Dictionary.com gives the definition of pioneer in the following ways 1. a person who is among those who first enter or settle a region, thus opening it for occupation and development by others. 2. one who is first or among the earliest in any field of inquiry, enterprise, or progress. 3. one of a group of foot soldiers detailed to make roads.
For more than 15 years, well-respected worship leader Kari Jobe has been using her gifts to lead people into the presence of God. When she began leading worship at age 13, she never imagined she would be nominated for a GRAMMY®, win a Dove Award or be praised by the New York Times. She only knew she had a heart for broken people and a deep desire to lead them to the cross.
Pioneer? This may be the word that describes who Kari is and what she hopes to do as an artist.
I sat down with Kari and asked about her background. Where she came from, how she found Jesus and where is she going.
Kari is real. She didn't hold back. She has no problem sharing who she is and what she is about. Her new album, Majestic and where God is taking here. Admittedly, her greatest accolade always has been and always will be the opportunity to reflect Christ. “I don’t see myself any differently than when I was 13, just a worship leader,” she admits. “It’s just sometimes I open my eyes and there’s a few more people worshipping God with me.”
Kari: I was raised in a Christian family and my mom and dad did ministry, so we were in churches all the time. My parents sang, so as soon as I could pick up a mic I wanted to sing. I just thought that's just what we do, we sing (laughs). I just started falling in love with the fact that God ministered to people in worship. That it could reach people in their emotions and really help them in what they were facing. That they didn’t really know what they wanted to say, but that a song helped them. I just did music all during that.
As soon as I could be in the worship team at my church I did. Then in college I did the same thing. I just started really diving into just a lot of worship, a lot of leading worship and being on teams and stuff. When I went to Christ for the Nations I recorded Revelation Song for the first time. I would say that that song was a big game changer for me. I just started using it. People would start calling asking “Hey doesn’t the girl that sing Revelation Song go to your church.” I was a worship pastor at Gateway Church in Texas. The church just started letting me travel a little bit to go and minister outside the four walls of our building.
John: Were your parents much of an influence to you as far as helping you lead and worship. In other words are they musical as well?
Kari: Yeah absolutely. I sang with them when I was in young. My dad was the youth worship pastor and lead worship a lot for adult services and I just would sing on the team with him and my mom was on the worship team. I remember sitting, when I was six years old, listening to her sing the alto line of the worship songs at church. We would have these nights of worship at my church that would last two and three hours of just worship. People just sitting on the floor, all over the room, just to meet with God. I grew up in that kind of atmosphere and that kind of heritage where we just waited on the presence of God.
I got really impacted by the fact that depending on God is real, and it’s not just songs. We’re touching heaven with our worship and God is inhabiting the praises of his people and moving in a room and ministering. Speaking to people.
John: Kari you said one time, “Worship for me has always been such a rescue place in my life.” What does that mean when you say that? What’s behind those words?
Kari: This life that we go through comes with lots of surprises. Everyone has a hard time in life. With family or with friends. I had a very, very dear close family friend go to prison when I turned 18 and with the Lord over that. There are moments were it's just the deep sorrow in everyone's life. In that moment, I didn’t know what else to do, but to just turn worship music on or get my guitar out and start playing and pouring my heart out to the Lord. I realized that worship was just a place that God would meet with us and that I could say things, think things and pray. Just pray songs over my heart. In those moments its a song that was helping me say things to God or helping me find refuge and strength and hope.
Experiencing that for myself made me realize how powerful it is to be able to do that for other people and to help them do that through music. Probably what really made me do what I’m doing today because I just experienced that the transformation of my own life because of worship.
John: Yeah. I get it. You obviously have played a lot of both churches as well as church conferences in your musical career. Do you think the church here in North America is in a healthy place as far as worship is concerned?
Kari: I do. I think that we’re just in a really exciting season of seeing some denominational barriers come down. I could literally walk into a church and lead worship and not know what denomination I was in that night. We’re doing a lot of different churches from Assembly of God to Methodist to Baptist. People are just coming to church so hungry for a move of God and I think we’re just in a really exciting season in the church.
John: Speak about that for a moment. What does that mean when we’re at that season of a "movement of God?" I think there’s a lot of people that are expecting, almost sensing that type of activity from God moving upon His church. What do you hope to see? What does that feel like for you?
Kari: I think it’s because people are just so hungry for more. I’ve watched the church grow in the last 10 years. There are so many more people coming to church. Churches are having to do so many more services and I see that because I’m going into these churches and I used to do one service where now I’m doing five and six on a weekend because they’re having to do multiple services. I get to see a lot of different kind of churches all over the nation and internationally, London, Australia, different places. It just feels that people are just hungry for more of God. Not just wanting to come to church to get preached at, but they’re wanting to be interactive and feel the spirit of God move.
I think I would just say that it’s just people are hungry and learn a place of expectancy. When "two or three are gathered in My name," we're going to see things because God comes where He’s welcomed. A little more together than seeing you stare, but there’s something really powerful when people are saying God come and have your way. Come and move and just opening their hearts up to the Lord to let Him move, not just coming because it’s a weekly duty of “Well it’s Sunday. I should go to church.” People are coming because they want to be there and they are hungry for more of a move of God. I think that’s what we’re experiencing.
John: You just mentioned the verse where two are three are gathered in God’s presence. With that context, you set out into the making of the new record. In the context of community. You set out ona journey of making this record within a community type of approach. It wasn’t just Kari Jobe by herself. You had other people speaking into the songs. Some of those would include Paul Baloche, Matt Redman. You had Tomlin with you, Brian Johnson from Bethel Music, others. Was that a different approach for you compared to the other two albums that you made?
Kari: I always like to co-write. I love collaborating with other writers. On this album I mainly collaborated with worship and congregational church writers and people who get it. That really have a heart for congregational worship. That was my main theme and my main focus for the church and for songs people want to sing in church.
John: Was it fun to sit down with those guys?
Kari: Oh amazing. It’s amazing too to just sit down with people who have hearts and like-minded desires. All of us. Matt. Chris. Brian Johnson - that was our main goal in our heart. Just to see the church singing songs and anthems. To sit with them and just to hear what they’re sensing for the church, what I’m sensing for the church and what God wants to say. You know I think back to the stuff that we read in 1st & 2nd Chronicles about the Levites and how David would send the worshipers out first and that the worshipers would lead the way into war.
There’s something that is happening when worship leaders get together and we say what we’re seeing and what we’re experiencing because it’s the same today as it is back then in the Old Testament. We see things and we can sense what Gods doing. We are asking those questions of God. "What do you want to say to the church?" "What do you want the church singing?" It’s just powerful first to all do that together.
John: That’s quite an experience for sure.
Kari: Yeah it really is and to see what songs are working and what songs aren’t working. It’s like people and the army of Israel would get together and say “This is what’s working in battle and this is what’s not working." "We need to get rid of this and we need to keep doing this other thing.” It’s the same thing with the Spirit and we’re tapping in the church and in the spiritual realm. What’s working and what’s moving and what’s happening in the church in these songs? Let’s write some more of those.
John: Yeah. Kari this new record is a live album is a little different than other new records. I mean technically when an artist does a live record, they usually go through their catalog and sing songs from previous albums and that’s what makes the live record. You didn’t do that though. You became very vulnerable. You went out to a concert setting with a list of new songs and recorded them live. How was that process?
Kari: (Laughs) it was awesome. It was really exciting because people were just as soon as they were catching on that night they were singing them at the top of their lungs. It was just exciting. I think everyone knew too coming into that they were going to be new songs so there’s different kind of expectancy with that. People were ready. They’ve got their thinking caps on and they’re ready to go and they came ready to help me do a live album. You could tell. I told them before we pressed the record button, I don’t care if you sing, even if you know the lyrics or not.
I told them that I just want them to be interceding for the people that will hear these songs for the first time. That I want to capture the sound and I want to capture an atmosphere on worship on the project that doesn’t have anything to do with the lyrics. It just has everything to do with the spirit of God being welcomed into this room and moving on this album. There were times you could hear people praying and times you could just hear people speaking the name of Jesus and that’s just as powerful as them singing any of the songs or any of the lyrics. We’re capturing the sound of worship. It was pretty amazing how people just showed up to really help me do the album.
John: Kari are you a book reader?
Kari: Sometimes (laughing).
John: What’s on your book shelf right now that you’re reading?
Kari: That’s awesome of you to ask because I just downloaded a new one last night from Bill Johnson called Hosting the Presence. I’m reading that. I’m readings Christine Caine's book Undaunted. I like to read books that really challenge me to keep moving forward and being a pioneer and being someone who just wants God. Wants and wants to be a vessel of the Holy Spirit. I read some dangerous type books (laughs).
John: Do you view yourself as a pioneer?
Kari: I do, yeah.
John: Yeah, kind of breaking new ground in a sense.
Kari: Yes, that’s what I hope to be or I would like to be known as a pioneer in worship.
John: Yeah I think that’s a good name for you.
Kari: Thank you.
John: Moving away from the record besides leading worship, what else do you really enjoy doing?
Kari: I love longboard skateboard. I went for a skate this morning.
Kari: The weather’s amazing here today. I love shopping. I have a new baby nephew and he’s amazing. I’m a daughter, I’m a sister and a longboard skateboarder and I’m really a fanatic about social media (laughing).
John: That’s awesome. Where can we find you on Instagram?
Kari: Just my full name Kari Jobe.
John: Got it. Kari thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today. I really appreciate it.
Kari: Yeah absolutely.
The truth is, Kari may now lead worship for thousands around the world, thanks to an expanding platform, but for her, the songs birthed for Majestic have nothing to do with her. “It’s not about me,” she emphasizes. “If it became about me, that would be dangerous and wrong. It’s about Him. It’s a great honor and a great responsibility, but it’s not any different than me just living my life every day needing Him in my circumstances.”