Some fun autobiographical questions for worship leaders.
1. How did you get into worship ministry? How long have you been a part of the worship ministry?
a. Getting Started
I never knew I had any kind of musical ability until *after* I became a Christian at age 21 (1986). I had always wanted to play guitar and sing, but had no experience, so I bought a guitar. I started worshiping in my own personal time with God as a young Christian. I then joined the worship team at my first church, where I had wonderful mentoring in singing and playing guitar.
b. Overcoming Beginner’s Weaknesses
One of my main problems with singing was I always wanted to improvise, but as a backup singer, you really need to be consistently on your note. Only the leader or soloist really gets to improvise. This was a tough discipline for me, but it forced me to be a better singer. I had the lazy tendency of sliding between notes rather than hitting them dead on. Think of it like this, ever have one of those silly little slide pipes when you were a kid? Try doing a scale with one of those, rather than having 8 individual notes, you have one silly noise going from low to high! Sliding between notes is the equivalent of the slide pipe. It’s sloppy.
However, learning worship in a charismatic church is awesome because they really seek for the presence of God in worship, and allow and encourage people to raise their hands, dance, and yes, even sing in the Spirit, a.k.a. in tongues. This phenomenon is very powerful if done without hyper-emotionalism. However, this makes some non-tongues folk a little uneasy, I must admit.
c. Gospel Training
Later, I got some training in a gospel choir, and boy, was I weak! I went to a Shirley Caesar crusade, and sat in on one day of a gospel workshop with Mattie Moss Clark, mother of the Clark Sisters. She made us sing so loudly! She stopped us many times, reprimanding us for our lack of projection. Once, she said, “You sound like a bunch of little girls, no wonder the devil’s taking over your town!” A second time, she said, “You need to sing like you’re shouting for help, and the nearest person is three blocks away.” Needless to say, I realized that singing tenor in a gospel choir requires practice and stamina.
d. First Time Leading
During my first career transition at age 27, I quit my medical research position and did a six month stint with Youth With A Mission. During this time, I was able to lead worship for the first time, and in order to confirm to me that I should be in worship, God sent a consistent anointing on my worship, way beyond my skill level. The presence of God was palpable, and I never forgot it. I learned there that your heart must be in the right place in order to lead worship. Skill is fine, but you can add that as you go!
e. Leading Contemporary in a Traditional Church
I returned, and took up leading worship in a small CMA church in New Jersey. As it turned out, they only had traditional hymn singing with an organ or piano, but the pastor wanted to start a contemporary worship service in addition, and I was the leader. It was hard but fun work, and the pastor took all the complaints and shielded me from the naysayers, we had people leave the church because I dressed too casually when leading!
f. Till Today
I left Christianity for the next ten years, and have recently returned, and am now involved in worship in my current church, along with my wife, but not as leaders. The church is not charismatic, but it does have contemporary worship and a good worship leader.
2. What artists/music types/styles appeal to you? Are these the same types/styles that you play at church?
I met wife in a blues/classic rock cover band (you know, CCR, Eagles, BTO, Doobies), and I must admit, I love singing those gravelly vocals on blues and blues rock. My favorite stuff to sing is Jonny Lang stuff (I’m going to see him for the, um, 4th time tomorrow). This past year, I also discovered the band Pillar, and man do they ROCK! I love their music, but don’t think I could sing that, and it’s way too hard for my kinda worship. As far as worship goes, I actually got to spend a little time with Bob Fitts when in YWAM, and I like his style. I also really liked Kevin Prosch for his brokenness in worship. Of course, Prosch fell into some kind of sin and has been recently restored to ministry, but I haven’t followed it too closely. I really love Morris Chapman for his â€œgospel lightâ€ style too. And can anyone leading worship not be influenced by the likes of Darlene Zschech and Chris Tomlin? They both write and lead some of the best worship today.
3. What helps you to enter into worship?
a. Having a Good Setup Team
Funny as that sounds, to have a bunch of guys who’ve got the stage and sound all set up is a great relief, I’ve had to set up and test everything myself, and it really takes a lot of energy and concentration. I thank God for a good sound team
b. Practice Practice Practice
I like to practice enough so that, even in our practices, we are worshiping. I don’t want people to have to read the lyrics while trying to lead worship. We want to focus on God.
c. Personal Holiness and Devotion
Nothing makes me confident and relaxed, ready to be intimate with God as when I am feeling close to God. When I haven’t spent time w/ God during the week, the worship can be weak, not all of the time, but often enough. It’s the difference between good enough and awesome.
d. Be a Worship Leader, Not a Song Leader
I’m not there to get people excited, or to put on a good show. Good leaders worship (see my discussion of this in Why Most Churches Suck)
4. How do you pick your songs for a worship service?
I pick songs I like, songs that I can worship with. I ask the team for song suggestions. I pick songs that flow from praise (upbeat declarations about God) to worship (talking directly to God, bowing down before him, more mellow). Sometimes we use a faster song at the end to kind of perk everyone up again, but not too much or it just seems too jarring. I try to pick songs in similar keys or even with similar melodies to do together – the latter reduces the learning curve for the congregation. If we do change keys, I try to make a smooth transition.
5. What are you trying to accomplish when you lead worship? How do you tell if you’re successful?
First, I expect myself and the worship team to enter into heartfelt worship where we feel God’s presence. That in itself is success.
Second, I like to encourage the congregation to be free to raise their hands, sing, even dance if they want to. Many people want to be more expressive, but need permission from the front so they don’t seem disruptive. If the congregation is able to enter into free worship, then we have really succeeded.
Third, many worship leaders try hard to tie in the worship to the message. I personally think that is too hard, too cerebral, and only a nice to have, not essential. If one song, maybe the last worship song, or the offertory (I hate offerings, but I digress) can tie in to the main message, that’s fine, but I hardly think that’s something to work hard at.