Interview with Jon Bauer
What is your ministry background?
Born and raised in a Christian home, and at a young age encouraged to take piano lessons and participate in the children’s church musicals—worship music and ministry was always in my veins—but was never a passion. At age 18, everything changed. My sister gave me a worship CD—some of you may remember this one –Bob Fitts He Will Come and Save You. One morning, as I put this CD into my Honda Civic and drove to college, I started to worship God. As I sang—God’s Spirit filled my car and tears filled my eyes. In that moment, God whispered to my heart that just as I was being led in worship through this CD, that He had something similar for me to do in the days ahead. Not too long after I was asked by the worship pastor to begin leading worship at my home church, as a volunteer, and this is what I have been doing for the past 15 years—voluntarily leading worship once a month, and writing songs of worship for the body of Christ. Over the past six years, ministry in music has taken a full time role in my life. I still lead worship at my home church, monthly, but now as more of an Artist in Residence. On other weekends, I tour, and lead worship throughout the world at churches, conferences, schools, and retreats. I develop help worship teams through seminars, and write and record worship music for all generations.
What is distinctive about the culture of worship in Canada as compared to the States?
The only difference is that in Canada we sing lots more songs in the key of Eh! Okay—bad joke! But on a serious note, as I tour and minister on both sides of the border and even over in Europe, I find many similarities as opposed to differences in terms of worship culture. God is moving in each church, across borders, and each church has its own unique worship culture. I find it amazing that worship culture is formed by the unique blend of ages, ethnic background, denominational roots, direction from the pastor or worship pastor, the age and maturity of the worship leaders, and even the age of the church itself.
What is something that North America, on the whole, needs to learn or better understand about worship?
No matter how many times we hear it, I think we always need to recognize and focus on the thought that worship is 24/7. When worship and the world collide it is a beautiful thing because that is when Jesus is most easily seen, and the living worship expressed in Romans 12:1-2 happens. No matter how many times we sing about it in church, if we don’t ‘live it out daily, in our homes, schools or work places, church becomes a social gathering of people who say they love God, but do not “Love their neighbor as themselves.” So my encouragement as I travel and minister and to the readers today is that we might ‘live out our worship’ so that Jesus would be seen and found in the places we live, work and play.
What do you like best about leading worship with music?
I just love how the right blending of tones, melodies, and lyrics can help us express our deep heart’s cry to our Heavenly Father, His Son Jesus, and God’s Spirit. Music transcends our human understanding and throughout the scriptures we see how music was an important way of approaching the mystery of God and of expressing the joy of His presence.
What is the most challenging aspect of leading worship?
As a worship leader one of the most challenging aspects of leading worship is to find ways to connect with the congregation that is before me—whether they are my familiar church family back home or a new church family that I am serving on the road. Throughout the years I have prayed that God would give me keys to unlock doors in ministry and connect with each congregation that I am before. One of the keys He has shown me is to always be “sheet music” free on stage. Maybe have a little cheat sheet of lyrics or chord progression on a piece of paper on the floor for a new or more complex song but do not have a music stand with pages before me. So what this means for me is that I always need to carve out enough time to practice and memorize the lyrics, chords, and song structure to any song the band and I will play that weekend. I don’t mind if the other band members have lead sheets or chord charts (I would prefer them also to memorize) but for me as a worship leader this is a crucial step. What this forces me to do is to not have my eyes glued to a music stand when I lead (which is far less scarier than peoples eyes) but rather look out into the congregation, make eye contact, smile, acknowledge the congregation as we enter into worship. In essence it allows me to worship God and connect with his people without the distraction of a stand and music before me.
You have a lot of resources available on your site, what are some other useful resources that you would recommend to worship leaders?
A focus of the ministry that God has blessed me with is not only for adults and Sunday morning worship, but also for children. Before I began touring full time, I was an elementary school teacher and the Lord gave me a heart for reaching children for the Kingdom. A big part of this ministry is to encourage all generations to worship the Lord. On my site you will find two CDs that are geared for children ages 1-12, and produced with children’s choirs and scriptures read by children.