If I know it correctly, music has been a part of your life since early childhood. How did praise and worship become a full-time ministry for you?
Yes, indeed, I started humming songs as a small child, and then I took music theory classes and things like that. It was a pastor friend of mine who first said that I had a calling for worship and music. At that time, I was not too intentional about my future or my ministry. Thinking back, I always summed up that period of my life by saying I was just tagging along after the happenings of my life. God kept showing me new things, exciting and unusual things, and I just tried to say yes to His calling, and taking one step after another. It has not been an intentional, well-planned travel but a path where only the next step was visible. Most often, people create a ‚frame,’ and then they fill it up with content. However, in my case, it was other way around. It was the words of this pastor friend of mine that first made me realize that I was somehow supposed to be involved in worship full time. I recognized then that I was not just going to write one or two songs but lots and lots, and by sharing them with others, I would let people know God better and draw closer to Him.
How are new songs born in you?
To write a song, I need peace and privacy. Sometimes I get sudden inspirations, and my family knows they have to leave me alone. They go to the mall, to the playground or come up with a programme for themselves while I work. They are very attentive and flexible. Song writing is like labor. Once the process starts, it cannot be interrupted. The longest time I ‘carried’ a song within me was four months. Then at a most unexpected moment, the last few lines of the song were born! My mobile phone is a very useful tool for the songwriting process. When I have a tune or a lyrics fragment in my mind, I get my phone right away, and I record the lyrics or the melody. Inspiration sometimes comes while I’m shopping or driving. At times like that, I move aside and quickly record my thoughts or the tune, and I also make some notes regarding the theme and style of the song. I never let a single letter or note go to waste. At this very moment, I have around 600 such ‘seedlings’ recorded on my phone. From these fragments, later I create the songs. During long winter nights or whenever I have the opportunity, I listen to them and slowly but surely, the verses and choruses come to life, and these Heaven-initiated songs become reality. This is how I work, how I write songs.
There are lots of songs in your repertoire, so how do you choose which ones to sing at a particular event?
At the concerts, I usually do not prepare a list of the songs which I intend to sing. I try to adapt the program to the particular location and audience. I get a first impression after the first few lines, and that helps me decide which way to go with the concert. I size up the composition of the audience, how many children are present, how many of them are Christians, etc. I try to find out as much as I can about the audience. I do this because I want my message to reach their hearts. I receive a lot of help at my concerts from my wife who knows from a gesture or a word what song I have in mind. If I manage to connect with the audience, the concert has reached its purpose.
Do you never get bored singing the same songs a thousand times?
Not at all! It is not boring, because it inspires me that I can communicate an everlasting message through my songs. If even one person among the audience understands that message and is transformed, that is a great joy for me.
What does it mean to you to praise and worship God?
I do believe that worshipping God is not limited to singing in the church. Maybe it sounds trivial, but I believe that worship is a lifestyle. We can worship God at the bedside of our feverish child or at a wedding ceremony, or even at a funeral. The worship of God is an important part of our life where we praise Him for His greatness, kindness, and grace, by ourselves or in the company of others. In church services, the worship usually starts with faster praise songs and then switches to slower, more worshipful ones. The essence of worship, besides experiencing fellowship with one another, is for my heart to be connected to God’s heart. If my relationship with God is right during the week, it does not matter at all whether we start with a faster or slower song, or which one we finish with, I can simply be attuned to Heaven and enjoy God’s presence. The key to my worship and praise is knowing that I am God’s child. I cannot ever thank Him enough that I can know Him, and in Jesus I can be His son. I write my songs about this liberating miracle. All that I do in my life is a response to God’s love towards me. The Bible says He had loved us even before we were born. There is no other response to this great love than standing in awe of the personality of God which transcends all imagination.
Many people love your songs and grow in their faith through them, but you probably also get some negative feedback or even aggressive criticism. How do you handle them?
I think this has a lot to do with temperament. In my life, in my career, I have met lots of people who could not care less about what people told them, and they were able to go on as if nothing had happened at all. I think it is really important not to overestimate praises like ‘you were so cool, it was such a great concert!’ I dismiss these. For the same reason, a negative opinion will not upset me either, I try to stand somewhere in the middle. If someone loves what I do, I praise God for it. Of course, every now and then, there are people who do not like something about me, and I hear about that as well. I do filter the comments which appear on Facebook and on You- Tube. I do not control opinions, but if the commenter uses bad language or obscene words, I do not let them go public. Honestly, we do come across those sometimes, but they don’t freak me out because I’ve toughened up. Ever since I played the first note on the piano or released my first tape, I have constantly had to face negative comments like, ‘This is not the way to do it!’. When I made my first children’s album, somebody gave me the ‘friendly advice’ to forget it at once because there was no need for that type of children’s music. If I had ever paid attention to these comments, I would probably have given up my music career at the very beginning, and I would never have become such a useful tool in the Master’s hands, and He could not have accomplished in and through me all that He had planned for my life.
For decades you have been leading worship, travelling through the country, giving innumerable concerts. Don’t you get tired? How much longer do you think you will be able to continue doing this?
My answer is very simple – I want to be doing it as long as God wants me to be doing it. I was not the one who decided the starting point of my ministry, and it is not my job to decide when it should end either. As long as I am receiving songs from God, I would like to share them.