IBW Interview Series: Charlie Hall

This time in the IBW Interview Series, we interviewed Charlie Hall, Worship & Arts Pastor at Frontline Church in Oklahoma City, OK.  Charlie Hall is a songwriting and Worship Leader. He began this journey of songwriting in 1992, becoming part of the Passion movement in 1997, and has been an integral voice alongside them since, seeing incredible things happen in musical worship and acts of justice in the United States and abroad. The primary thrust of Charlie’s work is exploring the power and beauty of the Gospel through music and capturing imaginations in both traditional and future-looking ways, tying to a long lineage of theology and worship in the Spirit. 

What books have been the most influential in shaping your understanding of corporate worship?

     Desiring The Kingdom by James KA Smith

     Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem

     Worship Matters by Bob Kaughlin

     Worship By the Book by DA Carson.  

If you could go back in time and give yourself 2 or 3 pieces of advice as a young worship leader, what would they be?

I would tell myself to never quit learning how to be a worshipper, to never stop exploring the skill of pointing to Jesus and to learn how to lead worship off the stage as well as on the stage.  I would tell myself to protect the simplicity of pouring myself out to Jesus, for Jesus and because of Jesus and to stiff arm the elements that come to steal that.  I would lastly put my hand on the shoulder of younger me and lovingly say that there is no arrival point, don’t climb an invisible ladder to an imaginary place in your mind.  Let your life pilgrimage toward Jesus till you pass through death…The journey will be worth it the whole way!!  Jesus is your arrival point!

What process do you go through in designing the weekly order of worship?

Our Liturgy is generally set into three blocks…Sing the gospel/Jesus, preach the gospel/Jesus, respond to the gospel/Jesus.  This gives us a framework for all of the elements that may include communion and baptism, etc.  Once we know the general direction of the service we try to let everything from the call to worship to the sending be in the territory of that topic so that we can speak one message.  By Tuesday afternoon a majority of the elements are in place and I gather the pastors and worship leaders to discuss songs, flow of service, and remind each other of the why behind it all.  In one way or another we always end with the reminder of the beauty of the gospel, its power to save us and shape us, our great need for it, and the great need the people coming have for the gospel, and then we ask the Holy Spirit to lead us and to always be open to what is not in our liturgy.  Over the years of planning a Sunday service, I’ve realized what we need to remember the most as leaders, preachers and servants is keeping the desire and angst of knowing Jesus and the gospel, that we are singing and preaching to ourselves as well.

In what ways do you think corporate gatherings will change in the next ten years?

Over the last 25 years leading in the church one cycle Ive seen is the rejection of manipulative methods.  Even if they weren't meant to be manipulative but are experienced as such, the generation that grows up in inside of that culture will reject it and attempt to build a different system of proclamation.  In light of that one guess on how gatherings may look in the next ten years could be that they are simply very stripped and raw.  Today much of what we see in church is high production and flash.  This of course meets the culture where they are for evangelistic reasons, but I can see a deep desire for more authentic, raw, less flashy, communities of Jesus rising up through that.

What kinds of safeguards are in your life to protect your marriage and your family?

I have several safeguards that I believe help serve in protecting my family, but the one Im floating in now is the one I’ll highlight.  Currently I have a 6, 14 and almost 16 year old.  Raising their level of faith and influence of the gospel through friendship, community, scripture is key for us, but honest conversation about where they are in life process including their spiritual well being is how I can more realistically see a picture of it all.  If they let me into their real worlds, struggles, triumphs, losses and pains, I can more realistically know how to pray, fight and love them well. 

IBW Interview Series: Jonathan Welch

This time in the IBW Interview series we interviewed Jonathan Welch from The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina.  Jonathan serves as worship pastor at The Summit Church.  

What books have been the most influential in shaping your understanding of corporate worship?

The books that I recommend the most frequently to worship leaders:

·      Worship Matters – Bob Kauflin

·      For the Glory of God – Dan Block

·      Music Through the Eyes of Faith – Harold Best

·      Rhythms of Grace – Mike Cosper

In addition, a few more that have impacted my personal understanding of worship:

·      Center Church – Tim Keller

·      Recalling the Hope of Glory – Allen Ross

·      Engaging With God – David Peterson

·      Gospel – J.D. Greear

If you could go back in time and give yourself 2 or 3 pieces of advice as a young worship leader, what would they be?

Godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6). Contentment is a realistic and unexpected struggle for many. Your identity is determined solely by the steadfast love of God for you in the gospel, not in what you do or what you accomplish for God’s glory. When fighting for joy and contentment, you are never truly alone in Christ. Pray the Psalms. For example, Psalm 90:14 and 84:10 have become regular prayers in my life. 

Measure excellence as stewardship (Matthew 25:14-30). In a digital age, it’s quite easy to compare yourself and your work to others. I’m indebted to Harold Best and Andreas Köstenberger for teaching me that excellence is about me becoming better than I once was, not in becoming better than someone else.

People are the mission. Thus, worship is not done for the congregation but by the congregation. Regardless of what your title is on Sunday mornings, don’t just lead songs, lead people. That’s what God has called you to as a shepherd from the stage. Love God by faithfully loving his flock.

What process do you go through in designing the weekly order of worship?

I serve in a multisite church, so our worship planning process involves communication and coordination between many pastors and worship leaders. We have a centralized order of worship that could be seen as a monthly liturgical cycle. In the scope of roughly four weeks, we’ll rotate through a sequence of elements, such as: the Lord’s Supper, baptism, commissioning prayers, intercessory prayers, personal testimonies, and extended proclamations and exhortations from the Word. Each week, we’ll have one or two of these elements placed in the order of worship amidst a handful of songs, sermon, offering, pastoral application, and what we call a “missional blessing” (or benediction).

Within this framework, our campus worship leaders choose their own songs from a common list of songs. When I select songs to lead, my first step is to ask God, in addition to the sermon, what he wants to say to his people. As much as possible, I start looking for anchor verses to read with our people in gathered worship. Sometimes this is a verse from our primary sermon text. One goal is to infuse the Word as much as I can, whether that’s as a call to worship up front, as a congregational reading of Scripture, or on the screen during a musical interlude in a song.

Lastly, I’ll sketch out a flow of songs that might serve our people by:

·      Moving us through an intentional progression. For example, as a reminder of the gospel, I often try to start with a song about God’s glory, move to a confession of our sin and our need for a Savior, and then to some expressions that exalt Christ—in his substitutionary death and glorious resurrection.

·      Encouraging congregational participation. We intentionally schedule multiple vocalists on our teams, so we have an opportunity to have capable vocalists carry the melody at different points in the gathering. This approach to shared leadership helps communicate that we are one body and many parts.

·      Adding some variety in our musical expressions. I serve in a multicultural city, so I want to make an intentional effort to select and arrange songs that appeal to worshipers from a variety of backgrounds. Additionally, I try to include a balance of at least one traditional song/hymn, a contemporary song, and a song written for our local congregation.

In what ways do you think corporate gatherings will change in the next ten years?

I’ll throw out a few observations about emerging trends in the broader landscape of worship-related issues.

First, I pray that every local church takes strides by God’s grace to better love and serve communities that are becoming increasingly multicultural and multiethnic. In our efforts as Christians to speak against the prevalence of discrimination and racism, worship leaders must lead multicultural lives and craft liturgies that exalt Christ, demonstrate appreciation for representative cultural diversity, and promote unity as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Second, as the American religious climate changes, cultural Christians are disappearing. As a result, it is paramount for worship leaders to be intentional and intelligible. Intentionality means not assuming our people know what to do, providing directives at the right moments with brevity and strength. Intelligibility means speaking in a way that people—whether Christian or not—can understand and avoiding the insider language of churchy clichés.

Third, for the past twenty-five years, many churches have chosen to fund vocational worship leader staff positions, but the changing dynamics of the American church hint that more and more worship leaders will be bi-vocational or purely volunteer. This doesn’t have to be a negative thing. The role of the vocational worship leader is a modern invention, not a biblical office. So, in the years to come, I expect to see American churches provide more training and resources to non-staff worship leaders.

I’ll also speculate that gender roles will get more attention in nearly every way—including worship. We desperately need a biblical understanding of what it means to be made in the image of God and what it means to be created male and female. For example, from a complementarian perspective, we are asking questions about how we can better encourage women to use their musical and leadership gifts for the edification of the church in gathered worship.

What kinds of safeguards are in your life to protect your marriage and your family?

The most important part is what you preach to yourself. For this reason, I frequently say to myself and our team: “Personal worship and family worship always come before Summit Worship.”

Secondarily, I believe it helps to set some practical expectations with your spouse and your family. My wife and I have regular date nights set on the calendar. We block off regular times each week to reserve as “family time.” We take time to pray through our daily, weekly, and annual rhythms together, as we see our marriage and our family as our primary mission field.

Additionally, I make myself vulnerable and accountable to others. God tells us that those who isolate themselves are unwise (Proverbs 18:1). So, practically, various friends know different aspects of my life and rhythms. The goal is that someone sees every part of my life. I am blessed to have a community—including our staff team—who are quick to take initiative and ask caring questions.

The next installment of the IBW Interview Series will feature Charlie Hall of Frontline Church in Oklahoma City, OK.  

IBW Interview Series: Bob Kauflin

This week we are thrilled to introduce a new feature in our weekly blogs called the IBW Interview Series. We’ve contacted several worship leaders from various backgrounds and ministries and asked them to answer questions that will offer our readers helpful and encouraging insights.

This month we interviewed Bob Kauflin. Bob is a frequent guest lecturer on our campus and our students and faculty have been wonderfully blessed by his ministry to us. He is the Director of Sovereign Grace Music and is a pastor at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville. He is the author of Worship Matters and writes at a blog of the same name.   

What books have been the most influential in shaping your understanding of corporate worship?

Engaging with God – David Peterson, Music Through the Eyes of Faith – Harold Best, Worship by the Book, ed. D.A. Carson, Christ-Centered Worship – Bryan Chapell, Unceasing Worship – Harold Best, and most recently, For the Glory of God – Daniel Block.

If you could go back in time and give yourself 2 or 3 pieces of advice as a young worship leader, what would it be?

  • Pursue God’s experienced presence, but don’t forget to enjoy his promised presence.
  • Rely more on the Word of God to work in people’s hearts through the power of the Spirit.
  • Make sure you help people understand how the gospel we’re singing about connects to their daily lives.

What process do you go through in designing the weekly order of worship?

I keep a Google doc with the order and assignments (musical and verbal) of every Sunday. I start by laying out the basic format: Call to Worship, songs, Scripture/confession, songs, pastoral prayer, welcome and offering, sermon, song/communion, benediction. I look over my notes from last week’s sermon to get an idea of what God was saying to the church the past week. That’s generally where the theme of the call to worship comes from, although not always. I then pick a Scripture/confession/creed to go in the middle of the singing. It’s usually a Scripture and I pick something from the opposite testament that I used for the call to worship. After that, I fill in the songs and the rest of the meeting.

In what ways do you think corporate gatherings will change in the next ten years?

I have no idea! My hope is that gatherings will become more dependent on the word of God, the gospel, and the power of the Spirit. I’d like to see them become more focused on congregational involvement and less of a performer/audience paradigm. But I’m concerned many churches will continue to see technology and creativity as playing a more crucial role in our gatherings so that we lose focus on the power of the gospel and the priority of God dwelling with his people through His Word.

What kinds of safeguards are in your life to protect your marriage and your family?

I only have two grown children at home now after raising six, so it’s a lot easier! Julie and I have had a weekly date night on Monday night for the last 25 years. When my kids were at home we had a family fun night on Sunday night, and a more serious family night on Wednesday nights. Those were non-negotiables. I took Mondays off and spent most of them doing some family activity at least part of the day. Most importantly, I watch my passions. If I don’t love being with my wife and kids, something’s wrong. Either I’m doing too much, pursuing the wrong things, or being distracted. And years ago I developed the practice of praying daily for my wife and children. That’s been extremely helpful in keeping me going in the right direction.

The next installment of the IBW Interview Series will feature Jonathan Welch of The Summit Church in North Carolina.