Kevin King of Grace Worship: Christ Be All ‘Home Edition’ (Part 1)

John FarrellBy John Farrell12 Minutes

John Farrell: When did you start singing?

Kevin King: Out of the womb, I guess. I remember I was the kid in kindergarten singing on the bus. I just belted out Disney songs thinking everybody wanted to listen. I look back now and go, “Oh my gosh, I hope my son is not that kid.” But, I’ve been singing as long as I can remember.

JF: What is Grace Worship and what is your role with Grace Worship?

Kevin: Grace Worship’s vision is that we’re a family of worshipers serving to unite the church, to treasure Jesus through theologically rich and creatively beautiful art. We’re the worship ministry at Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria, Illinois. I’m the Worship Director at Grace. Our church is over 150 years old and by God’s grace has this wonderful joining of generations. We have people who are over a hundred to newborns and all in between.

I think in our culture and in our world there are many things that bring people together, but worship can be a very divisive tool. So, we have been wanting to create content that would serve to unite the church. Treasure Jesus together. That’s really where the “Christ Be All” EP was birthed from. It’s really just the heart for our own church and we’ve watched the Lord really do amazing work to bring our church family together. Many churches don’t survive treks like this of bringing generations together in worship. Jesus has been patient and loving to us, and it’s really just been a wonderful thing.

There are so many churches that are in our same boat, and I think would benefit from content like this. So, we just try to be helpful to not only unite our own family of worshipers, but others as well.

JF: If someone were to ask you to describe Grace Worship’s sound, what would you say?

Kevin: I’d say that our sound comes also from our vision that we want to be rooted in the history of our faith. We want to have some sort of connection to songwriters who have blessed countless others and to show that there’s value in what has come before us. And at the same time, we also want to reach ahead. We want to be rooted and we want to reach recognizing that God is an endlessly creative God.

There are poets and artists and musicians today that are creating and crafting wonderful works of art. If you look at the history of art, each era of art kind of depicts the hearts of its people, and we don’t want to miss out on the current cultural heartbeat of today. I would say our sound would be something that you would listen to and go there’s richness to this. It’s not just skin deep, and yet it includes the modern influence of today. There’s still creativity to it that is within the current cultural setting.

On the album, you’ll see there is inclusion and nods to — I hate to use the word traditional or contemporary because there’s so many connotations with those words — but I’ll just say, for example, in many of the songs there’s orchestration used. In “Calvary’s Anthem,” we have a full orchestra. In “Love of God,” there is a string quartet that really carries you through. Those would be categorized as more traditional aspects of worship, and yet we combine them with band-driven songs at the same time.

All of that is to say that we want to be a people that looks and goes we can unite to treasure Jesus. And that even in the arrangement of our songs there is beauty and value in what we’ve been rooted in, and then there is beauty and value in how we’re moving forward.

The Heart of the Music

JF: What is the overall message you want your fans to take from your music?

Kevin: I think the message would be that treasuring Jesus is the main aim, endeavor, and purpose of our life. We can get caught up, especially in the realm of worship, in preference or style, but Christ is sweeter. He is better. We want to create music and art that helps people love Him and unveil the gospel to them. We would hope ultimately that when people would listen to Grace Worship, they would understand who Jesus is better and they would love Him for it.

JF: How many artists are currently a part of Grace Worship? Outside of the piano, what instruments do you play?

Kevin: I’m really more of a specialist in this area than a generalist. My Master’s is in vocal performance and I played piano and took piano up through my grad career. I am an utter novice at cello, and I took one guitar class in undergrad. You’ll never see me play anywhere because I’m not good. So, really just vocal and piano.

But Grace Worship, like I said, is made up of the worship ministry at Grace, and we are blessed too because we are such a heritage church and the legacy that Grace has had is they’ve always loved music. When I entered the worship ministry at Grace five years ago, I felt like I entered this toy store for musicians because there are talented band players, talented vocalists, a substantial choir, and an orchestra. They just love art and music. So, it was a really wonderful environment for me to walk into.

I couldn’t give you a count of how many people are a part of Grace Worship because it would be a lot. I don’t have an exact number if you added everybody up, but we do a lot to keep together. I’ll do things a couple of times a year. We’ll do worship collectives, which is a night where we’ll cater a meal for everybody in all the worship and media departments, and then we’ll have a message that I’ll give. It’s on our vision and our values, and then we’ll worship together. That’s kind of my hope knowing we are big, we are kind of segmented in different ministries, but we’re all under the same vision. We’re all moving together. We try to keep things moving together.

JF: What sets the music on this EP, Christ Be All, apart from your previous music?

Kevin: I think what sets this apart, as a personal artist, is that this project really is out of love for Jesus and His church. This is something that we are hoping that people behold Jesus through.

The biggest compliment I’ve received has been other worship leaders emailing me wanting to do some of the songs. And it’s just awesome. That’s just so humbling to me. I would say that would be different.

Me personally, I’ve grown up performing on stage ever since I was a kid up through college and in grad school. So, I’m used to a stage and I’m used to performing, and I’m used to delivering an aria and being in operas or musical theater. Leading worship, there’s just nothing like it … to know that the art that you’re offering helps people love Jesus and literally can change their lives. For me, there’s no higher endeavor in art. I think this project comes from that heart … it really is to glorify the Lord and for the good of His people.

JF: What is your favorite musical theater role or production that you’ve been in?

Kevin: I was the Beast in “Beauty and the Beast.” I don’t know if that was my favorite, but I had a lot of fun doing it. That’s a hard question to pick a favorite. I just enjoy the experience. I’ve done a lot of different roles. I’m usually the leading guy who kisses the girl.

Then I entered the opera world when I went into undergrad and grad school. That was not a world I really knew, but I ended up falling in love with it. It’s a different thing to become a character and have a story be told through your portrayal of it. I think that’s awesome.

Now. leading worship, you can take it into the bit of a realm of going what’s the song portraying about Jesus and how can I embody that? Like if I’m going to sing “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” but I look dead, am I honoring the Lord and also the song and what we’re trying to express about the Lord? I don’t want to say you become a character because it’s not falsehood. You want to honor the truth that you’re singing about more than knowing how you feel at the time. There are times that it doesn’t matter because sometimes I’m just complacent. Sometimes I walk out there and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, it’s morning?” It doesn’t matter, but I need to display the Gospel and whatever avenue we’re doing.

I think some people who aren’t performers would hear that and go, “Oh, you’re just so fake.” But it really isn’t. It’s me going, “There’s a better and truer reality that I want to help unfold.”

Featured Image Credit: Grace Worship’s YouTube