Humanly speaking Dan Adler had arrived. He was the Music Minister at an exciting congregation in the Minneapolis area where he and his wife Sandy saw it grow from 350 to 5000 in their weekend services in just 11 years. Dan developed a worship ministry involving 145 musicians, launched a publishing and recording ministry for the church where he co-produced three worship albums and one children’s album with the songs written and performed by Dan and members of the worship team. In his spare time he also served on staff part-time with Promise Keepers, leading worship about 6 times per year around the country.
Then in 1993 something happened. “I started leading a monthly service at our church that was an hour and a half of celebrative praise and worship with freedom of expression and testimonies.” In time that service grew and attracted people from other congregations. One Saturday night in January of 1995 as Dan looked out over a jam-packed gym, the Lord spoke to him. “I felt like the Lord told me – as clearly as I’ve ever heard Him – that I should use this venue to bring Christians together across racial and denominational barriers.”
At Promise Keeper events Dan saw how ethnically diverse men came together to worship with many styles of music. He also saw something else after the events, “we would go back to our racially, denominationally, congregationally and often generationally divided churches and nothing would change.”
It was then that Dan and his wife, Sandy made the decision to leave their church. “We began the frightening and daunting task of leaving a successful ministry, starting an upstream ministry in uncharted territory to form a non-profit organization called Heart of the City Ministries.
Our mission is “to unite Christians and break patterns of racial and denominational division by the power of God through music, education and gatherings of worship and prayer.”
To accomplish this mission, Dan had to make one major intentional change. “I needed a multi-ethnic band. At my church, we had some fabulous musicians but they were all Caucasian. I knew we couldn’t have a mostly Caucasian band with token “ethnic” members if we were going to have any credibility.” The search began for ethnically diverse musicians. “I networked with churches and musicians I knew of other ethnicities to get their recommendations.”
In time, the Heart of the City Worship Band included members of 10 different ethnicities. “The styles we use reflect the ethnic make-up of our band and of many of the people in our region. We utilize Gospel, Reggae, East Indian Bhangra, Native American styles, Latin styles, Messianic Jewish styles, rock, jazz and hymn styles. God has blessed me with a gift to be able to write a broad variety of musical styles and I write with our singers in mind. One of the most rewarding things for me has been having some of my Gospel songs being sung by African American churches, some of my Native American style songs being sung by Native American ministries and some of my songs with Hmong translations being sung by Hmong congregations around the country. In Easter of 2011, one of our songs entitled “Resurrection Chant” was put out in a choral arrangement by WORD Music and sung by over 27,000 choir members around the country. So it’s been exciting to see our songs make an impact in this way.”
The band holds 8 worship celebrations a year, at host churches. Dan says, “These worship gatherings are meant to bring Christians together from across urban/suburban, ethnic and denominational lines in order to seek God, pray for Biblical unity and intentionally build bridges between us.”
When asked, “How is the ministry going?’ Dan replied, “This has been an upstream, often discouraging yet rewarding path that we’ve been called to. Sometimes, nothing seems better to be doing. Other times, nothing seems harder. But unity in the Body of Christ is not optional – as most Christians seem to think. It is vital and it is the sign to the world that Jesus is the Savior and that we are truly His followers. So we press on with one voice in praise!”