Worship leader Kari Jobe grew up traveling with parents in ministry before experiencing a "divine appointment" at the age of 10, when she decided to commit her life to writing songs to help people communicate their feelings to God. She's currently on tour with Chris Tomlin, but recently took a break to lead worship for 8,500 women at Gateway Church's Pink Impact Conference. When she's not touring or leading worship at Gateway, her home church in Dallas, Kari supports various anti-human trafficking organizations. She has numerous life-giving things to say about what it means to worship authentically both on and offstage.
You're currently on tour with Chris Tomlin. As a worship leader, how do you navigate the balance between performance and worship on stage?
That's a good question. It took me a little while. When I first learned to lead worship, I was focused on sounding good and not missing a note. It's natural to do that, but I think over time, practice makes permanent. As worship leaders our job is to be so in love with God that it's contagious and catches on for other people. For me personally, I need the Lord so much. There are just everyday things I'm going through, and I have to say, Lord, give me wisdom in this.
Worship for me is such a place of connecting with the Lord and laying down my burdens. If I'm able to do that on stage in front of people and not worry about what they think, it helps me look more authentic and not be so performance-oriented. But you can't lose people either—there are some worship leaders who don't care at all what the congregation's doing, and they often completely lose people. So there's got to be a good balance. I'm working on that all the time. I don't have it down yet.
You've recorded several albums in Spanish. What has that process taught you about worship in the global church?
I went to Colombia in 2005, and I just sang Hillsong songs in Spanish that I memorized. These people would come up to me and be speaking in Spanish really fast, but I'd have to say sorry, I don't speak Spanish. They told me I sounded authentic, so I thought there must be something to this. I got a coach and had my songs translated, and it's been cool to have that tool. I feel like in Latin culture, their hearts are so passionate, so when you meet them in worship they're weeping and crying out to the Lord. I feel like it's easier to lead worship in Latin countries because they're so genuine in worship.
What are some of the biggest hindrances people find worshipping in the United States today, and how do you encourage them to overcome those hurdles?
I think in America it's so easy to get what you need when you need it, and that translates over to our relationship with the Lord. I've been so accused in my own heart of not turning to the Lord until I need him. I'm often like yay, today's a great day, but if it's a tough day, I'm crying out to the Lord. I think there's a desperation we miss out on because of our culture, and I pray in my own life that I'd be a worshipper every day, no matter if I'm doing great or if I'm not. I'm learning to praise him when it's good, and praise him when it's bad, even though that's hard sometimes.
How did you get involved with the fight against human trafficking?
About six years ago I started working with the A21 Campaign, which is Christine Caine's ministry. When it first launched, I said keep me in the loop all the time, I want to do what I can, I want to go on trips with you and meet these girls. From my experience going to Greece, I found a lot of the girls being put in the brothels are ones sold from other countries like Italy and Bulgaria and a lot of other European countries.
One of the girls I met had just been rescued four days before I met her. She had jumped out of a two-story window at a brothel, found the hotline for A21, then was rescued by the team. She was from Bulgaria, but ended up in a brothel in Thessaloniki, Greece. She had no idea where she was—they had to let her know where she was. It's easy to think these people are stuck overseas, or this is way too big of a problem for us to try to tackle, but I believe we have to do what we can. I don't want the next generation to look at what our generation did and say, why didn't they do anything?
Movies like Not Today and Taken opened my eyes to the reality of this darkness in other countries, and how even here in the States, we have to be careful. It's not just girls being sold into slavery in other countries—there are actually predators who want to find girls and take them here in the States. So being aware, raising awareness, and supporting the ministries that are chipping away at this one day at a time is so important.
Allison J. Althoff is associate online editor of Today's Christian Woman. Follow her on Twitter @ajalthoff.