An interview about the unique faith journey of a Jewish artist.
By Shane Scott —
Doron Zor, a rock/smooth jazz musician and the lead guitarist at Atlanta, Georgia’s Victory Church, has been a Christian for a little over a year. But at the start of his career, standing among a stage full of faithful musicians playing for a devout congregation of 11,000, he wasn’t in the faith at all. He was actually Jewish. For a time, playing praise may have been a job, but if it wasn’t for that job, Zor would have never had the faith that he does today.
Religio Magazine: How did you get started in Christian praise music?
Doron Zor: I put a photo up of one of my guitars [on my Instagram profile], a company by the name “BBF” (Built By Faith), a Christian pedal board company ran by some of the leaders at Eastgate Church in Atlanta, ‘liked’ it. I looked at their pedal boards and liked some of their content. Then they contacted me and said they wanted to build me a board and endorse me.
Some time later, I posted that I’d be in Nashville. They came to Tennessee just to meet me.
The worship pastor asked me, “Whats your goal?” I told him me and my wife wanted to start a family, to start a new life somewhere. He said, “Why don’t you come to Atlanta, see the church.”
We got to the church in January. We got to the church and they asked me to help with sound. I’m sitting there watching the worship, and went and got my wife. “What do you think of it?” she asked. “It’s cool” I said. They asked us to stay for service. We did. We were nervous. But by the time the service was through, we ended up crying like little babies; the whole message felt like it was for us.
RM: So how did you make the shift to Victory Church?
DZ: We dropped everything to move to Atlanta. But after arriving, I was here a week and the head pastor of East Gate left the church. Now I had no job and this big house I had to pay for.
I was invited to a Christian jam session by a friend where I met the music director at Victory Church and explained our problem, that I have no idea what to do, and that we’re going to lose our house. “Victory Church has your back,” he told me and invited me to play at their church.
RM: When did you become Christian?
DZ: Even as I started in the ministry, I would think, what am I missing? I realized I had been called but didn’t have faith yet. That didn’t come until three and a half months after playing at Victory Church. Up until that point I didn’t feel confident in my faith yet. My wife would tell me I worked hard and that’s why all these opportunities have been opened for me. I wasn’t 100 percent convinced that it was my path, but instead that I was forcing it. Up till then I was just giving Christianity a shot.
On Saturday, we rehearse. This particular (after the first three and a half months) weekend my wife was away visiting her family in Toronto. I ironed the shirt I was going to wear for service at 10 AM. As far as I remembered, I put it standing up on my night table. Then I went to dinner with friends from church.
Later, I came home and went to bed. At 4 a.m. I felt two massive hands squishing me into the bed. It felt like something was pushing my head down. I started swinging my arms. I thought I was being attacked by a robber. Then the hands turned my head toward the floor where I saw my iron. It was sizzling against the carpet but never burned through it.
And I heard a voice tell me, “You really think I brought you here to fail?”
That’s when I knew this was God, without a doubt, guiding me to where I was. And that I needed to surrender myself to him.
RM: As an Israeli Jew, was it difficult converting to Christianity?
DZ: When I first started going to church, Jesus was so inviting and friendly, not like when we were growing up in Israel learning about God. When we were growing up Jewish, Jesus was always the one who went against God–-he was the enemy.
For Jews, the whole concept of the religion is different. There is no concept of the kingdom of heaven, it’s about the rules. We have the 10 commandments and that’s our terms and conditions to the religion.
So growing up, I was always confused hearing about what the messiah is supposed to be like and I would think–didn’t Jesus already do this? And that was a constant fight at the family table.
As a tradition, we would leave the door open with a glass of wine, welcoming the messiah into the house. I would ask, “Why are we doing this? Jesus already came, no one’s going to come through that door.” No one will in Israel will give you a clear answer about Jesus and how he is or isn’t the messiah.
RM: What was it like growing up in Israel?
DZ: When I was young, my dad would always take me to the synagogue. There’s no pastor that’s teaching you, it’s just a bunch of men gathered together reading the Bible and that’s it.
In the past few years, more Jews have welcomed the fact that being a Christian is the closest thing to being a Jew. There are things we (as Jews) talk about, like community and small groups–-you talk about it, but you never see it.
What’s common in Israel is once men leave the army, they go to India and Thailand for two years and get on the drug scene and party. If they had Jesus in their lives would they really go through that?
RM: How does leading praise help your faith?
DZ: There’s a prayer I pray each Sunday morning before I play: “Allow me to hear the notes and the music that I need to hear in order to lead them through music.”
When I started, I had an extremely hard time playing charts and memorizing them. I used to always bring chart notes, but the congregation members don’t appreciate that because it shows you didn’t practice and that you’re not devoted. Now I devote myself and I take that responsibility with an incredible amount of honor.
While the praise band is playing on stage, the more we get into it, the harder the congregation sings and worships. It’s a great privilege to be on this platform, and I thank God for this gift. Unless you keep that in mind things can get twisted in your head really quick. When you’re playing and you have that responsibility and you give the Lord 50 percent of what you’re capable of, He gave his son you’re not going to give 100 percent?
My career has changed since giving into faith–it’s way more rewarding since the steps have been ordered for you. Now I take gigs that I’m not really fond of but it helps in the bigger picture. I want musicians to know that there’s something else out there besides getting gigs. Before I was making money but it wasn’t blessed.
Worship is the church’s face for the first half hour of service every Sunday. If someone is going to come to church they have to sit through worship whether they like it or not. What is worship to me–it is the greatest and easiest way to bring people to Christ. If I can convince my Israeli grandmother to sit through service to hear me play I think I’ve accomplished something with her.