Sometimes the journey is every bit as significant as the destination. For worship leader, songwriter, Worship Central team-player and speaker Kees Kraayenoord, the story so far is every bit as good as they get.
“I was born and raised in a traditional Dutch Reformed church,” Kees explains. “That means I grew up going to church that had a big pipe organ and listened to sermons preached by a guy dressed like a judge, raised high above us. I remember wanting to sing the harmonies when I was young but my mum would stop me. In a church like that music was never meant to be too joyful.
“In those days I hated church. I hated those two hours of my Sunday morning that were spent sat on those wooden pews. It seemed like God had left the building.”
Little wonder, then, that Kees turned his back on both the church and the faith of his family. Yet his days dabbling with Heavy Metal and a rejection of God were limited. In time – and thanks to the song ‘All Of Me’ by Stryper – he heard the call the return, and trod the well-worn path that all prodigals know.
Joining an evangelical church, it did not take long before Kees started leading worship in the youth group. Aged 17 he became involved with Youth With a Mission (YWAM) where he was encouraged to not only develop his musical gifts, but to strengthen his knowledge of Jesus Christ and learn what he could about the heart of worship. The more he grew, the greater his involvement became in Christian music and worship projects. Having decided that leading worship was right for him, Kees and his wife Nicole both took the step of studying theology at university. Just like pastors and missionaries prepare themselves for ministry, both felt that it was imperative that they prepare themselves for their particular ministry. 2003 saw the release of ‘This Is My Cry’, his debut album that spent weeks at number one in the Christian Praise charts, thanks in part to the immense popularity of the song ‘God of the Moon and Stars’. Written by Paul Field, the song talks about the Gospel in a surprisingly honest way. With lyrics that confront the worshipper with the realities of how none of us match up to God’s standards – but who are all saved by grace – the song has been used by countless people desperate to reach out to those too often forgotten by society. The video went a little viral as the song struck a chord with worshippers around the word, bringing the hope and redemption at the heart of the gospel to groups that are too often marginalized and abused.
More albums have followed, and Kees has become a trusted leader. Kees has clearly learned well on the journey so far, reflecting frequently on the nature of worship and the steps we need to take:
‘Sometimes we can think that worship is about the steps we take - the lifting of hands, the progression of chords, the arrival at the top of some musical mountaintop where we are left gasping for breath at the sheer beauty of the view. And, yes, it’s good to talk about production, to value our music and put effort into the Sunday morning mornings, but all of these are meaningless without the right heart behind them.
‘If we remember this one simple thing - that Jesus changed everything about how we worship - then maybe we’ll find that our worship itself will draw even more people to God.’