Tony Cummings questioned drummer James Porter and bass player Pierre Smith of South Africa's WHOLEHEARTED
South Africa's Wholehearted are the worship team of the Every Nation church in Somerset West, just outside Cape Town. But they are much more than that. They are carriers of a powerful spiritual militancy exhorting the Church to make a radical difference in this world. In fact, the band are currently touring the UK with aid workers Tim and Maz Walker to raise awareness of an initiative helping children infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. Cross Rhythms quizzed Wholehearted's drummer James Porter and bass player Pierre Smith to find out more about the band's history and vision.
Wholehearted began in 2010 at the Every Nation church. Explained James, "We were blessed to have a bunch of really talented musicians who were also worshippers and within that group some really great songwriters too. It became evident that as we grew both as a worship team and a church, God was directing us more towards writing our own songs and using them in our worship." Added Pierre, "We also wanted to write songs to the Church as a whole about living out our faith and getting active in our worship. Challenging songs that would move people to action."
As the songs began to flow from the creative pens of Wholehearted's Pierre and Helena Smith, Brian O'Neil, Charl Folscher and Albertus Mostard the idea of recording an album began to emerge. As it turned out, the quality of and reception to 'Wholehearted Worship' was beyond everyone's expectations. Pivotal in any worship is, of course, the songs and 'Wholehearted Worship' had strong material in abundance. James picked out three. "The track 'Wholehearted' (written by Charl Folscher, Albertus Mostert and Giovanni Cirillo) is really a call and a challenge to the Church to get off their butts and act out their worship in every aspect of their lives. It contains the phrase 'I'll waste my life on you' which is a reference to the woman who 'wasted' a jar of expensive perfume on Jesus' feet. It cost her a lot and that is God's call to us - 'Don't bring me a sacrifice that costs you nothing'. The other aspect to it is that when we worship and serve our King, the world looks on and says, 'What a waste of a life, he/she could have done something so much more, achieved more recognition or been more financially secure.'
"On a similar theme 'Live Out Loud' (penned by Pierre Smith and Albertus Mostert) is a call for us to not live timid lives that have no lasting legacy but to live all out, passionate for the cause of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and again it is something that should happen every minute of every day. Handri De Villiers' 'This Is Love' is about the grace of God. It is a humbling reminder that we can do NOTHING of to gain God's favour and that its all about his love and acceptance of us which all hangs upon Christ's sacrifice. We are SO undeserving."
As well as challenging lyrics fused to inventive pop rock arrangements, the album has a sonically satisfying production from Pierre Smith. It was eagerly embraced not only by Every Nation church members but by believers across South Africa. Said James, "We have been really blown away by how the album has been received and the doors that God has opened to us and is continuing to do so. We were nominated for Best Christian Contemporary Album at the South African Music Awards, SAMA. The SAMAs are South Africa's Brit Awards covering a wide range of musical styles and we were nominated and also performed at the award ceremony. So, although we didn't win, we still had the opportunity to proclaim the Gospel. How awesome is that! The video for 'Wholehearted' is also a finalist now at the San Diego Annual Christian Film Festival and was also nominated sixth for Best Music Videos for 2010 on a local secular television station. You can see that at www.youtube.com/watch?v=MMMKIf7M9xk"
Wholehearted's full time touring band of Daniel Botha (drums), Pierre Smith (bass), Handri de Villiers (electric guitar), Helena Smith (vocals), Charl Folscher (acoustic guitar and vocals), Jacqueline de Villiers (keys and vocals), Brian O'Neil (acoustic guitar and vocals) are currently on a short tour of the UK with Tim and Maz Walker who head up The Village Of Hope which is part of the larger charity Thembalitsha. Explained James, "Thembalitsha was established by Frank Christie who is the lead elder at Every Nation Somerset West so we have known them for a long time now. Just coming back to the vision of Wholehearted, it is that we live out our lives for the glory of God; and serving the community, reaching out in practical ways that are undergirded by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is part and parcel of that life."
Added Pierre, "We attempt to bring worship and justice together. Scripture is full of passages where God challenges his followers on this topic. He contrasts worship with the injustice and unrighteousness in the world, and even declares that the kind of fast he's chosen is one where we break the chains of injustice and set free the oppressed. (Is 58, Amos 5:20 on, and a whole lot of other references.) To worship in Spirit and in truth is just that. We worship God from our spirits, with our spirit man, but then that has to translate to God's truth settling in our lives, changing us and others."
Refreshing to find worship musicians keen to see a radical outworking of our worship, Cross Rhythms turned to a hot issue question - has contemporary worship music been over-commercialised? Responded James, "Personally, and I speak for myself and not for all the other members of the team, I believe that has to do with heart. Commercialisation speaks of a motive of gain rather than give. I would not want to point the finger at any Christian worship musician and say that he/she is doing it for personal gain as only God sees the heart of man, but I am convinced that it is a real danger and that we can and will make mistakes in this area but God will bring down the proud and exalt the humble. It is up to us to stay humble and to listen to him. There is no point in churning out song after song, album after album, if it is not something that God has called you to do. It won't achieve anything. Having said that, I do think it's good to have lots of different bands/churches contributing songs to the wider Church, be that Hillsong, Tim Hughes or Wholehearted! We all bring a different musical flavour but also song lyrics that reflect different aspects of God or just another way of offering up praise and thanksgiving. We can't ever exhaust that! There are also songs based on our own journey and those journeys, although very personal, can resonate with other people and bring encouragement in their own walk. Making money from worship is not a new thing and actually the Levites in the Old Testament were supported by the rest of the people so they could focus on the giving of worship and the offer of sacrifices. Some of those guys were musicians whose sole purpose was to offer up praise and worship. It's whether we are seeking the money and the fame. One Proverb that really stands out to me is, 'The heart of a man can be tested by giving him a little fame'. I think that says it all!"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.