Eddie Soto on Reencountering God at a Nightclub

When Chilean Eddie Soto was only nine years old, God touched his heart and planted a seed of light in his life. When adolescence arrived, he was so passionate about music that he forgot the experience he lived as a nine-year-old child.

This conversation was conducted by Jaime Lázaro in Spanish and translated to English. Read it in Spanish.

Later, when he was 21, Eddie had become a sought-for professional musician. He had a busy agenda and a whole future ahead of him.

But something happened that turned the direction of his life 180 degrees. Eddie was playing in one of the best nightclubs in Viña del Mar, Chile, watching people consume drugs and alcohol. He watched people arrive well dressed and leave, hours later, completely unrecognizable.

It was that blessed night when God showed him that he shouldn’t be there. Eddie left that nightclub crying and promised never to play in a place like that again.

Shortly thereafter, he had the opportunity to come to the United States to study orchestration and musical arrangement. Initially, he directed worship at a very well-known church in Los Angeles and he produced new Christian talents. Later he started to minister personally in congregations across the United States.

As you read this conversation, consider the following questions:

  • Eddie Soto states that we all should be worshipers and that God is looking for us, without exception or distinction; God seeks that we might worship him. Has the Hispanic community understood that worshipers aren’t only those up front and leading but that each of us can and should be worshipers?
  • In his experience as a worshiper, Eddie has often had to abandon his song order and the words he had prepared because worship was no longer being led by a human; God takes control. Should worshipers be more willing to listen to the voice of God and to put aside what is planned during worship?
  • Eddie Soto brings to light the reality that in the Hispanic community there is not enough musical talents. One can see the limitations in many churches. Do we need to import musicians from Latin America or should we motivate our young people more to study professionally?

The Conversation

Do you think that Praise and Worship are the same thing?
I learned that worship is a general concept, which includes praise and worship as we know them, but if you want to make a difference between what we normally call praise and worship, praise is the foyer to a period of intimacy with God, and we know it as times of rejoicing and happiness in which people share and declare the wonders of the Lord. It is something interesting which His word says, “Enter his doors with thanksgiving.” It’s then time to thank him, to give him glory; then we start entering his presence. In what we call worship, we enter a time of intimacy with Him. We seek his presence, for him to allow us to feel his power, something supernatural above us. Many times it turns into healthiness, the time in which God raises us up, in which God restores. Depending on what we understand, there is a difference: praise anticipates a time of intimacy which is the worship of the Lord.

I understand that for the American community saying “worship” is saying only “adoration.” 
Exactly. And that would be logical; but we Hispanics, when we speak with musicians, we say, “Now let’s have a song of adoration,” and immediately we go to a soft time of adoration, but the correct word of this concept is what Americans call “worship.”

What do you think is the role of praise and worship in the life of the Latino church in the United States?
The role is foundational not only in the Latino church but in all churches. Because the moment people arrive at our churches, with their burdens, with difficult life situations, perhaps even with domestic problems, or work problems, we go to church to seek answers, to look for peace in our hearts, and when we enter and find that sublime praise, filled with the Holy Spirit, with the presence of God, of course there comes the supernatural, which is the peace of God. It is so fundamental because when we start to praise God, His Word is fulfilled in that He dwells within the praise of his people. And when he dwells, the enemy cannot dwell where God is. We see a very strong spiritual reaction within our praise to God, because the enemy tends to leave fleeing; he has no choice. He cannot linger where there is praise to God. It is then God starts to work in our lives because the strength of the enemy cannot be there. And God starts to give us peace, healing through praise. God prepares the heart so that when that anointed Word comes to bring a person that is in charge of the sermon, he can enter a grateful heart which has worshiped God, which is open to all of those teachings; those promises can enter deeper into our heart. If we go directly to the message its like when we enter a house and start playing a sermon. We are busy, with worries, and there hasn’t been a period of worship to open our heart to the Word. So it is very important. The Word is very necessary, but praise is foundational in order to have a good understanding of the Word.

What is a worshiper for you?
A worshiper is what God seeks. A worshiper is the person that seeks the presence of God, through praise, through song. A worshiper doesn’t necessarily have to be a musician. God does not look only for musicians. In His word it doesn’t say that God is looking for talents. A worshiper is whoever opens their heart and says, “Lord, I praise you, I give you glory because you live in me.” It’s a process, becoming a worshiper, because the Word of God teaches us that we have to be dead to the “I,” that we have to be dead to our own selfishness, to our own self, and to let God enter into us and when He does that and he fills that “hole,” the space that remains when we leave our old selves behind, God begins to reign in our lives. That is when a sublime worship to God begins, when we shed everything that makes up our life. Worshiping God is surrendering our lives completely to Him.

Is the calling to become a worshiper for everyone?
We should all be worshipers and God is looking for all of us without exception or distinction. God looks for all of us to worship Him.

Have praise and worship changed in the past ten years?
Definitely, there are always changes. In musical culture more than anything there have been changes. In the spiritual, God continues to be the same. God moves in the midst of that praise and that worship. But we have seen musical changes in recent years. When, a few years back, the renewed praise movement in the 70s and 80s and 90s started to be played more according to what we believe the Word teaches there have been gradual changes. In recent years there has been great musical influence from contemporary rhythms, making them very strong. A contemporary rock-pop style has been introduced in a majority of churches; the Hillsong style, the style of Israel Houghton, of Lakewood and contemporary styles that really emphasized the sound of guitar with heavy percussion. It has transformed into music that is more for the taste of young people which has attracted criticism from worshipers from other generations, since praise was a bit more conservative. Even people from traditional churches have been affected by this new trend which has absorbed so much.

Do you think that music is being made which differentiates between ages or is it a single style that comes out?
I think that the ideal for church leaders is to be able to build up praise, but it is hard because the contemporary movement is very youthful. You cannot ask a person of 50 or 60 years of age who has grown up with a different style to sit through some rock that sounds almost heavy with a lot of distorted and strident guitars. It’s not easy for them to be able to assimilate praise music like that. A person who comes from using the Baptist or Methodist hymnals, when listening to rock music from Hillsong, will get scared or get annoyed because they’re not used to it. I think that in our churches we must be wise, such as presenting beautiful and sublime praise music to God that also encompasses all ages.

What do you think are the basic spiritual elements that public worship should have?
Spiritually it is a complete surrender to the Lord on the part of the worshiper. Of course, in some churches we have entered into routines of programs and that is something that one has to watch closely. Because when there truly is worship that pleases the Lord, it is no longer led by a human being; it is He who leads it. When there is worship that pleases God, it is because He took control. There is something spiritual that moves that worship. I have been able to see, on various occasions, when we bring our well-prepared program, with songs and beautiful sequences, where on the first song the Holy Spirit says “NO.” He shows us clearly to “praise and worship me the way I’m telling you to.” And new songs emerge which come through what you tell me. That is spirituality, God places it in the moment of worship and makes us follow Him. And worship songs follow which could move people in a very different way than what we had planned. I think that we should be very sensitive to what God wants to do with us. That is basic to worship. Have sensitivity to what God wants to do because He always wants to do something good with everyone.

You had experience as a worship leader in the United States over the last 15 years, more or less. Have you seen that people learned to worship in a deeper way?
I have seen a lot of churches. I have seen evolution and also stagnation. I have seen both things, probably due to lack of knowledge. Something cultural is happening in the United States, and it’s interesting. In Latin American countries, there is a larger number of available musicians who are better educated than our Hispanic musicians in the United States. It’s something that happens but isn’t easy to understand. It’s the opposite of what happens in American culture where musicians are educated and there are plenty of them. Strangely, in this country we live with a scarcity of musicians. Having a scarcity of musicians we don’t have a musical guide in our churches. This does not let us develop in the musical realm because we have to separate the spiritual and the technical areas. The technical area becomes more important. The Word of God teaches us clearly in Psalm 33 where it says, “Sing to him a new song, play skillfully, and shout for joy.” With knowledge of what you are doing, with well-tuned instruments. It’s such a problem when one wants to lead a praise song and there’s an instrument that’s out of tune because the musician hasn’t developed their ear to be able to tune it. It’s a great problem when the chords are wrong, a great problem when the band isn’t in harmony. This is something technical, more even when the problem is not being in spiritual harmony. The answer to your question is relative because in some places, thanks be to God, this has been achieved, but I also want to say that musicians in churches do not depend only in their own musical formation. They depend on the leadership of the church, of the pastors. And praise is reflected first of all in who the leaders are. If the leaders are not steeped deeply in worship, that is not a church that worships, that exalts the name of the Lord. If the leaders don’t partake, that church is not growing in worship.

Then I understand that much has been done despite the scarcity of musicians. 
I can tell you that the majority of Hispanic praise and worship teams that have emerged have been greatly improved; they come from Latin American countries and are not developed in the United States as often. Here we have technology and the means.

Marcos Witt, Jesus Adrian Romero and others have come from other countries.
Definitely. Marcos has a North American influence but he came up in Mexico. Jesus Adrian Romero also in Mexico, Juan Carlos Alvarado in Guatemala, etc., There are also musicians who have come from South America and other countries. For some reason, praise music has been developed more coming from those musicians who have come here to contribute to the Latin church in the United States.

If you were asked why praise and worship are important, what would you answer?
It’s not a matter of it being important or not. It’s about obedience, because His Word teaches us that all the children of God must worship. If we go to the Psalms we can see that the Psalms invite us to worship all the time. “Praise God because He is good and his mercies are forever,” “Cry out to God with joy.” As it says in Psalm 100, “Shout for joy, all the earth.” Even in Psalm 34 it says, “I will extol the Lord at all times.” It’s not just the moment when I have the desire to do so.

And the Psalms end saying: “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.”
It also says, “Let there be constant praise in your mouth.” The Word is not asking if you would like to be a worshiper, it is practically giving you an order, a commandment in the love of God: “Praise the name of the Lord.” It’s not an option for when you’ve got the time, when you go to a service; it’s a commandment, and therefore it’s a matter of obedience.

Do you think that the content of lyrics has changed, that God is portrayed in a different way?
This is a very important matter. God is everywhere. He is omnipresent. We have no doubt that God is in every confine of the universe, but His presence is one thing, different from saying that he’s everywhere. His presence will be wherever he is invoked. How do you invoke the presence of God? Through worship.

Is it that He comes and introduces himself or is it that you discover that He is there?
God is always there, but His presence isn’t always there, unless you invoke Him and worship Him. Just as in the Old Testament they would build up an altar so that the presence of the Lord would come to them, now you are the altar that you raise through worship of God. You lift an offering with a pleasing fragrance and God leans in His ear. He shows up when we worship Him. He is the same God, but we have learned in recent times to look for His presence and enter into it, to be intimate in Him. He is closer when we seek him, definitely.

Have you ever written while considering the social reality of immigrants?
Not directly, but I have written songs that speak to sadness, of the evil of this world. I wrote a song when the twin towers were destroyed. So much suffering, so much pain that evil causes man; however we have a God in whom we can find shelter. The call in one of the songs that I wrote is to sing and praise His name. The music is beautiful, but I have always sought to go beyond that.  I have tried to seek the supernatural in God. Music is about the supernatural; it is not a human creation, much less a creation of Satan as some people attribute it. Something so beautiful happens when we hear stories like David playing the harp for King Saul. He moved the air and only with a couple of chords from that harp the demons had to leave fleeing. It brought calm to King Saul. We have something supernatural. Of course we can use music to say that God is the hope of all of these people who are in need, including immigrants, people who have suffered a lot in their countries of origin and are seeking an answer. Music is also a way of expressing gratitude to God. Music can express a lot of beautiful things.

Have you ever allowed your political convictions to be reflected in your compositions?
I’ve never gotten involved in politics. But I have injustice, and God’s justice, not the justice of some political party. For me, the justice of God is a sublime justice.

How would you describe the presence of God?
The presence of God is indescribable. It cannot be described. It is wonderful and the only way to know it is to feel it through worship. And it’s true, in the Word of God, we learn about the truth and the joy of the Lord; but it is in worship where you will recognize that God is real. His presence is so marvelous that in the moment that you are worshiping you feel a supernatural peace that confirms things for you. You feel that your family is being protected even if they are thousands of kilometers away. You feel that your body is healed, that the wounds of the past close. That is to feel the presence of God. There is a peace so supernatural that you feel you are floating in the air. That is worship: when there is nobody other than Him at your side. “Alone, you and I,” says one of the songs by Danilo Montero. It is when you are in that intimacy with God. That is the beauty of His presence.

What results would you like to see in those people who partake when you lead worship?
The teaching that I give in my songs is very simple. First, I declare the greatness, the power of God, the promises. But my greatest wish is that we learn to worship God as He would want us to, as He has taught us in His word. To try to live a life in which you not only appear with a load in church and are then freed right there, but that when you arrive at work you are a new person. I want to teach people that we are worshipers here in the church and everywhere. One of the most important things is that we learn to have an altar of worship in our homes. We come to our homes after work to turn on the TV, the radio, the computer. My wife and I rarely watch TV, only the occasional cute show and the news. We play worship at home. Now there are no excuses, because with one of those iPods, you can load a thousand songs and let them rip. We play praise music and something beautiful and supernatural flows. While we do our chores there is a praise song playing. Change your home, because the home is the most beautiful altar that we can raise to the Lord.

Do you want to teach people that said worship starts in church and must remain in their life?
Worship cannot be sporadic only because the service or the event or the concert is pretty. It must mainly be in the home. There are people who suffer because they have problems with their children, because there are problems in their marriage, because of finances, etc. It’s because they have not raised an altar of worship in their home. Another thing that I’d like to share is that my wife and I get up in the wee hours every morning. And people shouldn’t do this by force, but we are doing it and what profound changes happen in the home. The peace that it will give is great, and from your home will flow a blessing for anyone who enters that place. That is one of the things that we are encouraging, worshiping God all the time. It does not mean singing, but it does mean leading a life of gratitude.

Culturally, we Latinos are somewhat machista. Has there ever been a point at which you touch on that theme?
I have seen it and everything, because we all have some of that machismo, because it’s cultural. I only ask God that He teach me to not be too macho, to be a person who can get along well with his wife, with his family. But I do not get involved in that line of teaching. I leave that to pastors. During my performances I exalt the presence of my wife. With my wife, we minister together. She does it with women and I with men. We project an environment of equality.

Musically how do you see worship?
It’s relative, depending on the culture of the people. I come from an influence of pop-rock, a bit of jazz and all of that I learned in my adolescence and youth. However, others come from other cultures. I cannot demand things of them, because we live in a multicultural country, though a bit skewed to one side. We have to recognize that there is a Mexican majority among people. Especially in California, 80% are Mexican. A few are from Central America and South America. We hear that there is a lot of regional music: rancheras, norteño, and mariachi. We don’t like it a lot because we did not grow up with that music. However, I cannot criticize a brother who knows God through those musical styles.

Have you seen that palette of rhythms in churches?
Worship in general is played more in the style of a ballad. But when we saw the Campos brothers who came to minister with a mariachi style, with boleros and rancheras, people got excited because it touched their roots. That is also important. When we find a group of young people, we want to make the music what they like. We have to be wise about those whom we are about to lead. If I’m invited to a youth event and I take slow songs, they will get bored. But if I look for music that has distorted guitars, upbeat according to their style, things will go differently. If the enemy conquered young people with heavy rock, why can’t we as children of God give them music that reaches their heart?

Danilo Montero mentioned that another of the benefits of praise and worship is that it has made more musicians and taught them how to sing. What do you think of that?
It’s the truth. What’s ideal is forming our own musicians. We grew up in an environment of secular music, because since our childhood the radio was turned on all the time. God says in His Word that we should retain the good and discard the bad. I studied in a music school where everything was secular, but I picked up what was necessary to serve my God. We have to take advantage of what the world gives us so that we, who are not of this world, can use it for the blessing of people. I heard that Johann Sebastian Bach, who wrote Tocata de Fuga in D minor, was Christian, surrendered to God. However his music is used in horror films. Music is a creation of God wherever it is. Sometimes people say, “Don’t play that music because it comes from the Devil.” The lyrics influence, that much is true; but let us thank God that He gave us sounds and the ability to construct musical pieces to influence our people. I know that I digressed a bit from my answer. Many come to church and don’t have any idea of what singing is. It is a great opportunity also for people to develop their musical talent, and to open a school and give instructional lessons. You come to a service and most of them get their half hour, maybe 40 minutes of songs. That’s good practice. You can also form leaders by exposing them to public speaking or singing. You improve your ability to express yourself to people. I remember the first time that I led worship my legs were shaking and I almost fainted in the middle of it. However God taught me through the years that this was my school. The house of God is a school, there is no better place to learn the things of God than the house of God.

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