Unger brings musical message of unity to Chapel

Justin Unger of Likewise Worship Collective seeks to unite churches through music -- not divide them.

Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Gillian Rea
GCU News Bureau

One church service for young people.

One service for older folks.

No good. How about having every service be for all people?

Unger was joined for his talk by GCU graduate Josh James (right), who works for Likewise.

That’s the mission of Justin Unger, who founded the Likewise Worship Collective with the idea of “bridging the cultural and generational divide in our churches by discipling, equipping and sending gifted and humble worship leaders into churches across the nation,” according to its website.

He brought that message, along with his music, to Chapel at Grand Canyon University Arena on Monday morning.

Unger, also the Worship Pastor at Bethany Bible Church in Phoenix, performed a mix of songs from all generations and underscored it with his message of inclusiveness.

“When we sing together,” he said, “it connects us like glue.”

Appropriately, he had onstage with him members of his Likewise team, including GCU graduates Josh James, Cory Senator and Adam Clasen, as well as GCU senior Katie Brown, who worked and toured with Unger last summer.

Before his work with Likewise, Unger was a Christian music artist who formed Across the Sky with Ben Kolarcik in 2001. Their debut album was released in 2003, but after two more years of writing and touring, they disbanded to pursue different careers.

Unger’s path was music ministry at local churches, starting with Heights Church in Prescott. The Phoenix native now lives in Huntington Beach, Calif., with his wife, Falon, and four children and has helped place several GCU Worship Arts students at churches around the Valley and beyond.

Or they can just come and work for him, as James did after his time at GCU, which included performing with the Worship team at Chapel. He is the Lead Director in Arizona for Likewise and also works at both Heights Church and Bethany Bible Church – and proclaims the same message about bringing worshipers together.

Unger was a Christian music artist before starting Likewise.

“Every generation has a song,” he told the Chapel gathering Monday. “It’s incredibly important that we get outside our comfort zone.”

He cited John 17:20-21, in which Jesus prays to His Father with these words:

“I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You.”

The problem, Unger said, is the sense of consumerism that afflicts many churches. The outside world points to the divisions within the church as a reason to not take part, and he urged the students in the audience to break that trend.

“It can start with you when you go home in a month,” he said.

James added, “We need the people who have gone before us.”

Unger estimates that the average church service has 22 minutes of music. He wants those 22 minutes to make a difference.

“Singing energizes us,” he said. “It’s so simple.”

All together now ...

● For a replay of Chapel, click here.

● Next week: The final Chapel of the spring semester will feature a special worship service with final thoughts by Dr. Tim Griffin, Pastor and Dean of Students.

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].


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