it's talking about pain and loneliness. When David wrote songs, incredible songs of 'Lord I feel your presence and your power' he also sang 'Lord, don't take your spirit from me' and I don't think that was a happy song. He had this vehicle of being able to sing about his pain, not only his triumphs but his weaknesses."
Mike: Is Revival coming?
Martin: "We're such insecure, fragile creatures. I found myself wanting this huge Revival to take place and yet there's so much sickness in my own heart. The joy of the Lord is there but then there's things that block me from loving people at times. I kinda worry, like, 'Gosh God, if you brought me into revival around me, I could do the stuff.' There's still people I don't touch, the people I look at and judge. I think everything that's happened up to this point from Toronto to Brownsville to all over the world I would like to see that we would get healed of things that are blocking us from truly reaching out to people. It's easy for me to reach out to people when I'm on this radio show and I'm feeling spiritual in this atmosphere. It's different when I'm alone and no one sees me. I would pray that in Revival. God would open up our hearts more to love, to what true love is because there's going to be lots of fish to clean. When there's a massive amount of people getting saved. It would be very intense. It would be very disappointing if we're unable to love them in every sense of the word. So, I don't know what it's going to look like. I just know that hopefully it looks like that there's people loving people who are weak and people who are loving people who will still disappoint them. Are you still willing to love after you've been disappointed? Half of my walk has been seeing people who have disappointed me, and I have to make the choice. I think revival starts in the heart. It is about preaching the gospel. It is about healing the sick and the broken hearted. But I think that there is a track that Jesus walked with his disciples for a season first, so that they could get their own lives healed up and I think that's happening now in the body of Christ. Hopefully through this movement of healing and us coming in contact with our emotions it's okay for a man or woman to cry, not only in worship but in their every day lives. I'm seeing healing taking place and that's a start."
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.