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Church Worship

10 Questions With Don Moen

  • J. Gary Walker Contributing Writer
  • 2003 19 Mar
10 Questions With Don Moen

Songs4Worship: What has been the greatest challenge you've faced since you began pursuing music as a calling and a career?
Don Moen: Balancing my time is probably the biggest challenge. Balancing my work in the office and my role as a father, husband and songwriter has been a great challenge, and it's tougher now that my children are older. When children are younger, they need food, home and a bath, but as they grow older, they start school and need help with their homework and start driving cars. That's one of the reasons I say no to a lot of things. You only have your kids once. When people ask me if they can pray for me, I ask them to pray that I have balance in my life.  

S4W.com: What has been the most profound lesson you've learned about worship over the past few years?
  There were quite a few years when I was first doing praise and worship music when people would laugh at it and say, "That's not music-that's not serious." Only in the last few years has praise and worship music become a genre. Major artists are now doing worship records and they're starting to become their best ones. So only recently has praise and worship come to be recognized as a very significant category, and it's almost the only category in Christian music that is still showing solid growth. For many years it wasn't like that, though, so it was always a challenge to gain recognition without compromising integrity.

S4W.com: What is the most profound lesson you've learned about life over the past few years?
  Be yourself, no matter what it is you do. Many times people try to be someone they're not. I'm a ballad singer, and I don't have hot licks like some artists. My kids would not call my songs "cool," but the most valuable lesson I've learned is to be happy and comfortable with who God made me to be.  I think it's so easy to get caught up in the production and presentation of something and to not ask the hard questions, like "Why am I doing what I'm doing?" We should all analyze what we do everyday and say, "Why did we do what we just did."

S4W.com: What does "worship lifestyle" mean to you?
  First of all, it means that worship is more than a song. It's important to remember that music is just one facet of worship. To me, worship lifestyle means being the same person at home and the same person in the supermarket that I am on the stage. It means following the example of Jesus, who was the Son of God, but was also the Son of Man. Jesus was approachable, and people loved to be around him. Just ask yourself, "Was Jesus a true worshiper?" You bet he was.

S4W.com: How do you explain the powerful connection between music and worship expression?
  First of all, music is such a powerful tool for bringing people together. For instance, one song can be sung around the world in different languages and have the same meaning, so why not use the beauty and the power of music to facilitate the worship of God? Look at history-Bach and Handel were the songwriters of the church.
Music also has the ability to tear down barriers. I've seen the power of song bring congregations and denominations together when the greatest sermon could not. It's hard to stay angry with someone when you sit next to him and experience God's presence through song.

S4W.com: What compels you to write new songs?
  I never feel compelled to write songs. I mean, I feel it a little now because there's a deadline (laughs). Seriously, though, I do try to be faithful and sit at the piano and ask, "God, what do you want me to say?" Because it is a gift that I have been given, when there is a need, my first response is to address it musically. For instance, when I wrote "God Will Make A Way," I didn't really feel compelled  to write it, but I wanted to know what to say to ease the pain of a lost loved one, and my first response was to write a song.

Now, there have been instances where I have had dreams with the melody and words of a song with someone saying, "Here are the words and here are the chords-write them down." So I actually went to the piano and wrote them down.

S4W.com: Describe the most powerful worship experience you've ever had.
  There are two, actually. One was after I had just written the song "I Want To Be Where You Are." I used to write songs in the apartment of a lady who had a grand piano, and in fact, I was writing the song "This Is My Holy Place," which was the last song for the musical God With Us. As I was writing the song, there suddenly came a really powerful sense of God's presence with me into that room. In fact, I had to get down on my knees because the feeling was so powerful. I literally had to stop praying because I thought to myself "They're going to find me in this room dead tomorrow and not know what happened." Since then, I've often wished that I hadn't stopped praying.  

The other experience was during the recording of Bless The Lord in Orlando, Florida at Calvary Assembly of God. All of side two of that album, starting with "I Just Want To Be Where You Are," and ending with "This Is My Holy Place" was one of the most overwhelming times of worship I have ever experienced. In fact, when I listen to it today, it still overwhelms me. And for me to be able to listen to my own music and still be overwhelmed by the presence of God says a lot about the power of that night.

S4W.com: What's the songwriting process like for Don Moen?
  When I started writing music, there weren't many people writing Christian music. I would get song ideas when I was ministering every night with a musical group, and would think, "If only I had a song that said this..." and because I couldn't find a song like that, I would write one. I never planned to be a writer, and still think I have a long way to go. I try to write songs based on a ministry focus. "What needs to be said here and now?" A lot of times, I'll go to an empty church and ask, "What's going to help me get into God's presence this morning." In fact, with "God Is Good All The Time," I sat in a service where a pastor said "God is good," and the people responded "All the time," and I thought, "There needs to be a song like that," so I went to Paul Overstreet and said, "Paul, let's write a song that says 'God Is Good All The Time.'"

S4W.com: What person has influenced your ministry/your music the most and how?
  Probably Ray Schaibly-the man who was my pastor when I was twelve years old, and who passed away last year. Ray was my pastor from the time I was eight through sixteen and that is probably the most crucial time in a boy's life. My dad didn't go to church, so Ray took me fishing and hunting. After church he would lead us in songs with his guitar and would invite us to come to the altar and worship God. I can honestly say that I've thought many times, "You know, I don't think I would be doing what I am today if it weren't for Ray Schaibly and what he did in my life."

Ray gave me a hunger for those moments in God's presence. Why else would I have underlined in my Bible, as a twelve-year-old kid, Psalm 27:4: One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple. I know that hunger came from what Ray was doing in my life. I kept in touch with him over the years and still keep in touch with his wife.

S4W.com: You've collaborated with other songwriters on songs, such as Paul Overstreet and Claire Cloninger. Have you found that this type of collaboration helps you to think "out of the box" and to stretch your creative muscles?
  Collaboration is a very enjoyable process. I feel that I'm always strong on melodies and they come easy for me. When I was in the ninth grade, I went to an event where there was a competition to write two 16-bar songs. I just wrote them out, and it didn't take that long. I didn't pay any attention to it until later, but the professor had written on my paper, "Young man you have a very unique gift for writing melodies that you need to pursue." To me, it's very easy to write a melody, so it's good for me to collaborate with someone who has a good concept of melodies but also a good concept of words.     

S4W.com: Who influenced you as a young musician and who influences you now?
I listened to old records of Frank Sinatra that my parents had at this lake cottage when I was a kid. I would play them on an old wind-up phonograph that belonged to my grandma and grandpa. On rainy days, I'd spin records like Frank Sinatra and Tommy Dorsey. All these guys were crooners, and sang really romantic ballads. That's what I listened to a lot, so I'm sure when you listen to my music, you'll probably see that I've been influenced by them.

Get the inside scoop—preview Don Moen's upcoming release here at Songs4Worship.com

Read the story behind Don Moen's "I Want to Be Where You Are."