Conversation: Leeland and Jack Mooring
Opposites attract ... the lost
Since bursting onto the Christian music scene in 2006 with
the Grammy-nominated Sounds of Melodies, alt-worship outfit Leeland — led
by brothers Leeland Mooring and Jack Mooring — has been at the forefront
of a powerful youth worship revolution. The band’s sophomore release, Opposite
Way, spawned a challenging title track and subsequent online movement geared
toward turning the hearts and minds of a generation toward God.
Chad Bonham, a frequent freelance writer for Today’s Pentecostal
Evangel, caught up with Leeland and Jack during a brief break from the road to
find out more about their unique spiritual upbringing and their ideas on how
teenagers can reach their peers with the gospel.
tpe: What are some of your fondest memories of growing up in
JACK: Our parents were music ministers at various
Spirit-filled churches. So we practically grew up in choir practices. Mom would
have us help teach the choir their parts. We also listened to a lot of black
gospel music. When we started the band, people assumed we were listening to
groups like Audio Adrenaline and Newsboys, but we’d say, “No, we listen to John
P. Kee and Kirk Franklin.”
LEELAND: Our parents constantly made us aware of the
tangible presence of God, and not just at church. That’s what changed them when
they were young. It wasn’t church; it was the presence of God. So as young
kids, my fondest memories were being around some of the ministers and musicians
my parents knew and having them lay hands on me and prophesy destiny into me
and Jack and my little sister’s lives. I remember so many times when I was at
the altar in the presence of God. And I always enjoyed being on the stage and
worshipping with my parents and leading worship.
tpe: Does your church upbringing make you different from
other Christian bands?
JACK: It seems not a lot of people come from a charismatic,
Spirit-filled background into contemporary Christian music. On the other hand,
we’ve learned how similar we are to everybody else. God started to teach us
that He can use anybody, and you don’t have to share the same theology that I
I’m glad for our heritage because I think a lot of kids in
Christian music are missing out if they’re devoid of the gifts of the Holy
Ghost. What changed us, what molded us as a band, wasn’t just going to church.
It wasn’t just youth group. It was being in the altar and experiencing the
anointing and the presence of God. We want to bring that to Christian music in
a new way and have kids experience the Holy Spirit and not just experience
songs or worship moments.
Growing up, we went to churches that didn’t care as much
about the schedule as they did about the presence of God. If God moved, the
service might go 2½ hours. In the churches we visit today, I would love
to see a lot more people grab hold of that kind of ministry. Some of my best
friends got their lives radically changed in a 2½-hour service, and they
loved it. The Holy Spirit moved, and the presence of God was there. We want to
bring that to Christian music in a new way and really just make sure that the
kids are experiencing the Holy Spirit and not just experiencing songs or
tpe: What was the inspiration behind Opposite Way?
LEELAND: We came into the studio with the sense that young
people have a huge hunger to be part of something much bigger than themselves.
They have a huge hunger to be used by God in a dramatic way. The idea for
Opposite Way was just a verse and a chorus at the time. We kept listening to
it, and the Spirit of God just came in and showed us that this was the message
He wanted us to share through this record.
We really prayed about it and sought God, and He blessed the
whole three or four weeks we were in the studio. We were writing and finishing
songs left and right. Being the “opposite way” isn’t just trying to look
different from the world or making a conscious effort to be weird. It’s about
following the heart of God and following Jesus. Out of your walk with God and
your love for God, eventually you’re going to look and act differently from the
tpe: What are some of the issues you’ve seen your peers
JACK: We were in Michigan, and this speaker had the kids
write down on a sheet of paper their secrets. Volunteers brought the sheets to
him at the podium, and he began to read them out loud. The first thing he read
was, “I hate my father because he left me.” The second thing was, “I cut
myself.” The third thing was, “I was raped recently.” The fourth one was, “I
struggle with anorexia.” All of them were serious, deep things.
You hear that stuff all the time, and the only solution for
that is for these kids to experience the presence and the love and the grace of
God in a way that’s going to totally transform their lives. That’s what the
Opposite Way campaign is all about. And we’re starting to hear stories from
kids on our Web site about how God’s using them.
tpe: What are some practical ways teens and young adults can
walk the “opposite way”?
LEELAND: In our schools, a lot of kids have a negative view
of Christianity. So for Christian kids, they can show their friends Jesus. They
don’t have to preach the message down their throats, but they can show them
Jesus by being kind and by being encouraging. Don’t compromise your faith, but
let your life overflow with the love of God. Eventually it will be — as
the Bible says — like heaps of burning coals on your enemy’s head, and
it’s going to open the door to an encounter with them. They’re going to want to
know what it is that you have that makes you different and what gives your life
joy and purpose.
JACK: Another practical thing to do is, if someone has a
headache, pray for them. Believe that God can heal them. Small things like that
might not seem like a huge deal, but it’s being obedient to God. And to Him, it’s
a very big deal.
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