Interview with Jeff Deyo

Jeff Deyo1

You are now the Worship Arts Specialist and professor at North Central University in Minneapolis, MN, what does that look like for you on a daily basis?
I am at NCU just about every day of the week.  I teach classes like Worship Leading, Songwriting, Music Ministry Philosophy, Performance Preparation, etc.  I also work with and train up most of our worship bands, in particular Worship Live and One Accord.  One Accord is our highest level touring worship band.  I work closely with them to help them grow in the areas of leading worship.  I help them craft new songs, produce a CD together with them in our McPherson recording studio, and then I send them out on the road to minister all over the country.  I also personally lead worship in chapel from time to time as well as at some of our larger on-campus events, and then I produce a live worship CD every other year – Glory to God is the first of these.  I also head up plans and preparations for our weeklong national worship conference called the Pure Worship Institute.

As a mentor to young artists and worship leaders, what sort of outlook on creativity and worship do you hope to impart on those in the program?
Freedom and expression – many churches have programmed the Holy Spirit out of their services.  We teach our students to prayerfully create set lists and programs, but to plan to be interrupted by the Spirit – to watch for his changes in the service, and to follow where he leads – to look for the “sweet spot” and linger there.  We teach our students to be free and creative and to lead the congregation in spontaneous moments of worship too.  We also stress one of the biggest challenges they will face as leaders is the natural tendency for people to get complacent – it doesn’t matter if it is something good or bad, we as people tend to want to get somewhere and stay there – and if left this way, we easily lose our vibrancy and passion for seeking God with fresh passion daily.  There are many ways to counteract this, but knowing the issue is the first step.  Then we train our students to change things up (order of service, arrangement of songs, tempo of songs, placement of free worship moments, etc.)  We ask them to be creative in the way they play songs – especially “cover” songs.  We feel it is often the best approach for the congregation to NOT do the songs the way they have always been heard – knowing that people can easily fall into celebrating songs and people instead of the Creator, changing the arrangement can help “shake them” out of a robotic worship mode.  We service a great creator, and he has made us in his image.  We must use creativity as well as the anointing to stir people for God’s Kingdom.

What was the process in making NCU’s new album just recently released, Worship Live? What part did you have in it?
I produced the entire project.  I’ve been working with these students for 2 years in different capacities.  We’ve been writing songs and preparing for this recording for some time.  When the time was right, I hand-picked the best of our musicians and lead worshipers and began tweaking songs and working on arrangements.  My role as producer was not to do everything, but to assemble the best possible team, including our live and studio engineers, both faculty and students.  It was also my responsibility to cast the vision to our marketing team at NCU and to help lead the charge to create the album packaging that best represented the recording.  I am very blessed to have many gifted leaders in all of these areas. 

There are a total of 12 songs on the project.  4 of these songs are ones I wrote or co-wrote for previous albums of mine.  I also co-wrote 2 more with our current students.  The other 6 are songs written by our students with minor help from me.  I sing on 3 of the 12 songs on the project, while 4 other student singers lead the other 9 songs.  The entire band is made up of our most talented student musicians, all of whom have been trained in one way or another by me.

I am extremely impressed with our students in the making of this CD.  Their preparation and creativity was off the charts.  Their commitment to excellence and yet their strong desire to Jesus lifted up and to see the Holy Spirit take the lead was incredible.

How do you see the relationship between worship in the church and artistry changing as a result of this new generation of college students that will be rising in leadership in the church? In what ways are you both excited and hopeful for what’s to come in this aspect?
I believe this next generation is less consumed with being famous than the generation I was a part of – partly for spiritual reasons and partly for practical reasons – and maybe that also means they don’t see fame as a sort of prerequisite to transforming the world that God has placed before them.  At times, they actually seem adverse to the idea of being in the limelight, which can be a strength and a weakness, as sometimes they tend to shy away from bold leadership for fear that they are “performing”.  They, like every other generation before, need much training.  Musically they are way ahead of where I was when I was in college, but they still desperately need all the spiritual and leadership training they can get.  They are more passionate, more open minded, and ready to do whatever God has for them.  They love and want to serve all types of people, no matter their background or “hang-ups”.  The best thing we can do for them is to believe in them and to be there with them as they take the world by storm!

You have been leading worship and writing music for a long time now, what are the some fundamentals from personal experience that you stress in the education of alike young minds at North Central?
There are of course many things I teach students while they are at NCU, but some of the primary concepts include: 

-Worshiping and loving God when you feel like it

-Authenticity – Living for God on and off the stage

-Digging the well – understanding that if we want to have a powerful public display of God, the only way to achieve it is to cultivate a powerful private walk with God

-Servant Leadership – realizing that leading worship is a service to people – it is not our time, but it is a time to help others know and connect with Jesus – Like a waiter, “Would you like more Bread of Heaven with that?” “Can I get you some more Living Water?”

-Worship is not just about loving God – it is also about loving people – lots of leaders think they have the loving God part down, but 1 John 4:20 reminds us that if we don’t love people, we don’t really love God, and if we do love people, that is a huge part of loving God.

-Balance in worship – some people approach God as king and others approach him as friend.  We stress both sides and teach our students to come to God with reverence and intimacy, honor and friendship, fear and love, quietness and explosiveness.

Many religious colleges veer away from the concentration of majors such as “Recording Artist” (a major at NCU), cautious to appear irreverent and pay heed to the music industry. How would you approach this situation?
We realize there are many different callings in music, and instead of shying away from some of the more controversial majors, we strive to be there to help all kinds of musicians with any dream God has placed on their heart.  It seems we lose a lot of our most talented artists to the world because we don’t disciple and train them.  At NCU, we believe it is just as spiritual to play in an orchestra, as it is to lead worship in a church, as it is to be on a big tour singing pops songs for the Lord.  We see everyone at NCU as a minister of the Gospel, whether they are a business major, a missions major, a music major, or a math major.  Some musicians feel called to minister mostly to the body of Christ (Eph 4:12-12) while others feel called to minister mostly to the world – to the pre-saved.  This is similar to how Peter was mostly called to the Jews, while Paul was mostly called to the Gentiles (Gal 2:6-10).  We want to be smack dab in the middle of training up the singers and musicians today that will make a difference for the Kingdom tomorrow – no matter where that may take them.

How has the flourishing program of worship at North Central affected the chapels, the student body, and the school as a whole?
When I came to NCU the first time, I knew there was something special here.  I have ministered of many Christian Universities, and honestly have found it to be challenging at times, almost as if complacency has set in and the passion to worship God through music has grown cold.  But when I led worship at NCU for the first time, it didn’t take any coaxing at all before the students exploded into passionate singing and worship.  A huge part of what happens in our chapels is a result of many of the faculty and staff pouring their lives into our students and continually stirring the pot.  We all refuse to settle for ‘a few songs and a nice service’.  We want JESUS!!!  We certainly don’t have it all together, but God is moving on our campus, and this is a big part of the reason we wanted to capture some of what happens when we join together to sing and worship God at NCU.

What about you? Are you working on any Jeff Deyo projects?
I just released a brand new CD in August of last year called Moving Mountains.  I believe it is one of my best ever!  I am still hugely passionate about leading worship, so I still travel with my band.  I have become a “coach” or “father” of sorts to many young people, but I still feel passionate and relevant, and I love stirring up people to love their God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.  I was in a movie a couple years back called, The Imposter (with Kevin Max and Kerry Livgren).  That was great!  I have been preaching a lot more as I travel, and I have developed a huge passion for this.  I recently wrote a chapter in James Goll’s book “The Lost Art of Pure Worship”, and I plan to write several more books over the next 20 years, including a textbook on leading worship, one called “Worship Redefined”, “The Authentic Worshiper”, and the Pure Worship series.

Psalm 8: “Oh Lord Our Lord” by Calvin Nowell and Phil Sillas

Psalm 8

For the director of music. According to gittith.A psalm of David.

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory
    in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
    to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels
    and crowned themwith glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under theirfeet:
all flocks and herds,
    and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
    and the fish in the sea,
    all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Good Vibrations: Building Healthy Parternships between Lead Pastors and Worship Leaders

kelly Phipps1

By Billy Phipps (Lead Pastor) and Stefanie Kelly (Worship Leader)
RCA Church (Ridgecrest Calvary Assembly of God)
Ridgecrest, California

To the Pastors from Billy:
One of the most important components to a pastor’s ministry is usually the one that is most ignored. There is no substitute. There is no avoiding it.  And there is no faking it. You either have it or you don’t. What is the one thing? Health.

Patrick Lencioni, in his book The Advantage says, “The single greatest advantage any company can achieve is organizational health. Yet it is ignored by most leaders even though it is simple, free, and available to anyone who wants it.” In large churches with large staffs, oftentimes the lead pastor tries to delegate organizational health to someone else. In smaller churches with smaller staffs, the lead pastor is likely too busy to be healthy. Health is something that can’t be delegated—or achieved too quickly. Regardless of the size, style, or mission of the church, without health, the church is volatile, unstable.

Recently, my wife Annie and I have stepped into a new role as lead pastors at RCA Church in Ridgecrest California. It was at the same time that Stefanie Kelly moved to the same city. We crossed paths, exchanged stories, and found that God has placed us together to renew our health and passion for God and his Church. It is beautiful the way God has ordained our collective footsteps.

Stefanie, Annie, and I work hard to create and maintain health. Whether we are working on the Sunday Service, our marriages, or personal growth, we strive to be healthy. Here are a few things we do with consistency that may also help to bring health to your church and your relationships between your worship leader(s) and lead pastor(s).

1. Be Prepared
I think that the Holy Spirit gets most of the blame when it comes to a lead pastor being unprepared. We tend to “Wait on the Spirit,” when we should be calling on him: weeks, even months in advance. God knows the end from the beginning (Isa 46:10). Many of the frustrations directed from worship leaders toward their pastors are due to a lack of pastoral preparation, which leaves the worship leader unprepared and not knowing what to expect. We have found that the more prepared Annie and I are, the more prepared Stefanie is. Further, the more prepared we all are, the more time and room we have for collaboration, creativity, and consistency.

2. Communicate Clearly
When communicating with your worship leader, clarity is key. Try setting up specific meetings to discuss important topics. Have programming meetings or service meetings to discuss clearly what is planned for the weeks ahead. Talk about previous weeks, what was good, what needs to change? Have one-on-one meetings with your worship leader. Use the “Start, Stop, Continue” method. What do you feel the worship leader needs to start, what do they need to stop, and what do they need to continue? Be open, honest and ask for feedback. When we communicate clearly, it removes insecurities and second-guessing.

3. Build the Relationship
Make your relationship a priority and get to know each other outside of meetings and services (If you are a male and your co-worker a female, be sure and do this in the company of their spouse or other team members). Find ways to make the relationship important. Annie and I have made it a priority to get together with Stefanie and her husband Dave for dinner just as friends. We all appreciate getting to know each other in a different context.

4. Reward those you lead and lead with
John Maxwell says, “What gets rewarded, gets repeated.” Find ways to appreciate those you work with. Don’t just throw them any old gift card (although those work); find out where they like to eat, where they like to go. If you are unsure how they like to be appreciated, ask them, “What would make you feel appreciated?” You may be surprised just how underappreciated your worship leader feels.

If you’re a lead pastor, I know you’ll agree, there is very little time to spend on things that don’t work. Listen, health works. As a matter of fact, nothing beats it. Take the time to do the one thing that will make the largest impact. Get healthy, stay healthy.

Billy Phipps, RCA Church, Lead Pastor

To the Worship Leaders, from Stefanie:
I am thankful that God is a Master Planner. How else could this city girl be content in a small military town, with only one Starbucks, closer to Death Valley than a shopping mall? How was it that just a day after my husband received orders, our lead pastors, Billy and Annie Phipps (whom we had never met, also “city folk”), would be called here too? A year later, this feisty-for-the-kingdom, fiery little church called RCA in the middle of nowhere has enriched our lives more than we could imagine, and the friendship we enjoy makes the Phipps feel like spiritual soul mates we’ve known for years.

It is by faith that any of us can bloom wherever God plants us. And it is through faith that our ministry relationships thrive despite problems any church filled with imperfect humans is bound to experience. As our faith is renewed, we have seen mountains move. (And by the way, an enormous mountain range surrounds Ridgecrest—both literally and figuratively.) As a result, three faith statements encourage me to become a worship pastor that shares the burden with my Lead Pastors.

1. I am called and equipped to do what God requires.
2. I must know my lead pastors well enough to support their vision.
3. I serve God now and for eternity.

I am called and equipped to do what God requires.

No man takes this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God.
– Hebrews 5:4

We’ve all heard the song, “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands.” The key words are “and you know it.” If we are genuinely called into ministry we know it.

The first time my husband drove me to Ridgecrest was in the daytime and I cried…tears of sorrow! (The joke is that one must see the town at night first to keep hope alive.) Still I trusted God had a place for me because I knew my calling well. Worship leaders must be assured of our calling to God’s people, our communities, and our lead pastors. This assurance creates the confidence to lead from strength rather than insecurity (which, in our ever-changing culture, is often the case). With this call, we are guaranteed Christ’s power that has already provided the necessary history, skills, and experiences to multiply our resources and abilities supernaturally.

I must know my lead pastors well enough to support their vision.

Obey your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you, as one who must give an account…
Hebrews 13:17

Since both the lead pastor and worship leader publish the Good news (Isa 52:7), we must know each other well enough to be sincerely supportive through this joint mission. Because of much time invested together, I am convinced that Billy and Annie are committed to the Stefanie “away from the microphone” so minor challenges don’t become deal-breakers. I have seen firsthand that Annie cares about my marriage enough to give me good recipes so my husband doesn’t starve. I have surfaced out of my “cave” long enough to see that Billy is prepared, communicates with God intimately, and doesn’t make my work stressful due to lack of direction. Big sigh of relief—and big win for Christ’s team.

At RCA Church, the vision for our worship services is unification of every age and stage. To aim for such a variety of worshipers is considerably more work, yet far more rewarding. Because we have made it a priority to know each other and be known, I feel respected and trusted by the Phipps so that I can wholeheartedly submit to their vision.

By faith, I serve God now and for eternity.

…producing an eternal stockpile of glory for us that is beyond all comparison.
– 2 Corinthians 4:17

Newsflash: sometimes my lead pastor and I disagree! And though healthy tension, like in music, makes the harmony sweet, still I must remember my eternal value and the timeless purposes of my Creator. Sometimes I remind our musicians that no matter the breadth of our earthly influence, our gifts will one day be magnified in heaven. Perhaps an original song that was dismissed by your lead pastor (gasp) is already being sung by the angelic choir. Maybe the young violinist who is slightly sharp now is already perfectly tuned in the eternal orchestra. Dwelling on these thoughts create hope, and since our God will be worshiped forever, why not hope for the now and the not yet? The fruit of this hope is a ministry with longevity that is alive by faith not only in things that are seen.

In closing, I want to leave us with this thought: Someday the worldwide body of Christ will serve together in eternity. We will be “known as we are known” (1 Cor 13:12). My desire to finish this life well—for God’s glory—stirs in me a hunger for reconciliation in the meantime. Let us be in right standing with the people that we will spend eternity with, and as a result, we will all be encouraged and our communities blessed.

-Stefanie Kelly, RCA Worship Pastor




Interview with Paul Baloche

Paul Baloche1

What makes for a healthy relationship between pastor and worship leader?
I’ve been at my church for twenty-three years and we’ve had four senior pastors in that time. Each one has had different temperament, strengths and challenges and with each of them I felt one of my primary roles was to be someone a pastor could bounce ideas off of, vent negative emotions or doubts and process their own feelings. I didn’t have to be best friends with them necessarily, but I respected them all and wanted to make myself available in whatever way I could. I also made sure I found good things about their pastoring and teaching and passed those along. I tried to be intentional about being an encourager without being just a flatterer.

Is the relationship between a pastor and a worship leader primarily hierarchal?
I try not to be influenced by a pastor’s authority or by my place on the flow chart but more by relationship. Pastors are just like anyone else: they need to feel love and acceptance.  By the same token, as a worship leader you need to be trusted and you have to earn that trust. A pastor needs to feel that you’re not insecure or out to prove anything and that leads to more trust. I make it a point to go to my pastor at least once a month and asking how he feels about what I’m doing.

How important is it for a pastor and worship leader to plan services together?
I try to find out what the theme of the services will be in the next weeks or months so I can think about what music would be appropriate. But I don’t panic if that doesn’t always happen. There’s value in planning, but we need to make room for what God wants to do as well. Ideally, you want people to have had both a right brain and left brain experience when they leave church.

What are some of the ways to improve communication between a pastor and a worship leader?
The reality is, some pastors will always view the worship as just a warm up to the message. For the worship leader, that requires being patient and prayerful as well as having the determination to build a relationship with your pastor over time to be able to share your heart and your vision. Invite your senior pastor to rehearsal on occasion and have him speak into the worship team. Invite him to a worship conference to experience the true potential for authentic worship. He might be all about the Greek and Hebrew and that’s as it should be. But it’s also true that we don’t want to just read about God, we want to experience His presence. I would also suggest auditioning new material for the pastor before introducing it into the service. Show him the lyric sheet and play it for him. Keeping the pastor in the loop shows them you value their opinion.

What does a healthy relationship between a pastor and a worship leader look like?
Let’s face it. If you can’t honor and respect your pastor then you probably need to look for somewhere else to serve. But if there is congruence and a high regard between the pastor and the worship leader, then that comes across to the congregation. It’s like children at a dinner table. If things are cool between mom and dad then the kids feel secure and settled. It’s one big happy family.

Interview with Mike Cosper

Mike Cosper1

You do a lot… Pastor of Worship and Arts at Sojourn Community Church in Kentucky, songwriter, founder of 930 Art Center, producer, writer, and executive elder; not to mention a husband and father to two. How do you manage to keep it all balanced and remain sane?
Well, you’re assuming that I’m sane. I’m not prepared to make that statement for myself.

Seriously, though, I have an amazing team. The leaders I get to work with carry a lot of the load, and in many cases, I’m sort of a consultant; a source for direction and input. But the team takes care of the leadership.

As an executive producer you have worked on several albums of re-tuned old hymns, what is your take on the effect of hymns in our culture today? How should we revisit traditional hymns and make them accessible for the current church?
I think there’s a gravitation towards hymnody because of a hunger for depth, weight, and significance. Hymns tell stories. They develop complex ideas in ways that contemporary praise songs just can’t; they simply don’t have a structure that allows for as many words.

We should embrace the hymnal because of both the emotional breadth and theological depth of its songs. But we should also be aware that we live in a culture with far less biblical and theological literacy. So, much of the language of the hymnal is going to be beyond the comprehension – especially in the space of a song – of an ordinary congregation.

We need to hold it in tension. We should embrace the hymns because of the riches they offer, but we need to be careful not to throw an entirely unfamiliar dialect at our congregations. We need to embrace the vision of the hymns – the desire for language that is both clear and deep.

You lead worship leaders from your church, what does that look like? From personal experience, what would be helpful for other pastors to know in their relationships with worship leaders?
This is a great question. Most church musicians and worship leaders have the unique temperament of gifted creatives. It’s tempting to try to impose a lot of bureaucracy and control over these folks, asking them to punch a clock and log to-do lists. But if you look at the broader creative marketplace – the world of graphic design, or film, or music – you see that it doesn’t work that way. Creatives need a long leash – a lot of freedom – in order to do their craft well.

For this reason, I think pastors and leaders in worship departments should seek to remove obstacles for creativity. We should eliminate, as much as possible, the distractions and roadblocks that keep worship leaders from leading out of their gifts.

We try to cultivate an atmosphere of collaboration and community. We try to have a lot of fun while in the midst of planning and coordinating for the 11 services we lead each week across campuses.

What does your day look like on a regular week as a Pastor of Worship and Arts ? What lies on your plate in how the church functions?
For the last year and a half, I’ve been serving as the interim executive pastor. Carrying that responsibility on top of my normal sphere of responsibilities – music, visual culture, and contributing to the church’s overall vision – has made things pretty hectic. I’m an early riser; I like to be up by 5 and working by 7. I spend most of my time meeting with leaders, helping them to develop their ideas, and keeping projects moving along. I know that sounds vague… but it really is so different from day-to-day.

With all that you do in the church, how are you gearing up for Easter?
We’re excited about Good Friday. All of our campuses will gather at one location for three evening services. I suspect it’s going to be standing-room only at some of them.

On the other hand, Easter Sunday is kind of like any Sunday. We’re liturgical – so in a sense, we’ll do what we do every week: we’ll remember that a Holy God has invited us into his Kingdom, that we’re sinners, and that Jesus rescues, renews, and sends us. On Easter, we do all of that… with lilies.

Tell us more about 930 Art Center, an art gallery and music venue you founded. How has it been an outreach and built community in your city?
We just recently closed the 930. We ran it for about 5 years, hosting a variety of musical acts and artists from around the country. It was opened initially as a way to serve the city (there were no all-ages venues at the time), and for a while, it really served a need. We faced some push-back from the local arts scene because of our Christian orthodoxy, and had some opportunities to share what we believe in local papers as a result. We also built a lot of relationships through the 930, just by being consistently hospitable and hosting good shows and art.

In August, we moved to a new facility – a renovated neo-Gothic Catholic Cathedral -  and it’s not as conducive to the full-fledged gallery and art center as the 930 was. We opened a new Gallery, just titled the Sojourn Gallery, and we’re still hosting local and national artists there. We aren’t currently hosting shows, but we have talked about the possibility.

What we are doing is launching a new ministry platform called Sojourn Arts and Culture. We want to provide a variety of resources to Sojourn and beyond for engaging thoughtfully in the culture around them, with an eye for both the “arts” as traditionally understood, and pop culture more generally. That blog and website should launch soon, and we’re talking about hosting a conference next fall.

Tell us about the new record Songs for the Book of Luke that you produced for The Gospel Coalition (and will be released at TGC conference). What does it contain? What was the unique process in putting this album together? How will it be used for The Gospel Coalition and how can it be used in the church?
Ben Peays, the director of TGC, asked how I thought we could bring some attention to the good, grassroots music that’s coming out of churches in their sphere of influence. So I pitched this project, and he’s been behind the scenes helping make it happen.

We did a national call-for-entries, and more than 200 songs were submitted from people all over the English-speaking world. From that, we narrowed down to the 13 that are on the record. I hand-picked players from churches all over the place – Miami, Vermont, Chicago, Seattle, and a couple from my hometown – and we gathered at a studio out on the Texas/Mexico border for a week to make music. Those guys were all pro players, but they also are church musicians, waking up in the wee hours on Sunday mornings to serve their churches.  It’s a record by the church, for the church.

We cut the record with Craig Alvin (who worked on the Gungor records, as well as artists like Amy Grant, Sovereign Grace Music, and many more), and the we flew vocalists into Louisville to finish tracking.

The songs are all inspired by the book of Luke, and they have a rich, diverse voice. Listening to the record will expose you to much of the breadth of the book of Luke – the way it highlights the deity of Jesus, the power of the word, the fulfillment of prophecy, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

I think the album has a unique sound – it’s warm, singable, and listenable. I wanted a record that drew you in, rewarded repeated listens and would appeal to people who listen to music of all ages. Of course, I’m biased, but I think we succeeded.

((To download a free mp3 and chord chart from this new album, click here))

How do you stay replenished?
I’m fortunate to have a church that encourages rest. When I hear the word “replenished” I immediately think “30A”, which is a backroad in Florida lined with quiet little beach communities. My wife and I go there with our kids in the summers, and this year we went for New Year’s. When I take time off, I shut everything down – email, phone, social media – and escape into other worlds. I love literature, and I could sit by the ocean and read for days on end.