From pure and simple beginnings to a thriving worship ministry, Justin’s life conveys the heart of a passionate God in love with people. As worship ministry director, he currently stewards all facets of the worship ministry at Harbour Church in Pompano Beach including all corporate services on Friday nights, Sunday nights, and first Sundays of the month, all 13 home fellowships in the tri-county area and all other ministries where worship is needed. Taking into account the weightiness of all his responsibilities, including husband and father of three, what he considers to be of utmost importance is to share the amazing things God is doing in their midst with the rest of the world.
Believing that music has power to speak to people and change them in a way few other forces in the world have, Harbour music inspires and reflects that. “A sermon might stick with you for a day or a few days, or a week, or months, but a song that impacts your heart in a major way maybe never leaves you,” Justin affirmed.
Into all the world
Responding to God’s tugging on their heart strings, Justin and the worship team have written many of their own songs. In 2012, Justin and vocalist Mary Kat Ehrenzeller of the Harbour worship team were invited to record a few of their original songs on a CD produced by Jesus Culture Music called “Emerging Voices,” a compilation of songs from rising worship leaders. This was followed by his first studio record, “Through the Glass.” This past Spring, Justin joined a ten-city tour in the Southwest U.S. with Chris Quilala and the Jesus Culture Band. They traveled from Los Angeles to Springfield, Mo. performing some of Justin’s original songs to between 2,000 to 4,000 young people at each stop.
Radically marked by the experience, Justin expressed, “God is moving. His heart for people is massive. He is calling us into something deeper… to really touch the world around us.”
A consecrated life
Reflecting on his small beginnings that led to his heart of worship, Justin remembers always walking with Jesus and sharing his faith. He genuinely lived for knowing God through His Word and doing what it says. Throughout his school years, he sang in the choir. After teaching himself to play the guitar, he began writing music and leading worship for his youth groups in high school, which ignited his passion. As a self-titled overachiever, Justin received good grades and graduated in 1997 with a full ride to college at Birmingham Southern College where he earned a double major in computer science and art and met his college sweetheart, Janette Leong.
A planted seed
While in college Justin’s identity began to change as his hunger for the supernatural increased. He wanted to “do something great for God.” During his junior and senior years, his desire became more focused for missions as he embraced God’s heart for the world. Then he met Darren Davis, now senior pastor of Harbour Church, and their hearts were knit together not only for the nations, but also for the local church. After helping launch a local non-denominational church in Birmingham, which grew from 50 to over 2,000 in just two years, God called them to move to an “international gateway city” where the nations are, to raise up church planters.
A marked path
In 2002 Darren and Justin moved to South Florida as part of a team of about 13 people. With no facilities available, they began to meet in homes. “From the beginning, God birthed this hybrid model, this idea of intimate community, fellowship and discipleship, raising up leaders, meeting in homes together as family but also gathering corporately. Meeting in the small groups was only part of the puzzle, half of the story,” said Justin.
“We had never seen home fellowships before. God was stirring our hearts for team leadership. He was also stirring our hearts for just regular everyday people like you and me to carry the presence of God, to carry the power of God, to take a step out of this mindset where leaders are the only anointed individuals in the church. We wanted to see just regular people doing signs and wonders, giving words from the heart of God in their community and walking in the presence of God. The Lord spoke to us about the home fellowship thing saying, ‘This is the way I want you to do it,’ ” Justin explained.
Growing in grace
When it comes to the worship ministry, “God’s grace met us through Darren’s leadership,” said Justin. “Darren graciously said, ‘Justin, I love you. I believe in you. I am here for you. I trust your heart. Whatever you want to do, just go for it. You do what God tells you to do.’ That kind of leadership really helped us lay a foundation for what we see today. It gave me the freedom to make mistakes. It helped us cultivate an atmosphere of freedom where we could begin to write songs that would take the heart and shape of what God was doing here. That was a gift. That’s really rare unfortunately that leadership could have that kind of faith and trust,” Justin recounted.
As they dreamed about the things God wanted to do in the city, the doors began to open through relationships with other leaders and movements. They received words about a “sound coming out of their region, a movement of worship.” Although Justin’s head was in the clouds, his feet were firmly on the ground and he tried to stay practical. After a while of hearing the same thing from several sources, however, he got a clue.
“It’s kinda like at some point I have to give my heart to it and say, ‘Alright God, I guess you are saying something here or I’m gonna be fighting you. We are this little tribe in Fort Lauderdale and no one knows who we are. None of us are doing anything great by the world’s standards or even the church’s standards of ministry, but You keep speaking these things to us and you’ve got our attention,” he said.
Promise becomes reality
Justin is committed to be a faithful steward of all God has given him. “We’ve done our best to be good stewards of the people, the families and the relationships God had given us. We’ve started to see manifestation of God’s presence and transformation in our house. God has brought so many amazing anointed songwriters, and worship leaders. Our worship community has grown to over 50 musicians and worship leaders; It doesn’t stroke our egos. It’s a testament to what God has done.”
Even though Justin and the team had written plenty of original music, they had resisted the idea of recording. Recognizing the amount of quality worship music already out there, Justin didn’t want to be just one more worship CD. But through a series of dreams and timely words, they were encouraged to start recording. “God kinda twisted my arm almost three years ago and said, ‘Now’s the time to record the songs you’ve been writing.’ ” Justin admitted.
Through a connection between Darren and Banning Liebscher, founder of Jesus Culture birthed out of Redding, California, Justin reached out to Jeremy Edwardson of The Soundhouse Studios. They have recorded songs for Jesus Culture Music as well as Bethel Music and well known artists such as Michael W. Smith, Switchfoot and Third Day. Jeremy and his team came to the Harbour ministry center and recorded the first live album called “Harbour Worship, Here We Are,” which was released in January 2011. “I think at that moment, that weekend, God said, ‘Alright, here we go. Buckle your seat belts.’ ”
The following Spring, Justin and vocalist Mary Kat recorded their songs on the “Emerging Voices” CD. “Through The Glass,” Justin’s first studio record was released in October. It is now available on ITunes and Google Play Store. Soon to be released this fall is “Atmospheres” (tentatively named), which will be about 10 of his original songs tracked from his tour with the Jesus Culture Band.
What Justin took away from that tour was the revelation that God desires us “to authentically carry the love and power of God in a real way to the world around us to believers and unbelievers.
I think the best part for me was to see people come hungry and leave inspired to take the love and power of God out the door with them, instead of just a big worship experience.”
Justin believes these things will happen not only at the Harbour Church but all the churches in the community. “God has something huge for this region. We are a small part of it, but it is way bigger than us. He wants all His churches united in releasing a sound.” he said. “The songs that are birthed here are going out and impacting other communities all over the world. And it’s happening right now.”
Marcie Blackstone is a contributing writer for the Good News.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org