Before Higher Vision church recorded its worship album For Your Kingdom — before the southern California congregation’s heart-touching songs became what they are today — one all- important question was asked. “What is the sound of our team, our family, our church?”
One answer is how the album comes to life. An excited crowd begins to cheer with anticipation. Then instrumental snippet “Continuum” launches into standout track “Higher,” and it bursts through the speakers. Bass. Guitar. Electronica keyboards. Pulsating drums duel with a saxophone.
Given those opening elements one might assume Higher Vision is packed with a lot of young, adrenalized God followers. And it is. But the 12-year- old Los Angeles congregation is actually quite diverse, with many races and cultures and ages among the 2,000 to 3,000 folks who come through its doors every week.
And that diversity takes center stage in the song selection on For Your Kingdom. Because alongside other dance-tinged tunes that get the heart pumping — “Freedom of Your Love” and “Hands Held High,” for instance — are tracks that tug right at the heart. “He Is Here” stands out that way. A simple-yet- majestic ballad, with atmospheric guitars and a chorus of voices, it builds into an undeniable crescendo that paints a sound picture of God’s presence and our response to it.
“We can get stuck in a cycle of grasping for God’s presence only to realize that God is here all around us,” worship pastor April Ashburn, who penned the song, explains. “Sometimes we just need to become aware of his presence — and then our response is worship. All my life is yours, God.”
“Broken the Chains” rises beyond a ballad. It doesn’t just tug at the heart — it squeezes and holds on tight. Lead pastor Jared Ming — a former worship pastor — wrote it on guitar a decade ago in his office during a time of devotion, thinking and praying about a struggling friend. And he wrote it almost from beginning to end, right on the spot.
“I just thought how crazy is it that God created everything,” Ming recalls. “Yet there’s still a song in heaven that angels cannot sing. The angels worship, but we worship differently. Trees clap their hands. Fields clap their hands. But we’re the ones who have a unique way of worship. We’ve been redeemed and forgiven. Angels can’t sing, ‘I’ve been redeemed.’”
Did we already mention Higher Vision revels in its multigenerational, family vibe? Well, For Your Kingdom knocks that out of the park with the prominence of Ming’s daughter Macie, who leads worship for her youth group and also wrote for the album — one tune after she’d been sitting in her car and praying.
“I wanted to write a song that captured God’s heart for my friends and spoke to them,” Macie shares.
So she and her dad honed the lyrics and melody in her head. Then they handed it off to Sean Loche, the church’s creative pastor, who added his arrangement expertise. And with only about a month before the album project commenced, “Trust in You” — with its electronica-flavored keyboards and drums — was born: “I will never stop trusting You / Believing You will pull me through / You will never ever let me down / My hope is securely found, found in You …”
Loche — who produced For Your Kingdom and previously was a worship leader in Worth Dying For — says the Higher Vision worship team “really tried to find a balance between electronic, energetic, upbeat praise music” along with “different flavors.”
But the bottom line? It’s always about “creating something from our heart, what our church was resonating with at the time.”
And passion. Poured out passion.
“When we design worship experiences at Higher Vision,” Loche explains, “with every light that moves and every video, our focus is on Christ. And we’re always asking, ‘How are people engaging? How do we help people feel safe and loved in the power and presence of God?’ We try be a place for people to ‘jump in the pool.’ Sometimes they want to jump full-on in — and sometimes they just want to get their toes wet.”
Which is one of the biggest strengths of For Your Kingdom. “The album feels like a miracle,” Ashburn says. “It feels like there’s something for almost everyone. Different styles and yet a well-rounded whole.”
One tune sums that up beautifully, seamlessly combining the kind of music the Higher Vision congregation has grown to adore. And appropriately enough, it’s the album’s title track. Rock ‘n’ roll drums marry electronica keyboards and high-speed guitar work — all urging forward the instantly memorable lyrics: “Your Son has risen / the saving power restored / for Your Kingdom, for Your Kingdom / Our eyes opened and living for Your call / for Your Kingdom, for Your Kingdom …”
There’s an almost indefinable element Higher Vision songs share, a characteristic that feeds all those who play and sing along — and leave them wanting more. But the whole worship team knows exactly what it is.
Over a decade ago, a non-Christian man who’d been coming to Higher Vision — which Ming and his band of fellow adventurers planted only a year before in April 2005 — approached the new lead pastor and asked him to coffee after a service.
The man asked Ming a jaw-dropping question: “I don’t know what it is, but when you guys do that singing thing, every time my eyes well up with tears. What in the world is that?” Talk about doors opening wide. Ming told him that his tears simply were his response to the presence of God. The man’s wife already was a believer, but the following week he accepted Christ as well — and soon their children also became Christians. And they’ve been with Higher Vision ever since.
Ashburn, who also helped plant the church, has witnessed the same phenomenon: “Over and over and over, when we worship, people say they’re drawn to tears. Even if they haven’t cried in years, emotion wells up in their eyes — and they recognize God is there and that he loves them.” Tears. Release. Emotion. Passion. A special space to worship and experience the living King of
Kings. They’re all the lifeblood of Higher Vision.
For Loche it’s summed up in “trying to hear God’s heartbeat.”
Which is why the worship team at Higher Vision not only wants For Your Kingdom to be an experience the congregation can carry with them wherever they go, but also they want it to speak to those who may not yet have Christ in their lives — just as it is on Sundays.
“There’s just so much darkness going on in the world,” Loche observes. “Every day you read the worst, most horrific news you can imagine. We want to just be a blip of good, a blip of light in a dark world, to atheists and to Christians.”
With For Your Kingdom’s vibrant music, inspired songs and exultant vocals — and not just those leading the congregation on microphones, but the sound of everyone who filled the room with their voices when tape was rolling — it’s more than primed to impact the lives of listeners far beyond Higher Vision church.