Sunday, September 19, 2021

Podcast: The Tension of Being a Worship Pastor

A worship pastor is more than a song leader. What are the tensions a worship pastor experiences? How does a worship pastor do his job effectively, while submitting to the leadership of a senior pastor?

In this episode of the Church InTension podcast, Dr. Jon Chasteen talks with Gateway Worship pastor and 4Him founding member Mark Harris about how to steward the role of the worship pastor in a local church.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: We’re bringing people onto this podcast who are neck deep in ministry. Churches all over. Ministries all over. And today is not different. I got a really good friend of mine that I love this man. He’s an amazing man of God. He’s an amazing leader. Some of you may remember him. He was in a little group called 4Him back in the day. This group started in 1990. You’re young though, Mark, so you must have started when you were like 10.

Mark Harris: Yeah. It’s amazing they would let a guy go on the road at… I mean, I left my mom and dad’s house, walked out of the little bedroom with the little boy blue décor in it.

Jon: But this dude was one of the founders of 4Him. Little did I know, 4Him is actually still together. They get together and they do events still to this day. But listen to this, you all, eight Dove Awards. Eight Dove Awards this guy. Did Crusades with Billy Graham. This guy just has a wealth of experience and then took all of that experience and has now shifted it over in the past several decades… Several decades. Now you sound really old.

Mark: I do.

Jon: A few years as a worship pastor and taking his gifts and his talents and really his anointings to this platform of worship. He’s been on staff at a couple of different churches, but currently he is a worship pastor at Gateway Church and just does a phenomenal job. I’ve lived down here for a little over a year now and have connected with Pastor Mark and just become one of my dear friends. He and I click a lot. We get along really well, so I’m really excited to have you on the podcast, Mark, and I want to talk about worship and some of the tension there.

Jon: We’re going to about some of that tension. But first, I want them just to get to know you a little bit. Just tell us about yourself. How did 4Him start? How did you get the call to be a worship leader? You can tell us, man, whatever you want to tell us. Just take a few minutes.

Mark: Can I first say, it’s great to be on the podcast?

Jon: You can say whatever you want to.

Mark: I love you, Jon. I mean, it’s been great getting to hang with you and getting to know you. I’m so thrilled that you’re here at TKU. I think you’re one of the incredible leaders for this generation. And it’s going to be exciting to see what God does with you here, but I’m thrilled that you’re doing this podcast.

Jon: I appreciate it, man. I’ve been blessed.

Mark: I’m a dad. I have two children. Actually Jodie and I have two children.

Jon: There you go.

Mark: I’m the father. She’s the mother.

Jon: It’s kind of hard to have kids without…

Mark: Yeah. I’m married to Jodie. I think we’re 30 years in December.

Jon: Got married when you were 10 too.

Mark: Very young.

Jon: That’s impressive.

Mark: Son, Matthew, is a worship pastor on staff here at Gateway Church too. Daughter is one of our worship leaders. The whole family is involved in ministry, because Jodie serves in worship as well, my wife. Been a worship pastor for approximately 13 years now. The intention when I went to college, I went to Lee University as a student and got a degree in music, was going to leave college and go into full-time ministry at a local church, but God had a different plan, so I ended up becoming an itinerant musician. Traveled with a group called Truth and 4Him.

Mark: We started 4Him out of Truth. Back in 2005, I realized, man, I’ve really never been connected the way that I thought I would to a local church as far as being able to be involved in ministry with my hands in the dirt there, because I travel so much. I really had this desire and this longing to end that chapter of my life, because we were doing about 150 to 200 concerts a year.

Jon: Wow.

Mark: And still had a burden to serve in the local church. That’s one of the catalysts for us to basically come off the road and to not tour anymore. Three of us actually served as worship pastors. Three of the four of us and the other one, Marty, is a teacher. We’re all involved still heavily in ministry, the four guys from 4Him, but we love the local church. We love serving in the local church. We love being a part of a staff and being under that covering. I know I do, and I know for my family it’s been a great season for us.

Jon: That’s awesome. Well, I kind of want to dig into this idea and pull out some of this. Because really when you think about a worship leader or a worship pastor… And I may actually circle back around to that. Even that comment that I made, I said worship leader and then I corrected myself and said worship pastor because there is a difference.

Mark: Big difference.

Jon: We may circle back around to that. But when you think about stage time, okay? Whether you’re a church that has church for 60 minutes or 75 or 90, whatever your format is as a church, as far as stage time, there’s only one person that’s on the platform maybe not as much as the senior pastor, but at least second, it’s the worship pastor.

Mark: Yes.

Jon: You talk about just the influence in a church culture and the dynamics of look at that from every angle, from the way we dress to the way we talk, to the way we look, to the way we worship. So much of a church culture is given either verbally or nonverbally through the worship pastor. It really is a critical, critical, critical element of any church. Let’s circle back to what I said first. Let’s talk about that. It wasn’t even in my notes here, but we’re going to talk about it.

Mark: Awesome.

Jon: What’s the difference, Mark, between a worship leader and a worship pastor?

Mark: Well, I think worship leaders lead songs. Worship pastors lead rooms.

Jon: That’s good.

Mark: If you’re just a song leader, if you have a good voice and you know how to carry a tune, then the lyrics typically are on the wall somewhere and you can see them. You know the melody of the song, you can lead that song. But to pastor a congregation in worship is a completely different thing, because it’s less about you singing the song and more about you connecting that congregation to the presence of God.

Jon: You’re in a position where you’re in the process of developing worship leaders. You’ve come to that age and that experience where you’re now turning and pouring into the next generation, all while continuing to be a worship pastor. For the worship leaders out there, worship pastors out there, how do you identify the difference? Let’s say you’re interviewing for a worship pastor for your church. Within a little bit of time, just some meetings, maybe a couple of YouTube videos you watched, or whatever you’re seeing, what are some indicators?

Jon: How do you tell the difference between somebody who’s going to direct a song service… It’s funny, I grew up as a preacher’s kid and my dad used to always refer to worship as the song service.

Mark: The song service.

Jon: Song service. But how do you tell the difference? How that you know that you’re hiring a pastor and not just a song leader?

Mark: Well, if I could back up a little bit, I wouldn’t say that all worship leaders, if they’re not titled worship pastor, they can still pastor a congregation in worship. But I think the difference between a worship leader and a worship pastor more than anything else is the pastor side of it. It’s the guy or the person that develops worship leaders. It’s more about who you’re pouring into and who you’re mentoring.

Mark: When you ask the question of, if I’m looking to make a hire and I’m looking for the right person to be the worship pastor, and I’m watching a service that they’re stewarding, that they’re actually responsible for, I’m always looking to see how they set people up to lead. If they’re the one that’s front and center and they’re the only one that’s leading the whole time, then it doesn’t mean necessarily that they’re not about developing others, but I love it when I see… Just recently, I actually was given the link to look at some YouTube videos for a worship pastor for a church.

Mark: The pastor was asking me to help him find a worship pastor. I was very impressed when the link that the individual sent me actually had more people leading than just him. As a matter of fact, I kept wondering, when is he going to lead? But then I would see him connect the moments. And so then when I got on the phone with him and was asking him about the YouTube videos, he said, “I wanted you to see my heart. My heart is to develop others.” He said, “I can send you a link of me leading if it’s just me at a conference when I was the only one on the platform.”

Mark: He said, “But I want you to know that I’m about developing others.” Immediately my mind could even just kind of check the box beside his name as he’s a pastor. He wants to raise up. It doesn’t mean that everybody is called to that, because there are guys that… I think that a worship leader…

Jon: There’s a place for both.

Mark: There’s a place for both.

Jon: Right.

Mark: But I’m always drawn to the ones that can raise up more than just themselves. I like the person that can duplicate what God put in them. Because I think that there is a great need for us to raise up more. I’m the one that gets the phone call a lot of times from pastors saying, “Hey, I’m without a worship pastor. I really need a worship pastor.” I’m very aware of the fact that there’s a shortage of real good worship pastors that understand what it means to pastor a congregation in worship.

Mark: Because that worship pastor’s responsibility is really to help develop and cultivate a culture of worship within that body. It has to line up with the pastor’s vision, but it is the responsibility of the worship pastors to carry that burden.

Jon: That’s good. Let’s cut right to… Well, this is Church InTension Podcast after all, so let’s talk about an area of tension. Okay? I’m going to exaggerate this to bring the point home. But I think every church has an area of tension where, again, there’s a certain amount of time allotted for every… Most churches have a “we’re not going past this time. If we do go past it, we’re not going to go way past it because we have another service afterwards.” There’s always some sort of clock. There just is. Then the next thing becomes, well, there’s limited stage time.

Jon: I sit currently in a lead pastor role, so I understand the lead pastor side and here you are sitting on the worship pastor side. There’s this tension always of, okay, well, today, worship’s going to be 18 minutes. Next week, it’s going to be 23. Next week, it’s going to 15 because the pastor wants to preach a really long time. Let’s just be honest, the tension is the preacher wants to preach longer and the worship leader wants to worship longer. I mean, let’s just cut right to the chase of what it is. There’s always elements.

Jon: There’s times where, man, we probably should sing longer, and maybe there’s times where we should sing less. How do we navigate that tension and speak from the… What I like about you, Mark, is that we can put people on a box. We can put worship leaders in a box. We can say, “Well, all worship pastors wear skinny jeans and pointy toed shoes. The more holes you have in your jeans, the cooler you are.” You can do the same with pastors. You can put us all in boxes. But you’re coming as a really seasoned guy, man. You’ve been through the fire.

Jon: You’ve been through different decades of seeing how worship has shifted over the years. What are you seeing right now happening in church? I know I’m throwing a lot at you here, but I just want to open this conversation about this tension here.

Mark: Oh yeah, it’s a great conversation. Well, I think one of the things that we are seeing is we have mega churches with multiple services, with multiply campuses. There has to be organizational structure to be able to accomplish what needs to be accomplished for a weekend. There are certain things that are required. I know for us here at Gateway, one of the things that we have is we have kind of a target of what we start with as far as the allotted time for worship every weekend. And it adjusts.

Mark: I’ve heard worship pastors, and I’ve heard it said before, that we feel like those constraints, that box that we’re put in for the allotted time, really kind of… It’s hard to carry people into God’s presence or to get them there within that constraint. I look at that and I say, “Well, I think the box that you need to be more concerned about is submission to authority.”

Jon: That’s really good.

Mark: Because the reality is, is God can do more in a matter of a minute than you can do with the 25 minutes that you want for worship. He can do it through submission. If you’re submitted, if your heart’s submitted to authority, then God knows that. I think a slippery slope for a worship pastor is to ever forget that the lead worship pastor is the senior pastor. I think it’s always best to submit to what you’re asked to do. Sure, a value is time. I mean, time allows for you to approach the segment for worship during the service, the music worship portion, and to be able to go there in a different way.

Mark: But there are weekends when we’ve had 13 minutes, which is very short. But we start at a different place when we go into a weekend service where it’s 13 minutes. We know we have to begin differently. Yeah, we go deeper. There are different ways to approach that. I think the thing too… This is something that we started doing. This is interesting. We really felt like the Lord was telling us that if we as the team stepped out onto the platform having already ascended the ramp, then when we get there, we’re more capable to take people in quicker. We’re very intentional about worshiping before we come onto the platform.

Jon: That’s so good.

Mark: We started that a while back, and it’s really helped us. Because of the size of Gateway and the scope of the way that we do ministry, we have so many different things that affect and impact a weekend. Instead of complaining about it and trying to poke holes at it, I think the better and the healthier thing is to submit to it and find the way to get it done within what we’re given.

Jon: That’s really good. The way I always like to word it sometimes is to say that you can never lead somebody to a place on the stage that you haven’t first visited off the stage.

Mark: Yes.

Jon: You’re coming to the stage having already visited the place that you’re trying to get them to go to. Those make the best sermons. They make the best worship leaders. I love that. One thing that I have become over the years… One thing I like about Gateway is… I guess when you do it after a while, you can begin to see. I’ve been trying to figure out how to word this without making it sound mean. You begin to get pretty good at noticing whether a worship leader is really worshiping or if they’re just putting on a show. My daughter’s 12 and she wants to be a worship leader.

Jon: She’s got a great voice. She can sing beautifully, but she’ll go and lead at a children’s church or something.

Mark: I’ve heard her sing. She’s very good.

Jon: Well, she’s not too bad, but I’m a little biased.

Mark: As you shall be.

Jon: What I’m trying to show her is look, you’re not up there to perform. And maybe it’s a generational thing, maybe this upcoming generation. But it was so weird, my daughter came to me when she was four years old, Mark, and said, “Dad, how do I be famous?”

Mark: Wow.

Jon: How do I be famous? I’m like, you’re four. How do you even know what famous means? Let’s talk about that for a minute. And I see this happening in pastors too, but I think it’s happening in worship leaders. The motive. What does it mean to be a worship pastor? There’s so much of this social media world that comes to play. Let’s just be honest, we’re human. Human beings like accolades. We like attention. I think there’s always this fight, whether you’re a senior pastor or a worship leader, whatever you are.

Jon: If you have a platform, there’s this fight to be somebody, to try to attain some status, to wear what I need to wear, say what I need to say, lift my hand, get on my knees, whatever it is that looks like I need to do to become successful. How do we weed through that? How do we know who’s really leading worship and who’s just putting on a show to… I’m getting kind of tense here, aren’t I? Like this is the Church InTension Podcast. But I’m just blunt. These are things that I’m seeing happening that I think need our attention.

Mark: Well, Jon, I think the big… A great word is the big tension with being a worship pastor and being someone that has the gift, the musical talent or the gift of being able to sing or play an instrument, the chief worship leader… I asked Pastor Robert one time, “What would you tell a group of worship pastors if you wanted to tell them just something that you think would really help them understand the challenge of being a worship pastor?” He said, “Well,” and I love this analogy. He said, “Lucifer was the original. Everything musical was in him. He was the original worship leader.”

Mark: He said, “He did not want all of the glory. He just wanted some of the glory.” He said, “When you’re leading worship, if it becomes about you in any way at all, then you’re no different than Lucifer.”

Jon: Wow.

Mark: Because Lucifer didn’t want it all. If it ever becomes about me having a voice that I think people need to hear or me being the one that needs to step upfront and be seen, me feeling like I need to come off the platform and get the attaboy and have someone say, “Man, that was incredible.”

Jon: And mention you on social media.

Mark: I think one of the most dangerous things is social media. I mean, you were going there right before my mind was saying. So many times I see just post on stories and things that kind of… You can follow me. I stay away from it when it mentions me. I don’t ever repost me. If you say something nice about me, I’m not going to…

Jon: You appreciate it.

Mark: Thank you, but I’m not going to…

Jon: You’re not going to use it.

Mark: I’m not saying that people do that, they may do it for their own purposes. But I just would encourage young worship leaders, let another man’s lips praise you, not your own. Always defer the spotlight. The thing is, I think we need to lead worship with really a holy reverence and almost this desire within ourselves to try to push away any of the acclaim. Because the reality is, it is inside of us as human beings to enjoy the applause. But that glory was not meant for us. That glory is only for God.

Jon: That’s really, really good.

Mark: When Pastor Robert said that, when he said, “We’re no different from Lucifer when we…”

Jon: That will wake you up. You’re like, “Lucifer. Oh my gosh.”

Mark: Because then all of a sudden you realize, yes, he did not want all of the glory. He wanted to share in what was only meant for God. When we lead worship, when we want the attaboy, we kind of want to slide over into a place that’s not meant for us.

Jon: That’s really, really good. You have been around. I feel like I’m always calling you old Mark, and I’m not doing that, but you have a little bit of gray, man.

Mark: I have a little bit of gray.

Jon: You got a little bit of gray. I’ve got some coming in, man, so I can’t say nothing.

Mark: But you’re much younger. I don’t think you could be my son, Jon, but you could be my nephew.

Jon: This is what I love about Gateway is yes, they have some of these young worship leaders that have to meet the current trends. One minute you got to have skinny jeans. Now the new thing is your ankles have to show with no show socks, right? That’s the new thing.

Mark: Sure.

Jon: But Gateway has just some seasoned guys like yourself, like Pastor Tim. Just some guys that have been in this for decades, just to bring in maturity and health. Speak from that perspective, what have you seen happen even just in the past 15, 20 years in church worship? What would you say has changed the most?

Mark: I think the thing is we’re worship leaders, we’re pastors first. We pastor the congregation into worship. We help create a culture that teaches people how to love on God. If we’re not careful, we can get things upside down. I mean, when I first started out as an artist, worship music wasn’t a genre and an option to be played on radio. People weren’t buying worship CDs.

Jon: It was Christian music.

Mark: It was Christian music. That was radio. And then worship pastors, they really didn’t have an avenue to become people in the spotlight too much beyond their local congregation. Now it’s kind of like… The danger is, is it’s like you have worship artists. I’m not saying that there’s not a place for artistry, because I believe that we need to restore the heart of the artist back to the church, because that’s where it started. God’s the original creator, so all things beautiful and creative and artistic come from him. He’s the original.

Mark: But the thing that does concern me is that there’s just a danger… And I believe that the church needs fathers. There are times in the past five years when I thought, man, I need to abandon this post and go do something different. But the thing that won’t allow me to do that is because I know that God’s called me to be a Samuel pouring into the Davids.

Jon: That’s really good.

Mark: The way that he has me positioned to do that right now is to still be kind of a player coach. I know that there’ll be a season probably when I move to coach only.

Jon: I hope not. I like watching you lead worship.

Mark: Well, thank you. I think the one thing that somebody that’s done it for a while may have realized is there probably are seasons when they’re tempted to be more in love with their gift and the giver of their gift. If a young person just gets the applause or the encouragement, sometimes they can get mixed up in the misunderstanding that this is not… It goes back to the glory is all about God. It’s not about us.

Mark: I just think that it’s just important for us to always understand and for young worship leaders to always be fully aware that if you stay in love with the giver of the gift, then you’re probably going to stay healthy. Because if you understand the gift just came from him and it’s really not yours anyway, then that’s the perspective that you have to keep. I was having a conversation today about a young artist that’s very successful right now.

Mark: One of our worship pastors was working with him in the studio the other day and he said, “Hey, I know him from years back, the young artist. I met him before anyone knew who he was.” My first question was, just out of curiosity, is he humble?

Jon: Right.

Mark: I just wanted to know, has success spoiled him? I was so excited to hear no. He was the most humble guy in the room. Because when I first met this young artist, they were very humble. Now years later, when everybody knows their name, they’re still humble. I think humility is the key, but I think it is a healthy understanding of our position and our place.

Jon: Let’s talk about just the atmosphere of worship even how it’s changed. I was a preacher’s kid growing up. You know what my job was when I was a little boy? The projector kid.

Mark: You were the projector…

Jon: I was the projector kid.

Mark: You mean the overhead?

Jon: Overhead projector. Yeah, yeah, yeah. The transparencies. It was a spirit-filled church, so they could change the song at any time and that’s not on the list. I can’t click ProPresenter to change songs. I’m going over to the file and filming through. How Great Thou Art, is that under the A’s for art or H for how? And then I would have to throw it up there and you get a little piece of paper that you slide down. If I fall asleep, my mom was the worship leader, so she would just snap her finger over the side.

Mark: You knew that snap.

Jon: I knew that snap.

Mark: That’s so good.

Jon: Now think about that versus today where it’s like, oh my gosh, this is a full-on production. Not all churches, but a lot of the mainstream churches are this production. Our pastors are the same. Gateway, obviously, the production value is just phenomenal. How do we walk that balance? How do we not over produce to where people aren’t even paying attention to the worship leader because there’s so much to look at that I can’t even… I’m so distracted. Because I think it takes both. I think there’s a balance there. I think there’s a balance.

Jon: Yes, let’s be excellent. The church should lead the way in excellence. We shouldn’t be 20 years behind the world. We want to be attractive, but we also don’t want to be so produced that the Holy Spirit no longer has a place and everyone’s so distracted that no one can even pay attention to what’s happening. What are your thoughts on those?

Mark: I agree with there being a tension there. I think production and being able to do things in an excellent way is great. But two years ago, I think we lost power at the end of our 12:30 service. It was right as we were walking out and here are thousands of people that are sitting out there. I’m the worship pastor, and I’m about to leave them, and I hear in my in ears with all of our technology, “We’re losing power. The boards are going down.”

Jon: You’re on your own.

Mark: “We don’t know if you’ll have a mic, but you may have a mic.” It’s me and a whole team, but the team can’t hear anything. I literally had to step up and I led with an acoustic guitar that had no power, but I had one mic and I moved it between me and the guitar and my voice. We worshiped. It was my favorite worship service that we’ve had, because the people sang so loud. There we no lyrics on the screen. The lighting was impacted by it too. There were no distractions.

Mark: I mean, granted, I’m assuming probably if we did that every weekend, people would say, “Wow! You use pretty modern technology that allows you to…” It reminded me, we really don’t need much. We have it. I love the way we work with live production here. Live production is used to enhance the atmosphere of worship, not to control it.

Jon: Yes. That’s good right there.

Mark: They serve the needs of worship. They work together. We partner. We don’t look at worship in that experience as a production. We look at it as creating an atmosphere and an environment so that people can connect to God in the greatest way possible. It holds us accountable. I’ve been places where I’ve realized that it’s all about the constraints of the production and that it’s so on a grid. I think the thing is, is what’s really sad to me about that is… You work out. If you start exercising your muscles in a certain way, you train them to go that way.

Mark: My only concern about the fact that we’ve gotten so good at what we do is that we’re actually training young worship leaders to do it only one way.

Jon: That’s good.

Mark: I grew up in a small little church that was so unorganized. We never had a grid. We didn’t know what a grid would look like if someone said, “Here’s the grid.” We said, “Let’s do this song.” We would stop in the middle… It was a tiny church in Alabama. But what I learned was as a young guy growing up in that church was I learned just how to go where the spirit was leading.

Jon: Yes.

Mark: I think sometimes if we’re not careful, we can program the Holy Spirit out.

Jon: Anything you do over and over and over again, no matter what it is, would get old. Even if you had no lights and Mark sang with an acoustic guitar every single week for three years and then we brought in lights, “Wow, this was awesome. This was refreshing.” I mean, we had a similar thing happen where we lost power when in the moment. It was an hour before church. We’re panicking, running together, getting whatever the boxes you played drums on. You probably know what it’s called.

Mark: The cajon.

Jon: There you go. One little speaker that’s got an extension cord going to another part that has power. You’re right. With candles. It’s like the most powerful worship service. People raved about it for weeks. I don’t know that it was because we didn’t have lights. I think it was just it was different. I think sometimes we box the presence of God into a certain box and God’s like, “You can’t put that in a box. My presence is there no matter what you do.”

Mark: And it’s because we’ve gotten good at doing what we do. It’s like we don’t want to get uncomfortable. We don’t want it to ever feel like we didn’t have it all together. There’s a place in worship, we call it in the inhale. It’s the place where everything gets still. Sometimes I really feel just a… I feel the tug of war of letting that sit there long enough, because I’m on a platform and there’s a little bit of a discomfort that I need to feel, because it lets me know, okay, I need to get…

Jon: Something’s shifting.

Mark: Something’s shifting. But it is the thing where is it okay for it just to come to a stop and not be so perfect. It’s in those moments when the Holy Spirit is doing his work and you don’t need to get in the way. I think there needs to be a sensitivity and an awareness on our part as worship pastors and worship leaders to understand that it’s not on our shoulders to do the work. It’s on our shoulders to hear what God’s wanting to do in the moment and really allow God the space to do it within the constraints of what we have.

Mark: I think that I’m always constantly having to remind myself when I put a list of songs together, am I okay if we don’t make it all the way through that list?

Jon: We just had this conversation yesterday.

Mark: We did an unplug night Sunday night. It was for volunteers. Well, we just got into one song and we stayed there for about 12 minutes. It was one of our other guys and I was… I mean, I wasn’t sure that I was going to lead anything, and I was okay with it. I was like, we’re just going to go. It’s okay. Don’t ever make it about the songs. The songs are just there as a vehicle to use to get people to the destination.

Jon: Well, it’s no different than a sermon. I’ll write sermons and I’ll walk up to the podium and I’ve got my notes, but the Holy Spirit may shift something or hit something that wasn’t in my notes that ends up being the best part of my sermon in the first place.

Mark: Amen.

Jon: We had this conversation at the church I pastored just yesterday in a meeting where Sunday we had this… I preached, but the worship leader… I mean, worship was phenomenal. I get done preaching and I’m reading this thread from all of the leaders, the campus pastors and worship leaders, and they’re like, “Oh my gosh, I wish we could have sang that song again. Oh my gosh, I wish we could have extended worship two minutes.” For me, it sparked this like, “Let’s talk about this.” You and I talked about this before the podcast started.

Jon: It really boils down to trust. Does the senior pastor trust his leaders, and does the worship leaders trust the senior pastor? Is there a camaraderie there? We process through this. Let’s say you got a hard 20 minutes and we are not going to flex. It’s 20 minutes. But it’s 20 minutes. It’s do whatever you want in the 20 minutes. If you want to sing one song over and over again, sing one song over and over again, whatever the Holy Spirit is doing. I think sometimes we think that, “Well, all I got is 20 minutes and I got four songs, so it’s in a loop. We just got to stick to the loop and go through it.”

Jon: Do we? Do we really have to do that? I think it’s just challenging even the way we think. This is what I told my guys, and you have to have people that you trust. There’s no doubt you have to have people you trust. But I said, “Look, the campus pastor makes this call. Not necessarily the worship leader in the moment.” But we have microphones so the leader can pick up a mic that’s channeled to the in ears of the worship leaders and he can say, “Hey, sing that again,” whatever the case maybe,” to where they can hear and keep going.

Jon: Because what I said is, “Look.” Now this isn’t every pastor. This is different flavor for every pastor.” I said, “If I got to carve two minutes out of my sermon, I think I can figure out how to do that if we need to sing the tag one more time.” We have multiple campuses that we live stream, so there’s logistics in that. We got to figure that out. But I think part of the responsibility falls back on us to…. Not for the Holy Spirit to make room for us, but us to make the room for the Holy Spirit.

Mark: Oh, so good. I love that.

Jon: Even if we’re sticking to 20 minutes, 18 minutes, then work in it. Work in it.

Mark: Once again, it’s about submission to the authority of the house also. I just always have to say that it comes back to that.

Jon: It totally does.

Mark: God honors that, obedience. I’ve really found that to be so true. I’ve seen God show up and move in a powerful way in 10 minutes.

Jon: Absolutely.

Mark: Time is a value, but I think the thing that matters more than anything else is the heart and the willingness to throw out the list, like we said, and to… It’s like you said, 20 minutes, you can go somewhere.

Jon: That’s a pretty good amount of time.

Mark: I think it’s a challenge to the worship pastor, the worship leaders. Number one, I think the thing that’s crucial is to know what the senior pastor wants.

Jon: Yeah, it really is.

Mark: If you’re a worship pastor and you’re listening to this and you don’t understand what your pastor expects the worship culture to be, or if you don’t know what he’s wanting the destination to be, or if you don’t know his values, then I would encourage you to schedule a meeting and interview him and ask him.

Jon: It’s pretty important.

Mark: It’s pretty important. Because you maybe frustrated just simply because you don’t understand what his desire is. Pastor Robert’s very clear in what he wants. I understand what his desire is because he’s been very clear, this is what he believes about worship. This is what he wants to see happen in worship. I’m sure, Jon, at your church, your worship pastors know, this is how I feel. Even the conversation you had with them yesterday to kind of give them more insight into, “Hey, guys, I just…

Jon: You guys have fallen into that. I’ve never been to a Gateway experience where I haven’t felt the presence of God in worship. Regardless of what the constraints are, the presence of God is there working and moving in 10 minutes or 20 minutes, whatever it is.

Mark: Those deep wells are here because… Pastor Robert spoke the other night at a worship family gathering and he said, “I want spirit and truth. I want both. I want them working together.” The whole thought was, I want a presence filled worship experience, but I want it to fall within structure so that people… That’s the thing that I’ve appreciated is we flow where the Holy Spirit goes, but we also honor the constraints of structure that we have. I know this. I know that if I am submitted to what constraints I have and my heart is to lead people into God’s presence, I think we’re always going to be good.

Jon: I love it.

Mark: I think that there is a lot to be said about knowing what your pastor expects. I’ve talked to so many young worship leaders and worship pastors that don’t.

Jon: It’s time to have a conversation.

Mark: It’s time to have a conversation.

Jon: Well, we’re getting close on time here. We’re going a little bit over, but it’s just because I love talking to you, Mark.

Mark: Same here.

Jon: We can go long, right? Like a worship set. We’re going a little long on a worship set here. But I want to ask one more question, because something happened a couple of weeks ago. Gateway had this roundtable where worship pastors from all over the country, from some of the largest most influential churches in America, descended here. Actually right here at The King’s University.

Mark: Yeah, we were upstairs.

Jon: I came upstairs and I just got to sit and listen. And for me, it was really, really awesome to just see what God’s doing throughout all these churches in America and God was kind of speaking the same thing to a lot of them. Nobody could really quite put their finger on it. Nobody really even knew what to do about it, but everybody was saying the same thing that, man, it just feels like God is moving. A lot of them talked about the clock. A lot of them talked about maybe our 60 minute worship experience is…

Jon: I can’t remember which church it was, but they were saying, “Man, we were at 60 minutes. And then we went to an hour and 15. And then we went to an hour and 30. We don’t know what’s going on. God is just wrecking us and turning us upside down.” It just seems like God’s trying to do something in his church. It’s just the vibe that I got. No one really came with any answers, and this is what we need to do, and every church in here needs to… It was nothing like that. It was just like everybody sensed something happening in the atmosphere in the world of worship. I don’t know if you experienced that too.

Mark: We talked about is since the roundtable. In a few conversations with some worship pastors and just even my wife, the only way that I could describe it is we’re all a little uncomfortable.

Jon: Yes. There’s a tension, right?

Mark: There’s a tension. But I think it’s not because of a disagreement within our leadership teams at churches where we were. It’s just that we sensed God’s doing something and it’s a shift. We don’t want to miss it.

Jon: That’s the key. Nobody wanted to miss it.

Mark: Nobody wants to miss it. We all know that we have the tools, that we can do it, and it can be excellent. We found out that that alone just… It feels empty. There is this hunger.

Jon: There’s a hunger.

Mark: There’s a hunger.

Jon: No doubt about it.

Mark: It’s almost this thing though of us all feeling like not too comfortable because we realized we don’t really control when it’s going to happen and how it’s going to happen. We just need to stay healthy.

Jon: Exactly.

Mark: I do have a burden as an older guy serving in worship, and that is I want healthy young worship leaders leading congregations in worship. I want guys and girls that are healthy, because I believe that the only what that we can lead people to a place of health in God is to be healthy ourselves.

Jon: Absolutely.

Mark: You said it a minute ago, you can’t lead someone to somewhere you’ve not been. I think the thing that we were sitting around in that room talking about is how can we stay healthy? How can we continue to serve well?

Jon: Yeah. There was no attempts of strategy. Here’s what we need to do. Let’s convince our senior pastors. It was nothing. It was pure. Because the thing is, if it’s a God thing, if God is moving, then you just need to stay out of the way. You don’t need to control or manipulate or try to convince. If God’s moving, he’s going to move. It’s just like what you said, you stay healthy. Stay submitted. Make sure I’m visiting that place off the stage. It’s exciting to think that God is moving in that way and that we get to watch it play out and be a part of it. That’s fantastic.

Mark: And a worship pastor that doesn’t spend time alone in God’s presence, you can’t get to the weekend and keep apologizing to God for what you didn’t do during the week. You have to set aside time. In a book I read years back, it said, whatever you put on your schedule is not what you do, it’s what you become.

Jon: It’s good.

Mark: It’s like you need to make sure that if you’re a worship pastor and you’re leading people at a weekend basis, you need to make sure that during the week, you’re alone in God’s presence. So that when you get up onto the platform and you’re leading people there, you’re not taking them to a place that’s not familiar to you. You know the path.

Jon: Let me show you where I went today or this week.

Mark: Let me show you, man. I’ve been to this place so many times. It needs to be like old hat to you. You’ve been there a lot.

Jon: Well, man, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. You really are a good friend of mine. But honestly, I just enjoy watching your leadership and the way you lead not just on the stage, but off the stage. I would say thank you for what you’re doing not just for Gateway, but for the next generation of leaders. You’re impacting the next generation of worship leaders. We’re excited to have you at Gateway and to just know you as a friend.

Mark: Same here.

Jon: If people want to connect with you man, just Instagram. Best way. Find him on Instagram, Mark Harris. Is that the best way?

Mark: Mark Harris Music on Instagram.

Jon: Here’s his personal cell phone number. Are you ready? I’m kidding. I’m not going to give that to you. Just connect with this guy. He’s a great leader obviously at a great church. 

Church InTensionhttps://church-intension.simplecast.com
The Church InTension podcast is a place to have healthy conversations about areas of tension and the intentions of the Church. Hosted by Dr. Jon Chasteen and powered by The King's University and Gateway Church.