Why Is Musical Quality Important in Worship Services? (Podcast)

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Tony Guerrero, long-time music director at Saddleback Church in California, is our guest today on the Worship Q&A podcast. This is an excerpt from Dwayne's interview with him during one of Dwayne's recent coaching sessions. Enjoy!

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Dwayne Moore: Hello everyone. Welcome to the Worship Q & A podcast. I’m Dwayne Moore. We try to answer questions that worship leaders are asking.

Today we have a very special guest with us, Tony Guerrero, in fact we’re gonna take a snippet from and interview that I did with Tony on our coaching call this past week with our coaching students in our worship leader coaching program. He’s going to be challenging us and answering the question of why is excellence important in our worship services. You’re gonna love what he has to say, I believe.

Tony knows what he’s talking about. Tony was the music director at Saddleback Church in California for over eleven years. Tony knows his stuff. He plays with the likes of Dick Van Dyke and John Tesh, actress Jane Lynch. He’s arranged for many, well known artists. He’s been on Billboard’s Top Ten with his music. He’s even performed at the Grammy’s.

Tony Guerrero (TonyGuerrero.com) is a great guy to listen to and get to know, and we are very excited that he joined us for our coaching network session this past week, and we’re gonna bring just a little bit of that conversation to you today.

Before we do though, I want to encourage you to consider our coaching program. We’re gonna begin a new phase of coaching in September. So you don’t want to miss what we call the LEGACY phase of coaching. There will be ten weeks of meeting together. Learning how to grow our group, but also develop those outside our group and prepare them to be in our group in the future. It’s really developing the soil, building into the soil around the plant if you will, preparing for a great harvest in the future for our worship ministry as well as the church and more importantly the kingdom of God. So I hope you can join us for that. It sounds real big picture, but I promise you it’s very practical.

We will again have guests in like we have for this phase, and so please join us for that. You can go to our website, nextlevelworship.com, click on the training tab, and you can learn more about our coaching program.

Also, you don’t wanna miss our worship leader intensive in Louisville, Kentucky this coming October 2018. You definitely don’t want to miss that phenomenal opportunity for five days of personal customized coaching and evaluation, and encouragement and direction, and you’re gonna get all of that plus so much more if you will sign up and be a part of our ReIMAGINE Worship Leader Intensive. So I hope you can come to be a part of that. Again, go to our website, nextlevelworship.com and click on the training tab, and you will see more information you can find out about the intensive.

Well, let’s get on to that session just this past week with Tony as he now answers the question for us, why is quality important in our worship services each week?

Tony Guerrero: You had asked if quality is important and I have a lot … I think the bible has a lot to say about that. One of my favorite verses on the subject is first Corinthians, 14:7 where it says,

“Even in the case of lifeless things that make sound, such as the pipe or the harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? Again if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?”

So I think there is a huge responsibility on us as musicians that we need to sound a clear call and I know for a fact, this coming Sunday a large number of churches are not going to be sounding a very clear call musically and there will be people in that congregation who desperately need to be in church and need to hear that message, who heard better music at the bar last night. You don’t want the music to be bad enough that it’s distracting from the message. I think that’s really obvious, obviously.

Our Best

For me it’s not about everybody needs to be as good of a guitar player as say Phil Keaggy, or as good of a drummer as Vinnie Colaiuta, or name who it is, but that we each individually have a responsibility to be our best and the challenge is, every week when you show up to church, are you able to say that not only this Sunday am I giving my best to God, but during the week and the preparation, and in the improving of my skill did I give my best to God.

I think that’s again, where a lot of us, if we honestly look at ourselves, myself included, that’s not something that I can answer yes to every week. I think that’s where a lot of that definition comes for me. It’s not that God expects you to be the best guitar player, he expects you to be your best guitar player for where you are at your life in that moment with all the opportunity he’s given you, the time you’ve had, all of that. That you have used that to improve that skill.

Here’s the great and horrible thing about playing an instrument, and that is that you will never, ever master your instrument. None of us ever will. Yo-yo Ma has not mastered the cello and so for as long as we live, until our very last breath there is always room for improvement on our instrument, in our voice, whatever it is. Always room for improvement.

Always Growing

So I always challenge people, especially those who are on staff or in leadership, to ask yourself this question and ask it often, am I better now as a musician than I was when I took the job? Or am I better now than I was six months ago?

When you start really looking at that question, and here’s another way to ask that too. Will the people on my team, would they answer that I’m a better musician now? Even if I’m the best musician on my team, would they have seen a marked improvement in me from the time they met me til now, in terms of my skill, my musical ability, my styles, my whatever it is, reading music.

So I feel that all of us who are in music ministry, in leadership especially, we have a responsibility to continually learn, and grow, and improve on our instruments. We should be setting the example and setting the pace for continuing to take private lessons, continuing to learn new harmony things, new music theory, whatever it is to continue to grow. Who wants to sit under a pastor who stopped growing 20 years ago when he left seminary? None of us want that. It should … It’s the same with us as musicians.

We have a huge responsibility to continue to grow on our instruments, and if you’re in leadership, you’d better be setting the bar high for the rest of your team ’cause that’s the example that they have to look at. Early one of the things I like about that verse earlier that talks about a clear battle cry from the trumpet, is I love the story about Jericho and the priest marching around Jericho and I actually talk about that a lot in different classes and it’s a longer story I like to talk about, but in a nutshell, the fact that the priests with the trumpets were in front of the army and they were the only ones allowed to make a sound.

Battle Cry

What an awesome role we have as musicians, that we’re the ones that are sounding the battle cry for this spiritual war and that’s what that verse is talking about when it’s talking about the warfare. That’s us.

Okay, I’m gonna back track and I’m gonna tell a little bit of the story I like to tell.

So I in 1990, I think ’89, in this country of Panama, the United States was trying to overtake Manuel Noriega, this general, this dictator from there and he holed himself up in the Vatican embassy and so we couldn’t just go in and take him, although we had all the firepower, all the personnel to do that. So we camped around, what our army did, is they camped around the Vatican and surrounded it and they put loud speakers on top of the tanks and the humvees and just started blasting rock music towards the Vatican embassy. Just not incessantly, non-stop, rocking the casbah.

I don’t know what music they were playing, but just loud rock and roll, 24 hours a day, constantly, and part of that was to jam the communications, but can you imagine being Noriega inside the Vatican, the embassy, knowing that this army is around surrounding you and you can’t sneak out, but not only that, they’re taunting you with this music.

Can you imagine hour, after hour, how it must have rattled your nerves? Well when I look at that story of Jericho how at Jericho where he was told don’t go in, I’m gonna give you the city, but don’t go into the city, don’t just go in and take it. You’re gonna camp out for seven days, and you’re gonna march around. The only sound I want to hear is those trumpets blowing.

Can you imagine being in the walls of Jericho, knowing you’re surrounded by and army and all you hear is these vultures of trumpets circling you, like how it must have rattled the nerves of the people in Jericho?

Then I apply that to that verse about us getting ready for warfare and getting ready for battle, when we do that, when we make a sound on our instrument in the name of the Lord, we’re rattling the nerves of the enemy. What an incredible responsibility has been given to use when we’re thinking we’re just playing this happy little tune. We’re actually, we have the power to rattle the nerves of the enemy and let him know this city is ours, we get to take this, God’s going to win this. And this is your battle. This is the battle cry for that.

So that’s who we are as musicians, and if we’re not taking that responsibility seriously, like do you think those trumpet players marching around Jericho had never picked up a horn, or haven’t weren’t prepared for that?

Know Your Role

So I think that this whole conversation for me starts with recognizing the role we have as musicians and not subjugating it just to some side thing that adds sparkle to a worship service, or to a church morning service, or just welcomes people in, or just is something of them finish their coffee to. What we do is incredibly meaningful in the kingdom. God makes that very clear in scripture in how he uses music, and so we have to embrace that. When we start to embrace that, it becomes a little less easy for us to just show up Sunday without having touched our horn all week.

I do like to set the table with that, because that for me, if I’m working with a worship team, I want that to be that starting point. Non of this matters if you don’t recognize who you are right now in the kingdom. I have mostly harsh words for leaders because I feel like we often let ourselves go being unchallenged, and I think a lot of the issues or the problems that worship teams face stem from leadership. So I love addressing leaders because I think that’s where the change happens.

So when you say to go in and part that role or that type of spiritual significance, that is our job as leaders, is we need to impart that onto our teams. We need to set the bar for improving on our instruments. We need to be the ones showing up on time. We need to be the ones who are organized. We need to be the top of the mark on all of these areas, if we are in leadership, and that’s where I would challenge any leader. It’s like those, you’ve got to be questioning yourself on all of these things constantly.

Dwayne Moore: Well that was a powerful, clarion call from Tony Guerrero, to us as worship leaders, those of us who lead others in worship each week. We will have Tony back again, next week in our podcast to challenge us again as leaders of worship. Thank you for joining us today for the Worship Q & A podcast. If you want us to answer a question that you have, please submit your question at office@nextlevelworship.com. Have a great week. Thanks.


1 Comment

  • Gwyneth Nakwamba Kaseke

    The battle cry! Wow! So help me God!

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