London's KENSINGTON TEMPLE is the largest church in Britain. Their two live worship albums for Kingsway have both been good sellers. The head of the Worship Department at KT, Richard Lewis, spoke to George Luke.
The statistics surrounding Kensington Temple are staggering. Britain's largest local church has for years been THE flagship church for British Pentecostal ism. Pastored by the effervescent Colin Dye, KT has a current congregation of 10,000 attending its London meetings and its 100 satellite churches.
KT has pioneered Christian involvement in the arts. Its School Of Creative Ministry has been a big success; the Kensington Temple Gospel Choir (KTGC) reflect the thrilling multi-racial dimension of its praise and KT's live worship albums for Kingsway 'Our God Is Good' (1991) and 'Latter Rain' (1994) demonstrate both pop music credibility and a deep Holy Spirit anointing. I spoke to Richard Lewis of KT's worship department in his office.
Richard: How long have you been a member of KT and how did you
become head of the Worship Department here?
George: "I've been worshipping here for a little over three years and I've been music director for just over two and a half years. It's a full time job. Before this, my wife and I were at St Barnabas, Kensington, which is a church plant of HTB, and I was music director there for quite a few years. We felt God moving us on and came here. It just so happened that a few months after we moved here, the job here became open and I felt called to do it. It was quite a plunge being a full time job, rather than the part time church post I had been used to."
Richard: What does your job entail?
George: "I have to produce music for seven meetings a week, five of which are on Sundays. Most of those would be worship-led in modern style and I've got teams for each meeting. At the moment I've got live worship teams which I'm encouraging up, although one of them is a bit ad hoc - we just turn up and do it. There's a limit to the number of people you can train in one week and often people can only be rehearsed in the evening, because of their work. I have one team which is particularly good and they're the ones who appear on the album. I put more work into them; I rehearse them every week and they're a great bunch of people, mainly professional musicians now, and really tremendous players. We find that putting that effort into that particular team sort of encourages the rest and I have another team which is run by somebody else, doing very well.
"We also have quite a strong solo ministry here. I produce three soloists for each Sunday. I now have Mrs Joan Noel, who runs that side of things as head of vocal ministries. She's basically taken that side of things off my hands. She also runs our choir, KTGC, which is about 60 strong and does anything from gospel to classical (we haven't done any classical yet, but we can). We want to do all sorts of styles with that choir, but mainly more on the gospel leanings. She also has pioneered, in the last few months, a Saturday music school which is basically a resource for the church network here at KT. We have over 85 churches around London; we've planted small fellowships, some of which have grown into larger ones - anything from 20 people to over 100. In the Saturday music school, we offer vocal classes on quite a cheap basis - £50 for 10 lessons - but they're class lessons, done in groups which keeps the costs down. The vision behind that is that we can resource all the churches that we've got in London with singing lessons, guitar, bass guitar, dance and songwriting. We run 10-week courses three times a year - which would be like normal college terms.
"Apart from all that, I obviously have to lead a lot of worship myself and delight to do so, it's wonderful. I'd be in two or three services on Sunday -1 have been known to do five services on a Sunday, which is probably a bit much. If I delegate well, things go fine.
"We've probably got a grand total of 50 people. On my database for music, I've got over 150 people, but of those who are regularly involved, I'd say we had about 50. That's not counting the solo ministries - we must have about 20 soloists. I'd say that of the 150-plus people on our database, over half are involved in some way, filling a gap at some point. It's great fun; in a way it's like pastoring a church in itself, looking over them. I'm beginning to realise that they are my church, and I'm beginning to regard them as such. With that in mind, I'm looking for leaders to carry some of the pastoral burden. There is a large pastoral element; apart from just being a worship leader, I've got to pastor people and make sure they're being looked after - sometimes dealing with quite difficult pastoral situations.
"My wife's a great help in carrying that burden as well; she's very gifted in the Lord so we both counsel people together and offer whatever help we have time to give when we're not running round the office. We have different divisions in our church and the music department is a division in its own right, rather like the pastoral division, or the evangelistic division. Music also covers sound ministry and that's quite a recent thing, but I felt it was right to take sound under my wing and raise up a team of dedicated, servant-hearted sound engineers from within the congregation."
Richard: What do you look for in your worship team
George: "Generally, commitment. Also, that servant heart I was talking about. It's got to be somebody who, no matter how gifted they are, if they're a prima donna or have their own agenda which cuts against the leadership, or against the spirit of unity, they don't tend to get involved - I don't let them into the ministry in that sense. We don't tend to have that problem; we've got wonderful people.
"Also, they've go to be musically competent. All the singers in the Old Testament were people who were skilled musically and when they were appointed by the commanders, they were people who had skills. There's got to be an element of excellence. We obviously strive to get the best we can and if there's potential, we want to train them up and get the best out of them. We're also looking for worshippers - people who are just natural worshippers. That's an essential requirement apart from musical gifting. Reliability - generally, if people are unreliable they will be given a break (laugh) until they become reliable again. It's very important to get those levels of discipline, just as you would in the world if you wanted to succeed in any way. We should have a higher standard of discipline in the Church than they do in the world."
Richard: How did the 'Latter Rain' album come
George: "The album was really birthed on September 2nd, 1994 during this current move of the Holy Spirit which has affected many churches around the country. I was really affected by the Lord at this time and found myself repeatedly on my back, laughing my head off -which is quite embarrassing when you're trying to lead worship! Mind you, there was a time when that was a common occurrence. I was really affected by the Lord and very much moved. In September '94, we actually had meetings every night. I look back to that time as the time when my songwriting gift was birthed in me. I was woken up by the Holy Spirit very early one morning - September 2nd, in fact - and I remember that the previous night we'd had a long meeting that had finished around 12 and my wife and I went out for a meal with some friends at a local Greek restaurant.
"I got to bed at 2am and woke up at six dreaming a song. I had a song in my dream, which didn't get onto the finished album, but after writing it I thought, 'That's nice,' and went back to bed. I was just lying there when I heard the Holy Spirit speak very clearly to my heart, 'If you get out of bed, I'll give you another song.' I thought, 'That's interesting,' and; the miracle was that I got out of bed (laugh). I went to the music room and almost immediately wrote 'Latter Rain' -it was finished within half an hour, and I don't think I ever changed a note of it. It came down in one piece; I was amazed. It's basically inspired by the Scripture in Zechariah 10:1 which says, 'In the time of the latter rain, ask the Lord for rain.' My interpretation of that Scripture was that the latter rain was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit - which is happening in the churches even now - especially now and even more so as the day of the Lord comes. I felt that the Scripture was saying that in these days of the latter rain, we should ask the Lord for rain, So the song goes, 'We ask you, O Lord, for the rain of your Spirit/Now is the time of the latter rain." That's how the song came. I went to church that evening; we sang the song and the Lord moved powerfully. Colin Dye just said, 'We must have an album.' That was the day the album was birthed in my spirit; it actually took another year before it got off the ground.
"Incidentally, during September I wrote about 10 songs within that one month; it was an incredible burst of creativity. I wrote 'Lift Up Your Heads' which is also on the album; Chris Cartwright and I wrote 'Thank You Lord' during that time. I wrote a load of other songs which didn't go onto the album. At one point, I wrote five songs in five days; it was an incredible flow of creativity. I'd find that the songs would just come into my head and the Holy Spirit was using my musical training and whatever Scripture he had given me and moulding it into a song. There was quite an extraordinary, supernatural element in it, which really blew my mind.
"Anyway, after that I tried to get an album off the ground. Eventually, I had a meeting with Chris Falson who had come over to this country. As you know, he's a worship leader from Christian City Church in Sydney, and now he's in California, working with Maranatha Music. He was a great encouragement to me; at the time I was still a young music director, finding my feet. We really hit it off. A lot of people laughed, because I'm from a classical background and he got saved out of the nightclub circuit. We were like chalk and cheese, but we really just love each other in the Lord and a great friendship followed. He said that he'd gone to various record companies including Kingsway and mentioned things that were happening here and what God was doing and that was how we got in contact with Les Moir and the album began to happen. (It happened) on October 15th, 1995, live in one of our evening services and our main aim was to have a good live feel; that it would capture the atmosphere of KT - which is electric on a Sunday evening, or all day long, really. It's a marvellous place when it's really cooking. It's more of a 'congregation' album; you can hear the congregation louder than you can hear the worship leaders and our heart was that it was a church album - that KT was the artist, if you like."
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