I met Bob in at an airport luggage collection area in 2008. I'd enjoyed his blog on worship and a number of his songs and I'd just picked up a copy of his book on worship. I was glad to hear recently that he's working with my friend Nathan to host a conference on worship in Bath in March 2014. So, I pinged Bob an email with a few questions to whet your appetite....
Where does your interest in music come from?
I've been involved in music for as long as I can remember, making up songs on the piano from the time I was 6. My mother was the primary influence and wanted all of her four children to study music of some kind. We had music playing in the house and in the car all the time, mostly classical and standards. By the time I was 12 years old I was hooked on studying classical music and playing everything I could by ear.
Why is music important for Christians?
That’s a broad question because there are so many ways we can interact with music! Listening, singing, playing. Let me answer as it pertains to congregational song. Music is important for Christians because it seems to be important to God. There are over 50 commands in the Bible to sing, and over 400 references to singing. That doesn’t include references to instrumental music. Because music is so emotionally powerful, it can combine objective truth with subjective response. That’s how congregational singing can help us “feel the truth,” that is to say, it can help us be more impacted by God’s word and deepen our affections for him. Music can help keep our theology from becoming dry and simply a matter of the intellect.
How did you end up being a "worship leader”?
Of course, every Christian is a “worship leader,” seeking to persuade others that God’s glory in Christ is to be exalted above everything on earth! But I started leading songs in the Sunday meeting in my church back in the early 80s. It seemed a natural extension of my love for the Savior and my musical training.
How did that fit into "normal" working/family life? (I'm assuming you didn't start out on a church staff)
I started by playing the piano as someone else led. In a few years I was the one leading. Because it was something I loved to do and enjoyed doing, it didn’t seem to impinge on my time with the family. Of course, Julie, my wife, might tell you something different! Also, I don’t think my planning then was as thorough as it is now.
What would you want to say to your novice-self if you had the chance?
Nothing is more important to communicate to people than the gospel of Jesus Christ. No song, arrangement, vocalist, riff, or technology. People need to see the glory of Christ, not the glory of our presentation. Know God’s Word and depend on it to change people’s lives. See leading songs as a pastoral function before you see it as a musical one. Do more listening than you do talking or singing. Listen to the feedback others give you. In fact, seek it out. Listen to the other musicians that you play with.
To be continued next Tuesday.