Latest CD, Jesus At The Center (2012)
2 Gold Albums, including, Live from Another Level
Awards: 6 Dove Awards, 2 Stellar Awards, 3 Grammy Awards
Authored A Deeper Level with his group New Breed
Worship Leader Lakewood Church
Co-founded New Breed Ministries with wife Meleasa, (Organization comprised of noted musicians that serve within their respective churches and the Church at large)
Featured appearances: The Tonight Show, FOX, CNN,CBS, ABC, TBN, and CBN
Married, three children
Israel Houghton Puts Jesus at The Center
The 700 Club
CBN.com-“Back” with New Breed
Following two back-to-back Billboard Top 200-selling, GRAMMY Award-winning solo studio albums, Israel Houghton returns with New Breed for their first live recording in five years, Jesus At The Center. Recorded live with thousands of worshipers at Houston’s Lakewood Church, this double-CD, 17 song album with three additional studio singles features Israel & New Breed returning to their roots, delivering new anthems for the modern day church. The recording follows the group’s critically acclaimed, GRAMMY Award-winning, A Deeper Level (2007).
“The overarching story of the album is that sometimes we can be so ‘churched’ that we can lose sight of the ‘who, what, why’ of worship,” says Israel. “This project simply places Jesus where he is supposed to be. We intentionally removed the metaphors and simply focused on his name.” Israel said that it was time to do another live album with New Breed. “We’ve always been known for what we do live and we felt like we had songs that could serve as a resource to the church worldwide.” Israel says that while this is the group’s first live album in five years, they were never “broken up,” and truth is, the band didn’t go anywhere. If anything, Israel says they’ve been as busy as ever. “We did around 700 concerts in that amount of time. And we’re still hopping.” Hiatus? Not even close. Israel points out that in the interim he also recorded two solo albums, The Power of One and Love God/ Love People, Grammy-winning studio albums that allowed him to stretch creatively, trying things that perhaps would sound differently if replicated in a live setting. However, whenever a ministry opportunity arose, Israel says the New Breed gang was ready to hit the road—whether it was touring with Chris Tomlin, performing at the GRAMMYs®, or leading worship around the world. It was their experiences during these past five years that inspired Jesus At The Center, music for a new season with a message that has been resonating with the group for a while. “It felt like the right time and the right statement to make,” Israel says of the album title. “The simplicity of being all about Jesus, and not using ‘pronoun-ed’ gospel… going back to a place where it’s not about us, where we’re decreasing because Jesus is increasing and drawing all men to him,” he says. “This requires finding the balance between being a worship leader and being an artist,” he continues. “The purpose of a worship leader is being looked through, not looked at.”
In 1995, Israel and his wife, Meleasa, founded New Breed Ministries, an organization they continue to run and that is comprised of noted musicians and singers who serve within their respective churches and together serve the Church at large. Since then, Israel & New Breed has amassed a legion of followers that crosses generational lines with popularity across African American, Latin and Caucasian listener lines. He uses his own multi-cultural upbringing as a reference point with a desire to draw people of all races, ages and cultures together. Israel laughingly describes himself as, “a black kid who grew up in a white family in a Hispanic neighborhood.” The most recent albums he’s done with New Breed have focused more on social and global concerns. Israel strongly believes that people who consider themselves worshippers have a heart for social justice.
Active as worship leader in his local church, Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church, Israel has also served as worship leader at Hillsong conferences and Franklin Graham crusades. He has written or co-written 11 CCLI Top 500 favorites, been featured on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, accompanied Alicia Keys at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards for a performance of George Michael's “Freedom '90,” and performed at the 50th Annual GRAMMY Awards.
DESTINED TO WORSHIP
Israel says when you look at Jeremiah 29:11 and Psalm 139 you quickly realize that there is nothing accidental in our lives. He is living proof of that. Israel could have easily been an abortion statistic. In the 1970s, Israel’s mother was seventeen and became pregnant with him. Israel’s biological father is African American and they lived in a very segregated town in Iowa. His mother’s family had a hard time when she told them she was pregnant and they disowned her. The father also abandoned them. However, Israel’s mother decided to have him, and ended up moving to California. When she was eight-months pregnant, the state said it was going to take her baby because she was taking drugs throughout her pregnancy and was considered an unfit mother. One day, Israel’s mother was walking down the street. A woman walked across the street to talk to her. The woman told Israel’s mother she didn’t know her but felt she had to tell her that Jesus loved her and she was not forgotten. The woman continued to love and minister to Israel’s mother on the street. From that day on, Israel’s mother never touched another drug and she saw miracle after miracle happen in her life. Israel was given his biblical name from a word his mother saw repeatedly in the Bible given to her by the woman who ministered to her. Not long after Israel was born, his mother married Henry Houghton and they raised Israel and his three younger siblings in Arizona and New Mexico.
An interest in music settled within him early on. “I was the kid in church who jumped on the drums at the end of service and annoyed everybody! But my mom is a phenomenal piano player who taught me the basics. And I learned the guitar on a bet from a guy who didn't think I had the discipline to do it. It was 1986 and I was 15 years old. Our bet was 30 days, and in that time I learned how to play by practicing every single day. I've always been like that about anything I set my mind to. I’ve always had this feeling that I'm not here to take up free oxygen. Whatever I'm here to do, I'm going to impact my immediate world and, hopefully, the world at large. It’s just inherent.”
Israel’s first professional recordings were a pair of solo albums for Warner Bros. Records. Today, the music of Israel and New Breed is in demand for everything from film soundtracks to commercial jingles. Anywhere the message can be disseminated, Israel will bring it. “We're not here to salt the salt and light the light. We're here to get out to where there is darkness and no flavor - where people need the strength that we, as Christians, have access to and possess,” Israel says.
A HEART’S DESIRE FULFILLED
For 20 years, Israel had asked and wondered if anyone had ever met the lady who crossed the street and told his mother about Jesus. It has always been a “cry of Israel’s heart” to see his mother reunited with this woman. Early last year, Senior Pastor of Lakewood Church, Joel Osteen, used Israel’s testimony in a sermon. In August 2010, there was a letter from a lady who saw that program. In the letter she said if the incident happened in Oceanside, CA she thought she was the lady. The woman gave other details in the letter. Israel read the letter, and then called his mother. He told his mother to sit down. Israel read the letter to his mother and said the woman’s name. His mother exclaimed, “That’s her! That’s her! That’s her!” A few days later, Israel and his mother went to see the woman. He asked, did you have any idea that crossing the street would change hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of lives? Then he asked why she did it. The woman said she felt that God rescued her and the only way she could respond was to rescue someone else. With his own testimony Israel says you can cross the street to change the world, you don’t have to cross the ocean.
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