Every issue, Redpoint Magazine interviews a worship leader/band to gain insight into this very important aspect of of youth ministry. This time we interviewed Steve Jones of Autumn in Repair:
RP: What are some things you’d like to encourage young worship leaders to do?
SJ: 1) Love people. Know that your worship leading gift is like any other gift—annoying without love. The depth of your worship culture is inextricably attached to your love for the people you are leading. People who are not responding the way you’d like are not an obstacle to your success. People who are going for it in worship are not proof of your success.
It’s an amazing thing when you wake up thinking of how you can love your community more deeply. You feel their specific hurts and their specific joys. It’s not an abstract thing. You know them. You know their stories. And you know what God is doing in them. In the end, you start to see that everybody who draws near to God becomes more whole. That’s all that you want—to see the people you love becoming whole.
This is the source of our calling. We have personally become enamored with the Lord and can’t stand the thought that anyone would attach their hearts to anything else. We lead worship because we can’t help it.
2) Find mentors. The best mentors are mature worship leaders who are finishing well (their church and worship culture looks like what you hope yours will some day). Ask them to mentor you. Ask a million questions. Learn what the mind of a mature worship leader looks like. I’d be a hot mess if it weren’t for people guiding me. We all need people who are beyond us. Someday we turn around and do the same for those who follow us.
3) Be a lifelong learner. Never stop. Structure time for growth at your instrument. There’s nothing that the world needs less than a lazy work ethic masked in spirituality. We need you to steward the gift that you were given. We need you to be excellent at what you are doing. We need you to inspire us. Since there are no shortcuts, we need you to work. Hard.
4) Worship when nobody is around. Your private worship life is what you are bringing us into when you stand in front of us. The more ways that you meet with God, the more you’ll know when He is present during our worship times together. You’ll stay in moments when God is moving in our hearts and you’ll simply move on when it’s time to move on. You’ll be leading worship. Your authenticity is the best thing that you bring to us.
5) Some of you need to write songs for us to sing. I want to sing your songs in my church. But I want to sing about God as He really is. So, read the scriptures. Study theology. Read what people have written about the scriptures. God will become so much bigger than He’s ever been. Your songs will be filled with awe.
Study songwriting. Study songwriters. Study music itself. The God of the universe deserves the best music.
RP: Tell us some about your new album, “Atumn in Repair”:
SJ: When we wrote this record, forming it was really simple. The songs were simply what worship looked like in our living rooms. The songs that our friends wanted to sing left the living room. They landed in our church. The songs that our church claimed as their own went to our friends’ churches. Their communities claimed many of them as their own, and we recorded those.
The world has a lot of worship music. We like that people are singing worship songs all the time. We just want our records to be full of songs that people are already singing. It’s the most authentic way that we can do this. In the end, this record has the shape of one long worship service. Hopefully people enjoy being a part of our creative community as they make the songs their own.
RP: How do we know that worship is happening?
SJ: The more familiar you are with God’s presence, the more you will know whether you are experiencing worship or worshiping experience. There are no shortcuts. I started leading worship at the age of 17 and after ten years of leading I will see some very authentic encounters with God mingled with some less authentic ones in any given worship time. The fact is this—it’s not our job to be judge. It’s our job to invite people to the place that we intend to go. Then we go get as close to God as we can.
I love when people sing, so I invite them to sing with me. I love when people’s expressions of worship are physical (because what we do with our postures effects our hearts), so I invite people to raise their hands or kneel. I love when people get prayer for their lives, so I invite people to come for prayer. Singing, physical postures, and coming forward for prayer are indicators of an internal change, but I have changed in times of worship without any of those indicators happening. You probably have too.
I know this to be true: God wants people to worship more than I do. He created them to be whole and I’ll never want them to be how they were created more than He does. He is working on their hearts even if I can’t see it. I invite them into worship, but God draws them into worship. The more I invite people; the more often they will come with me. So I spend my life inviting them and I keep my opinions of whether anyone is worshiping pretty humble. I don’t see everything that God sees.
RP: As someone who has the chance to see worship in many different venues around the country, what is your take on the state of worship in America right now?
SJ: Worship music has become really popular. It’s a genre of music these days. That comes with challenges. Some people are famous for leading worship, but very few of them ever asked for that fame. Choosing to be cynical never brings us closer to Jesus. So, I just want to see what each of them can invite us into.
I don’t think that any one movement, leader, or band has a corner on the market. Meeting with God is not really a “market” kind of thing. God is far too big for that. So is what He is doing. There are some deep truths about what will always be important in worship. Some things are eternal. This generation is simply trying to express those eternal things in a way that is authentic to them.
This generation needs to sing about a God who transcends us in every way and chooses to be so close that we can know him very, very personally. I see a movement of worship toward singing to God rather than singing about God. We inherited that thought from people who came before us, but for us it’s not optional. It’s central. I also see this generation celebrating the God who is three in one. Our worship of God as our Father has rooted our identity in our relationship with God rather than our success or failure (however one might measure that). I think it’s beautiful to see people free from performing for love.
Our worship of Jesus has kept us longing to confess, forgive, be forgiven, and love those around us (and not just the Christian ones around us). This generation’s worship is really inclusive. So was (and is) Jesus.
Lastly, our worship has embraced the sometimes controversial member of the Trinity as though there never was a question about it. The Holy Spirit has been invited to come and move in us more than any other time I have seen. We want to be aware of God in every moment. We sing, but we believe that the Spirit is going to move far beyond our songs.
I love this generation’s worship and I hope that we leave a culture of worship that those who come after us will take even deeper.