5 Questions with Israel Houghton

UNITE editor Kyle Patterson with Israel Houghton
Interview with Israel Houghton by UNITE Editor Kyle Patterson

You see where you are at now, but really it is 20 years of music behind you. Often times people think that it is an overnight process and God elevates someone that quick. Can you touch on the process that he brings someone like you through?

I think it all works together. If you look at the collective of 20-21 years, you start out with a dream, a what if and to see some of it come to pass like the things you would have never dreamed or if you did you would have never told anyone, then to live out some of the things you imagined happening, is pretty amazing. Yet I think the key to longevity is humility. Just staying low and staying small and constantly acknowledging the fact that we actually had nothing to do with it except being obedient and God orchestrated the rest.

Can you touch on keeping the balance between connecting people to God as a worship leader and the praise and appreciation of man with all the awards you have won?
I went to the Dove Awards in 1995 and it was the first time I went and I sat way up at the top of the arena. Michael W. Smith got up and I think that year he won no kidding like his 30th Dove Award, some crazy number and people made a big deal about it. He got there to accept it and he said, "This is just one more thing that I get to lay at the feet of Jesus." You know how you'll hear a certain comment and it'll just reverberate and you know you will never forget that? I think that made a lasting visual impression on my mind and heart that it doesn't matter what the earthly accolades are, none of them compare to the signature of God on your life and you can never confuse the two. It is great to be acknowledged by our peers as  musicians and artists and that sort of thing but really whatever that hardware is, you take it and lay it at the feet of Jesus.

What would you say to an aspiring Christian musician today who is caught in the trials of life but with a heart to lead worship?
I would say, I don't know if this applies to everybody but for me, when I stopped chasing it, when I just  said, Jesus is all I want is you and I want to know you and be used by you but I am not going to chase a career, I am not going to chase the accolades, I am not going to chase the stage. For those reading this and are serving at a local church, serve in the local church like it's the thing, the only thing. I meet a lot of people who are frustrated serving in a church and are frustrated and looking ahead for the next big thing. I am like you are in the next big thing right now, the power of the local church, serve there and let the doors open up. The most frustrated people I've met are trying to kick down doors as opposed to allowing God to open the doors for them.

Can you touch on what it is like working with Joel Osteen at Lakewood?
Yeah, it has been fantastic, I have been there 10 1/2 years now on staff. I think there are a couple things that really stand out to me. One, when I agreed to come on staff the church was obviously growing but nowhere near what we have seen happen in the last 5 years. So, there is something to be said about believing God for big things and then watching them happen around you. And secondly Joel as a person is exactly who he is on the platform as he is off. He is just humble, very, very disciplined, very very focused on what he is called to do and he has been an amazing example to me and my family as to how to face down your critics, he has had a lot of critics, and yet he has just sort of shaken it off and stayed the course. His whole thing is that he is going to give hope to people and teach people to think differently if they can think differently they are going to live differently. I just applaud, man, his tenacious faith and to see history happening around us has been remarkable.

You have seen so much happen already, are there unfulfilled dreams or things you would still like to see happen in your ministry?

Oh I think always, our heart really is to expand what we have seen God do in our ministry. So we are in the process of expanding into South Africa and developing a group down there called New Breed Africa and I think it is the precursor to a lot more expansion, different continents, different teams and that sort of thing. Almost looking at it like church plants in the sense that we know what we are called to do, we accompany the sound of the church and all of us serve in our local church as well and I think that is very important and that is the criteria for being a part of this group. But we want to see that expanded, I look forward to doing a lot more behind the scenes though I love leading worship.