Don Moen, a pioneer of the modern praise and worship movement, has spent his career as a worship leader, producer, songwriter and music executive. While a student at Oral Roberts University in the early '70s, Moen began touring with the musical group Living Sound and evangelist Terry Law. By 1986, Moen had recorded "Give Thanks" for the Hosanna Music! praise and worship series at Integrity Music, where he would serve as creative director, executive producer and eventually, president of the label. During his tenure there, he sold more than 5 million units and signed worship leaders and songwriters such as Paul Baloche, Ron Kenoly, Darlene Zschech and many more. Today, Moen lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with his wife, Laura, where he is president of Don Moen Productions and oversees his international nonprofit ministry, Worship in Action.
Charisma News spoke with Moen recently about how God has moved in his career and beyond. This is Part 2 of a two-part interview. Click here to read Part 1.
How has your ministry changed throughout the years?
For many years while I traveled all over the world with Living Sound, I was a musician in the band, playing violin, trombone and guitar. I had never led worship and had no desire to get out of my comfort zone in the band. But after the prophetic word from Psalm 40:3, I knew I would be leading worship and little by little, God put people in my life, like evangelist Terry Law, who pushed me out of my comfort zone week after week, asking me to lead in worship before he preached. I was not a great singer and not a great pianist, but God used these years to help me develop my gifts. Eventually, Integrity Music asked me to lead worship on one of their Hosanna! Music releases called Give Thanks.
This changed everything.
Give Thanks sold more than a million copies, and I began receiving calls to lead worship around the world. But rather than pursuing a career as a touring artist, I chose to accept an invitation from Integrity Music to head up the music label, which allowed me to be a part of something much bigger, and an opportunity to be a part of an amazing move of God. What an honor! For the next 20 years I was mostly focused on being a music executive with Integrity Music, working primarily with worship leaders and songwriters, but I still had the opportunity to record several worship albums and continued to write songs as well. After leaving Integrity Music, I was able to focus on live ministry again, and I am touring more than ever, but still love discovering a new worship leader, singer, songwriter and finding ways to help them develop their gifts and calling.
How has the Holy Spirit turned tragedies in your life into triumphs?
The Holy Spirit always speaks to me through the Scriptures. When I lost my nephew in a tragic car accident, I asked the Holy Spirit to give me something to say to the family that would bring them comfort, and He directed me to Isaiah 43. I read and re-read that chapter many times, and as I meditated on Isaiah 43:18-19, a melody and lyric came from my heart ... "God will make a way where there seems to be no way; He works in ways we cannot see, He will make a way for me." I knew this was given to me by the Holy Spirit to bring hope and comfort to my family, and although this song was written in a desperate situation, it's not a song of desperation. ... it's a song of declaration. God Will Make A Way!
What Scriptures are really helping you right now?
My pastor has been teaching through some of the Psalms the past few weeks and I've been impacted and encouraged again by the fact that even David, a man after God's own heart, had days when he wondered where God was. In Psalm 13 he asks the question over and over again, "How long oh Lord? Will You forget me forever?"
But in the last two verses of that chapter, he chooses to declare, "But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord. Because He has dealt bountifully with me." You see this as a pattern throughout the Psalms. I've probably read the first 55 chapters of Psalms a hundred times and the words never get old. Like David, there are times we don't understand why we are going through something, and we need to ask the hard questions, but always declare that no matter what is happening: "I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise shall continually be in my mouth. Psalm 34:1"
Why is a relationship with the Holy Spirit critical in your life?
1 Corinthians 2:9-12 explains why having a relationship with the Holy Spirit is critical in my life. "... Eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him."
In verses 10-12, we find out why it's so important to have a relationship with the Holy Spirit.
"But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God." The way we can find out the things that God has prepared for those who love Him, is by learning how to develop a relationship with the Holy Spirit, and communicate constantly with Him.
How does music connect you with God?
I've always loved a beautiful melody, and even as a young boy, I was moved by different pieces of music. As a violinist, I played in a lot of symphonies, operas and ballets and was always moved by the beauty and the power of the music I played. I remember blinking back tears as I played the emotional melodies in a Puccini opera, and remember feeling shivers down my spine at the power of a large orchestra performing Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.
I wish someone would have told me to embrace these moments and give the glory to God, the author of all creativity. But because I was raised in a very conservative church, where almost any music other than hymns was bad, I decided that anything I love this much must be sin. So, I quit everything related to music and became a lumberjack in the north woods of my home state of Minnesota. I talk about this in the book. It didn't take too many months in minus-30 temperatures to make me realize that perhaps sitting in a chair in an orchestra might be a better choice than sitting in the cab of a bulldozer or tree skidder!
Over the years, I began to understand how God moves people through music. All throughout the Scriptures you can see this. David played his harp and drove out an evil spirit that was tormenting Saul. In 1 Samuel 16:233, when the prophet Elisha was called upon by King Jehoshaphat to bring a word from the Lord, he said, "'... Bring me a musician. Then it happened, when the musician played, that the hand of the Lord came upon Elisha." The right music, played under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, can change the entire atmosphere of a room and create an atmosphere that welcomes God's presence, making room for His marvelous works. Spending time worshiping the Lord by playing a beautiful melody is another way I communicate with the Holy Spirit on a daily basis.
How does the Holy Spirit move when you write/worship?
There are times when I'm writing that I sense God's presence in a powerful way. Many of my songs are inspired by the prayers that I pray frequently. Some songs come so quickly and easily, that there is no doubt the Holy Spirit just dropped this into my spirit. The song, "God Will Make A Way" came like this. The song, "I Will Sing" came like this, and there are a few others.
I wish this would happen every time I sit down at a piano, but most times I simply need to go through the discipline of spending time working on an idea, hoping that inspiration will come! I suppose it's like that with many pastors, composers and authors. Sometimes the inspiration is instant, while other times it seems like hard work. When I was writing the song, "I Want to Be Where You Are," (one of my favorites) the presence of God was very powerful in the room where I was writing.
I heard the voice of the Holy Spirit say to me, "Son, I put this desire in your heart 25 years ago as a young boy."
I was 37 years old at that time, and I was 12 years old when I surrendered my life to Christ, 25 years earlier. Incidentally, the very first Scripture I underlined in my Bible as a boy of 12 was Psalm 27:4...."One thing I have desired of the Lord; that will I seek after. That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple." God put a hunger in my heart for the presence of the Lord as a young boy, and I still desire His presence more than anything.
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