Joshua is the self-proclaimed millennial who was once told he should never sing. But today, he is leading worship for thousands of people in San Diego weekly. I sat down with Joshua to get to know a little bit more about how he came to leading at Rock Church, and why worship means so much to him.
Do you remember a specific time in your life that God undoubtedly showed up and it changed your relationship with him?
Ya. The first time God showed up in my life really changed the way I viewed Him. I always grew up believing in God because I grew up going to church. But from the time I was 9 or 10, I kind of suffered from seeing the church and knowing about God, but feeling a lack of meaning or purpose in myself. So it kind of sent me into a sense of depression until I was maybe 14. I had no purpose. I saw a lot of brokenness in my family and the church, so I didn't know or believe that God was good. I believe He existed. But the first time God showed up in my life was when I went up the mountains with a group of high schoolers and we did the camp thing, and it was great. But I was stubborn in my heart. It was three days, and I said, "Lord if you don't show up in these three days I don't know that I can believe that you're good." The first thing that God did was give me purpose. And I didn't sing before; I played a little bit of piano. Someone actually told me I should never sing and wasn't good at it. I got this vision, and it was not of me leading worship, but I was on the side of a stage watching people lead worship, but I had a sense that I was a part of this moment. I saw this congregation of people, and it gave me purpose. The Lord told me, "worship me, lead others into a life of worship, walk in humility" and that was the first time I called on God and he just flat out answered me.
So that's when you wanted to lead worship?
That was when I knew. Because I didn't have any idea of what it was even. I'd seen it in church, but you know all the names, Hillsong, Bethel, I didn't know any of that stuff. All I knew was on Sundays sometimes we sing songs. Funny story, the first time I was ever on stage was a year before this experience, and I was with Andre Hudson (East County Worship Pastor). He was leading worship at my church that I was at when I was 13 years old. He didn't ask me to sing, his wife was going to do a spoken word, and he just asked if I could play behind her. But it wasn't until I was 14 that God showed me that was what I was supposed to be doing.
That's the first time I knew I wanted to, and I feel like I was born to do it.
So what was your process of getting into leading worship?
So I didn't want to sing because I still had a fear of singing because someone told me I shouldn't sing. But I played the piano. So I got back from this trip in the mountains, and we were at church one evening, and people were messing around on instruments. My pastor came up to me and was like, "hey do you want to play piano for Sundays and he went to the worship pastor who was his wife, and she asked if I wanted to play keys. And I did, so I started doing it every Sunday. In that time, I started singing, but not with a mic. I was just playing and singing along, and I was actually singing harmonies. I had no idea what harmonies were; I just sang what I thought would fit into the music. One day the music director noticed it and said I should sing. Eventually, he said I should lead a song. I was so awkward and stiff. I sang "Give me Faith" by Elevation Worship. It probably sounded just awful. It was probably the worst thing ever. I was so nervous.
How long have you been leading worship at Rock Church?
About two and a half years I've been leading for our main worship. I've been here for almost five years, and I would do stuff with the youth ministry and lead there since I was about 17. Actually, with Drew Barragan (San Ysidro Worship Pastor). We did Youth Worship together which was really fun before he was worship pastor at San Ysidro.
Then, I came on and started being mentored by the worship pastor at the time and he invited me to come and start singing and be a part of the worship community. The funny thing is, when he had invited me he had never heard me sing before or anything. But he just invited me to come and be a part and hang out and learn from him, which was super awesome. It was one of the coolest opportunities. So I started leading worship.
Another funny thing is when I was 15 the year after I started singing and leading, I came to a Hillsong Concert at the Rock (I didn't come here at the time.) with my friend Dante. After the concert was over, we were just hanging out in the sanctuary, and he looked at me and said: "You're gonna lead worship here one day." And in my head, I was like, Wow. Sure. Hillsong was just here. In my head, there was no way that would happen. When I first led worship here, I did my first service at the 8AM, and I went backstage and bawled like a baby. I went backstage and sat down, and I just cried.
Was that the moment you remembered Dante saying that?
Yup. I remembered that. I remembered the vision the Lord showed me of leading worship. Everything just hit me at once. And Pastor Danny came up and started praying for me. I think they understood that it wasn't tears of sadness, but a holy moment.
Are their other worship leaders or groups that inspire your style of worship?
Coldplay and Beyonce.
Growing up, once I understood the calling on my life for worship, I immediately started listening to a bunch of worship music. I listened to a lot of Hillsong. I wanted to go to Hillsong College. Bethel. I love the freedom they have in worship, and there's a distinctness to every worship leader, and that's really cool. It's not a cookie cutter, it's different from person to person, but it's all powerful and authentic. Jesus Culture too. I listened to a lot of Jesus Culture. That passion for revival thing I was super stoked on.
Why is Night of Worship an important event?
It's obviously something that had just happened at the right time. The Lord obviously has His hand over it. The last one was freaking amazing. Having everyone come together and worship. I think God just wants to unify His church. So for everyone from every campus to come together to worship is an expression of love to God and expression of unity and love for one and another that we aren't just different churches scattered all over San Diego. Not even just Rock Church, we have the space to house people from our church and other churches that come in and, let's express our love together as one Church, big C church and that's entirely biblical. If the city sees that, if the people in San Diego see that, something in the Bible becomes real when Jesus says that "you will know me by your love for one another." That's super duper important. In the Psalms, it says God inhabits the praises of his people. When we lift up praises to God, His presence is there. He is always there, but what happens is our eyes our opened to His presence. But also in our praises, faith for Hgod is stirred up. We begin to believe more.
But if you're saying this truth like, "God I've seen you move the mountains I'll see you do it again," and it's true, faith begins to be stirred in people's hearts and life change happens that way. It's not just singing songs, it becomes written on your heart in those moments. People will remember the night of the rest of their lifes. For some it will be the catalyst for vision, for purpose, for relationship with God, for ministries God will put on their hearts, for forgiveness that needs to happen in families, for chains to be broken in their lives.
How do you worship God outside of Sundays? How do you spend time with the Lord and refuel?
The other day, I woke up at 5:30AM. Not on my own volition. And I woke up and I went to pray for about 30 minutes. I meditated on the Psalms for another 30 minutes. And then I read the word and got some tea and I prayed some more. That is the ideal. That I would wake up super early.
Dang so spiritual.
That is the ideal that every morning I would wake up before the Lord, but because I am in a process of learning discipline and progressing spiritually, it doesn't happen like that every day. But rather because I know that is the case and because I'm growing, whether I get that time and space in the morning or late at night, usually it's late at night because I'm a millennial and I'm like "I can't sleep until 3AM", you know I don't have kids or a wife so I can do whatever...
He's available, is what he's saying.
Ya, I'm single. Ha! If I don't get that time either late at night or in the morning, I have to make sure I'm carrying the presence of God with me throughout the day. I make sure that I'm worshipping in the things I do, in the way I speak to people, encourage, in conversations, or talking about the Lord with others or praying. I make sure I get some time alone. Even if it's just 5 minutes that I posture my heart before the Lord. It's not like God is one of the things you do with your day, it should BE your day. So that's what I strive to do.
If someone is reading this that isn't a Christian or is maybe new to their faith, what does it mean to "posture your heart before the Lord"?
Oh. Ya Christianese. The word posture is just basically to position. So if you position something or you put something in front of something else. We posture ourselves in front of things all the time. Sometimes we give ourselves over to those things. I could posture my heart before work. Everything in my life today could be put before work and work is the thing I give myself to; that I think about; that I worry about. I could posture my heart before a relationship. But if you posture your heart before God, if you position yourself before God and say, "Lord I give myself over to you. I want to adhere to you, to what your saying, to what you're doing. I want to be a part of your vision rather than anything else."
Tell me about the music you are pursuing outside of worship leading.
I do that outside of church because I really love music. I love worship music a lot, but I also love music and songs about life and love, and heartbreak and just funny things too. I am doing shows around San Diego right now and possibly in other places. I have some opportunities in LA and one in Idaho. And I'm working on recording my own music. So I just released an original that I wrote called "Golden State" with the Young Adult Director here. He is also a videographer, and he's one of my best friends and we were hanging out and he said, we should do a video. So we did. But I'm working on doing more thing slike that and putting out music. I don't have anything on iTunes or Spotify.
Yet. It's just a work in progress. It's kind of a scary thing putting out music. For me, singing worship songs on Sunday is a thousand times easier than releasing something that I wrote. If I sing a Hillsong song and someone says, "I hate that song" then I'm like, ok fine. But if I write this song and release it out there to the world and someone says "I hate it," it's like, my baby.
Ok so, these last questions are just for fun. A lightening round.
Morning or Night person?
Sweet or spicy?
Sweet. I wish it wasn't sweet, but it is.
You have a Sunday off, what do you do?
I probably visit another church in San Diego and then I come to the 6PM service and hang out with my buddies.
Ocean or mountains?
Hmm. That's a really tough one.
Especially in San Diego because you can have both.
You can have both. Ocean because it's harder for me to breathe in the mountains.
Logical. Ok, somehow you know it’s your last meal. Who would be there, what would you eat, and where would you be?
My 10 closest friends. And Chris Martin would be there.
Would he be singing in the background or would he have a seat at the table?
He would sit at the table and he's giving the toast. He doesn't have to sing at all. In fact, I'm going to sing. Ha! And we are eating ... oh my gosh. What are we eating? We are eating ... ... oh my goodness. I don't want to be a super green Californian, but I just want to be like, we're eating Acai Bowls. And they're super bomb.
You could literally eat anything and everything and you would choose Acai Bowls.
Or a California Burrito. Those two things.
Have them both.
We're eating California burritos and then we're eating Acai Bowls for dessert. We're somewhere in Japan, somewhere super pretty in Japan.
That's good. The End.