Israel Houghton discusses frustration with being asked to preach ‘Black’
By Maria in Christian News
In a recent interview, Israel Houghton, the Grammy Award-winning Christian singer and worship leader, said that he had his first real presence-of-God-experience when he was a very young boy. Houghton, who is known mostly for his cross-cultural style of Christian music that joins together gospel, jazz, and rock, is currently signed with Integrity Music and is a worship leader at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas.
Houghton was asked how he learned to worship God in spirit and in truth before ever learning to play an instrument. Houghton replied that his first real experience with God was when he was 5-years-old. He explained further that he had gone to an evangelistic event with his parents one night and when he was listening to the people giving their testimony, he started crying. He added that it was strange because he didn’t know what he was crying about.
Houghton went on to say that his mother explained to him that it was because God had touched his heart and he should always be open and sensitive to that feeling. Expounding upon the feeling of God touching him, Houghton stated that experiencing God is like someone who takes a drug for the first time and gets high, in which they spend the rest of their lives trying to achieve that same high that they had the first time. The difference though, according to Houghton, is that with God the feeling gets better and more beautiful the more you experience it. Houghton was then asked if he would explain how his music, which symbolizes the idea that worship is a universal expression which includes a mixture of ideas and cultures, came about in his worship style.
Houghton explained that because he grew up in a white family in a Hispanic neighborhood and he was Black, his music style came naturally to him. He said that his childhood cultural experiences in the church were so varied by traveling from church to church with different cultural races. Houghton added that when he was younger, people tried to force him into a certain style of worship. He said that white people would tell him not to do Black music and black people would tell him not to do white music.
Houghton said that one night when he was getting ready to lead worship services at a church, the pastor came in and told him to do his “hot Black music tonight.” Explaining that he gets sarcastic when he is uncomfortable, he said he asked the pastor, “Hey, pastor, before we go out there, I was just wondering: When we get to heaven, what section are you planning on being in for eternity?”
Houghton concludes the interview by saying that he tells pastors that he can lead worship the way they want him to, but anyone can do that, or he can worship the way he knows how to worship and maybe God will like it and really bless it. Houghton plans to keep on worshiping in his diverse style and he thinks people have now got the idea that he’s not going to stop and conform to their usual style of worship.