The
Inspiration
Project

WITH BRENDAN CORR

GUEST JD

Episode 01

JD: Episode Summary

On this inaugural episode of ‘The Inspiration Project’, Brendan Corr talks to JD from Hillsong United about his faith and life as a globally recognised Christian performing artist.

Among other things JD shares:

  • his childhood dream of becoming a dentist!
  • the time he almost gave away singing altogether.
  • how he stays grounded amidst the fame of Hillsong United.
  • the origins of all Hillsong United creative ideas.
  • the role of hard work when using the gift’s God has given you.
  • why an obscure tour named, Wonders in the Wild, is JD’s all-time favourite.
  • the motivation behind Hillsong United’s genesis.
  • his deep commitment to his local church.

JD: Episode Transcript

Sponsor Announcement
This podcast is sponsored by Australian Christian College, a network of schools committed to student wellbeing, character development, and academic improvement.

Introduction
Welcome to The Inspiration Project where, well known Christians share their stories to inspire young people in their faith and life. Here’s your host, Brendan Corr.

Brendan Corr
Well, it’s great to have another opportunity to meet a special guest. JD, we’re delighted you’ve been able to squeeze in some time, with getting between creative conference and your next tour.

JD
Yeah, no, it’s an honour to be here. I’m grateful to be able to chat with you.

Brendan Corr
A little window of opportunity, which is fantastic. We might start at the beginning and, I guess you’ve answered this question innumerable number of times previously, but how did JD come to the who JD is? How did the nickname start and how did it stick?

JD
Yeah, well listen, it’s not my most proudest moment, but actually when I was in about year three…

Brendan Corr
Goes back a long way does it?

JD
Yeah, it does. It started with, obviously my name’s Jonathan Douglas, and my year three teacher, whenever you were mucking up, talking in class, or not being the perfect student, you would get your name written on the board and if you got three strikes you’d have to miss a bit of lunchtime.

Brendan Corr
A lot of students have gone through that process I think. Names on the board.

JD
Yes, that’s right and it really happened because I guess my name would get written up there often enough that my teacher got sick of writing my full name on the board.

Brendan Corr
So you became a JD.

JD
So just abbreviated it to JD and pretty much ever since, that’s what more people than not know me as. Some of my closest friends wouldn’t even know my last name. Something that I find really funny and I guess it’s because I’m most known as JD, when someone writes my full name, they’ll write JD Douglas and I go, “Well listen.” I think I’m too nice. I let it go.

Brendan Corr
What does the D stand for?

JD
Yeah, exactly. Or they think my first name is J, Jay and my last name’s D, Dee, but anyway.

Brendan Corr
Oh, that could be a good rap name, if you wanted to go that way.

JD
Yeah, that’s right, I’ve got options.

Brendan Corr
Let’s just explore it. So, when did you decide to own it? How did you…

JD
Well, listen, I guess I didn’t really have a choice. I feel like that…

Brendan Corr
It’s the Australian way, right? You just get given nicknames and…

JD
Exactly. We like to shorten anything we possibly can and so, no, it’s definitely very easy for people to write down and so yeah, hopefully easy to remember.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, well that’s fantastic. You spoke about the fact that you have an actual family name.

JD
Yes, Douglas, yes.

Brendan Corr
The Douglas’s. Tell us a bit about your family. How did you come to faith in the context of your family life?

JD
Yeah, well, I feel like I’m really blessed that I was born into a Christian home. My mom and dad weren’t always Christians. I think they both came to faith just before they got married. Neither of them came from a Christian home, but I am blessed that I was born into a Christian home. My family was the kind of family that if you wanted to go to church or you didn’t, it didn’t matter. You were going to church anyway. To be honest, I love that because it’s formed in me really…

Brendan Corr
Did you always love that JD?

JD
Listen, I think I’ve… I’ve been part of Hillsong Church, my church, since I was four years old, so it’s as long as I can remember and I can’t actually remember a time where I didn’t want to go to church because I’ve just loved… I love my church. It’s not perfect, it’s not the best, but it’s healthy and it’s where I found God. It’s where I’ve found community and really ended up being so much with what I do with my life today, is just from being planted in our local church and it’s something I’m grateful for. So yeah, I actually never really had one of those seasons where I didn’t want to go to church and I’ve always loved it.

Brendan Corr
I’ll come back to the context of what your local church is doing for you in the midst of your ministry. You grew up in a Christian family, it’s wonderful blessing - I have the same heritage. When and how did you know that this was God’s call to you, to a life of faith? That it wasn’t just the community that you’re part of or the home that you were growing up in, there was something personal for you?

JD
Yeah, well I think I’ve got the worst memory ever. I’d say I’ve got the memory of a goldfish, which is supposed to be seven seconds. How they registered that, who knows? But anyway, that’s another point. But all my early memories are actually of God encounters. I remember being four years old, which is very young. My dad was away for the weekend on a business trip and like any little boy missed his dad. I remember crying to mum going, where’s dad? Didn’t know where he was, when he was coming back. She explained to me, listen, it’s just, he’s just gone away for the weekend for work, but there’s also a father in Heaven who never leaves you nor forsakes you and it was a very smooth altar call for my mum to give to a four year old boy. But I remember sitting on the stairs and instantly feeling peace knowing that I did have a heavenly father. Then I remember being basically in Sunday School at church and hearing about who Jesus was and it just becoming real to me. It’s the kind of thing that you can’t really explain except that I can’t be convinced otherwise. Then really the huge defining moment I think for the call of God on my life to serve him happened at a youth summer camp when I was about 12, I think it was, where I just felt the presence of God maybe tangibly for the first time and just had this overwhelming passion that the only thing I wanted to do with my life was to serve God and to build his church. It definitely wasn’t a very clear dream of what that would look like. I’d definitely, if you told me back then I’d be doing what I’m doing today I wouldn’t believe. I’d be in total shock, but one thing I have known from as early as I can remember is that I’ve wanted to be a part of building God’s kingdom and really doing that through building the local church.

Brendan Corr
That’s awesome, JD. So I was going to ask you, where did your sense of purpose into ministry come and it was around that time, as early as 12 where you realised in some way, in some form, I’m going to be doing something that’s serving God?

JD
Yeah, I remember growing up and often in school I feel like it’s common to be asked, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” At the time all the kids in my grade would say things like, be a fireman or an astronaut or a policeman or something like that. I would always answer, I want to be a dentist.

Brendan Corr
A dentist?

JD
I quickly found out the reason I said that was because I’d never been to the dentist. I went once and realised, no, that’s not what I want to do. I’ve got no idea where that came from. But I remember just thinking, oh the dentist sounds cool, but then I went to the dentist. But in all truthfulness, it wasn’t too long after that, but even, I remember being in Sunday school and being in church and through youth group, but really early on it was almost before I even got into our youth group, just being a part of church and that community was just that I just had this deep desire that I just wanted to… What I would get from being in the community, what I’d get from when I’d worship God or you know, hear those basic Sunday school lessons. I thought all I want to do is do that for others. So that’s kind of always been my desire in life. I feel like I’ve been given so much through my relationship with God and the experiences that I’ve had, and so I’ve just wanted to be a part of making sure anyone and everyone can have that same experience.

Brendan Corr
Terrific. When did music become part of your life?

JD
Yeah, this is a funny one for me because I remember, I liked singing when I was younger in primary school and in our primary school choir, and then started getting singing lessons through our creative department at church. Pretty much my voice broke. You know, I talk really deep at the moment, and that’s normal, but before my voice broke, I would answer the phone and say hello. But it’d be more like “Hello”, and people would say, “Hi Robin.” She’d think that I was my mum and obviously just hadn’t gone through… and that’s a conversation for another time. But, over that… being a singer in that period when your voice is breaking and my singing teacher basically said, “Listen, your voice is going all over the place at the moment. Come back when your voice settles down, it could take weeks, months or up to a year or so.” I remember thinking, oh great. I didn’t have a real passion for singing at the time and I guess it was just one of those things that…

Brendan Corr
So was it your mum and dad that sent you along to singing lessons?

JD
Yeah, I think so.

Brendan Corr
Some people get off to going to learn the piano.

JD
Yeah, I guess I didn’t learn the saxophone or the piano. I just joined the choir and really, the moment I stopped going to singing lessons, maybe I was, being at the age of 11 or 12, I walked away thinking, oh, I’ll never sing again or go to a lesson. I didn’t really have any passion or thought that I had passion. Long story short, a youth leader of mine, when my voice had settled and this was in, my little break ended up being a number of years and I remember being about 14 years old and my youth leader would drive to the beach to go surfing and we’d sing along to the radio and he would say, “Hey, why don’t you sing with us at youth?” I’d be like, “Oh no, I don’t want to sing. I don’t like singing. It’s not my thing”, and definitely struggled with nerves like you wouldn’t believe. But again, that’s a whole another story, and confidence. But after weeks of him asking me to sing every week, and I would say “No”, and make up every excuse under the sun. One day he rocked up to my door before youth on a Friday night and said, “Get in the car you’re singing tonight”, and that’s the first time I sung, and it was scary.

Brendan Corr
But it’s become something that gives you energy.

JD
Yeah and I guess that’s, where did my passion come from? I remember doing it for a few weeks, maybe a few months thinking I’m just doing this because my youth leaders asking me to or/ forcing me to, because there was no other guys that sung in our youth at the time. I remember thinking, “Hang on, this isn’t the plan. This is not what I wanted to do. So I’m going to stop.” I remember almost, I was talking to my older brother about this and saying, “Yeah, I don’t want to be, I’m not a singer. Why? How did I end up singing every week at youth? I’m going to stop.” I just remember my heart literally just kind of going into a knot and that of just, as in, you can’t stop this. I was almost shocked because I didn’t realise, but then in that very moment, I’m like, hang on, I think I’m called to do this and my mentality switched and I went back to singing lessons and got in our church choir and thought if I’m doing this, I’m going to do it with absolutely everything that I have to the best of my ability. That’s kind of…

Brendan Corr
What do you think that was going on in your heart in that moment, JD?

JD
Yeah, it’s so hard to explain because I don’t know if it was necessarily a physical thing, but that’s the way it felt like. I think absolutely, I believe that it was God through his Spirit just saying, “Hey, you’re not here by accident. Even though this isn’t necessarily the way that you’ve planned to do it.” I felt like God saying, “This is what I’ve got for you.” Again, it wasn’t like I thought, okay, great for the next… We’d be sitting here 20 years later and I’m still doing it and loving it and humbled as ever to be a part of what I get to do. But it was just like, no, for this moment, for this season, I’m in this. This is what I’m calling you to do, and it was, again, it’s one of those things can’t necessarily explain it, which is our God, but I know without a shadow of a doubt for it to be true.

Brendan Corr
It’s an amazing thing for a young person to feel that God is saying something to them about who they are and who their future is. You find that that happens to young people? Was it something unusual, unique for you?

JD
Yeah, I think it, well yeah, it is a little bit unique, but I think part of the reason and which is what I would encourage any young person is, I feel like I put myself or I was lucky enough to be in the environment, that community, of being in the presence of God, whether it be in a youth service or going to church or having an open heart, a receptive heart. Like we all do, pray those kind of prayers. God, if you’re real, make the light go green or make the car park come available or fill up my cup of water and all those things, we kind of… But God can work that way. But he works in so many other ways as well. So I think that was, was one God’s undeniable plan for my life, but I think it had a big part to do with being in the kind of environment where I’m allowing and expecting God to speak to me.

Brendan Corr
That’s great and it can happen at any time, any stage. Four years old, 14 years old.

JD
Yeah, exactly.

Brendan Corr
44 years old, 54 years old. God will still speak.

JD
Absolutely.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, it’s wonderful. You mentioned that it’s 20 years since those times and you’re certainly not just singing in the local youth group on a Friday night anymore. Bit of a different scene. How did that come about? Like when did the band become the band?

JD
Yeah, we kind of laugh about it and often get asked, being the main thing I do, being with Hillsong United and we’ve made… This last year, I think we realised we’d been going for 20 years now and we often get asked how did it all begin? Really the way that we formed as a band was just, we were just the youth worship team of our church at Hillsong and had no band meeting, let’s start a band, let’s make an album, let’s tour the world, let’s do what we do. No, it was always like, “Hey, this Friday night we’re gathering for our youth group. Let’s make it the best thing we can. Let’s”, and we’re always grateful to have our pastors in Brian and Bobbie and our youth pastors at the time filling us in. Dooley would always say, use whatever you’re passionate about. Why don’t you use that to actually serve God? And if you put God first, like the Bible says he will take care of everything that you need and give you a life beyond what you could dream, think or imagine. So we just believed Him. So we did that, and so for us we were like, “Hey, what’s in our hand?” And it was a passion for music, a passion for life and a passion for our friends. So we put that altogether and started writing music that we liked that, really the big goal was, will our friends like these songs? Not will we be able to make an album?

Brendan Corr
Your Friday night friends?

JD
Yeah. Our friends, our friends at school that don’t even go to church, our friends that do come to church. Wanting to write songs, obviously that glorified God, but we thought we want to also make sure that people want to sing them, because that’s the point of these songs. So really that was how it started and there wasn’t even a defining… And then I was going to say there wasn’t really a defining moment where we even named the band or it’s just again, I love looking back because if you would’ve told us when we started out as Hillsong United that God would allow us to do what we’ve done in the past 20 years, and I know what we’ve got looking forward, we’re really excited about as well, we just wouldn’t have believed you. It was just beyond what we could dream of.

Brendan Corr
There was no master business plan, this is where we’re going and this is how we’re going to get there?

JD
Yeah, no. Listen, we tried to be as wise and diligent with what we had along the way, but big picture, we get a lot of people who think, oh you guys have got great marketing strategies. I’ve heard our senior pastor Brian always talk about that and we kind of laugh, go we feel like we haven’t really known what we’ve been doing the whole time and we’re just grateful that the one thing we’ve known is God’s with us and he’s graced us to do it and so we’re just running as hard and fast with that.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, right. I want to ask you a few things about how it works when you’re a band that has somebody who lives in LA and somebody who obviously lives somewhere else and how do you stay a band? How does that all work? But listening to that story of those 20 years and you making step by step, circumstance by circumstance, decisions, would you say that it’s been easy?

JD
No. No, not at all. I think that it’s been fun and it’s been enjoyable and I think there’s been no doubt that God is in it. But I think even just our journey through life, life throws things our way that we weren’t expecting or wanting or, and in trying to figure that out all along the way, brings its challenges and its difficulties. It’s something, hindsight’s a beautiful thing to look back and it’s that we can see the hand of God the whole way along the journey. But often whether it’s dealing with personal issues or external things that come along the line, it is… I think sometimes can be a fight of faith to keep going and I think that’s one of the biggest reasons that we are still going because we’ve just decided to never stray too far off why we gathered together and what we’re about. That’s been our strength as, I think, a band and why we’ve been able to keep going forward and we’ve seen, God bless that.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, I’ll come back to that, but let’s visit some of those practical things. Are you now in a situation where you’ve got band members living in different parts of the globe?

JD
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
How do you stay together? How do you do the work that needs to get done when you’re so spread around?

JD
Yeah well, I guess, even this morning we had a band meeting and it was done through one of the technical Apps, phone, you know, video call systems that everyone could, from their phone dial in and there was 15 of us and we had people that are in Memphis, someone was in Nashville, someone was in Los Angeles. Then we had people here in Sydney and we all jumped on and it just actually works really well with technology. It takes a while to wrestle with where we put out let’s meet at this certain time and everyone’s like, “Hang on, that’s midnight for me”, or “Hey, this is 7:00 AM.” That’s the difficult part. But then once we do that and we figure that out, it’s actually really amazing. I think as well, the strength of what we do is the why, our purpose and our calling. That’s just so strong and it’s so much bigger than any of us individually and a lot of us have been doing this for a long time together. I think building relationships over the years, some of us went to school together or have grown up together. We were all single boys together, then got married and have had kids in our own journeys and so a lot of that I think has made it easy for us to be able to work together.

Brendan Corr
In some way, in all of that, you’ve been able to preserve the authentic relationship between you? Is that the way you sort of describing it?

JD
Yeah, absolutely and that’s to be honest, outside of the opportunity that God’s given us, my favourite thing about what we get to do is just that bond. We are like a family and that’s been amazing and it’s such a good thing because that doesn’t mean everyone gets along perfectly or that it is always easy, but it’s the environment in that community that you get as being basically a tight knit family is what helps us keep it together regardless of what time zone we’re in.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, that’s great. The creative side of things? Like people writing bits of songs in different parts of the world and then assembling them via technology.

JD
Yeah, pretty much. We always just try and get it done any way possible. It’s definitely been a culture for us to always be creative and to be coming up with ideas, whether it be songs or ways that we can do what we do in a better way. Then, depending on what the project is or where the need is, we will often get together and everyone just brings their ideas or shows what they’ve been working on and we, because everyone is all over the place now, we do often block out a couple of weeks a year to workshop music ideas. But then we try and meet frequently and we tour a lot together as well. There’s been times where we’ve recorded an album while we’ve been touring on the back of a bus, and with technology these days you can just, if you’ve got a laptop and a couple of microphones, then you know, we’ll do an amazing worship event with a lot of people. Then you get on the back of the bus and record a vocal for the album. It’s just, you need to get creative in how you can do it and all the rest of it, but because we are actually often together a lot of the year, so we make it work.

Brendan Corr
That’s good. Creativity, where do you think you… The band’s gone through its history of how you sounded 20 years ago, how you’re sounding now, what the new album Awake is looking like. Where do you get your source of newness? Is it based on your experience? Is it based on your sermons?

JD
I could give you the easy answer, but it’s the most true answer. It’s from the Creator of everything itself. I think that, for us personally, and we’re so well aware that we can often… I think whatever it is that your creative discipline is and everyone has one, even if you are an accountant, you need creativity to do what you’ve got to do.

Brendan Corr
You get a certain sense of… with creative bookkeeping sort of thing.

JD
Legal creativity I’m talking about. But I guess, or whether it is you’re a painter or a graphic designer, a musician, a actor or you know, you need to keep those creative juices flowing. It is very normal for us to hit those kind of walls, whether it be writing writer’s block or just feeling like you’re completely dry creative. I know we can search, where am I going to get my next idea from? But for us, and it’s easy because it’s what we’re about and what we believe in, but we have the Source. We have the Creator of the Heavens and the universe and I think sometimes we can get so overwhelmed in the day to day tasks of having to meet a deadline and have to have a song finish or have to have this done that we’re like, all right, how am I going to do this, and forgetting hang on, you can stop for a second. Just take a deep breath. Look up if that’s what helps you, remind you, or just pray and believe that God will help you in that area. It doesn’t mean that then you sit down and all of a sudden boom, you download a song from Heaven and record it and it’s perfect. There’s definitely the due diligence of hard work, but coming from a place of being aware and tapping into the source of the Creator I think is really important. I think if that’s just a daily discipline that… That’s something that’s helped us and you have your seasons where you’re not as disciplined in tapping into who God is and what he’s got for you, but it’s never getting too far away from that. Then from there, I think it is just, there’s lots of little practical things like making sure that you can find rest when you get it. Making sure that you are finding what inspires you and then making sure that that’s inputting into your life to help what we do.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, that’s great. It is. I think it would be easy for people to be looking in and imagining creativity is just this mystical thing that happens and drops as you just say, from Heaven, fully formed and all we’ve got to do is record it, and not realise the diligence that’s required to work that through. Part of the work I suppose, and I won’t put words in your mouth, JD, but it sounds a bit like part of the work is putting yourself in the right place.

JD
Yeah, absolutely.

Brendan Corr
That’s the first thing that you’ve got to do and then apply yourself to your craft and apply yourself to writing or planning or whatever is the thing that God’s asking you to do in the moment.

JD
Yeah, and I absolutely would echo that and I think the other thing I’d say on that is that absolutely we’ve been inspired by God and get creative, but getting to work with some of my friends who I believe are some of the greatest songwriters, not the greatest, but some of them are writing some incredible songs at the moment. The one thing that I get to see that not everyone else gets to see is simply how hard they work. You can look at someone, whether it be a football player, an athlete, and go, they are just freakishly talented. Same with some of the songwriters I get to work with. They are freakishly talented, but you know what? They also work harder than almost anyone that I know and I think we can succumb to that lie of going, I’m just not good. I’m not creative or I’m not this. But I think people don’t realise, absolutely we need inspiration and gift and talent, but that hard work is a thing that’s going to make what you’re doing get across the line. You can write 90% of a song in a couple of hours, but that last 10% can take months. But without that last 10% the song not going to work or achieve what it could. So, listen it’s not the most exciting thing to hear, but it is also amazing that if you actually do just apply yourself and put that hard work in that that’s what’s going to get things across the line. I actually really think that’s what God honours as well.

Brendan Corr
Amen. I thoroughly understand and agree. Let me ask you about the people that are supporting the band. The production guys. The back end guys.

JD
The heroes.

Brendan Corr
What sort relationship and what sort of role are they playing in Hillsong United?

JD
Yeah, it’s absolutely massive and I love that, again, so grateful coming from a healthy church home that even from as young as I can remember, and I’ve been a part of our worship team for over 20 years now, that all the production guys and all those behind the scenes people, they often, well they rarely if ever get any type of credit or visibility for what we are doing, but at the end of the day they get there before us. We still get there pretty early. We get there earlier than anyone that’s just attending church. We get there early, but they’re there before we’re there and they’re always the last to leave. So we’ve always tried to honour them and be grateful, because they don’t get the recognition they deserve. I’m so well aware that, it doesn’t matter how great I think my voice is to sing a song, or I can write a song that I think can really help many people, if there’s not someone there to turn my microphone on, or make sure that it’s loud enough that people can hear what I’m being able to sing or the song that I want people to hear, no one’s hitting record. It actually just doesn’t get done. So there’s a partnership there, especially when it comes to touring. Our guys work their absolute tails off but again, we feel like they are part of the team and love them and so it’s such a great environment that we have. Yeah, couldn’t be more grateful for them.

Brendan Corr
Not being cliched, but it really is like some parts of the body have honour, but everybody is essential.

JD
Exactly. Not everyone can be the mouth and the eyes and the ears.

Brendan Corr
Exactly, yeah.

JD
You got to have like little toes in there. You need lungs, you need… So absolutely. We are one body.

Brendan Corr
I remember you telling me an experience you had a while back JD about something that turned the theory of your ministry and what the songs were saying into a very personal encounter. You were visiting… The band decided they were going to make some personal visits to different places.

JD
Yes.

Brendan Corr
You remember JD?

JD
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
You want to share what that meant for you to see the personal, real impact of what God’s gifted you guys to be doing?

JD
Yeah, absolutely and like I said, we’ve always… because we’re part of a church and if we’re not on tour, we’re just serving at our local church wherever we’re located. So we’re always aware and know and believe that people are connecting to what we’re doing and helping them. But often statistics or stories can lose the personal value. So a couple of years ago we were going over to the United States of America to do a conference and we’re like, okay, while we were over there, it’s a long way to go and fly a lot of people, we’re like, what else can we do while we’re over there? Someone came up with the idea, we just released an album called Wonder and I think it was Joel actually had the idea, let’s do a tour. We can call it Wonder in the Wild and basically put out through social media for people to invite us to come and play for them. Not do a big worship event or a concert, but do a birthday party, go to a school, go to whatever, just that… So we had lots of different requests and I don’t know how our tour manager sifted through all of them and picked out how it could all work. But we spent about two weeks just going to… We crashed a wedding and surprised a bride and groom just after they got married. We went to a prison. We went to an army base. We visited someone who was really engaged with what we’re doing but had had dozens of surgeries and couldn’t basically get out of the house. We knocked on her front door and sat on a couch with an acoustic guitar and worshipped together. Just those types of things. Surprised the church, was just having a picnic lunch on a Saturday and we went. Just had a really small crew and instruments and just had a time of worshipping together and that was amazing as it sounds, but the conversations we would have afterwards with these people of just what God is doing in their life and the small part that we get to play by representing this music and these songs that we believe are given to us by God. I guess it did help with all the years that we’ve been doing it, just really remind us and bring it home to what we get to be a part of and how broad the Kingdom of God is and how many different ways he’s working. Just to see that. I remember coming back and thinking that we’ve been able to play at some really iconic and quite large venues and amazing events and they are great in and of themselves, but for me, hands down, that was my favourite trip.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, that’s awesome. I was talking with one of my colleagues the other day who was sharing a concern that they had about all the good things that they had to do, that it was such a busy time of ministry that they weren’t finding a way in which they could connect themselves to God. How do you do that, JD? In the midst of all that is on your schedule, how do you find freshness in your in your own walk?

JD
Yeah. I think it can be really challenging, but I’m also aware that I think that’s the most important thing. God’s gracious and he’s in control and he’s sovereign and I know he is working all things together for good, but we can quite easily without realising it, get so distracted that we move into that lane of doing it in own strength and doing it at our own way. You can do that for lengthy periods of time or short periods of time, but all I know is the longer that goes on, the more I guess you are susceptible to things like stress and burnout and just it being heavier than it needs to be. So I think for me, it just starts with the awareness of, that’s the most important thing that I realised too. I know I can’t do what I’m called to do by my own. I thank God that I was never called to do it on my own. So I find myself often in those positions where I say those things to God, “I can’t do this anymore. This is too hard.” And I always, in a gentle way, feel God say back to “Good, because you don’t have to, it is too hard for you, but you’re not alone. I’m with you.” Unfortunately just finding myself in those places too often, it just has driven me straight back to the word of God. So I really feel like I cannot do what I’ve got to do every day without God and I just love that I can stop at any time and just get on my knees and acknowledge and it’s more to remind myself. It’s not like I’m telling God, “Hey.” He knows. But it’s just what it does to your own way that you think and the way that you see and the way that you talk. Just understanding that God’s with me. He’s got me. Even when I feel like I’m out of my depth, God promises that he’s never going to push us past our limits, but he’s going to always be with us every step of the way. I can definitely testify to feeling that feeling like I feel like I’ve spent my whole life out of my depth, but what I’ve always said is, I felt like I’ve felt my whole life with God leading me and being with me and it’s been the thing that’s helped me. So I couldn’t encourage anyone any more than just draw near to God. You know, James talks about it, draw near to him and he will draw near to you. Man, it is the greatest feeling.

Brendan Corr
Amen. Which brings you back to the comment about your local church, right? That you’re plugged in, even though you’re touring the world and all that sort of high achieving performance, you’re still on the church roster for singing at different services and part of that community, just as a member of the community.

JD
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
That must do something about keeping you connected with the people of God.

JD
Yeah, absolutely and that’s why, we always think… When we first started touring with United, we’d get people like, “Wow, who are you guys and where are you from and what’s your story?” We’d be like, “We’re just church kids”, or “We’re just the youth group of our Hillsong Church.” Then got to a point where we’re a little bit too old to say we’re the youth group, because none of us went anymore because we were too old. But that’s always been I think the distinction of what God’s put the blessing on who we are and what we’re doing is because we are connected to the local church. So it’s actually my favourite thing from maybe getting off the stage in a stadium, then getting on a plane and then coming home and leading one of our services, which are amazing, but just that, with our team, all of our volunteers who are sacrificing their time and their efforts to do that.

JD
I know just that strength in community, it’s the best place because you know, if your head gets a little bit too bigger than it should, it’s going to get pulled back down. But at the same time, if you are down further than you should, someone’s going to lift you up. I think that’s family. That’s community. That’s where we can grow in that kind of environment. So it’s something that I absolutely love being a part of and always have and always will.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, Spirit of God ministering to you through His people.

JD
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
Yeah that’s wonderful. I did want to ask you one question about being in the industry. We’re in a pretty cutthroat industry in the music business. How do you find being true to your sense of ministry and the commerce and the ambition and the charisma style of music industry? Who do you guys work through that?

JD
Yeah well, I think again, it’s been a journey. You know, at the moment, this year in some of the venues and opportunities that we’ve had are bigger than I ever thought we’d get, but it’s been, I think a really natural and organic journey for us. So I think it wasn’t like we just got thrust into what we’re actually doing right now and it’s grown slowly and so I think we’ve been able to grow with it and that’s been the grace of God. But really at the end of the day it comes back to this whole conversation. I think that running theme that for us, we just are so well aware of what we’re a part of and why we do what we do and I think the strength is never losing the why. We are not in this to play the crowds. We’re not in this to try and get recognition. We’re not in this to make money. We are here simply as a response to who God is and what He’s done for us. Out of that personal revelation, we write songs to help others that are on the journey. First and foremost, to glorify God and bring him worship and praise, but then also to help others, which is what God’s called us to do - Love God and love people. And that’s really the, if you want to sum up for us as a church and since United is part of the church, that’s for us as well. Everything that we’re doing is because we love God and because we love… it’s for other people and of course there’s opportunities along the way because there is a stage, there is lights, there is attention that comes from doing what we do, but really the end of the day, we all know each other. We know we’re not that good. It’s just the grace of God and we also know the reason we’re there is to actually help people. Inspire them to draw closer to God and understanding as they do that they’re going find his truth for their life, his purpose and that’s greater than we could ever imagine.

Brendan Corr
That’s great. JD, we want to thank you on behalf of, representing all of the guys who’ve done so much to serve the church of God over these years. We hope you understand a little bit of the blessing that you’ve passed on to other people and I really want to thank you for sharing your perspective and your experience with the people who will be listening to this podcast and so that they can hold something of what you’ve learned. With God first, step into the things that he opens to you, work hard and allow Him to lead and be real Lord of your heart.

JD
Amen. Thanks for having me and I do hope that people are encouraged and inspired because trust me, if God has done anything in me, then he can definitely do it for you as well.

Brendan Corr
God bless you JD.

JD
Amen. Thank you.

About JD

Jonathon Douglass or ‘JD’ (as he is known by his childhood nickname) is one of Hillsong Church’s foremost worship leaders and Creative Pastors, and has been a part of the UNITED team since its beginning. He credits the love and encouragement he experienced growing up at Hillsong, as playing a vital role in the development of his passions – the greatest of which is a firm belief in the power of a healthy local church in seeing God’s Kingdom established across the earth. His wife Lauren partners him in ministry, and his two beautiful daughters Indie Bo and Sailor Rose are always along for the ride. When JD is not leading worship in church or somewhere else on the globe, or discipling others pastorally, you can find him with his family at the beach or cycling.

Photo of Brendan Corr

About Brendan Corr

Originally a Secondary Science Teacher, Brendan is a graduate of UTS, Deakin and Regent College, Canada. While Deputy Principal at Pacific Hills for 12 years, Brendan also led the NSW Christian Schools Australia registration system. Brendan’s faith is grounded in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and a deep knowledge of God’s Word. Married for over 30 years, Brendan and Kim have 4 adult children. On the weekends, Brendan enjoys cycling (but he enjoys coffee with his mates afterwards slightly more).