Tony Cummings spoke to worship singer and songwriter, ANDY PARK.
Andy Park is an internationally renowned worship leader with songs like "The River Is Here" and "Only You" showing high in Britain's church licensing scheme while his Vineyard Music recordings have been steady sellers. Now the publication of his first book, through Kingsway, To Know You More: Inside The Heart Of A Worship Leader should expand further the influence of this perceptive crafter of worship songs. As Matt Redman says in his back cover blurb, "Andy reminds us of the importance of living lives of worship, gives us an insightful look at the theology of worship and, for good measure, throws in loads of helpful, practical advice on how to lead worship. Andy writes on so many different aspects of worship and does so in a refreshingly transparent way."
Andy Park was born in 1957 and was raised in Woodland Hills, a suburb of Los Angeles. At the age of 17, after finishing high school, he came to a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. In the five years following his university studies at UCLA, he served in two Southern California Vineyards as an intern pastor. In 1985, Andy moved to British Columbia and joined the Langley Vineyard church plant, where he was on staff for four years as an assistant pastor. That same year he became involved in leading worship for John Wimber conferences domestically and internationally. He made his first recording with Vineyard Music Group in the late 1980s, and has led worship on numerous Vineyard recordings since then. He was on staff at Anaheim Vineyard from 1992 to 1998, then his family moved back to Canada to join the staff of the North Langley Vineyard.
TC: Everybody in the UK Church knows your songs "The River Is Here" and "Only You". Could you tell us a bit about how you came to write them?
AP: When I wrote "Only You", I had been in full time ministry for about three years. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to perform as a pastor and worship leader, and to "earn my keep" as a young staff member. But I found that no matter how hard I worked, there was always more I could have done. "Only You" expresses the truth I was learning at that time - significance is found in knowing God, not in pleasing people. Being effective in ministry brings limited fulfilment. The peace and security that comes from experiencing God personally is the stabilising force of my life. The most memorable feedback I've received on "Only You" was from an Australian woman who went through a time of deep depression. She wrote the words of this song in large letters and put it up on her bedroom door. Singing the song over and over again helped her come through this tough season of life.
This is how "The River Is Here" came to me. Over a period of several days I kept seeing a picture of a mountain with a river running down it. I didn't know at that time that God meant for it to be a song. I did a Bible study on key words like "mountain" and "river" to see what themes, imagery and application I could find. While on a brief retreat, I wrote the song. I was happy with the way the lyrics fit together, but I didn't think it was a great song at the time I wrote it. I just thought the song was fun and had a different feel from most of the songs I write. I can remember calling my wife, Linda, and telling her that it was a fun song, it had energy. Yet I was even wondering, "Will this song work?"
TC: In your book you remind us how Matt Redman has adopted the John the Baptist statement, "He must become greater: I must become less." Isn't there a huge tension for contemporary worship leaders that CDs, magazine articles, indeed books on worship are all going to play on their egos and maybe even build up worship leader personality cults in an immature Church?
AP: 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 neighbour 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).
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. 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.
TC: There are a lot of books on worship out there now. What motivated you to write one?
AP: Over the past 15 years I've done over a hundred worship seminars. Since I have limits in my travelling schedule, I wanted to maximize my opportunities to pass on what I've learned. So I figured it made sense to write down what I teach in my seminars. For many years I've felt that one of my primary tasks should be to "teach these great truths to trustworthy people who are able to pass them on to others" (2 Tim. 2:2). It's not that I've come up with reams of groundbreaking new information. Lots of the content of the book is timeless truth from God's word applied to our contemporary worship setting.
TC: I was particularly interested in your chapter The Ministries Of Teaching And Evangelism. Isn't it true that the majority of non-congregational worship songs dubbed "CCM" by the industry have elements of either a teaching ministry or an evangelistic ministry in them (as well as the neglected gift of encouragement)? Why bring teaching and evangelism into a book on worship?
AP: Because most local church worship leaders need to know that they function evangelistically - even though they don't do "concerts". Many pre-Christians are convinced by the Holy Spirit that Jesus is really in the midst of a church worship time. So the worship leader functions in an evangelistic role. This should be kept in mind as one plans a worship set. Also, as worship leaders we have tremendous access to influence people's thoughts about who God is through the lyrical or "teaching" content of the songs we sing. People remember the songs better than they remember the sermons, so in effect, they are taught by these songs.
TC: The chapter about the worship leader and pastor working together brought up some interesting points. Isn't it true that in most churches the worship leader is relegated to a subsidiary role to the "main" purpose of the meeting, the sermon/message?
Showing page 1 of 2