New Worship Pastor Returns Home from Hillsong
Since 2011, David Cook has been living Down Under and serving as part of the worship team at Hillsong Church in Sydney, Australia. Now five years later, he’s excited to return to his home state of Florida with his wife, Corina, and son, Jude — bringing with him the experience, training and life lessons he has gained to his new position as the campus worship pastor at Southeastern University. Check out our interview with David below for a glimpse into his passion for helping people connect with Jesus through music and his vision for SEU’s worship culture.
What were some of your earliest experiences that influenced your career as a worship leader?
My parents are pastors, so I remember growing up in church and always being drawn to the music. I always loved to sing as a kid, but it wasn’t until the age of 12 that I had my first personal encounter with the presence of God. Standing there at the Peninsular Florida youth camp in that old, sweaty gym of Masterpiece Gardens, so full of skepticism yet so curious to know if this whole Jesus thing was real. I can’t even tell you what song it was, but I felt this sense of safety and love like never before. I lifted my hands, and it was as if a floodgate was opened in my soul and only freedom could flow out. From there, I developed a passion to be a part of crafting those moments for people like me to connect with a God like that. Martin Smith of Delirious and Marty Sampson of Hillsong United were some of the first worship leaders I remember seeing and hearing and thinking to myself, “God, use me like that.”
What have been some highlights of your time at Hillsong?
Hillsong for me, in the best way possible, has been the wildest ride of my life. I got to Sydney in July 2011, and I kind of never looked back. Highlights would include being involved and around the songwriting process here and work-shopping the songs that turn into the albums that come from the Hillsong teams. Whether it’s been singing at the major conferences or hosting some of the global family and network that are connected to Hillsong, there has never been a dull moment. But I think with all of the obvious, big things like that aside, just being on team and building the church day in and day out has been the greatest highlight for me. Rubbing shoulders with some of the greatest church leaders in the world right now has been a complete honor. But ultimately, the vision and passion that my wife and I have caught here for championing the local church and building and raising up once-in-a-generation-type leaders is invaluable.
How do you think those experiences at Hillsong will impact your work here at SEU?
My heart and desire is to allow the season that I am coming out of at Hillsong to be a catalyst for the season that I am entering into at SEU. I look forward to taking the culture I’ve learned at Hillsong and applying it to the campus of SEU — but filtering it through my life and who I am as a leader. Just because it works in Sydney at Hillsong doesn’t mean it will work everywhere else. But the principles of the vision and leadership that I’ve been a part of are applicable anywhere. So, I’m excited to immerse myself into the culture of SEU and bring anything I can to impact it and its students in a positive way.
What is your experience with the worship culture at SEU?
I have never seen the culture of worship at SEU as healthy and authentic as it is right now. Watching from afar the past five years, it has done my heart so much good to see what Chase and the crew pioneered and established. I’m very thankful for those seeds that have been sown.
What do you think is the next level for worship at Southeastern?
“Next level” can mean anything. But I know this much: The goal is not the best records or conferences or chapels that SEU has ever seen or had. The goal is to raise up men and women who are authentic in their devotion and pursuit of Christ, who value God and people more than a ministry or a song and who understand that their identity is not in their gifts or talent or service but in Christ and His love for them. And out of that being our first and foremost focus, I believe we’ll produce the best records, conferences and chapels that SEU has ever seen or had and, even beyond that, send out to the local and global church some of the best creative pastors, worship leaders and songwriters SEU has ever seen.
What do you enjoy doing outside of your career?
I absolutely love sports. Massive Florida Gators fan. (If you’re from Tallahassee and thinking about coming to SEU, please still come — just don’t talk to me when our teams play each other.) Even being on the other side of the world these past five years, I’ve still stayed in touch with what’s happening over here. Excited to be able to watch football on the weekends and not get up on Monday at 4 a.m. Sydney time to catch a game on Sunday here. My wife and I love going to the beach. Looking forward to raising our son, Jude, on the Gulf/Atlantic shores. We also love a good cup of coffee. Australia has some of the best coffee in the entire world, so definitely interested in spending some good amount of time at Portico and getting some taste-testing in. (No pressure, Joey Norman.)
How has Australian culture influenced you? Do you greet everyone now by saying, “G’day, mate”?
Corina and I have enjoyed the Australian culture so much. They are early risers here who have an incredible cafe culture. Lots of brekky (breakfast) and brunch down here, hence the great coffee. Sydney is right on the coast, so lots of people out and about down near the beach surfing or running along the coastline. It’s a lot of fun. We definitely don’t say, “G’day mate,” but we have integrated “mate” into our everyday vocabulary. Aussies also love to abbreviate anything they can. The moment I got here, everyone started calling me by my initials, DRC. So, if we call you mate or abbreviate your name, please don’t take offense; it just means we really like you. We’re pumped to get to Lakeland and jump into the life that’s in and around the SEU campus!