Concert preview: Group carries mission in music

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Some people are lucky enough to know what they are called to do in life at a very young age. Jonathon "JD" Douglas, a worship leader with Hillsong United Church in Sydney, Australia, has had just that kind of life.

"I'm 29 now, I started pretty young, did two years of Bible college and started playing with the Hillsong Youth band when I was 14 years old. I had massive dreams and hoped to serve God somehow."

Hillsong United

Where: Consol Energy Center, Uptown.

When: 8 tonight.

Tickets: $26.75-$45.75; 1-800-745-3000.

Hillsong United has made its mark in music worldwide. Not only are its songs sung by millions in Sunday services worldwide, but also it consistently sells out concerts with its message of redemption and love in Jesus Christ.

Its most recent release, "Zion," debuted on the Billboard 200 at No. 5 and on iTunes at No. 1 in eight countries. A follow-up acoustic version was just released and is rising just as fast.

Hillsong travels with four tour buses of performers and crew and four semi-trucks of gear, setting up shows that include an altar call each night.

"We are hoping and believing that people would bring their friends, encounter God and leave that place differently," Mr. Douglas says, adding that hundreds and sometimes thousands respond to the appeal.

He still struggles to take it all in. "It has been quite surreal to be honest. We are a bunch of church kids that played together in the youth ministry. To have the ministry opportunities we have today, year after year, just blows us away."

Touring at such a rapid pace can take a toll on the musicians, the singer says, comparing it to the movie "Groundhog Day." "We are part of the church, play worship at night, jump into tour buses, drive to the next city, and over and over again. We travel with a basketball hoop to exercise."

Most of the members are married (he and his wife have two girls, the youngest 7 months), so they limit tours to 21/2 weeks and spend time on FaceTime video calls.

Nine years since his first tour, he says, "Almost every night to be honest, it's humbling." He says by the grace of God it goes on. "It is what we have been called to do."

If he weren't a musician, he says, "I would be working for a local church, building the community, building the church and serving God."

Hillsong's mission trips and his work as a worship pastor keep him super busy with planning and meetings. "Believe it or not, the tour is fun and all of the crazy stuff we get to do there."

It isn't all church work for Mr. Douglas, and he still has a lot of dreams. There is a lot of Coldplay on his iPod and he is a huge fan of Chris Martin and Chris Tomlin ("I would love to write with them"). He says if he could write or play with any musician in the world, it would be Sir Paul McCartney.

After all, what musical kid doesn't want to be hanging with a Beatle at some point in his life?

Rosa Colucci: or 412-263-1661.

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