Artist Spotlight: A Journey of Worship and Justice, Part One

Daniel DK Kim just gave up his dream job.

As the worship leader at Newsong Church in Irvine, California, DK has been living out a personal dream.  And yet, on June 15th, DK, his wife Sadie and their young son Micah will be moving to Mexico City for two years, “to do our part in the abolition movement while working with and raising up a generation of indigenous artist/activists in the city to lead the charge… until we see the end of slavery.”

In our NG.AC community, we want to highlight stories of people courageously answering God’s call to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.  As you can see from DK’s story, which we will share in two parts, this awakening to the intimate connection between worship and justice is both beautiful and challenging.

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How would you describe the connection between worship and justice in your life? What have been some pivotal moments in shaping your understanding of worship and justice?

Photo by Scott Hodge at The Idea Camp in Irvine, California

I’ve been a worship leader since I was 15 years old, but it wasn’t until recently, in 2007, that I began to feel discontent in the way that I viewed and experienced worship.  So much of our worship can become self-focused and self-indulgent if we forget about the call beyond the mere words of any song. I began to discover the synonymy of worship & justice in a few key passages of Scripture.

Isaiah 58 is a huge one for me: the challenge to consider what true fasting is made me think about what true worship is. “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the chords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?”

I began to see that my worship was just ritual if I didn’t take it outside of a fifteen-minute set list.  I wanted desperately to do something about this unfolding realization but didn’t know where to start.  All I could do was pray.

2008 was a big year for us. My wife became pregnant with our first child and we decided that we would name him Micah because we wanted him to be about justice, mercy, and humility (Micah 6:8). That summer, Tony Campolo was the guest speaker for our annual Newsong Conference. In one of the sessions, he shared how when he was a child, his mother would drill into him the life-purpose she felt was from the Lord: “You’re going to serve the poor! You’re going to lay down your life for the destitute!” It was hilarious. Later on, my wife shared that at the very moment when Tony was sharing this story, our son started kicking intensely in the womb. It was a big sign of affirmation for us; we would be a family that pursues a life of worship and justice.

My prayer to live out Isaiah 58 was answered in gradual steps. The first one coming in October of 2008 as we launched the very first Justice NOW (Night of Worship) gathering where we combined a time of corporate musical worship with a heavy emphasis on individual responsibility and action towards the issue we chose to highlight. It was beautiful to witness many engage in powerful times of corporate worship while collectively agreeing to take their devotion a step further by heading towards activism and advocacy. God often uses the very things we have in our hands and Justice NOW is an example of that.

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Why did you and your family decide to commit the next two years to live in Mexico City? What are some difficulties you’ve faced in making this decision? How have you seen God’s hand in this discernment process?
Our move to Mexico City is another step in God’s gradual answer to my Isaiah 58 prayer. We feel that we have been called to this place to join the fight against human trafficking and aide rescued women in a rehabilitation center. It is a chance for our son, Micah, to get a taste of life in fulfilling his namesake and an opportunity of a lifetime for all of us to truly live out what we’ve been talking about the past few years.

I can honestly say we would not have arrived at this decision if it wasn’t for a life-altering circumstance that we encountered last October. We hit a financial rock-bottom and concluded that the only way we would get out of it was if we trusted God completely. So we decided to let go of my paid position at Newsong Church and see how God would lead us. It was completely stupid and non-sensical but ever since then, we haven’t had to worry about money—God has provided big time and everything you hear about God’s faithfulness is true, especially when you are desperate for Him!

After months of waiting, praying, debating, etc. we finally realized in February of this year that God’s finger was pointing to Mexico City. We had (and still have) concerns about our collective safety, questions of long-term stability, resources, and the like but it’s amazing how we are being shown one thing at a time to find that everything is cool. Not to say that this choice has been easy but it’s strangely exciting to live in that tension of what’s smart and responsible and what is a real faith and trust in God.

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Watch DK share his story in this video from Newsong Church:

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Join in DK’s story:

Support DK’s family in their commitment to fight human trafficking in Mexico City by purchasing his new album, thefirst.

Preview tracks from thefirst and download chords/lyrics at DK’s personal blog.

Keep up with DK’s journey at A City Release Movement.

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  1. […] justice, leadership, ministry, worship | Leave a Comment I just posted the first of a two-part interview with Daniel DK Kim over at Next Gener.Asian Church.  DK is the worship leader at Newsong Church in Irvine, California; he and his family are moving […]

  2. […] years. They left today (with answers to prayer from the very start). Read the second part of our two-part interview with […]

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