10 Questions With: Andy Park
- Melissa Riddle Editor, Songs4Worship.com
- 2002 21 Sep
S4W.com: What has been the greatest challenge you've faced since you began pursuing music as a calling and a career?
Andy Park: One of my biggest challenges has been maintaining pure motives as I have found success as a songwriter and recording artist. Over and over again, I've had to get back to basics -- loving God with all my heart and loving my neighbor as myself. There are so many things that pull a worship leader away from ministering with a pure heart -- competition with other worship leaders and the temptation to pursue fame.
It's not hard to write songs and perform music. It's much harder to "do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8).
S4W.com: What has been the most profound lesson you've learned about worship over the past few years?
Park: The lesson I continue to learn is an age-old truth -- the quality of our spiritual and musical ministry is directly tied to our lifestyle; how we walk out our relationship with God and people.
Good songs come out of ongoing relationship with God and being formed by the word of God and the community of the saints. I am urged to follow God week by week as I read the Bible, read other inspiring books and listen to the testimonies and teachings of my friends and pastors.
S4W.com: What is the most profound lesson you've learned about life over the past few years?
Park: That I still have a lot of growing to do! (Not too big of a surprise, really). I have eight wonderful children. They are my greatest joy and my greatest challenge. They force me to keep growing -- to become more patient, loving, kind and full of self-control. That's a good thing.
Funny thing about kids -- they act like children!! They make a lot of noise, break a lot of my stuff, and fight with each other. That requires me to become more and more loving, forgiving and gentle. I don't always perform so well, but I'm trying! People tell me that my kids are turning out pretty well, so that's encouraging.
S4W.com: What is the most common misunderstanding about worship you see in the current worship climate, and how have you tried to reshape it?
Park: Over the past few decades, contemporary church culture has evolved to place the worship leader in a highly visible and influential position. Wherever there is opportunity for high visibility, there is temptation to misuse that position.
Because the American ethos says "bigger is better," there is a pull towards climbing a ladder of success, even for worship leaders. So the local church worship leader may feel pressure to write their own songs and produce their own CD. For many people, that's a right choice, but for many others, it's the wrong road. Success is found in serving with the gifts God has given us, in the place he puts us. For some, the road will lead to extra-local ministry, but for most it will mean serving faithfully in a local congregation.
Another American reality is that we big-time consumers. God has moved on his church, bringing a fresh wave of worship music over the past few decades. True to form, we package and distribute whatever we can. In this case, it is worship CD's.
Whenever there is media and mass distribution of a product, there is the potential for a "star mentality" among those who are the headliners. Many "worship leaders" today are marketed in the same way secular artists are marketed. Good-looking singers are placed in the worship leader slot, and the marketing machine takes over.
I don't buy into the illusion that can be created by putting somebody's picture on a CD cover. Having your picture and your voice broadcast across nations doesn't make you a gifted worship leader, and it certainly doesn't make you holy.
We ought to be careful not to idolize worship leaders. God isn't impressed with "stars," so we shouldn't be either.
For the typical church worship leader, success has nothing to do with writing hit songs or producing a CD. It has to do with loving God, loving your family, serving your church and doing what you can to reach out to the lost and needy.
S4W.com: What does 'worship lifestyle' mean to you?
Park: I've already addressed worship as lifestyle in some of the preceding questions. Worship lifestyle means a lot of different things. How you treat your spouse, how you spend your time, energy and money, how you make the big and little decisions of your life. Genuine worship is all about what I do moment-by-moment. It's what I do when nobody is watching that really matters.
I know a lot of people whose personal lives have been a mess even while they've been in the spotlight in worship ministry. That has been one wake-up call to me to make sure my life is lining up with the words I'm singing and writing.
The prophets warn us against putting on impressive musical festivals while not caring for the poor and not honoring God with all of our heart. If we're not genuinely seeking God and listening to him, our music is a cacophony to his ears.
S4W.com: This is kind of the desert island question. What are the five ministry essentials you could not do without?
Park: Here are four absolute essentials:
Bible - "Let the word of God dwell in you richly, singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs..."
Fellowship - Without the ongoing "iron sharpening iron," we won't mature as Christians. Without being surrounded by people, we'll never learn to love as Christ loved.
Serving people - Unless I'm serving people, I am not living a Christ-like life. This means serving my family, serving my worship team members, serving needy people.
Prayer - Without ongoing communication with God, I'll dry up, lose perspective and sensitivity to God's leading.
S4W.com: How do you explain the powerful connection between music and worship expression?
Park: Historically we see the power of music combining with the heart of worship in all kinds of different cultures and musical styles. The left brain artistic side of the human being is accessed through music moreso than through preaching. If we are to let "all that is within us" praise the Lord, we should use all the tools at our disposal. Music touches far more than our minds -- it touches our spirits and emotions, releasing our entire being to know and love God.
S4W.com: Describe one of the most compelling, most powerful worship experiences you've had and tell how that effected you as a worshiper and as a leader since that time.
Park: Occasionally, God gives me a bigger-than-average glimpse of his holiness. In April of 2000, I attended an evening of worship in Surrey, British Columbia. A recording was being made of the worship, and the room was electric with anticipation. People from all over the lower mainland gathered with great expectations for the evening. It was like a mini-reunion as I visited with friends from all over the greater Vancouver area -- many of whom I hadn't seen in years.
During the very first song, I was overwhelmed by God's greatness and majesty. I felt like a tiny spec of dust, standing before the immeasurable greatness of the Almighty One. In that moment I felt the power of God towering above me like a huge rocky mountain above my small fleshly being. My immediate reaction was repentance. I was sorry for my sins. I was cut to the heart with remorse for my own petty complaints and selfishness. This wasn't a measured, calculated response. It was involuntary.
God came near, and I was engulfed in him. Real worship reveals God's holiness. In the presence of God's manifest holiness, we bow down. Bowing low is an intuitive response when human flesh comes near the glory of the Holy One.
S4W.com: What compels you to write new songs for worship?
Park: One of the compelling reasons to keep writing is that there are so many essential biblical themes that haven't been said well enough or often enough in contemporary worship songs. The theological content can tend to be pretty limited in many of our songs. It is mostly good content, but limited in scope and depth. We need to expand the pallet of colors we are using in songwriting for worship. We need to explore the breadth of scripture and unleash it's teaching and prophetic power in our worship songwriting.
S4W.com: What person has influenced your ministry/your music the most and how?
Park: Aside from Jesus, probably the late John Wimber has influenced me the most. He taught me a lot about the heart of worship - knowing God, loving him, yielding to him, receiving his love, repenting, celebrating. He taught me that a worship ministry is "all about Jesus," it's not about the worship leader. He taught me to value the essence of worship more than the music itself. He was also a gifted musician and songwriter, so he influenced me to pursue quality in my musical work.
Andy Park is a worship leader at the North Langley Vineyard. His songwriting credits include "The River Is Here," "Only You" and "In the Secret," all of which appear on Vineyard recordings. Andy lives with his wife, Linda, and eight children in Langley, B.C., Canada. His recent book, To Know You More: Cultivating the Heart of a Worship Leader, was published in June 2002 through InterVarsity Press.
J. Gary Walker is a writer and editor who lives in Mobile, Alabama. He can be reached at [email protected]