A year and half ago Gary England and a group of friends felt called to plant a church in Georgetown, IN. The church started with no pastor but a drive to reach the community for Jesus and is now a growing established church.
Gary was kind enough to take some time out of his schedule to share his passion about worship. If you want to connect with Gary you can find him on Facebook or learn more about Forward Church by checking out their site.
1. How did you get involved with worship music? Did you feel called by God or did you happen into it?
Music is definitely a call on my life. I’ve been playing and singing for as long as I can remember. I was given to opportunity to lead worship for the youth at Paoli Wesleyan by Pastor Lyndal Manship back in 2003, I believe. From there a passion developed that has yet to subside.
To me, worship to so intimate, so personal for each one individually. It’s that outward expression of an inward relationship with Christ that you’ve been cultivating throughout the week. Corporate worship is most powerful when a group of believers that have been seeking Christ all week, come together at one time to pour their hearts out at His feet. Worshiping Christ is addicting. Once you let go and truly release yourself in worship, you’ll never look back. That’s absolutely what happened to me all those years ago.
2. As a worship leader how do you decide what music to play? Is it dictated by your tastes, the pastors tastes, the congregation tastes or a combination of all three?
Well, I’m lucky enough to lead with a great worship leader, my sister Rachel McWhirter. We pray hard over what songs will be introduced to our congregation. We talk to the leaders of the church to ensure that the songs we are singing are 1. in line with the Word 2. in line with the vision of our church 3. are relevant to the furthering of the Kingdom 4. are songs we feel were inspired by the Holy Spirit.
We definitely have a certain style that we prefer. We choose to do a lot of Hillsong, UNITED and Passion. There are two main reasons. 1. We like the style of worship and the arrangements musically. 2. The most important, we feel that the music was inspired by God. I’m not saying that other worship leaders and bands aren’t inspired by God, just that in the style we are called to lead those are the ones we look to the most.
Being a new Church (about 1 1/2 years old), and starting the church ourselves we didn’t really have to worry about tradition or what others did before us musically. We knew what we wanted the culture of the church to look like. I guess we are lucky in that sense. I know that’s a struggle for most churches today.
3. What do you feel is the current tone (style and theme) of worship music? Do you see any changes on the horizon?
This is a tough one. I think there may be a million different concepts in worship music but the theme is always the same, to worship God.
Styles of worship vary just as much as concepts of songs. A new trend in today’s worship music is loops or back tracks. Seems a lot of the trend setters in today’s worship communities are making it more and more difficult to play their music without tracks. I love the fullness these loops bring to the music but it can also tie your hands when you may feel the Holy Spirit pulling you in a different direction. When that loop is playing, you better be playing with the loop or it’s going to be bad, real bad.
We currently have drums, bass, 2 acoustic guitar and 2 electric guitar and we can change direction on a dime. We are looking and praying over loops now, but my fear is what it will do to our flexibility in the flow of a service. Like anything else, you have to look at the big picture and see if what is trending fits into the flow of your weekend service. If it doesn’t, don’t force it.
4. What advice would you offer to those that are just starting to lead worship?
If you want to lead worship to be up front, don’t. Leading worship is a ministry, a calling. It’s not for everyone, and everyone isn’t for it. When you lead worship you are responsible for ushering in the Holy Spirit to prepare His people for the receiving of His word. Say that out loud and grasp the gravity of the position. This isn’t something to be taken lightly.
Now, if you have a calling on your life to be a worship leader here are a few things I recommend you do.
1. Listen to a lot of worship music. Find a style that fits your church and cover yourself in it.
2. Practice. Play and sing all of your songs regularly by yourself. Be familiar with them inside and out. If you aren’t comfortable enough with the song to be able to focus on what the Spirit is wanting to do in the service you haven’t practiced enough.
3. Look to other worship leaders for help, guidance and assistance. Network with other churches. You would be amazed how much work you can save by just asking another worship leader if they have charts. We even share musicians with a couple other churches in our area. It doesn’t happen often but if we need someone we can call them up. If they need someone they can call us. It’s not a competition between churches, we’re all working toward the same prize. Share your resources!
4. Go to seminars where prominent worship leaders tell you how they succeed. How better to learn to be a great worship leader than to sit and listen to great worship leaders.
5. Pray and listen. God speaks the loudest when we are quite before Him. Listen to the songs you’re considering as you pray over them. God will let you know which ones.
6. Don’t try to force a style of music on a congregation that isn’t open to that style. It doesn’t work…..trust me. Go with the flow and do what allows people to engage in worship. If that’s singing How Great Thou Art then practice it, sing it and deliver it with passion.
7. Lastly, be humble. Treat you team with respect and kindness and they will bend over backward for you. Try to be the “Boss” and well…..good luck.