Concluding my conversation with Bob Kauflin about church music and the Worship God UK conference he's hosting in 2014....
Who are your role-models/teachers when it comes to music in church?
Keith Green showed me that you don’t have to sit still when you play the piano. Matt Redman taught me how brief spontaneous moments can allow people to engage more deeply with the songs they’re singing. Paul Baloche has shown me much about what it means to be a humble musician. Stuart Townend has modeled beautiful, thoughtful, and theologically faithful lyric writing. Keith Getty has taught me a lot about passion for theology, diligence in writing, and beautiful melodies. C.J. Mahaney taught me about 90% of what has been important to me as I lead congregational song - listening to the Holy Spirit, caring for people’s souls as you lead, the importance of lyrics, the importance of actually seeking to encounter God as you sing and not merely sing songs, the centrality and power of the gospel, humility, joyful serving, and a bunch of other things.
Why do the words and music we use matter?
God made us to remember and categorize words with music better than words alone. People forget sermons, they remember the songs they sing. As one writer said, “We are what we sing.” The songs we sing both reflect and shape the way we think about and relate to God, ourselves, and our world. That’s why what we choose to sing every Sunday is so important.
What's your process of preparing for a Sunday meeting?
It varies, but generally I’ll start to put together a Sunday plan on Tuesday in preparation for our elders’ meeting on Wednesday afternoon. I have a general outline I follow - call to worship, songs, Scripture/prayer/confession, songs, welcome and offering, sermon, song, benediction. We will do communion once a month after the sermon. When I prepare I look at what was preached the previous week, what’s being preached this week, and always seek to make sure the gospel is being clearly presented in the flow of what we do.
How do you respond when someone thanks you at the end of a meeting?
I say, “You’re welcome. It was my joy.” If they’re open to a deeper conversation, I might ask them what encouraged them about the meeting. That’s not to get them to talk about me more, but to give glory to God specifically for what he was doing in their hearts. I might also mention the contributions of others to what we did by saying, “Thanks so much. It’s a joy to get to work with the musicians on this team. They make it so easy." 10.
Sometimes people say that its more spiritual to be spontaneous than to have planned what you're going to sing... what do you think?
We should never pit planning against spontaneity. God uses both. Proverbs is filled with exhortations to faithful planning and diligence, but in the end the Lord directs our steps (Prov. 16:1, 9; 19:21). Good planning actually helps spontaneity because we don’t have to constantly think about what’s happening next but can listen for a potential redirection at any moment. Those who are spontaneous every week end up doing very similar things over the long run, returning to the same themes, the same songs, and the same “spontaneous” prayers. Relying too much on spontaneity also trains us to look for the unexpected and strange rather than remember what God has already accomplished for us in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Why hold a conference on worship in the UK?
Why should we come? Why WorshipGod UK? Nathan Smith leads the Sovereign Grace Church in Bristol and has been wanting us to come to the UK for a number of years. I’ve had the opportunity to lead at New Word Alive and in a few other contexts, and love the UK. And my wife, Julie, was born in Britain, so I have family roots. And some of us still feel a debt to the mother country.
Why should you come? Our heart is to encourage and equip church leaders and musicians, especially of small churches, who want to see their church passionately singing songs that are filled with the gospel and God’s Word in the power of the Spirit. Mike Reeves will be there as will Stuart Townend, Tim Chester, Jeff Purswell, Nathan and Lou Fellingham, and many more. We want to build on what God is already doing in the UK through others and hopefully contribute to the strengthening of congregational song jn the churches there. As we’ve led WorshipGod conferences in the states for the past 8 years attendees have told us they’ve grown in their love for the Savior, their knowledge of theology, and their musical and leadership skills. We also laugh a lot, give away free stuff, and seek to take God seriously, ourselves not so much. It’s our prayer that you’d be able to experience all that and more at WorshipGod UK, and we’d love to see you there!