*** DEBUG END ***

Noel Robinson worship singer and composer

12 December 2014

"Because I'm black, people assume I'm going to dance and clap hands, and I do; but that's not all I do"

I've been leading worship for 25 years, and been a part of the worship fraternity, in total, 30 years.

It began with what I believe was a call from God. I started to lead worship in my local church, and began playing in the Graham Kendrick band. This led me to working with Kingsway Music and Integrity Music, Ron Kenoly, and many worship leaders of the day.

One of the people who thought of praise and worship as a concept with an economy behind it was Graham Kendrick, in the early '90s; but I was leading worship songs in my local church long before that.

Praise and worship is our response to the revelation of Jesus in our hearts and lives. It's quite easy to go: "I love Jesus, and whatever I do is for Jesus," but Romans 12 is one of the most poignant scriptures about worship: "Present your bodies as a living sacrifice." It's an Abrahamic model where sacrifice is needed for worship. Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice, and our response is that we surrender our lives for him, as he surrendered his life for us.

Music is the soundtrack of someone's spiritual life.

Many of the high churches - Roman Catholic and Anglican - assign music to a music director. But we think of leading music as a calling, living our daily lives in that attitude.

I'm actually from a Pentecostal church, but I've travelled round the world leading music in lots of different churches and models.

The growth of this industry began in the Charismatic Church movement in the '60s and early '70s. It mushroomed into a worldwide force. We found leaders embracing another person rather than a system: one person whose role in the church was to teach and lead worship.

Various models exist for worship leaders. Most of them who are prominent in the worship world are musicians, but Pentecostal models tend to be around vocals and singing. The strength in the Charismatic and Evangelical traditions is song-writing rather than singing and musicianship. Many young people can play a few chords and sing a bit, with so much music about. Leading Pentecostal worship demands a lot more gifting.

Each model has its strengths and weaknesses, but nobody can worship God beyond the revelation you have of Jesus: that is the primary function of worship. And we tackle the subjects of sickness, religion, adoration, joy, dance, justice.

We present what we are good at to God. Evangelical white churches don't normally clap hands to a song; Pentecostal churches tend to be more rhythmic. None of it is wrong: we choose what fits our style and expression. Because I'm black, people assume I'm going to dance and clap hands, and I do; but that's not all I do. All of it has to come from a true understanding of the revelation of Jesus. If it's not based in that, then it's weak.

I've just been to China. There are 1.2 million born-again Christians there. I went along with the Bible Society to find out what we in the Western Church could do to make the Bible accessible to millions of Christians there.

It's absolutely incredible - they're passionate about Jesus, and the things of God, but don't have access to information and knowledge. It's amazing: in the places people don't have information, people are passionate. People here wake up on a Sunday morning and think: "Oh, I don't think I'll bother. . ." Chinese Christians know worship can be taken away, and they are passionate to worship.

The Chinese would sing "Amazing Grace", and they understand that it's grace that saves them; so it's very powerful. And they have their own Chinese songs and melodies. Singing is a big part of their worship. Some are English translations, but many are their own as well. They speak of God's truth, love, grace, and power to heal.

My album Devoted has been voted the best Gospel Album of 2014 by Christian Resources Together, the equivalent of Dove awards. All the Christian music industry in the UK voted in a category with the likes of international artists Israel Houghton and Oslo Gospel Choir.

It's also won the Jump 2014 award for Best Praise and Worship video for the single "Devoted", and Prosperity Awards 2014 for my contribution to UK Praise and Worship.

All these awards are special to me, because they mean someone was thinking of me. I really enjoy the CRT award as it's the industry in the UK coming together to nominate and award you for your contribution to the UK music landscape.

Ultimately, God inspires my music. But I love listening and playing all styles of music, from rock to reggae, and everything in between.

Although I grew up in church, I asked God to never let me forget the power of the cross to save mankind. True worship begins at the cross.

As singers, we're narrators of the Christian walk. Every experience we have in the earth, whether negative or positive, is an opportunity for us to bring the creator of heaven into our experience. An attitude of worship, an act of faith in his word, is all we need to navigate the issues of this life.

I grew up in the cosmopolitan '60s and '70s in London, an amazing city - a melting pot of cultures and people. I was heavily influenced by all that London presented at that time, and lived it out through the eyes of Black Pentecostalism, having grown up in a church with Caribbean and American roots.

My father taught me to play music when I was six years old, but I quickly infused all the sounds and cultures I was hearing, brought them into my musical palate, and used them in my local church.

I'm married to Tanya, and we have four grown-up children between us.

I love football and support God's team: Liverpool. And I like laugh-out-loud films and games.

We've visited many nations, and like so many; so if I said I like all the world, it's true. Its diversity gives me pleasure, and I love to explore this incredible creation. I'm really inspired by that, seeing people live out their lives.

I really believe all of us are connected through Jesus. It's just the expression that we differ in, and which often separates us as Christians. You can't expect a classically trained musician to live out their faith in a jazz way - we live it out according to what we know. Theology thinks differently, but in worship we share a common ground. We sing the same songs and we can meet in them, from the choirboys singing in the cathedrals to someone with bongo drums in a house-group.

I'd love to leave a legacy of the power of Christ to a generation, and be the best husband to my wife, and father to my children.

My father and my brothers and sisters have influenced me in my life, and a whole host of incredible spiritual people who have prayed for me to be everything that I am today. They have stood in the gaps, and, when I was broken, they helped bring healing. They helped me to walk, and encouraged me in my life, stood with me through thick and thin. I'm a product of all those people who spoke or did a deed to make my life be what it is. My wife, Tanya, has helped me in an inspirational and spiritual way to believe the call of God.

I enjoy the Bible and its stories that empower; so any book that has been written from it inspires me. I also love science fiction, and have a great love of DC and Marvel comics.

I pray for the world to know Jesus, and that I can fulfil the small part I have been called to. I pray for family and life.

I'd choose to be locked in a church with Tanya Robinson, King David, and a whole host of incredible musicians from past and present, and have a zamar moment (that's to make music in praise of God) with our instruments. And, of course, Jesus would be there, and we'd ask him what he loves to hear, and then create for him.

Noel Robinson was talking to Terence Handley MacMath. Devoted is available on iTunes, and re-vived.com.


Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)