Kari Jobe's hitting the top of the charts in Christian music, but this week, she's taking a break from her nationwide tour with Chris Tomlin to lead worship for more than 8,500 women at Gateway Church's Pink Impact Conference. When she's not leading worship at Gateway, her home church in Dallas, she's traveling the world in support of anti-human trafficking organizations including the A21 Campaign. Here's what the 32-year-old worship artist had to tell TCW about her heart for worship, rest, and the local church.
You're currently on tour with Chris Tomlin, but you're taking a break to lead worship for thousands of women at Gateway Church in Texas this week. Why?
These crazy women keep showing up out of nowhere [laughs]. I am so thankful, because my home church is my covering and my accountability. I believe God's heart beats for the local church. That's where people are getting the most discipleship and healing and restoration, so I love it. I serve there when I can, like for this week's conference.
What have you been learning about women's ministry during your time in leadership?
I think a lot of women find themselves isolated doing life and family and juggling a lot of different things, and their own relationship with the Lord gets pushed to the side sometimes. Something I notice at the women's conferences I go to is the first night they're like deer in headlights because they're so glad to be by themselves for a minute. We're able to say, take off every burden and every weight you're carrying, lay it at the foot of the cross, and look to Jesus. Let this be a time for the Lord to remind you how much he loves you. You're nurturing all the time but you also need to be nurtured.
I feel like this is a theme of what God is doing in women right now. As leaders, it's important to stay in community and places where you have accountability and relationships with other women. It's easy to isolate yourself because it seems like too much effort, but if relationships begin to feel like they're too much effort, it's time to cut some other things out. The things you hold on to in life shouldn't be life-sucking—they should be life-giving. I'm speaking out of personal experience because I just went through a season of sabbatical. I got so busy that I was just too tired for relationship, and it's dangerous to do that. As women we think, the more plates I can spin the more I'm proving my self to be Wonder Woman, but we don't get any extra trophies for that.
I love ministering, but I can end up in a place where I'm not flowing from an overflow and am totally giving out of the leftovers. I don't think its fair to people as a leader to do that to them. It was good for me to step back, look at my calendar, then redefine what my relationship with the Lord is. It's asking God, who do you say I am? Because I think I forgot.
How did you get involved with music and leading worship?
I grew up singing because my parents were involved in music ministry in the Baptist church. We traveled a lot when I was a little girl, but when I was 10 we started going to a non-denominational, charismatic, Spirit-filled church. We would have these nights of worship that lasted for hours, and they cultivated something deep in my heart for the presence of God and pouring our lives out in worship to him. Not just knowing who he was, but letting him deeper into our hearts and experiencing his manifest presence. So that changed my life, and I just knew I had a calling. I'd hear these prophetic words or I'd hear people say, you have a gift, and I knew because I was just so impacted by the presence of God that I wanted to do that to help people.
I had a real, divine appointment when I was 10. Someone in my family was going through a divorce, and I heard this song by Michelle Thornberry. Its lyrics were something like, "I wait for the day when you will come home." It was saying how you will return to the Lord and realize he's what you need, not the things you've turned to in your life. Up to that point, I had listened to a lot of hymns, and I didn't realize music could be so powerful. I thought, I wish my family could hear this song, I really think it would help their situation—maybe they wouldn't even get a divorce. I just knew it would help them.
I remember saying to the Lord after that, I'd love for you to use my life like this, that I could write songs that would help people say things to you that if they don't know what they want to say, songs would help them. I didn't realize at 10 that was kind of a big prayer to pray. But that became a rudder in my life. I'm called to be a worshipper and to write songs for people to help them, and I can honestly say I really feel I've stayed that course. It's such a desire of my heart.
Speaking of the desires of your heart, are you married?
Not yet. That's my "faith" answer. It's a daily thing. It's such a desire as a girl when you're young to get married and you think, I'll get married when I'm 20, then I just turned 32, and I'm like, "Oh, Jesus!" I've had a couple of opportunities to get married, but there was not peace there. I've had to really realize I'd rather have the God thing than the good thing, and to know God has a plan and a purpose for each of us. If his peace is not there, I don't want it. I'm just waiting on his timing.
Years ago I thought I'd get married and do ministry as a married woman, and I specifically remember the Lord saying, I haven't said that for you. I just want you to walk through the doors I have for you, and I'll work that out when it's time. I'm so glad I obeyed his voice in that, because I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing today if I would've just waited around for what I thought my life would look like. God had a different plan in mind.
What are three things you'd like to encourage Christian women around the world to pursue in their faith walk?
Community, community, community. Surround yourself with people that love Jesus more than you and are always pulling you up. Be part of a faith-based church that's about building the kingdom. Also be sure to embrace the "right now." Don't always be planning so much about the future that you miss what God wants to do in this moment. It's such a "reality now" generation with Twitter and social media and reality television. I think Beth Moore said it one time at a Catalyst Conference: "Eat it before you Tweet it." Let things sink in and be for you right now in this moment—not for other people, and not for what's "cool." We don't want to look back in 10 years and say we had great social media but very few well fed disciples. It could be dangerous. I love social media, I'm a big fan of it, but I have to force myself to put my phone away at church. I don't need to capture the best quote my pastor says before everyone else does.