The Stream of Praise (SOP) International Leadership and Worship Conference 2005 is now underway at Costa Mesa, Los Angeles. As the world’s leading international Chinese Christian music ministries, more than its worship and praise that gives grace to many thirsty souls, its work has helped local churches bringing people to Christ and changing lives.
To understand more about how SOP has been using music in mobilizing missions among Chinese Christians, Gospel Herald has interviewed the pastoral minister of Stream of Praise Music Ministries, Pastor Dennis Chou.
D: Pastor Dennis Chou
R: What is the role of the Pastoral Department played in the Stream of Praise (SOP) Music Ministries?
D: The pastoral team primarily engages in the edification of our staff and members because we believe that praise and worship is not just about song and singing but also about a way of life. How you glorify God by the way you live, we also believe praise and worship is not just on stage but also off stage. Since most of our staff members are relatively young, they do require pastoral care. So that’s our role, building up the word of the Lord and in prayer and also general counseling for young people as well. We work in conjunction with the local churches here and we host events there. We have close working relationship with local churches, some of work we do together with them and some of the work we do at SOP.
R: What kind of work specifically the pastoral department does?
D: One thing that we do, is building them up with the word. Every Wednesday night, we have Wednesday night worship, where a lot of young people come to our ministry center to just have a meeting together. It’s similar to a Sunday service, but not exactly a Sunday service, we have worship and word followed by a time of ministry. We have some preachers in our ministry.
R: How does SOP ministry serve the local Chinese churches in terms of worship and praise as well as mission?
D: We serve local Chinese churches by working with local pastors to build up worship teams because God has given SOP a very unique gift to praise and worship in Chinese and we want to share this with the local churches. We try to offer what we can for the local churches when it comes to praise and worship. As far as missions, SOP goes on tour every year. This year, we had close to 80 concerts all over the world. During Asia Tour, we went there for over one month. The young people join SOP in this missions trip for them to experience ministry. Actually a lot of young people have found their calling by going on these missions trip.
R: Does SOP only focus on the young people?
D: SOP not only appeals to the young people but the old people. If you notice on the conference, there are a lot of middle-aged people and old people as well. At our SOP ministry center we focus on young people, but we don’t exclude old people.
R: How do you use your music ministries for missions?
D: Music ministries working in conjunction with missions is a powerful combination because music appeals universally to everyone. There are a lot of people who love music, even though they may not be willing to sit for two hours for sermons, but if you ask them to sing a song, go to a concert, they will readily go with you. When we employ music ministries in our church, we found that this was a useful tool to reach people. They will readily accept Jesus and readily receive the word.
R: The Christian music is a powerful tool to touch the spirit of people. People can be very moved by the Holy Spirit through music and it lights the fire in their hearts, for example those who have committed themselves to Christ when attending the SOP tour. However, the grace can be momentary. How do they retain the grace for the long-term spiritual growth?
D: That’s why we work in conjunction with local churches, and also churches across the world. We are like a spark. There might be people dry and disappointed, we set a flame. They sit there, they listen to the sermon, and they accepted Jesus. It’s like the spark of fire that has lighted up their heart. To keep that fire glowing, we need people on the side to fan the fire. So the local pastors are the people to sit beside the fire and fan it, building them up to maturity.
R: How about the SOP ministers? How can they remain graceful as they empty themselves and share grace during worships?
D: The foundation of our faith is so important. Because even as time gets longer, there are people who get tired. But when you build a foundation in young people’s lives, there should always be a strong foundation for them to build them up to a higher level. That’s why we have Wednesday worship night every week and rehearsals every other week, to keep the spirit of the ministry through the fellowship. When young people come to the worship center, even when they are weak, they get lightened up again.
R: To become good worship leaders, other than technical skills, what are the spiritual characters that are required from them?
D: If you attended yesterday, Pastor Robinson, one of the main speakers. He said that humility, submission to local leadership, having a mentor. These are key teachings not only for young people, but for all people, because we are not running a hundred meter but a lifelong marathon. So we build this foundation for people’s lives, so they are not only aspired to be high but they are willing to go low as well.
R: What is your expectation for this conference?
D: God will show up at every meeting and people will come to know Jesus. It is not about SOP, but about Jesus. So far, I am happy that most people are encouraged.
R: What is your vision for the second generation Chinese?
D: I think it’s a constant challenge for churches to minister the second generation Asians just because of a disconnection in culture. My burden is that by offering bilingual conferences, such as what we are doing here, we can appeal to both- the Mandarin speakers and English speakers- and then bring the strength to each other. The common goal is to bring the gospel to the Chinese people. There is something we want to focus on Chinese worship, which is where we believe the need will be and that is where God wants us to be.
Pastor Dennis Chou is a graduate from the University of Minnesota in 1989, he holds a Bachelor Science degree and a Master of Science degree in Electrical Engineering. God has placed in him a spiritual zeal for him to be willing to transform from a software developer to become a pastoral minister. He has special anointing in preaching and teaching the Word of God, especially in bringing others back to basic truths of the simplicity of the faith.