10 Questions With: Paul Baloche
- 2006 19 May
He’s in the car. He’s on a plane. He’s in the studio. He’s in the backyard. And on Sunday mornings, you’ll almost always find him on stage at church, with a guitar in hand. But wherever he’s at, Paul Baloche is a man who simply lives to serve. This Lindell, Texas-based worship pastor’s schedule is full, but his heart is always open to sharing how God is at work through worship. We caught up with Paul, just a few days before the April 4th release of his new project, A Greater Song, to get the details on what the critics are already hailing as one of the finest worship records this year. But in the end, we got even more than expected…10 questions and— as is custom for this teacher/mentor— one more to grow on.
Songs4Worship.com:When you set out to do a new record, did you have specific objectives in mind? Were you looking to do something out of the ordinary or simply something more reflective of Sunday in Lindale?
Paul Baloche: The only specifics in my mind were that there was no reason to do another recording unless I had a batch of new songs that I really believed in. The target is to come up with great songs that will serve the church well. Songs that invite believers into the presence of God through the mysterious combination of the right words with the right music. I love the chase. Trying to catch the elusive song idea that has the potential to inspire honest worship.
Listen to clips from A Greater Song at Songs4Worship.com
S4W.com:One of the things I love about your new project is the overwhelming sense of collaboration in its creation and the sense of community in the recording. The Bible talks about ‘where two or three are gathered in my name…’ What has this experience taught you about the power of collaboration?
Baloche: I love the process of writing with someone else. I love the give and take relational aspect. The fellowship, the coffee, the Word, the conversations, the prayers, the worship, the stumbling upon an idea that rings true, the chasing of that idea to its completion. It’s a very satisfying process usually. Very sports-like, like a team accomplishing it’s goal.
S4W.com: What about the power of community, specifically? Can you talk to me a bit about your community at church, what it looks like, how it impacts your life, what’s great about having a tight-knit community?
Baloche: Community is reality. Without real community we are all alone, and God said to Adam, “It is not good for man to be alone.” My church is an anchor in my life. It’s a constant. Over the past 15 years we’ve gone through all the usual church tangents and splits, etc., but we always felt like it was important to stay with a core group of families and stick it out through thick and thin. Our families have grown up together through weddings, births, funerals, divorces, spiritual highs, and personal failures. It’s the stuff of life and God is in the middle.
S4W.com: You’ve been the worship pastor at Lindale for 15 years… How does a worship leader avoid the temptation of doing the same old, same old, once he or she is comfortable in his/her home church?
Baloche: A couple things come to mind. I think the desire to see the people that you serve connect with God week after week, encouraging them toward a healthy spirituality. I also think the desire to see the worship team improve from week to week, both musically and spiritually, keeps it fresh. When the music feels right, everything is “lockin’ in,” and you sense the presence and gentle leading of the Holy Spirit, it’s glorious! There is nothing else like it. I go into every meeting with an expectation to experience His presence.
S4W.com:Tell me what inspired the song “Hosanna” and how that it came about.
Baloche: Hosanna was written intentionally by Brenton Brown and I because we could never find any fresh material for Palm Sunday. We tried to imagine the feeling of expectation as Jesus was riding into town as well as the expectation of when we gather together for corporate worship. There is always that hope that God is going to be in our midst and continue His saving work in our lives. The word Hosanna literally means “Lord save us.”
S4W.com:In collaborating with all these different songwriter/worship leaders, did you come to any conclusions about the writing process that perhaps you didn’t have beforehand?
Baloche: That it’s worth sitting on a song and letting brew for a while instead of being in a hurry to finish it. Once the initial inspiration has got you started on the song, don’t try to force the ending. Keep picking it back up and “worship with it” until you sense another inspired piece of the puzzle. A lot of these songs were started in England but finished months later through many emails, faxes, and telephone calls.
S4W.com: There’s an over-arching sense of gratitude and thankfulness on this album. Isn’t that the soil in which worship grows best? How do we cultivate such soil… or can we?
Baloche: I’m so glad to hear that you sense that. It’s a biblical cliché, but it is absolutely true that we enter God’s presence through thanksgiving. Period. There is no other way. The primary role of a lead worshiper or a psalmist is to paint word pictures that remind God’s people of who He is and what He has done for us, with the intention of stirring up gratitude in the hearts of the hearers. You see David do this all throughout the psalms. We all have a responsibility to cultivate a grateful heart each day and praise and worship music is a helpful tool.
S4W.com: The reviews of A Greater Song, right out of the box, are nothing short of glowing! Is there any obvious benefit from being praised for your praise & worship efforts? What do you hope comes out of the exposure? Baloche: I’m extremely grateful and encouraged by the initial response. My hope is that many of the songs would find their way into the church and into people’s hearts. My goal is always to serve the church with songs that worship teams can reproduce and congregations can sing easily. The songs were written to inspire people to wholeheartedly worship God.
S4W.com: The songs of A Greater Song are immensely singable. When you write songs for worship, is there a vocal range you cater to in order to keep that accessibility?
Baloche: Because the songs are “tested” in my home church before recording, it gives me a sense of what keys work best. I try to keep the range high enough to keep the vocal energy strong but not high enough to frustrate the non-musician who just wants to come to church and sing worship songs to his God with his family and friends. Worship songs should invite participation. That’s what corporate worship is all about.
S4W.com: As your ministry continues to expand, continues to impact the world at worship, what are you learning about distinguishing ‘what is essential’ from ‘what is not essential’?
Baloche: That is a great question and one that I ask myself everyday. Time is so valuable. I try to prayerfully invest in what I believe is important and essential long-term and not just urgent. The more crazy and hectic our schedules become, the more important it is to focus on our close relationships and to tend to our primary calling.
S4W.com: What book are you currently reading and what kind of impact has it had on you?
Baloche: I just finished reading a couple Donald Miller books. Blue Like Jazz challenges a lot of my preconceived Christianity. I’m challenged to listen more to the next generation and be open to how their creativity and passion will shape the future of the church. As Dylan said, “The times, they are a changin’….”