10 Questions With: Graham Kendrick
- Wednesday, October 09, 2002
You are thought of as one of the founders of the contemporary worship. Look back on how you got started in ministry and tell what it was like then in comparison with now.
It was radical, it was new, it was controversial (especially when gifts of the Spirit, raising hands or dancing featured!), it was a new generation finding its own voice, it was the '70's, and it emerged from numerous 'streams' of spiritual renewal across the world. There was little or no publishing infrastructure; songs traveled the world via the grapevine. There were no worship seminars or conferences; we learned by trial and error and sharing experiences and ideas. It was rougher and less sophisticated. Overhead projectors were the latest technology.
Previous to it, services often lacked a sense of drama and congregational engagement, and could feel like a cultural time-warp. Often it was little more than a sing-along of favorite choruses out of the songbook. Songs tended to be about God, not addressed to God. There wasn't a sense of engaging with the Holy Spirit in a special moment. Part of the problem was cultural. Our established English "churchianity" was of a more cerebral variety and suspicious of emotion.
This began to give way to an expectation that through the preaching of the Word, and as we worshipped, God would visit us, and we'd experience his presence in a tangible sort of way. That dynamic was one of the main things that drove the development of what we now call "worship leading" along with the discovery that even when you had prepared your list of songs, the worship could veer off in almost any direction as the Holy Spirit led and faith was exercised.
I started out in a band doing evangelistic work and then after college launched out as a singer-songwriter in the CCM artist mould for many years. Then my life was opened up in the area of worship Even so, I resisted the suggestion of leading worship when the need first arose at a large Christian festival. I saw myself singing to people - not leading them in singing. And to be honest, I rather looked down on it. But increasingly I saw that God was doing something new in the area of worship, and that many of the skills I'd learned in performing could be used to serve what was happening. Events like Spring Harvest, which continues to draw around 60,000 people each year, created a platform and a demand for new songs. A whole generation was expressing itself differently and doing church differently.
What has been the greatest challenge you've faced in ministry?
To love God for himself rather than to love the work he gives me to do.
What has been the most profound lesson you've learned about worship over the past few years?
That whatever skills, experience or natural gifting any of us may have, it is the 'anointing' of the Holy Spirit that gets God's work done, the anointing that reaches out to the people we are serving and back to the God we are worshiping. To me one of the saddest and scariest stories in the Bible is that of Saul losing the anointing; worse still, he did not know that God had left him. Perhaps this is why his successor David prayed so fervently in his Psalm of repentance after the exposure of his adultery with Bathsheba: "Take not your Holy Spirit from me."
What is the most profound lesson you've learned about life over the past few years?
That I've learned nothing unless I've learned to love.
What is the most common misunderstanding about worship you see in the current worship climate, and how have you tried to reshape it?
The equation that singing contemporary worship songs = worship. You can sing without worshipping and worship without singing. I've tried to correct my terminology to avoid giving the impression that we're not worshiping until we're singing, to publicly affirm other ways of expressing worship, and styles that are different from mine, to encourage reality and honesty and to test practice against the principles of scripture whilst determining to always look for what is good.
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