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Excerpt from an interview with Dr. Herb Armentrout during one of our recent Worship Leader Coaching Sessions.
Herb Armentrout: I love this. I’m fired up about sharing some things here. We know that worship is our first priority but born out of our passionate expression of worship, we must share the love of Christ outside the walls of our church. It goes back to that thing that the measure of our worship is what we do outside the walls of the church.
The passage upon which your book, Pure Praise, is based, Dwayne, I think says so much to me and to all of us about how we as musicians are called to lead the charge in kingdom advancement. We talked about that a lot, so that is a culture that we work to develop here over very intentionally over hears. It starts as I said with a personal heart burn for the lost, because if we don’t have it, it’s difficult to encourage that.
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We discussed God's call in our, to us just as believers to follow Christ in sharing his love, and then we discussed the reality that the reality is that in our culture, people are not beating down the doors of our church. There's people all around us who are dying, and going to hell while we're worshiping comfortably.
We just began to ask God, where can we begin as musicians to share our faith in Christ through word and song. Though, here's some things that we've done in terms of preparation for going outside the walls of the church. One of them is we have every single group, every single group I think, without exception. We do an annual evangelism training. It's not like you come on a Sunday afternoon for two hours. It really is kind of woven into about two or three rehearsals, about the same time each year, and we learn every year, or review a plan for sharing our faith. ABCs of salvation. Four spiritual laws. Roman Road.
Normally I would tie that training into a pre-mission trip. It's different times because the groups go on mission trips, but we also do it with our senior adult choir, who mostly ministers locally. We talk about how to have conversation segues that will work either day to day or on mission trips or we can move from, talk to them about everyday common things to having a spiritual conversation.
We're talking about this at least once a year, and the hope is, for high school choir, like in four years, the kid's going to know four different ways to share their faith, four different plans. One of them, is probably going to stick, because I, you know what? I can do the Roman Road. I can remember four, I can remember four scriptures. In regard to mission trips, we just remind kids and all of our folks that missions is a lifestyle. It's not an event. We're hoping that folks connect the dots between what we do as a choir outside or whatever the music team is outside the church to our everyday life.
We talked about this one year. I think we were headed to Washington DC with our high school choir. The goal was Washington DC, but some kid had the nerve to lead someone to Christ in a kiosk in a mall on the way to Washington DC. We hadn't even arrived there yet. It's the idea that it's en route.
We also do role playing, which is a lot of fun, in choir. We lead each other to Christ. We just walk through that so that it's not … We've had this conversation with a believer in our rehearsals. This is in singing ministers. This is in high school choir, all-state youth choir, praise team, praise band, all of these groups. This is, it's what we do and it reminds us, and then we just connect it to music.
In fact, most of the concerts that we craft regarding whatever, and using whatever kind of music it is, mostly contemporary Christian, it's built around four spiritual laws. We first sing about who God is and how good he is and how much he loves us. Then we sing maybe the David Crowder song, you just have been singing it. Lift your head weary sinner. We just go right to that stuff that you know we're just messed up. So we craft those concerts to outline the four spiritual laws. We don't do them. We don't necessarily say all that. It's a definitely, a process.
Then in some of the places that we go to share the gospel, senior adults go to senior adult facilities. That's good but one of the things that we constantly talk about is remembering that what seems to be our core audience, a lot of times are people around, care givers in senior adult homes. Often much more receptive to the gospel when they see how we treat their clients. We sing in correction facilities, both with youth and adult groups, malls seasonally. Special needs facilities is an amazing place to share Christ. In fact, we have a special needs choir, because they share with such purity.
City parks, city festivals. Our contemporary worship band plays at the crawfish festival. We go to 5K races and sing the national anthem before they fire the gun or play it. We have electric guitar players that do some crazy rendition of the national anthem. Anything that we can do to be where folks are who don't know Christ, that's our focus.
Dwayne Moore: Man, dude. That's awesome. You can do, you can do malls still? They're open to you to come in and do a concert in a mall. Seasonal?
Herb Armentrout: Less and less.
Dwayne Moore: Yeah, it's difficult.
Herb Armentrout: If we can get a mall now, our default is flash mob, with something that may kind of rise. It may not have a uniquely spiritual message, but it's something that everybody will go oh man I know that song.
Then we're wearing matching shirts and we're sitting in a food court right after. We're praying that, and a lot of times spiritual conversations develop out of that, so we don't give up, but you're right. Shopping malls increasingly, they will, they'll vet your repertoire and go nope, you're not coming here.
Coaching Student: Can I ask you a question just based on pretty much everything? Because everything you're talking about is like crazy awesome. Like I'm blown away and I just want to move and go to your church. Like seriously. But how do you do so much? Like how big are your teams? How big is your church? Because I feel like as a church we do a lot, and now I feel like I just need to sit back and just start over. Like I don't have … Like I'm blown away. How big is your church?
Herb Armentrout: The church, I mean, compared to … It's not real large. Like 5000. We run maybe 1600. But I'm only responsible for like half, if that makes sense.
Coaching Student: Within all your different teams, how many people are, serve in some type of music ministry for your team then as well?
Herb Armentrout: There's maybe 80 to 100 in the adult choir and there's 40 or 50 in high school. 25 or 30 in middle school. Senior adult, same. Orchestra. There's a number of group, but I work with other groups outside. I think, the team thing to me is your passion, wherever you are. If your passion is to mobilize the resources that are entrusted to you, share the love of Christ outside your church, I just, wherever I am, whatever group it is, whatever the size. If we had five people in our choir, we'd be going, we'd be going somewhere. Just because I just, our culture's so messed up. So many people are going to hell and they're not coming to our churches. We're going to the most … I don't even, when we go on choir trips, we don't even sing in churches, except on Sundays, so we can be fed for the balance of the week.
But there's just so … I don't know. I just, I would say this too about prisons. That is the mission field. You can go there with any size group. It takes some work because you have to have your IDs, stuff like that. But taking adults to sing in prisons is the greatest recruitment tool that I have in our worship choir, which sounds counter-intuitive, until folks experience it. The chaplains that we're working with regularly now would contend that the next great spiritual movement in our country is going to come from within prisons.
Dwayne Moore: Well, aren't you already seeing that some? I know in New Orleans Seminary has classes going on. Tell us where you've ministered, because it's a famous prison.
Herb Armentrout: Well we've been to Angola which is Louisiana's penitentiary for many, many years. New Orleans Seminary brought in a campus there, and they have adjunct teachers who come and teach. Now they have a master's program. Southwestern seminary is doing the same thing in a prison we were just in, in Rocheron, Texas.
Dwayne Moore: That's awesome.
Herb Armentrout: What's cool is, those guys that are coming to seminaries in these prisons are graduating with degrees, and then Angola's modeled this by sending out graduates of their seminaries, their seminary as mission pastors in smaller state prisons.
Dwayne Moore: That's amazing.
Herb Armentrout: It is amazing. Now, other penal institutions from many other states are coming in to study how this is working. The doors are wide open.
Dwayne Moore: Wow. Praise the Lord.
Herb Armentrout: Which is crazy because we can't pray in our schools.
Dwayne Moore: No.
Herb Armentrout: But we can present a 60 minute concert full of the gospel and give an invitation in prison.
Dwayne Moore: Yeah.
Herb Armentrout: On the other end of things…