Steve Thompson is one of the UK worship scene’s hidden secrets. The son of a pioneering church leader within the New Testament Church of God, Steve has travelled the world serving as a worship leader, musical director and producer on a range of worship projects. He has worked with some of the world’s leading Christian artists, including Graham Kendrick, Lara Martin and Noel Robinson and, such is his knowledge about worship ministry, he is a lecturer at the London School of Theology. He spoke to Keep The Faith about his life, work and the ministry he runs alongside his wife, Velveta.
KEEP THE FAITH (KTF): You’ve been involved in music ministry for many, many years, but what exactly do you do?
STEVE THOMPSON (ST): I have been involved in music for over 35 years now, having started playing piano at the age of four and guitar at the age of three. Over the years, I have worked hard and developed the skill of producing and arranging music. Now, under the umbrella of our ministry, Beracah Music International, we produce and arrange albums for many international artists and worship leaders. I also teach part time on staff at the London School of Theology and, along with my wife Velveta, we offer worship team and worship team leadership consultancy.
KTF: Can you share some of the countries you’ve visited, and what you enjoy most about travelling all over the world to share the Gospel through music?
ST: I have now been privileged to travel to over 100 countries, including Nouméa, Egypt, Israel, Mauritius, Russia, the United States and many others. I really enjoy getting to know the locals, and tasting their different cuisine. It is such a joy to see the various creative ways that nations worship God in their local churches or homes, as some are forced to do.
KTF: In all your years of ministering, which experiences stand out for you, and why?
ST: Firstly, a trip to the Ivory Coast and the Republic of Congo. I was playing for a French band, called ‘EXO’, for whom I have done music arrangements on all their albums over 17 years. Whilst on a French World tour, we were told that a special guest would be attending one of the events. We did not know until later that this ‘special guest’ was the President of the Ivory Coast and his wife. During the concert, she came up and handed a note to Chris Christensen, the band’s lead vocalist at the time. He came over to me and communicated that the President’s wife had asked for a song that Velveta and I had written: ‘To the Lamb That Was Slain’. This song has been translated into French and has been used in numerous French churches around the world.
Also, I was very fortunate to be in a meeting in Asia with over 30,000 Chinese people, and feeling honoured that I was the only Black person in the crowd. There, I experienced and witnessed 14+ Japanese Christian leaders on the stage, facing and bowing down to a few leading Chinese Christian leaders and pastors, and asking forgiveness for all the atrocities and murders that had happened during the war and beyond. It was very moving to be witnessing this incredible moment of reconciliation – one I will never forget.
KTF: At what age did you realise that God had called you to music ministry, and what was your initial response?
ST: From a very early age – around six or seven – I was aware by the many comments that I had musical ability (we grew up in a musical home). However, at the age of 13, I realised I was called to use my music to serve in the local church, which my father was pastoring at the time, and beyond.
KTF: You have a worship ministry for adults and a separate one for children that you run with your wife, Velveta. Can you tell me a bit about that?
ST: We run an academy called casX (Creative Arts School of Excellence). Too many teenagers and young adults walk away from God-ordained callings, without having truly encountered the God who passionately loves them. It is from this springboard that Velveta and I are committed to investing into the next generation of worshippers and creative children.
Through casX, we pull in some great musicians, singers, songwriters and worshippers from the world of Christian music and, together, they deposit investments of God’s passion into the lives of the children who attend. What started out as a Saturday music school quickly grew into something much more impacting, when the ALL YOU CAN BE Children’s Residential Worship and Music Conference was birthed in 2011.
KTF: Can you tell me a little bit about your upbringing: where you were born, how many siblings you had, and what work your parents did?
ST: I was born in London, East Dulwich, and spent three years there until the New Testament Church of God, the church I grew up in, relocated my father, Rev SU Thompson to George Street (Handsworth church) in Birmingham. I have two brothers and seven sisters – one of my sisters, Ivy, went to be with the Lord four years ago. My father was responsible, along with other ministers, for pioneering the Church of God in the UK in the 50s. In fact, my father pastored at the very first NTCG building that was purchased in the UK. He led the church for 29 years. All family members have served in leadership in some way.
KTF: What role did faith play, and what was it like growing up in the home of a minister who was a leading pioneer of the NTCG?
My father is now 92 years old and, during a surprise visit to see him and Mum in Jamaica, I will never forgot a comment he made during the many lengthy conversations we had: “Steve, I am now looking forward to the next phase of my life…”
To be honest, there was always undue pressure on my brothers and sisters to ‘uphold the ministry’ – failure was a ‘no no’ – and we always felt like we had to live up to not bringing our father’s ministry or name into disrepute. However, although this was sometimes incredibly difficult, as I always had a naughty and cheeky side, it has produced in us a leadership quality: thinking about an action before enacting, and being more thoughtful about the needs of others around us.
KTF: When did you make the decision to become a Christian, and how has being a believer impacted your life?
ST: At 13 years old, I decided to follow Jesus though, being brought up in a Christian home, we were introduced to the faith at a much earlier age. Everything I do and all decisions I’ve made have been impacted by my faith in God, and by a desire to live and lead as an example of the Christian life. It’s amazing; the moment you reveal to those around you that you are a Christ-follower, you are observed more keenly. I guess the old statement is so true: ‘When evangelising, use words if you have to.’
KTF: You seem to have a very good work/church/family life balance. How have you managed that, considering you travel so much?
ST: It can be a major challenge trying to balance work, faith and my commitment to my family. And, let me state, I have not always got it right! When away from home, Vel and I speak about eight times a day; this has been very important in maintaining consistency and a balanced, married life! I have found that it is incredibly important to remind my girls why Mum and Dad do what we do. Therefore, they are much more releasing when they know I have to travel overseas. Thank the Lord for Skype and the Internet in general – lol! Sometimes, we just leave our Skype on, as this assimilates being in the same room.
KTF: What advice would you give to church leaders wanting to develop a vibrant and effective music ministry in their churches?
ST: It is important to develop good character in musicians and singers. I still believe one of the big mistakes being made by leaders, is thinking that musicians and singers are in place to serve the leader over their service, dedication and commitment to God. The true effectivity and success of the worship ministry is a worship team filled with individuals who can, and who have a passion to usher people into God’s presence from Monday to Sunday. There must be a good balance in receiving and giving!
KTF: What does the rest of 2014 hold for Steve Thompson, and what are your plans for your music ministry in 2015?
ST: We are very excited about 2015, but first, making sure we complete our plans and everything that belongs to 2014. We are looking forward to facilitating some extra culture, music and worship training in Asia. I am also going to be producing a new album for Velveta, and another one for my youngest daughter, Esther. We are planning our fourth Residential Children’s Music and Worship Conference, which will be held from 3-8 August, 2015. I am also supporting the band, facilitating a World Vision initiative, ‘Embrace’, where six female worship leaders – including Velveta – under the leadership of Lara Martin, take to the road, encouraging child sponsorship. The 2014 Tour has been a significant success, with many making a decision to sponsor a child through World Vision.
KTF: What message of hope would you like to leave with Keep The Faith readers?
ST: We have the ability and opportunity to share the Gospel of truth and hope in Christ, in many creative ways. Don’t wait for unusual opportunities, but use the normal day-to-day opportunities that God gives us. We went out of our way to strengthen our friendship with our next door neighbours, who were not initially talkative but, through God’s prompting and Vel’s kind persistence in reaching out, the wife eventually shared with Vel that the doctors had given her six months to live. We gave her some of our instrumental music albums, and extended a hug and prayer when appropriate. I told her the other day I had made up my mind that, when I see her again, I was going to give her the biggest of hugs.
Many would say when evangelising, not to scare the non-believer away, but we have learnt (still learning – lol) to just simply do what you think Jesus would do. Her recent words to us were: “I hope you won’t be moving away from this neighbourhood too soon…” She held tight as we embraced her. Let’s continue to reach out to those around us, demonstrating the love of the Father, being His hands and feet.
For more details, visit www.beracahmusic.co.uk; friend on Facebook at steve.thompson.568294; like on Twitter: Steve_Velveta