S4W.com: How did you get started in worship ministry?
Eoghan Heaslip: When I became a Christian eight years ago, there was a young American guy, Shea Knorr, living here in Dublin and working for the senior pastor of our church, Willi Stewart. Shea discipled and mentored me, and taught me about worship. He was then and still is a passionate worshiper, and an inspiration to me. At that time he was very into the growing UK worship scene, attending conferences and buying all the relevant CDs and songbooks, so that our church was always growing in our worship experience. Matt Redman and Cutting Edge (now known as Delirious) were just starting to write and influence.
Shea helped me get a guitar on lend from a friend and started teaching me chords and songs. My first worship leading opportunity was in Shea's front room at a cell group meeting he had started for students at our church. I look back on that time with real appreciation. It was the beginning of the journey that led me to where I am now.
A couple of months later I heard about a worship school being run in a church in Kelowna BC in Canada. Willi and Shea helped me to get the finances together, and off I went. My first week at the school in Kelowna, I met a beautiful Canadian girl called Becky (now my wife of 5 years), a very important part of the story.
While in Kelowna I also met [noted Vineyard worship leader] David Ruis. We really connected at the school, and he invited me to come to Winnipeg where he was living to intern with him and the staff there. I spent a little over a year in Winnipeg and did some traveling with David, but mostly enjoyed the life of the church, leading worship, getting involved in the student cell groups and helping at the church offices. Becky and I moved from Winnipeg to Victoria BC where we were married later that year. We then moved back to Dublin to come on staff in my old church, CORE (City Outreach Through Renewal and Evangelism), joining Willi and the team. We've been on full time staff here for five years now.
S4W.com: What has been the greatest challenge you've faced in ministry?
Heaslip: My greatest challenge in ministry has been myself! Before you go and think, 'Oh here we go, another over-the-top worship leader!' Let me explain my motives.
If I'm honest, ministry has not at all been I expected it would be. When you're 21, you really don't understand a lot about the realities of ministry. Endeavoring to grow and stay at the center of what God has for us often involves dealing with all He is bringing to the surface in our lives. Many of the things that challenge us will change over time; the things I struggle with now are not always the same struggles from two or three years ago. But in the midst of leading and discipling others, we find our own insecurities, fears and doubts still exist. So as I have pursued all that the Lord has led me into for our worship teams and leaders, it has inevitably brought me on a personal journey of forming and discipline which, if I'm honest, has been my greatest challenge.
S4W.com: What has been the most profound lesson you've learned about worship over the past few years?
Heaslip: Worship is about God and not about us. What is very simple has been made very complicated. Any attempt we make to worship God pleases him and moves him. It is not conditional to the type of musicians you have, or how good your worship leaders are. Or how many albums they've recorded or how many songs they've written. I can remember reading a passage in 1st Samuel, where Samuel has been instructed by the Lord to anoint a new king. Before anointing David that day, Samuel was taught a big lesson by the Lord. "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."
When we come before God either as a church body or as individuals in our homes to worship and be in His presence, the Lord looks at the heart. Songs, which are nothing more than tools, will pass with the changing seasons, but the true motives and ambitions of the heart cannot be hidden. Worship is a heart to heart expression to and union with God, a truthful and honest offering. King David knew this and penned these words in a song: "You don't delight in sacrifices, or I would bring them, but a broken and contrite heart, you will never deny." David understood the place of the heart in worship, whatever its state.
S4W.com: What is the most profound lesson you've learned about life over the past few years?
Heaslip: Personally, the biggest lesson I've had to learn in life is "not to resent God's timing." I am, at heart, rather impatient, and I always think things should be moving faster in my life than they are. Inevitably my impatience finds me rushing ahead, doing things in my own way, which has brought me nothing but sorrow. God may not ever be early but he is never, never late. He knows all things and holds the keys to life and death for every relationship and situation firmly in his hands. By life and death, I don't mean breathing or not breathing. I refer to the life or death of our spirits. He knows what we need and is the most awesome provider and protector. I have really had to learn to trust God in new ways these past few years, in ways I never thought were possible.
S4W.com: What is the most common misunderstanding about worship you see in your own congregation and how have you tried to reshape it?
Heaslip: The most common misunderstanding about worship in my own congregation has been related to something I call the "mediator theory." There is a process any parent will go through to get his/her child to begin feeding itself. Sometimes filled with a real eagerness to learn, young children insist on going it alone without any help, and they make a shocking mess everywhere. Other times, even though these babies are perfectly able to feed themselves, they resort to a baby-type behavior so they can be spoon fed again. For the first stages of this period of growth, a parent needs to be gracious and patient, but committed to the end goal, that is to see the child sitting with you, feeding himself.
Sometimes this is a relevant comparison to the type of work a worship leader, worship pastor or worship team will have to do. The goal is to see everyone worshiping in their own way, feeding themselves, not needing to be spoon-fed worship, while resorting to some type of behavior. This is where the "mediator theory" comes into play. Some worship leaders stay in that spoon-feeding zone and become a mediator for their congregation, between them and God, never encouraging the people to worship on their own. This gives way for certain behaviors to come out, and makes for an interesting worship time when you're not there.
I first encountered this at our church when some of the worship leaders I have been mentoring over the past two to three years started to lead worship in my place at Sunday services. The guys I had trained found the congregation reacting very differently to them and their leadership than how they responded to my leading. Trying to figure out what was happening, I realized that I had been in many ways spoon-feeding them, instead of teaching them to feed themselves regardless of who leads the worship.
S4W.com: What does 'worship lifestyle' mean to you?
Heaslip: For me worship has very little to do with what happens on a regular Sunday service at church. Worship has to do with the kind of person you are in work, school, and college or at home on Monday morning and on through the week. What makes you the kind of person you are is linked to the amount of freedom we give to the Lord to live and work in our lives for his praise and glory. Worship involves the motives that lead us to do what remains unseen to almost everyone else we know. The pursuit of a deeper relationship with the Lord firstly! Sharing your lunch sandwich with a homeless person on a street corner, offering to cover for someone at work, so they can go home and fulfill family commitments. Turning the other cheek, when someone at school embarrasses us in front of friends. Forgiving someone when they ask you to forgive them. But above all, worship lifestyle involves us letting all that God is doing with us to be reflected in all that we do and say, not just the songs we sing at church on Sunday morning.
S4W.com: How do you explain the powerful connection between music and worship expression?
Heaslip: The connection between music and worship expression is, simply, God. The most awesome creator loves music. He created music, and I believe He gave music as a gift to us to be used firstly and foremost for His worship and His worship alone. Music is for His glory. Obviously, that's not where the story ends, God in His mercy and grace pours out His gifts freely on all flesh, not just for believers. And so people worship the created rather than the creator, the musician and the gift of an individual rather than the Giver of the gift. But music is His, and I believe that His presence can be both found and released, even to an unbeliever, through it. It's the most awesome of gifts and tools for the church to worship.
S4W.com: What role does prayer play in the corporate worship experience? Do you feel prayer is given its due in worship? How so?
Heaslip: I see worship and intercession as inseparable. They will flow in and out of each other, often resulting in a spontaneous or prophetic element being brought out in worship. We run weekly prayer meetings through the city, where we continue to push out the boundaries in an even greater way. Once a month, we hold an all-night prayer meeting where, as a church, we experiment corporately with some of the things we have uncovered in those more intimate meetings through the week. Worship plays a key role in the midst of that.
S4W.com: What compels you to write new songs for worship?
Heaslip: For the most part, what compels me to keep trying to write new songs is that I just love to see people worshiping, I don't think there's anything more moving than a room full of people lost in worship. Writing songs is something that doesn't come easily to me at all. I usually have to work very hard, just to make sense of the erratic creativity that comes my way. Though it is something I continue to ask God for more of.
I have only written two kinds of songs, the first of which is the very personal kind that most probably will never be a song of any use for congregational worship. The second kind of song is what I have written in response to something the Lord is stirring in me specifically for where the church is at, something the church needs to sing. Whether I'm searching for new liturgy to use for worship as we center on the cross, songs of thankfulness, songs that focus on the greatness of God, I consider different aspects of faith and God's nature and character. For the most part this makes up the larger part of the songs I try to write
S4W.com: What makes a song or any act for that matter worshipful?
Heaslip: A truthful offering of the heart is what I believe makes a song or act, worshipful.