More Than a Worship Band
Article by: Tom Lane

I remember the first time I was hooked by music and cognizant of it's power and influence. My family was visiting an aunt and uncle who had a huge stereo-it took up a whole wall and tons of records and 8 tracks. My uncle turned me on to the Beach Boys and "In My Room" pierced me to the core- I knew then this is my tribe, who I am and what I must do. (To be a musician-Not a Beach Boy!) Because I grew up in a musical and ministry family I was also shaped by the songs from the sixties (Jesus
Music) which were inciting the young generation in church. I cut my teeth on "sing a longs" which was what we called Praise and worship then. I have continued leading all of my career and ministry. My whole life I've identified with spirituality and all kinds of music yet I've always had an innate passion and desire to sing not only in the church but outside it's walls too!

Many musicians and bands I meet serving faithfully in churches all over the world also have a feeling there's more than song leading. There are quite a few well known bands and artists who were once worship leaders or played in church bands. It's a natural process as bands gel to form an identity, style, and uniqueness that urges them to move outward from the church, become evangelistic or just to be who they feel they are. How great it would be if we didn't see this as a bad thing but helped release them as true disciples and worshipers to go make a difference and be salt and light in all kinds of arenas. My personal thought is that many of you are genuinely being led of God but there is often a struggle to get there. That struggle generally comes with not knowing how to, being discouraged or unsupported by leadership, or fear that it's wrong. It can't be wrong as music from the church has always had a presence in the world and the Great Commission mandates that we go into the world not withdraw and have nothing to do with it. We are to be in it just not of it. Meaning we do need to be in the church.

What I hope to do is encourage churches, leaders, and worship bands who feel this way not to dismiss it as unholy or wrong! Let's don't lose all the great artists and bands to the world because it gives them the opportunity let's prepare and help them hit the target!

Speaking spiritually:
1. It begins with simply being worshippers and a part of God's people - the Church. Ultimately that is the call and within the church community is where the greatest creativity should be commissioned, cultivated, nurtured, blessed, and sent out. If we can agree that the presence of God alone truly accomplishes His purposes then that is our foundation. The goal is to produce worship and creative expressions filled with His presence-to carry His presence everywhere! I do think that lyrically means more than just words we accept as Standard worship lingo. If David sang about all aspects of his life unto God and it was real worship, surely we should too.

2. Worship leaders and bands should know their giftings and how to serve the church with them. I don't mean talent but gifts-they're different! Giftings are meant to edify and build up, talents are what we steward. If we are busy serving with our gifts we'll be productive spiritually for the Kingdom. From there we have much freedom to steward our talents. As a worshiper all of life takes on the character and presence of Jesus which in and of itself causes effect where ever we go.

3. A natural by product of a healthy church is great art. And if the commission is to go then let's go to the world with our proclamations and expressions of God's truth and glory.

So for the worship bands, song writers, artisans, singers, etc. within the church who feel there's more---there is!! God may lead some of you before kings and the masses and others to remain totally unseen or to continue serving your local church. The keys for me are to worship in spirit and truth, serve faithfully, steward wisely. He uses faithful and surrendered lives!

Speaking practically:
What do you do? You're a band that loves to lead worship but you also have all these songs that don't fit congregational worship, and some that do but aren't going anywhere or being heard, or records you want to make, or gigs you want to do, etc.

1. Take what you have and sharpen it, focus it, and prepare. Be diligent to ready yourselves both spiritually and musically as an individual or a team. The world discerns quickly and knows a fake when they see one so be the best and most authentic you can be. Lead don't follow how the world does it.

2. Don't wait for a record company, publisher or investor to bank roll your "Vision" Just do it! Buy a simple Pro Tools rig (my Personal choice!) or recording setup and hone your craft, document your songs and ideas, develop your sound, spend hours and hours and hours and more hours doing the thing you do. If you're a song writer-write many songs and you'll just be getting started. Learn to record and demo as a band. Do as much as you can do yourself before pursuing help from others. Put your songs or demos together in a presentable fashion.

3. Through prayer and worship learn your target and get God's vision for you and set your aim and goals around it. Don't ever compromise your ability to steward what He's given you. Don't sign away or sell it for a platform. Platforms and deals don't give you a ministry! Ministry comes out of the fruit and integrity of your faith, life, and works. Know what God's purpose is for you, it won't just appear out of thin air and no one else can tell you that. If you don't have a clear vision as an individual and as a band-you won't accomplish much or last long!

4. Trust God to promote you. Don't aim for stardom aim to please God-serving makes you a star with Him. Once you have tools such as CD's, Demos, etc. proceed humbly yet honestly with those God gives you opportunity and favor with. Feedback and constructive criticism from a pro in any field can help but shouldn't define or defeat you. There's nothing wrong with sharing what you do and who you are but do so with integrity! If you are pursuing your contacts, referals are always better. Relationships count the most and shouldn't feel forced. If someone truly is in a position to help you with songs, projects, career, etc., you only want them to if you can be healthily and equally yoked with them. Take time before you run ahead with what seem to be promising offers or opportunities, in all honesty few of them ever are what they seem! Get good Godly counsel!

5. If you think you really want to pursue the worship or music industry here's a wee bit of advice that won't cost you a thing! The sobering and truthful reality is that there's a way things are done and you should be educated and aware! Count all costs, be very certain that you are willing to do what it will take to go that way. I'm not picking on labels or artists here so please hear me well. There is always a bottom line, an agenda (on both sides!), and a contract which spells it out clearly yet many enter in without having done the aforementioned let alone sought God. Unfortunately "Your word" is sometimes the first thing out the window when it all goes south-but you signed the deal! The safest way to fulfill your call and pursue your God given talents and desires as a worship leader or band/artist is to bloom where you're planted, do what you do, be faithful in the little, and live by God's wisdom. If as you're doing those things they come knocking at your door with offers to help you-just be sure it's a partnership that God can bless and communicate everything well on the front end.

6. Go For it! God can and will use you. And what better than to have worshippers leading the way and impacting our world with God's presence? Dream, write, play, lead, sing, all to the Gory of God. (Tom 6:1 - The Musicians International Version!)

What makes worship powerful and real is God's presence. What brings God's presence is humility, brokenness, justice, spirit and truth. What changes the reality of the world we're living in is God's presence working through us! Whether you're leading the Body of Christ in worship or standing in God's presence out in the world sharing your talents-it is worship!! Let's not limit God to a "Contemporary Worship box." Some of you are no less a worship band because you play in unusual settings or your songs are about life. But- if you are a worshipper you are called to reflect Christ no matter where you play!

Article Reprinted with Permission from: Worship Musician Magazine, Mar/Apr '04