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2008 Conversations

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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 church?

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 do.

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 worship moments.

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 world.

tpe: What are some of the issues you’ve seen your peers struggle with?

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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