Beyond Sunday

Q&A: Johnny Venegas

August 16, 2023 King of Kings Church
Q&A: Johnny Venegas
Beyond Sunday
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Beyond Sunday
Q&A: Johnny Venegas
Aug 16, 2023
King of Kings Church

Greg chats with King of Kings Campus Worship Director Johnny Venegas about how why he connects so strongly with worship and how he started leading worship. They talk about how Johnny's family moved from Chile and he adapted to a new world with a new language and what about that experience helped shaped him into the leader he is today.

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Greg chats with King of Kings Campus Worship Director Johnny Venegas about how why he connects so strongly with worship and how he started leading worship. They talk about how Johnny's family moved from Chile and he adapted to a new world with a new language and what about that experience helped shaped him into the leader he is today.

Stay up to date by following us on your favorite social networks.

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

Have questions or comments? Email us at contact@kingofkings.org.

Thanks for listening!

Speaker 1:

Welcome to this month's Greg Griffith Leadership Podcast. Join Greg Griffith as we, together, learn what it means to be leaders of our world as we faithfully love and faithfully lead. Like, share, rate and review this podcast with your friends and others of influence, for they, too are looking for people like you to help them lead and love day to day For their too. Here is your host, greg Griffith.

Speaker 3:

Hey everybody, welcome to. Greg Griffith Leads our podcast and I'm super excited today to be joined with Johnny Venegas. Woo-hoo, yeah, it is so good. Johnny is a very good friend and he's our worship director here at our I Street Campus and he's just an all-around fun guy. I would like to say that Johnny is kind of a connoisseur of knowing everything right.

Speaker 2:

Why do you have to use that word?

Speaker 3:

Oh, it's a great word. Hey, out there, if you're listening, I invite you count how many times we use the word connoisseur. Today, we're going to get into double digits for sure, hey. So, johnny, thanks so much for being here today. Your story to me is so fascinating and it's a story, I think, that really I've learned a lot from, but it's also a story that has helped me and my faith life grow, and it's a story that's just very real and very true, and so I thought it'd be great to have you just share how you lead, because you are an amazing leader for people to come to Jesus, a leader in your family, and I just wanted to let other people know and hear a little bit about you. So, first thing, you grew up in Chile and then you moved here to the states when you were old.

Speaker 2:

Nine years old.

Speaker 3:

Nine years old. First of all, let me ask this Do you remember it all growing up in Chile?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I do. I remember playing in the streets of Chile. Yeah, you just play soccer all day. That's basically what you do for fun. We lived in the city so I remember going to the city and going to the mall and going to the beach. We lived right on the coast so going to the beach during the summer was like the thing to do. But yeah, I remember a lot of things. I know it's changed a lot. I've been in the US now for 23 years, so I'm sure it looks way different, but I do remember quite a bit.

Speaker 3:

So how did you get to the states? Why did your parents immigrate over here to America?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so first we bought a plane ticket and then flew here.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, thanks for the literal understanding.

Speaker 2:

It's like a nine-hour flight. But no, I was real little funny. Actually. I remember when we were flying or leaving Chile. It didn't really hit me until we were leaving and then I started bawling once we had already crossed over the checkpoint, whatever, and just looking back at all my family that was saying bye and all that and realizing, man, we're actually moving to a different country, we're not going to come back to live here anymore. So I remember I was a little kid bawling during that moment and realizing how real it was.

Speaker 2:

But the thing that brought us to the US my dad was sent here as a missionary pastor to start a Hispanic ministry. So we were part of the Pentecostal Church in Chile and my dad kind of just worked his way up from attending to becoming a leader at the church, I think. Last thing, he was a deacon and then started preaching at the church and the church would also preach at different churches around the area and then went through schooling to become a pastor and then basically at the end of all that training he had to pick where to go further his ministry. So we could pick between the US and I think another option was Brazil and another part of Chile. So we picked the US because we already had family here in Nebraska so we thought that would be a smoother transition to doing all that and my mom had her sister living here already. So that's kind of like what led us to Nebraska, which we went from living on a big city next to the beach to a middle and nowhere USA.

Speaker 3:

Yeah Well, I don't know if Nebraskans would call it middle and nowhere USA, but yeah, what a cultural shock and difference. And I think one thing that, as an American and a Christian who's grown up in this country, one thing that always just kind of makes me take a breath and a step back is to remember so that would have been around the year 2000 that you moved here.

Speaker 3:

But to remember that it was around that time that our country, actually in the Christian world, had a shift happen where we went from being a country that sends more missionaries then receives to being a country now that we actually receive more missionaries than we send to the world. And it's just a different mindset as, especially as a Christian, to think about that Christian America is now a place that the rest of the world looks at and says, oh, america needs missionaries to go and share the gospel and the good news because it's not happening within its own country. So that's always interesting to me. Now, did you speak any English when you came over here, or no? No, what was that like? Like, what was it like starting school and coming into a country, and now this is your home?

Speaker 3:

It's your vacation, it's where you live and not having English the predominant language.

Speaker 2:

Well, as a kid I actually did love, so we lived in Shelton, nebraska. So that's why I said middle of where. Shelton, Nebraska.

Speaker 3:

I didn't even know that city existed.

Speaker 2:

Town of like 6000 people.

Speaker 2:

So like to go from a huge city to like a little town, like that. It was crazy, but actually as a little kid I loved it because I could ride my bike around the entire town. I could literally go from one into another. So like that was fun, because you can't really do that in the city. So I loved it.

Speaker 2:

I feel like that first year is kind of a blur because it's like I was learning the language and so there's like a lot of things that I didn't understand and I think the worst part was probably that they paired me up with my cousin, so who's supposed to translate for me? But like all he did was teach me like the bad things, the things I shouldn't be saying. So that was probably pretty funny to other people. But yeah, it's kind of a blur.

Speaker 2:

Like I remember parts of it, but I don't fully like remember that year just because, like I think, just with not knowing the language, trying to catch up, I just got thrown into like regular class. I didn't go to like a special like class where they taught you English. It just kind of like just threw me in there and it's kind of like how to like learn it. I do think I learned a lot faster that way, but it took me a while. Like, my little brother was four years old when we came and he was speaking English with only half a year, I think it probably took me a little over a year till I really feel comfortable with it.

Speaker 3:

So your mom and dad were sent here to start a church and start a Hispanic ministry. You were about nine years old, 10 years old, as that was kind of getting off the ground and then were you involved in helping with the church, was it?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, at first it was just the four of us. Like the way at least the church and Chile, the way that they did things, it was all by faith. So like my parents sold everything and moved to a different country they didn't have any financial support, like they had to buy their own tickets and just like figure out their own way, just like God was going to provide the way. So that's kind of how we came is just with basically starting all over. So basically just kind of how to make it up as we went and try things, try to reach out to the community and start bringing people in. Like that Wow.

Speaker 3:

So, when you look at that beginning for you, like what do you have from that that you still hold on? To Like what is something that you know because that's immense, that is an immense trust and I think about as a parent right, I can do that on my own, probably, maybe, but when I'm bringing children right, like that, that's just even greater trust, you know. So, looking back on that now, to like what is something that, just from that experience of coming and saying, gosh, I'm watching my parents start a church with nothing Literally, it was us four were the first church right, like, what have you learned from that?

Speaker 2:

I think the biggest thing I learned from that is one seeing their faithfulness to their calling but also like their, their faith level of one moving to a different country that they don't know the language and not having financial support and having to work other jobs to like be able to like make a living but also like do ministry, so having like two full time jobs. I think that's crazy because it's like I think if I, like I asked myself, like if I would do that today with a three year old and a wife, I would have a hard time even just taking a ministry position in town that maybe couldn't offer like Payments. This is like to think of what they did and just just move completely to the different country and do that just speaks levels of their, their faithfulness and just like their faith in God that he would provide and and like they didn't know what was gonna happen but they were just gonna go for it and just trust that God was gonna open up doors and provide for them.

Speaker 3:

Wow, yeah that that. That's really really awesome that you recognize that in them and and honor them with that recognition and seeing that sacrifice for the Lord that they made. So you are a tremendously gifted music leader. You have this amazing spirit of energy and enthusiasm as you lead people and worship as one who, for me, I really grow in my worship when I'm singing at the mountaintop of God and you bring me to that mountaintop Every week that you're leading. How did you learn that? How did that get developed in you?

Speaker 2:

Who? That's a good question.

Speaker 3:

Um, that's why I do this.

Speaker 2:

Well, I did start leading worship at a very young age.

Speaker 3:

How old were you?

Speaker 2:

So I started playing keyboard around nine years old but I didn't start leading worship until probably around like 12 or 13 and I was kind of mainly just leading for like the kids ministry. That was kind of like my place to like try things and stuff like that, but just kind of just kept leading throughout and just really kept growing on in that area. I Would say I've always had a heart for For For people to respond and worship, not only just singing, but also just like physical response of like Raising your hands and being expressive and just like being passionate with like our Faces in our bodies of when we come to worship. So I think that's always been like a thing that I've I've always had in my heart that I want to push people to like experience that, that, to experience the freedom that they can have in worship and just like what it could feel like to just like Forget that maybe you you might look like a fool or Maybe you're not a super expressive person, but just to like be able to surrender that and just say, like God you've been so faithful to me like I just want to like lay it all out here and just give you my best worship and and Respond like I've been. I've been Given freedom and a new life, and it's just like the other thing I've always thought of you as a skiz.

Speaker 2:

Like I would always ask myself, like, how would I respond if, like, if I could Physically see Jesus in the room, like with my worship look any different if he was actually in the room? And that's something I always ask myself. So I think I always try to like approach it that way where it's like if he was in the room right now, which he is, but I can't see him, if he was in the room, like what would I do? Well, what were the things I say? Well, how would I sing? How would I respond physically? So that's just kind of like the way I approach worship.

Speaker 3:

That's so good. I think next time this probably Sunday when I'm worshiping and you know, sometimes I just lose kind of my thought and distraction and that's when I find my hands in my pockets or my arms crossed or I think like huh, you know. So, yeah, that's an interesting if Jesus is in the room. Yeah, you know, here's what house makes me think about that too, and I think sometimes we can get so caught up, and I do believe there's a place for church to be consumeristic. I also believe that we're called to be contributors, but I do also believe we do consume things. We have to receive things. That's a part of church life. But I think sometimes I can find myself even in a consumerism, going like, oh, this is not my favorite song, right, you know, like when oceans is on, it's like oh gosh, like, can it be over? I feel like I'm traveling across the entire ocean, whatever verse of oceans. So but again, if Jesus is in the room, I'm not focused on the length of the song, I'm just focused on Jesus and that that's a really good point on that, okay. So I want to back up.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, you were leading worship in a kids ministry at 12 or 13 years old. I, when I was 12 and 13 years old, was like fighting parents going to church and my mom was my Sunday school teacher and mom I know you're listening you did a tremendous job, but at the time I was terrified of you being my teacher and like was not thrilled about it, tried to be like the class clown was not a good like. Last thing I tell us like how did you, how did you do that? Like, how did you, how did you say I want to lead, I want to grow and I want to, I want to help kids come to worship Jesus at 12 and 13?.

Speaker 2:

Yeah for sure. Well, I enjoy music so much. I love playing the piano. That's my main instrument and I there's one aspect of just I just enjoy music. I just love playing in a group with people and making music together and being creative.

Speaker 2:

But the other part, I think, for me is like some of the moments that I've experienced during worship are like so powerful and music is a way that I connect to God, that I feel closest to God, so like I want for people to experience those moments of breakthrough and healing through this music and the words that we've seen. So I think that's like the biggest thing for me is I want people to experience that so bad. And so I had those moments as a young kid in worship and that's kind of what drove me to that and just like it's a, it was a way for me to like minister, to like my friends as well, where I could invite them to church and be like hey, church looks different, like we have, you know, like true guitar and drums and piano, like the music's awesome, like it's we have a lot of fun and it was a easy way for for us to invite our friends. We also had a lot of support. It's crazy to think about that. Like as a 14 and 15 year old kid, we were organizing like youth events with my cousin, who was the same age, and we both had a passion for ministry, where we wanted to like do these worship nights and invite like we would have hand out flyers at school and invite area churches to come out and we just really had a heart for like ministry and reaching people and using what God had given us music to like reach out to people and for them to encounter God through those moments.

Speaker 2:

But yeah, I mean, it's crazy Like one thing that because, as you were saying, that made me think of like growing up. There's like a group of us that most of us were like pastor kids and we all hung out so we were like best buddies. There's like four or five of us so we were the ones that always like played together at the worship events and stuff and it's really funny because we would actually skip school to sneak into the church and like play music together. This is like in high school and it's just like one year to like looking back at that, like we were doing something naughty but it was, at the same time, like we were sneaking away because we love music so much and we wanted to play worship music like day and night and we would do that in high school sometimes.

Speaker 3:

Just sneak out and go play and man, I just think about if my daughter were to skip school to break into the church to play and practice worship, not do bad vandalism or something like that. I don't know how I could be mad at her.

Speaker 3:

You know like right, right, like, oh, you can't go worship, you need to be in school, I don't know how. Yeah, yeah, wow, that's that's. So let me ask this question because, johnny, one thing I really respect about you there's a lot of things I respect about you, but one thing that I admire and you inspire me to try to try to do is you you have such an invitational spirit. You're always inviting people. I'm always seeing new people on our stage leading worship. I'm seeing people that are coming that say you know, yeah, johnny told me about this. Like, like, how did you, like, where did that come from? How'd you develop that? And really it's a confidence issue too. But, like, like, how would you? What would you say to someone who goes yeah, I do want to invite people, I just don't know how.

Speaker 2:

Well, I really like and passionate about what I do and I love teaching people. That's one thing that I think it helps is that even if someone isn't quite there yet, like, I'm willing to work with them and get them to a point where they're comfortable joining the team. But I'm so passionate about what I do and I believe that what we do is so powerful and can have a huge impact on people's lives that I, the way that I invite isn't just to fill a spot, it's to say like, like, I want you to be a part of this because, like, it's so life giving. It's going to fill up your soul, it's going to give you joy and purpose in your life and I want you to experience that I'm not just trying to fill out, fill out a position on stage. So I think I would hope that people know that that's where my heart's at and I think that makes it easier to invite and bring them here and also, for them to stay on the team is because I truly care about them.

Speaker 2:

They're my friends or my family. I care about their souls and like, that's kind of like. My approach with that is I want us to be a family and I really think of like, especially my worship team and anybody that's on my team is they're like my family. They're like the people that I'm going to do life with, especially at a big church where there's so many different like areas and sometimes it's hard to like, plug in and get connected. But I want these people to feel like they have a home and that's kind of how I approach it when I invite people.

Speaker 3:

So what I hear you saying is it's all relational, right, like it's about relationships, and that that you want everyone that you're connected with to know that you really care about them and you're a family with them. And you know, I've just been doing a lot of research on this and and and really right now, especially in Western Christendom, in America Christendom, one of the pieces is that discipleship really is relationship, and now they're even even starting to connect too well that evangelism is relationship and and the importance of that and and moving away from kind of the, the scare evangelism right, and I use that in a good term. I think it worked for a while in the 70s, here in the 80s. You know there's a James Kennedy evangelism module which was you know, I'd knock on a door and I'd say to you if you died today, where would you go? You know, and and then it was the. Let me tell you about Jesus so that you can go to heaven.

Speaker 3:

But there's no relationship there. It's just me scaring you by the reality that life could end tomorrow or tonight. And now they're knowing that that doesn't work. That's not bringing anyone to say, oh, I'm afraid of death. So let me figure out who Jesus is, but the relationship is and really what you were saying is a relationship but then also helping them see the impact of doing something that's bigger than themselves, right, do you? Let me ask you this question Do you think some of that is your own Like? Is that? Is that Chilean? Like? Is that a cult? Like is the relationship? The fifth Is that something that is from the your culture? Is that how you grew up too?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I would say, especially watching my parents, like our doors were always open to people, like families who wanted to come in and simply just hang out or were like in need or needed like prayer and stuff. I always saw my parents model that, where like they're for the people and they're always available and just their hospitality was amazing and just like just something to like look up to. For sure. They just would go out of their way to love on people and welcome them in. And I definitely see that in the culture as well. Jalane people are, if you ever visit Chile, like you're gonna get invited to people's houses and get invited to go out to E and they're just a very welcoming culture for sure.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, yeah, and I would wonder for us and for me to think about too, of like that doesn't have to be a culture of another country, that could be a culture of our religious community right which spans all of our ethnicities and just says we are united as Christians and inviting and having a home that's open to whoever for prayer, for hospitality, for kindness yeah, that's what.

Speaker 2:

I'm gonna go. I think a cultural thing too, because it's like I think of, like my three year old and we're trying to put her down by eight o'clock at 30. And I think of the way that I grew up and it's like we were out so late we were at church services, like in the Hispanic culture we would have extended services, like sometimes they would start at eight PM and they would go through the night and it's just like crazy to think that we were out those things like as little kids.

Speaker 2:

Cause like I'm thinking like my kid needs to go to bed or I need to find a babysitter so I can be out this late, and it's just like time wasn't really a thing. We just kind of like we're in the moment with people and with God and in church, and it's like we weren't rushing to get out. Our Sunday worship services could be anywhere from an hour and a half to three hours, depending on how God moved that day. So I think I look back at that a lot and just kind of it helps me like have a better balance sometimes in life of like all right, I don't have to be uptight about everything kind of thing.

Speaker 2:

But, yeah, it's interesting to look at different cultures, for sure.

Speaker 3:

So you know I said I worship on mountain tops and I've had the opportunity to travel up a few peaks. I've been at the 13,000 foot level on Mount Sherman as well as on quandary peak they're both 14ers but I go to about 13,000 and then I stop. I don't I don't summit it, I just don't like that height. I was just in a Mount Blanc in France. But all that to say, the highest spiritual mountain top I've been at was about probably four months ago when you led for about a week here and impromptu worship services in the week.

Speaker 3:

We did zero advertising, we did zero planning. It was just this hey, we're gonna worship and just tell people, invite people, and from a spiritual depth, that was that to me. I felt like I was on the highest mountain top I've been on. I've had a lot of great worship experiences, but I was really at a mountain top there. Can you just talk me through a little like, where is the genesis of you doing that? And then, two in a large church. There was some courage to do that, because it's not the system of how a large church usually works, and I think that was something that was definitely from the spirit and it was just amazing. So talk us through that a little bit.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, for sure I know. For me it started out of just watching what was going on at Asbury College and just seeing the revival break out of there and it developed like a hunger in me that I haven't had for a while and it's like I just like wanted to be there and I wanted to like be there day and night. And it's like I'm a kid, I'm like married, like how am I supposed to do that? Like I can't just drive out there by myself and just like check out for a whole week. So, but I felt like I needed to do something and I didn't know what that looked like. And I asked people and it's like what do you think we should do? How should we respond to this?

Speaker 2:

And I had people in the congregation coming up to me and saying like I felt like worship should have kept going on Sunday. And it's like and I was like me too but we had a second service coming up and we had to clear out the parking lot and all this stuff. And it's like I just caught myself like just kind of trying to make this work, but then also like thinking of all the logistics and I'm like just stop, like just let's just do this on Monday night and we're going to come out here at six and just worship for like three hours and just see what happens. And that's just kind of like how it was born of. Let's just do it Like who cares if we promote it and people don't see it.

Speaker 2:

I know for sure I want to be there and I want to worship and I just want to come to the Lord during the season and it'll be what it'll be kind of thing. And that's kind of how it started and it was really cool to see people come out even with a day notice of like, hey, we're going to worship tonight, and so that's kind of like where that came from. And it's really cool to see what's happening in our country. You see these revivals just breaking out and so many different places, and I think the Lord is up to something in our country and there's a hunger that is rising in our churches and people want those moments of like, simplicity and just like or we can slow down, listen to God's voice and just like, have a moment of like, just honest and like true worship with Him.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I think that's something I struggle with. I love what you said just now. I think sometimes I struggle with the need for program of our worship service and having it so tight and so things, and I think we can over-programmatize, which means we can actually say to the Holy Spirit sorry, you didn't fit into the timeframe this week and there's something sinful about that, so I know that's a good word for me to think about too. So, as a connoisseur of worship, let me ask this question what would you say to right now, today, if you had a young worship leader who was saying, hey, never done this, a 12 or 13 year old Johnny right before you? What's one thing you would say to them? Just, whatever you do, don't forget this.

Speaker 2:

I would say I know the word performance is kind of like a bad word in the worship world, but I would say, remember who you're performing for and that we are performing for one person and his name is Jesus. And with that comes playing skillfully, playing with your heart and playing with passion. There's so many layers of that where you have to be good at what you do too. You want to give God the best worship.

Speaker 2:

I think of the musicians in the Bible and just how much time they spent and there are the best musicians around and it's just like. It's really cool to think about that and it's like I need to own this. I need to be really good at it, because it's for God. It also is focusing on God, and just something that I try to do when I lead worship is just focus on Jesus and it's like regardless of what the room looks like or what the room's doing. One thing I try to think is I don't want my worship to be affected by the atmosphere. I want my worship to affect the atmosphere. So I would say that it's just to keep your eyes on Jesus and just do your best to please his heart and minister to God's own heart.

Speaker 3:

That's really good. What is one thing you would want? Just a worship attender, a congregant, what's one thing you would want them to know as a worship director, leader? That's something that you would say. I just want you to know this.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I would ask that they would just push through any distractions that they may have Sometimes for us that could be lights or maybe sound or music style, or sometimes even words just to push through that and just realize that they're standing before a holy God, that we're coming together and worship and that he is in our midst, and to just focus solely on just giving God the best worship and praise ever, to not take a moment for granted and just push through whatever we need to get to that point where we're just going to have authentic, true and just raw worship. Good.

Speaker 3:

All right. Last question, and one I hope you're completely honest with what's one thing that you would say as a worship director for so many years that you would want your pastor to know. What do worship directors just really want their pastors to know?

Speaker 2:

That's really good, I think, for so many of us worship directors. We like to create and sometimes we get really amazing ideas and sometimes we get really stupid ideas.

Speaker 2:

I think it's good to just have the freedom to be able to create and sometimes things land, sometimes they don't, but just having the freedom. I think it's so unique too, because God created us in his own image and I think one of those things is he created things and we like to create things. I think for many of us we like whether it's creating a music arrangement or trying out this hymn in a different arrangement, or doing something with lights or just whatever it is I think it's nice to have one trust but also just freedom to be able to create and just think outside the box and just not do things just because it's the way we've done them for years or this is how the church has done it for hundreds of years. We just have the opportunity to bring our own identity into the stuff we're doing and just be able to bring that out in our worship and leadership.

Speaker 3:

Sweet. Well, johnny, thank you so much for the time today. I have grown so much, and I know our listeners have grown so much too today and stay focused on Jesus and as you worship, I'm going to do this worship as if Jesus not only is there spiritually, but you can physically see him and just respond in that way. Thanks a lot, everybody. We'll see you and talk to you next month.

Speaker 1:

Thank you for being a part of this month's Greg Griffith Leadership Podcast. Join Greg next month for leadership insights to faithfully love and faithfully lead. Now go beat a rhythm today.

Leadership Journey From Chile to US
Faith and Worship Development
Power of Music in Worship
Cultural Worship and Revival
Freedom and Creativity in Worship Leadership