“It started with a desperate cry to God”: That’s Worship debut original transforms songwriter’s plea to praise
Gabrielle Chin // December 6, 2023, 4:54 pm
Sovereign Over All began when songwriter Shernise Khor (centre) cried out to the Lord in her brokenness in 2012. Today, the song is streaming on multiple platforms, encouraging Christians to look to God in difficult situations. All photos courtesy of That's Worship.
Late one night, 21-year-old Shernise Khor received a panicked call from someone dear to her in Singapore.
Stuck in Australia on exchange at the time, Shernise was overwhelmed with helplessness as the situation unfolded at home.
Writing in her journal, she cried out: “I just don’t understand this situation but, God, You still hold me in Your hand, right?”
Continuing to lament, she felt Him impress a thought upon her: I am fully in control. You are safe in the palm of My hand.
“God, You still hold me in Your hand, right?”
Shernise had grown up in church since young and had heard her Sunday School teachers talk about God being sovereign. But she had not fully understood what it meant.
“That night, I began to think that if God is sovereign, then He must be in full control. This must mean that He is with me throughout the trials of life that I face, including this one,” Shernise recounted.
“God’s encouragement caused my perspective to shift. My situation, though seemingly impossible, was actually still under His control. This gave me a lot of strength.”
Journalling and reflecting on God’s attributes eventually led Shernise to write her first original song, Sovereign Over All, with the lyrics: “There are things in life we don’t understand/but, God, You still hold us in Your hands.”
Eleven years after Shernise’s personal encounter with God, Sovereign Over All was picked up by local worship collective, That’s Worship, who produced and launched it on November 17.
Taking worship digital
That’s Worship started in 2021 at the height of the pandemic when churches were forced to go digital.
The collective wanted to provide digital worship content by locals for locals, featuring song sets and covers on anything from hymns to contemporary praise music.
Interestingly, each member of the core team had his or her own faith journey that led to the collective.
Shared co-founder Joshua Poh: “It all started when I was on the brink of nearly leaving church, when a brother-in-Christ spoke over me.”
In 2018, Joshua was in church four to five times a week as a result of his commitments as a worship and cell group leader. Severely burnt out, he had to step down from ministry to take care of his mental health.
“I felt like I couldn’t fulfil my purpose, especially as a worship leader. I had let everyone down. There was so much guilt and shame that I avoided going to church for almost two years.”
In 2020, his brother-in-Christ sought him out and told him: “Josh, you’ve gone too far.”
“I was surprised when he unexpectedly approached me and put his arm around me to tell me that,” Joshua recalled. “I still remember how he said it with tears in his eyes.”
In 2020, his brother-in-Christ sought him out and told him: “Josh, you’ve gone too far.”
In that moment, Joshua felt seen and loved. He knew that God had seen his struggle over the past two years and was prompting this brother to call him back.
Joshua began to attend service again, though he continued to hide in the back row for fear of meeting people he knew.
A few months after he returned to church, however, the pandemic struck, forcing church services to go digital.
“That was when the pastor of the Mandarin congregation approached me for help. He needed assistance for the livestream and audio of the service,” recounted Joshua.
This meant that Joshua could continue going to church even during lockdown.
“I didn’t have to hide from anyone anymore. I could comfortably go to church because there was no one around. Bit by bit, I began to get to know the staff and the other Chinese congregation members.”
As restrictions eased, he befriended more church members, eventually leading to his settling in a new cell group.
During that time, he also realised that having cell group sessions over Zoom was difficult because digital worship resources were limited.
God was subtly planting the idea for a digital worship collective in his mind.
A collective born of yes-es
Concurrently, Michelle Kwok, another That’s Worship core member and a friend of Joshua’s, had been talking to God for eight years about producing her own worship sets.
“We both realised that we wanted to help people worship better through a screen amidst the pandemic.”
She had been inspired since her first mission trip in 2002 with the youth arm of YWAM (Youth With A Mission), also known as Joshua 21. Observing the missionaries worship each morning, Michelle saw how worship gave them inner strength to continue spreading the Gospel.
“I was so inspired that I wrote my first worship song the moment I came back,” Michelle told Salt&Light. “I played the guitar and sang it over a landline for my worship leader. However, I knew that I didn’t have the resources to produce music solely on my own.”
It was only when Michelle and Joshua met up years later in 2020 that the plan started moving.
“We knew each other from church and had just gotten together for a random catch-up over coffee,” Michelle said. “It was in that cafe in Jalan Besar when we both realised that we wanted to help people worship better through a screen amidst the pandemic.”
At that point, Joshua had been filming worship covers with his friends on a YouTube channel.
These worship covers included Joshua’s collaborations with a classmate, Gerard, whom he had met at Tung Ling Bible School. They had filmed a worship set for another friend’s COVID wedding together.
Joshua floated the idea of forming a core team to Michelle.
“It was a life changing coffee moment for me,” Michelle said with a laugh. “When all three of us met, we realised that we had the same heart and the same vision – to help people worship better digitally during the pandemic.”
The missing piece was a videography head.
“I was still doing freelance work when Josh Poh called me,” said Joshua Ow-Yong, the fourth member of the core team.
“I already knew and admired his heart for Kingdom work.
“But I had no stable income of my own at that time. It was a big ask from him but I said yes because I honoured our friendship.”
Interestingly, music had also been on Joshua Ow-Yong’s mind as he enjoyed singing and making worship covers. Combined with his gift in videography skills and his expertise in visual aesthetics, God had finally brought the missing piece to That’s Worship’s four-person team.
“The whole feeling of us coming together was very divine,” Gerard reflected. “That’s Worship was really born out of our yes-es to God. If it was about ourselves, things wouldn’t have worked out so well.”
“Like that also can, God?”
The hand of God was clear from That’s Worship’s inception.
“When we first started, there was a whole list of things we didn’t have – equipment, instruments, lighting,” said Joshua Poh. “We didn’t have any backing from any churches or organisations.”
When they needed drums, he spent a week praying about it. Out of the blue, while he was visiting his friend, the friend turned to him and casually said: “Eh Josh, I got a drum kit, if you ever need it for anything, just ask me ah, I can lend you.”
Joshua was incredulous. “God, like that also can provide drums ah?
“That miracle was really the first time we saw God’s hand in That’s Worship. That was the catalyst of us really believing that God would provide for all our subsequent needs. We’ve been using that kit for two years ever since!”
God’s providence continued to extend even to That’s Worship’s finances.
“That was the catalyst of us really believing that God would provide.”
Nearing the end of 2022, the team discussed their next production’s budget.
Days later, Michelle received a payment notification.
“Guys, someone just love gifted me to spend on That’s Worship’s next production,” she said.
Michelle continued to receive payment notifications across December from various friends. All throughout her December meet-ups, her friends had shown curiosity for the work That’s Worship was doing and had felt led to gift them financially.
“My friends explained that they saw Kingdom benefits in the work that we were doing. Especially because That’s Worship is interdenominational, people wanted to sow into the wider body of Christ.”
That was not all.
“On site recce trips, we found equipment rental houses that gave us 70% discounts and free passes to film at their locations,” added Joshua Ow-Yong. “We also managed to meet individuals on our shoots who loved doing ministry work and wanted to serve alongside us.”
At the end of 2022, That’s Worship had a production with several vocalists, one of whom was Jaryl, who led a polytechnic revival group.
“After meeting through the shoot, Jaryl reached out to me further to do a worship cover for a song that he had written,” said Joshua Poh.
“We were in discussion for four to five months between his poly and starting army, which marked the perfect time to move into production.”
This production was an acoustic cover of the song Pour Out Revival. With Jaryl bringing his friends from Christian fellowship, the set saw 30 young adults, representing more than 20 different churches, worshipping together.
“It was so beautiful to watch them. There was a deep understanding of unity as we served side by side,” recalled Joshua.
An invitation to trust
Sovereign Over All began with another divine moment.
The team had been discussing the possibility of their first fully produced original song.
“After we talked, I happened to see a pastor’s Instagram story of an original worship piece,” said Joshua Poh.
“The song had such a catchy tune that it captured my attention. I relistened to it a couple of times, paying more attention to the lyrics and found that it was both poetic and apt for the post pandemic season of uncertainty.”
The lines, “There are things in life that we don’t understand, but God, You still hold us in Your hand”, particularly struck him.
Recalling his own journey two years ago when he was burnt out from ministry, the lyrics reminded him of how God had guided him back to church.
He knew immediately that God was going to use this song to encourage other believers just as it had encouraged him. That was how he reached out to the pastor, who subsequently connected him with Shernise.
Interestingly, God had told Shernise to begin posting her songs on Instagram to reach out to others. The timing of Joshua’s invitation to collaborate was impeccable.
God’s truth, God’s timing
God’s sovereignty was highlighted yet again during the production of the song.
The team faced frustrating setbacks in their search for a suitable location for the shoot, as well as delays when Shernise and her family members fell sick or experienced emergencies before each song recording session.
Shernise recounted with emotion: “I still remember one recording day when my son fell sick and became breathless. We had to rush him to the A&E at 3am. I was so worried.”
On hindsight, however, these roadblocks led to Sovereign Over All being released at a perfect time.
“Precisely because of the hiccups, Sovereign Over All was released right when believers were shrouded in heaviness from missionary Joseph Chean’s sudden and tragic passing,” said Joshua Poh.
“God’s timing was really better than our own.”
“It was also particularly apt in the face of the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict to remind everyone to look to a sovereign God amidst unexplainable suffering. God’s timing was really better than our own.”
Today, That’s Worship has produced approximately 50 videos, with their latest release of Sovereign Over All on Youtube, Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer.
The team hopes to continue inspiring believers to find solace in God through various digital platforms. With believers from 18 to 60 years old serving and worshipping alongside them on various sets, the collective also affords a glimpse of the wider body of Christ in unified worship.
“We’re truly thankful that That’s Worship can continue to serve in unity, empowering and supporting each other alongside other believers who love and believe in this ministry,” Michelle said.
“Truly, may Sovereign Over All and That’s Worship’s continued work be a vehicle to communicate God’s truths to the wider church body.”
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