You know that Bible verse that says, “The last shall be first and the first shall be last?” Gabriel de la Garza gets that. He really gets that—just a little too well.

The award-winning Christian musician is literally at the top of the charts, yet he often remains off the radar when it comes to name recognition. Perhaps it can be chalked up to that other Bible verse: that one about a prophet not being recognized in his own community.

While he’s first on many lists, such as having the number one all-time album on indieheaven.com, and his songs are now on playing over 200 radio stations around the country, that’s not his priority.

“God might use you to change a few lives,” says de la Garza. “My songs are an offering to God. That’s the reason I sing: because I want to give back to Him.”

But Gabriel, like the archangel he was named for, does have wings. Well, his logo does, and his name is beginning to match his logo. His “Amazing God Tour” is really taking flight. On June 28, de la Garza will open for headliner Jeremy Camp at the Livestock Showgrounds in Mercedes.

In late March, God allowed others to sing de la Garza’s praises when he became the first Hispanic ever to receive a Momentum Award in the coveted category of Artist of the Year, recognizing him as the top male independent Christian artist in the entire country. “I didn’t expect that—Artist of the Year—to be honest,” de la Garza said of the honor, “not from among all those people.”

He also received a nomination for Album of the Year for his CD “I Need You,” his solo debut, recorded and produced in Los Angeles, and a third nod for Worship Artist of the Year. The award was presented at the annual CIA Summit, where de la Garza was the worship leader. The conference is sponsored by Indieheaven.com/The Christian Independent Alliance, the leading organization for Christian independent musicians.

“I think he’s a darn good kid and worship leader,” said Keith Mohr, Indieheaven.com president, describing de la Garza’s music. “As the music industry continues to change, and more and more artists are staying independent, it is important to recognize the pursuit of excellence in this growing ‘indiestry.’”

More and more people are recognizing Gabriel’s music as well. His phone number’s on speed dial in California, where he’s just completed a leg of his tour, and they definitely know him in Nashville—the Christian music capital of the world—and in Missouri, where he’s being invited to play concerts at churches and music festivals.

Gabriel’s song “All For Me,” was selected by industry experts for inclusion in “Top 20 Indie Worship,” a compilation CD of the best independent Christian artists. Proceeds go to Mission of Mercy, an HIV/AIDS humanitarian ministry in Africa. In “All For Me,” Gabriel writes, “You live and died, you gave it all for me, the perfect sacrifice. What can I offer to the one who gladly took my place?”

His music is even on the radio locally on KVMV (96.9 FM) — another first for an independent artist from the Rio Grande Valley — yet many people haven’t put a name to the sound, or realized that he’s just a 956 area code telephone call away and ready to play. As a worship leader, Gabriel’s style is to provide a dynamic, high-energy worship experience that “ultimately brings the audience an opportunity to give back to God.”

“When I see what God has done — I see it in my kids, my wife, the trees, the breeze — it always comes back to: here’s my offering to God,” Gabriel says of his lyrics and writing process. “Worship is our daily lives being lived for God.”

Often his lyrics come as prayers, thankful words that he hopes lead others to God.

“At first their drawn to the music and then the lyrics,” he says. “They freak out: ‘Dude, that’s Christian music?’”

Gabriel leads worship at Primera Iglesia Bautista in Mission, and he and his band can be found at FM Night @ The Ark, a free event adjacent to the church that’s open to the public the first Wednesday monthly at 7 p.m.

Presently Gabriel is at work translating his songs into Spanish for an upcoming project as he continues his “Amazing God Tour,” named for one of his radio hits. Gabriel’s songs — including a free download — are available at www.indieheaven.com/artists/gabriel as well as other venues. For booking, donations to his ministry or other inquiries e-mail Gabriel at info@gabrielsong.com.