Jonathan Bellamy spoke to Tom Brock whose WORTHWHILE WORSHIP website offers assistance to grassroots worship songwriters
The international Church continues to undergo an explosion of contemporary worship. As a result of this there are today thousands of composers ministering in local churches wondering whether their offerings have the creative quality and the spiritual resonance to touch believers beyond the immediate circle of their fellowship. Now, one of the world's leading worship music companies - Kingsway - has joined forces with the internationally respected minister Tom Brock to launch a website, www.worthwhileworship.com, which could play a key role in identifying worship songs from still-to-be-recognised composers with the potential to impact the world Church.
With his wife Suzie, Californian Tom Brock heads up the Wave Of Life international ministry. His preaching and prophetic ministry has taken him all over the world and in the UK he has spoken at events like Soul Survivor and the Cross Rhythms Festival. In 1969 Tom was heavily involved in the emergent Jesus Movement, a revival which saw thousands of young people converted to Christianity and out of which contemporary Christian music emerged. In more recent times Tom and Suzie lived in Hawaii where they ran a successful Bible college and were instrumental in launching the worship ministry of Swedish-born artist Viola. Tom now pastors a church in Los Angeles and recently spoke about the new website.
Jonathan: Tom, tell us about Worthwhile Worship. Who is it for and how does it work?
Tom: Well, it's an idea that we had mainly because of some of the things we discovered as we traveled around the world. We found that many songs that were being written and sung in churches were just used in those small groups and not being shared. We had this idea that if we could get these songs looked at by professionals then they would have a chance to get out to the general Church and maybe have the opportunity to be published. We approached Kingsway and ran the idea by John Pac and Les Moir; they thought that it was a great idea and jumped in with us.
Jonathan: So, say I've written a song and no-one has heard it, but I think it's good. What are the steps that I would have to take?
Tom: The nice thing about it is the site developers have done a great job - they've made it very simple - there's even a tutorial video that takes you through the process. You upload the songs, there's a fee of 30 US dollars, and the first level reviewers will take a look at it. If the song gets a certain rating, I believe it's six and above, the song will go on to the next level. If the song doesn't get that rating it's given certain comments and then sent back to the writer. If it just needs a little bit of tweaking they are asked to resubmit the song with the changes; the song then goes back to that same reviewer. If the changes are made appropriately it then goes on to the next level reviewers. Now those reviewers are people like David Ruis, Nikki Fletcher, Daniel Ornellas, Beshara Ornellas. These people are all accomplished writers, singers and so on, and if they pass the song on, it then goes to the desk of Kingsway for final review.
Jonathan: I understand as well as getting a quality critique back, there's also a chance of it getting published?
Tom: If the song goes through all the way to Kingsway and they approve it on the third level then the song goes to the Kingsway catalogue, which is amazing. That's the breakthrough everybody's looking for!
Jonathan: How will it get published? Will it be online only or will it get on a CD?
Tom: First of all it will be published by Kingsway in their normal catalogue and, to be truthful, I'm not quite sure how they do that. I believe it goes into their catalogue and gets put into the system where it can be chosen by other singers, but the goal eventually is to produce a Worthwhile Worship catalogue. And along with that our long term goal is to host Worthwhile Worship events where we can then present worship as a lifestyle throughout the US and throughout the world.
Jonathan: Could you unpack that a little bit more in terms of the Worthwhile Worship events?
Tom: Basically, we find that sometimes people think that worship is just for the Church. We just sit there, get up front on a Sunday morning and we sing the songs and that's it. But we see worship more involved in every aspect of our lives. For instance, we see worship in missions where if you're in a church, you're part of the Kingdom and you're moving forward; we want to see the opportunity for people to get their lives involved and realise it's not the singing of songs but it's really being implemented into the lifestyle evangelism of Jesus where you maybe you can go to a community and invest your life, not just your voice. So what we like to do in that is to present programmes and opportunities where you can learn how to bring mercy ministry to your church, to your community; same thing with children's ministry; same thing with youth ministry. It's right down the full gambit of situations where it isn't just about a song, it's about a lifestyle.
Jonathan: I also notice on your website that you are not looking for music from one particular genre. Generally speaking, we're quite accustomed to a certain type of worship in the UK - that kind of Matt Redman, Ben Cantelon type of sound. But I notice you're looking at a lot of different styles and genres of music. Electronic, folk, jazz, etc.
Tom: Yes, that's it. I think what happens to us, especially in the middle class church, is we get a particular sound and it's very marketable so we go with it. But then you've got guys like David Ruis who take a song and go from one musical extreme to the other. We want to get real musicians, real writers sending us their music; we want gospel, folk, country and so on and so forth. We want to take you on a new musical experience.
Jonathan: Being online there's the possibility of you receiving submissions from all around the world, including Asia and Africa. Is that something that you'd like to encourage?
Tom: Yes definitely. In fact there is a Spanish outlet on the site for songs sung in Spanish. We have two Spanish reviewers; one is a Dove Award winner and the other is a very accomplished musician who heads up several worship bands. We're hoping Worthwhile Worship goes this way. We don't want just one sound, we want the sounds of the whole world. We want the sounds that are really proclaiming the name of Jesus worldwide! One of my hopes is that when we do a CD it won't include music that is just all American, British and European. We just got back from New Zealand and we met some great worship leaders there. We're looking for music from New Zealand and from Australia; we're looking for South African music, from all of Africa actually. It won't be just one tribal sound, it will be the body of Christ all coming together.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.