Interview with Elevation Worship

Elevation Worship2

1. Elevation church is one of the fastest growing in the country, with over 12,000 members in 7 different NC locations and multiple extension sites in North America.  Tell us your part of the story in the growth and establishment of this worship community.
I can’t believe all the things we have seen God do in our church over the last 7 years. My family came to Charlotte 5 and half years ago to be a part of Elevation and every weekend we see God move in a new and fresh way.  I am so honored to serve as the Worship Pastor of the church under the leadership of Pastor Steven Furtick. That means I oversee the teams that make the weekend worship experience happen – all the way from programming to execution. I feel like I have the best job in the world because our worship and production teams are made up of amazing people who love Jesus and love the church.  I also serve on the leadership team of the church and get to lead worship on most weekends.  It really is everything I have always prayed to be a part of, and I am extremely grateful.

2. How did Elevation Worship come together?
Ultimately, Elevation Worship is the weekly worship ministry of our church that consists of 7 staff worship leaders and over 70 vocalists and instrumentalists. Going back to the beginning though, Pastor Steven led worship and preached for the first year of the church. Myself, Mack Brock and Chris Brown all knew Pastor Steven before he started Elevation, and had each come up to lead worship on various weekends but were all headed in different directions – I was considering planting a church in Columbia, Chris was headed to Nashville and Mack was moving to LA. One day Pastor Steven was making a chord chart when he needed to be working on a sermon instead, and he got frustrated and decided to go to a lake house to pray. While praying, he felt like God said to hire me, Chris and Mack to build the worship ministry of the church. So the next day he called us all to dinner and cast the vision. We couldn’t stop thinking about what he said, and within a couple of weeks we had all changed our plans and were moving to Charlotte to become a part of the church!

3.Over your 7 years as a church, you have separated into 7 campuses. What is the purpose of spreading out to different campuses as opposed to one larger one?
We have found that as of now, this is the best way for us to reach the most people with the gospel of Jesus. That strategy could always change, but our vision is fixed, which is to see people far from God raised to life in Christ. There are challenges to any approach, but we are so grateful for the doors God has opened to open locations all over our city and now even outside of Charlotte.

4. What is the process you go through on a weekly basis to make the service happen?
Our Pastor preaches in sermon series, so we begin planning a series with him about 14 weeks out from the series. Our creative team sits down with him and asks questions to download as much as we can about all that God has placed on his heart concerning the teaching of the series. From there, we go through a couple weeks of brainstorming and eventually bring the full series programming back to our weekly meeting with Pastor Steven to get everything approved. In this process, he gives us very clear direction, but also so much creative freedom to design each worship experience in a way that not only supports the message but also speaks to the person who is far from God. We plan the worship sets as part of this process as well. Two weeks out from a weekend, all creative elements and videos are finalized and presented in that weekly meeting with Pastor Steven. Then the week before the worship experience we actually do a full run-through of the worship experience for our creative, worship and campus staff leaders so everyone can give feedback and feel fully prepared headed into the weekend.

5. Elevation church pastor Steven Furtick’s book Greater was a main influence for Elevation Worship’s new record, Nothing Is Wasted. What is your process of getting on the same page with your pastor each week for the overall direction of a service of worship?
Our worship leaders have an incredible relationship with our Pastor and feel so blessed to be under his leadership. The songs of this album were written based on his latest book, and in general, all the songs that we write are in response to what God is teaching us every single weekend through our church. One of the practical ways we get on the same page is our weekly meeting with Pastor Steven called Preview where several worship and creative staff walk through the weekend worship experience.

6. What advice would you give to those seeking closer interplay in their relationship with their pastor?
A big part of our heart as Elevation Worship is to see worship leaders embrace what God wants to do through the local church – to find a church and submit yourself to the vision of your Pastor. We believe anointing and blessing flow when we submit ourselves to spiritual authority, and that God honors those who serve joyfully in His House. So we encourage worship leaders to take the vision God has given your pastor and do everything you can to run with it and make it the best it can be. Even if you don’t like that song he wants you to do, take it and do a killer arrangement of it and sing it with a smile on your face. And don’t complain about it afterwards. Definitely find the appropriate avenues to express your opinion on how to move things forward, but when your Pastor sees you have a heart for the House, you will find that not only will you relationship grow but you will gain new freedom as well.

7. Nothing Is Wasted is an album complete of original songs that “reflect the journey, experiences, and needs of your church.”  Why is it important that local songwriters write the musical prayers of their community?
Right now we have an unofficial 50% rule. This may change at some point, but we believe there is power in leading songs written out of what God is doing in our church, and then there are great songs written outside of our local church that our people need to be exposed to and sing as well. We have found that our original songs connect in a special way when someone in our church relates the song or a lyric back to what God spoke to them during one of our sermon series. The song gives them a way to respond to something the entire church is walking through together, and helps them put words to something God may be doing in their heart but they don’t know how to express.

8. What are some tips you have for songwriters who are looking to write congregational worship songs for their communities?
One of the best things for us has been co-writing. When we first started, we would all bring in complete songs. What we quickly learned, though, is that a song is much better when we embrace the power of writing as a team. Being vulnerable enough to present an idea and then let someone else make it better is a huge step towards writing congregational songs. I feel like we are constantly learning in this area, and each album feels more unified as speak more with the voice of our church rather than the voice of an individual writer.

One additional thing would be to find ways to test out your song before you introduce it to your church. We have introduced songs before they were ready and ended up going back to do several re-writes. By the time it was done, the church was confused because they had sung 3 different versions of the song. We quickly realized it wasn’t fair to the church to be our guinea pigs and felt a greater responsibility to do the work and finish the song before we put it in the set list. 

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