Popular song puts spotlight on worship leader

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Jeremy Riddle is an accidental celebrity.

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His song Sweetly Broken was the sixth-most-played song last year on adult contemporary Christian radio stations, according to the Gospel Engine Web site. That success surprised Mr. Riddle, the worship leader and pastor of junior high ministries at the Vineyard Anaheim church in Anaheim, Calif.

"I was mostly writing a song for my congregation,'' he said. "The only job of Vineyard Music is to give voice to music coming out of Vineyard movement. They shopped the song around to radio and I didn't really think anything of it, but it ended up doing remarkably. "Most people, when they get themselves in some kind of spotlight, it's because they wanted to. I'd given that up."

Mr. Riddle will be the guest worship leader Friday and Saturday, March 3, at the Healing and the Kingdom of God conference at the Vineyard Church of Augusta on Parrish Road.

On Sunday, March 4, he will preview his debut solo CD, Full Attention (Varietal Records, a division of Vineyard Music). The CD, which will be released March 6, includes Sweetly Broken.

The 29-year-old gave up seeking fame at 23 after five years with a secular band.

"We were all Christians, but we weren't singing expressly Christian music. The goal of that band was to become famous. We did, like, traditional rock 'n' roll, but I didn't feel peace about it," he said. "I felt the Lord was leading me in a different direction, so I laid it down and returned to leading worship, writing worship songs."

Since then, the point of his music ministry has been to lead people into a time of connection to God, he said. His life influences his music because, as a married father of three, he understands the "love of God the father."

Now that the spotlight is seeking him, it has "thrust me into this kind of world and life, which is a bit strange," he said.

"I think there's a huge difference between worship leader and musical artist," Mr. Riddle said. "With musical artists, the focus of their music and their artistry is themselves; that's what they're promoting. A worship leader is not writing about himself; he's writing songs about God. It's an entirely different center of attention than putting on a concert, it's not a performance for people. I guess that's what weird about it.

"When you gather together to worship God, that's a vertical interaction. You're not just there to watch someone play a song or to see so and so. So it's a very different environment when people come to see me."

Though his audience and venues also are starting to change, he plans to continue spreading his music.

"What I find peace in is, my job assignment is still the same. I have no control over why people come," Mr. Riddle said. "I'm used to leading worship for a Sunday morning service. Now I've gotten a request to open for the L.A. Kings (hockey team) at the Staples Center. That's a different venue. But I'll lead worship wherever. It doesn't matter to me."

Reach C. Samantha McKevie at (706) 823-3552 or samantha.mckevie@augustachronicle.com.

GIVE YOUR ATTENTION

WHAT: Healing and the Kingdom of God conference, with guest speaker Lance Pittluck and guest worship leader Jeremy Riddle


WHERE: The Vineyard Church of Augusta, 3126 Parrish Road


WHEN: Session 1 is 7 to 9 p.m. Friday; Session 2 is 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.; Session 3 is 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, March 3


COST: $25 per person, $40 per couple, $10 per teen or $50 per family


CONTACT: (706) 863-9766 or www.vineyardaugusta.org


HEAR HIM LIVE: Jeremy Riddle will return for Worship First at 6 p.m. Sunday, March 4, for a preview of his solo debut CD, Full Attention.


HEAR HIM NOW: To hear samples of Sweetly Broken and Stand in Awe, from Jeremy Riddle's Full Attention CD, click the titles.


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