Lester Ruth, a worship historian from Duke Divinity School, introduces the panelists: Bill Gaither, Gloria Gaither, Tony Payne from Wheaton College, Vernon Whaley (formerly at Liberty University, now at Trevecca University), and Chuck Fromm, founder of Worship Leader Magazine.
Ruth sets the tone for a dynamic conversation, emphasizing the idea of envisioning the discussion as taking place around a large table rather than a traditional stage setting. He encourages active engagement from the audience for a lively and inclusive session. The panelists, representing diverse backgrounds in worship and music education, include Vernon Whaley, a worship and music professor; Tony Payne, a seasoned music professor at Wheaton College; and the iconic Bill and Gloria Gaither. Chuck Fromm, the founder of Worship Leader Magazine, is also acknowledged.
Acknowledging Accomplishments: The Gaithers’ Impact
Ruth briefly highlights the extensive accomplishments of Bill and Gloria Gaither, recognizing their significant contributions to Christian music, including chart-topping songs like “Because He Lives” and “There’s Something About That Name.” The Gaithers’ humility and dedication to their faith become apparent through personal anecdotes and testimonials from friends. The panel transitions to a discussion about the Gaithers’ early days, probing into their background as English teachers. Ruth delves into the impact of their English and literature education on their songwriting.
Shaping Songwriting Through English and Literature: A Reflection
Ruth initiates a conversation about the Gaithers’ academic background in English and its influence on their songwriting. Bill and Gloria share insights on how their literary knowledge has been instrumental in crafting meaningful lyrics and connecting with audiences on a deep emotional level. The discussion shifts to the Gaithers’ perspective on success, emphasizing the need to maintain humility and perspective amidst the highs and lows of their illustrious careers. Bill Gaither shares anecdotes and imparts valuable advice on navigating success with grace. Referencing a line from Kipling’s poem “If,” the panel explores the wisdom encapsulated in the ability to treat triumph and disaster equally. The Gaithers reflect on the importance of maintaining perspective in the face of success and challenges
Songwriting: Crafting Theological Masterpieces
Gloria Gaither passionately advocates for a deeper understanding of the craft of songwriting. She emphasizes the need for aspiring songwriters to study literature, theology, and various musical elements to effectively convey profound truths in concise song formats.
Expanding the Songwriting Canon: Beyond Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley
Ruth poses a question about the choice between Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley. The Gaithers playfully suggest both while Gloria adds an unexpected name to the mix—Billy Joel. She highlights Joel’s mastery of songwriting mechanics and the potential inspiration for gospel songwriters.
Cultivating Songwriters in Local Churches: A Call to Action
Vernon Whaley initiates a discussion on the necessity of developing songwriters within local churches. The panelists express the need for educational institutions to emphasize songwriting majors and provide a holistic education in the art and theology of worship music.
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Over the last 30 years, Worship Leader Magazine has been blessed to have many different contributors on the editorial team - this is their archive.