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Over the past several decades worship music has changed
dramatically. Contemporary Worship sounds more like secular Rock
music than songs from a hymnal, and if one were to ignore the words
and the heart behind them, one could easily argue that it is.
But, worship was never intended to be an argument about style, but rather
an expression of thankfulness and gratitude for God's sovereignty
and grace. Some of us find Christian radio to be a contrived, cookie
cutter experience, while others find fault with 'going off the page'
in free worship. Chances are, the vast majority of the songs at
either end of the spectrum started off as an expression of someone's
personal time in worship that grew into something that others could
join in and sing corporately.
Bethel member Cory
been on top of Billboard's CCM charts for months with "Restless
One of our favorite things about interviewing worship leaders from
movements like Bethel Music, is that we get a chance to share
their revelation of who Jesus is to them. This revelation is what
resonates in the songs that they sing and record, and in turn what
draws worship leaders the world over to sing these songs with their
congregations. If I had to use one word to describe Bethel Music, it
would be faithful. They have been faithful with what God has given
them, and through that faithfulness, their songs of worship have
spoken to a generation of believers who are hungry for Jesus.
Regardless of whether free or spontaneous worship is 'your thing,' I
encourage you to explore this interview looking for 'golden threads'
that will hopefully allow you and your team to dig a little deeper
as we all seek to know His face that much better.
You have 1.2
million YouTube subscribers, which is a strong indicator of how many
people are resonating with your expressions of worship. As I toggled
between videos for songs like "Every Be" and the extended
times of spontaneous worship on Moments: Mighty Sound, I was
struck by how much these seemingly different atmospheres were
actually quite alike. The bridge in "You Make Me Brave"
almost feels like free worship in the way it builds and build and
builds. How much do you think songs like that are the expression or
culmination of what happens in times of free worship?
Heiligenthanl] I think the birthplace of these songs and
spontaneous moments start to blend together. A lot of songs have
come from spontaneous moments that felt like they really worked and
resonated with people. We take those moments back with us and will
explore writing that out and finding other parts for it. Sometimes
you bring it back into that same spontaneous moment and see if maybe
another part of the song could be birthed out of it.
A lot of it comes from the writing style, but you also never want to
create in a vacuum. What we're trying to do is to partner and pair a
corporate expression with what God's doing.
[Steffany Gretzinger] Hopefully our songs get deeper and deeper,
and more worshipful as we grow with God. That process of going
deeper will look and sound a hundred different ways - there's no
formula for it. Over the course of our walks with God, I think we
could all go back to songs that have been forgettable. Without
judging the heart behind them, they seem to have been written with
the intent of seeing how many people could sing them. Something
happens when someone has engaged in worship and broken their heart
open before the Lord writes and develops a song from that place.
When people crack themselves open like Mary broke open the jar of perfume
for Jesus, those are the worship songs that cost the writer
something to bring forth. Only the Lord will ever know that, but in
a corporate setting we feel the weight of that cost, even if we
don't necessarily know what the story behind it was.
[Amanda Cook] I feel like a lot of the songs that we end up
writing actually come out of the last song that someone else wrote.
Someone else's song will grab hold of me, like "Great Are You,
Lord". It's an anthem for my whole life, and I can't get away
from it - and I don't want to! That song is a springboard to
hundreds of other songs and moments. I get immersed in the spirit of
it, and it's like an infinite field of possibility that I can launch
into when I'm connected so deeply into a certain sound.
a producer creates a defining album for an artist, and everything
after that is defined by that record. Are you saying that, in some
ways, an individual song takes you someplace as a worship leader and
artist that you wouldn't have been able to go without that vehicle?
[Amanda] Totally! Yes, it definitely does, but I think we need
to be careful about just writing what works, or copying the last
thing that went really well. We can get stuck and build a monument
there, and then miss out on the moment we're in right now. I think
of all of these movements, songwriters, and leaders all around the
world who I look up to and respect - they have given me language for
certain areas of my heart that I wouldn't have found language for if
they had not done the work of excavating it, paying attention to
their season, and being obedient with their own prayer life.
I feel like we're all a part of this experience where we're all
discovering and exploring. We all see in part, and we're all
discovering different facets about the nature of God. We get to
write ourselves into the story, and we get to turn the pages for one
another and invite the next person to write the next page. It opens
up new frontiers set to language.
One of the reasons we were so excited about Moments: Mighty Sound
is the 'big reveal' it provides in terms of how you open up
arrangements for songs like "Spirit Move," "Reckless Love,"
While we love resources like Multitracks.com, the sonic benefits
sometimes obscure the fact that some teams rely upon them as their
'roadmap for worship'. In our experience, many senior pastors want
their worship team to be able to open things up a bit, whether it is
behind announcements, prayer, and free/ spontaneous worship. This
release is a great reminder that worship leaders can do more than
just sing set arrangements
from top to bottom.
What are your thoughts about all of that?
[Steffany] I think the language is changing. Worship leaders, as
we've known them in the past, have been more like song leaders for
the church. We sing the songs, but is that actually worship leading?
You'll hear Jenn say something like, "Let's sing off the page,"
because that's exactly what it is. Bethel Music is moving back to
that, and I think people are hungry for more than a song that
someone else wrote for them to sing. I think that they are longing
to engage and to actually be led in worship.
We're all just finding it together. This is the core of who we are. We
started out being all about spontaneous moments, and then it swung
to the other side a bit. Coming back again and remembering what our
DNA is, this is actually what God entrusted us with, and what the
Lord trusts most about us -- that we would wait and not be afraid to
be still and quiet. We don't have to fill everything with words. We
can go a little bit deeper, and take the risk to see if there's
anything else there, and to see if He wants to do something else. If
He does, then we stay and we wait. If He doesn't, then we pull back
or we move to another song.
[Amanda] The whole act of recording something is to capture
something that feels true and authentic in its essence. I love all
of the other stuff that we get to do, and there's a part of me that
really loves the studio and being in a creative mode where you're
tinkering and focusing in on details and ironing things out, but
there's something that happens in a moment, with a room full of
people, that will never happen again.
Making this album wasn't as much about recreating something as it was
about just capturing what actually happened. When I listen back, I
love the imperfection and the honesty of it. I love the untamed
things that you can hear when we were singing off the mic. We didn't
take those things out. To me, it enhances the beauty of the point,
which was to capture the essence of what truly happens in a room
when people come together to worship. It moves me to listen back and
remember the moment that was happening.
[Kalley] It's always been in our DNA to write songs and to find
what God is saying in the written word. We've had a value for one
end of the spectrum, which would be to develop songs that churches
can take and use for their setting. But very deep in our DNA has
been to run after the spontaneous. To start with a song and view it
as a springboard. There comes a feeling like, "We've been in this
set for a little while, and I think that behind there, somewhere,
there might be something waiting. If we were to just step out of the
map and take a risk, there might be something on the other side."
That was one of the things that drew me to Bethel in the first place,
eight years ago. It was the idea of chasing after the presence of
God and discovering what He is saying, here and now.
While itís not a 'set in stone' kind of thing,
I love the heart behind the phrase,
You can't take the congregation someplace you haven't been
yourself." In the song story video for "Pieces," Steffany
mentioned something I've heard Paul Baloche talk about - singing
scripture. "Steeped in the Word" is the phrase that frequently comes
to mind when I think of your worship. It's like your hunger for the
Word is so strong that it can't help but pour out when you sing. In
the busyness of the times we live in, what are some practical steps
that people can take to get to that place?
[Kalley] That's a great question. In a song like "Spirit
Move," for example, it opens up with a spontaneous moment, and
there is scripture throughout. A lot of where that came from is just
the cry of my heart, recognizing the times when I've needed the Lord
to come through. Whether it has been a circumstance in my life that
surpassed what I could do in my own efforts, or just the hunger of,
"God, I would always rather do this with You than alone."
I'd always rather have Your presence with me, hear Your opinion, and
shape my life around that than just try and figure it out on my
own." Proverbs 3:5-6 comes to mind, where it talks about not leaning
on our own understanding, but trusting in the Lord with all of our
Bill Johnson once said, "You know there's something wrong with
children when they're not hungry. It's an indicator that they're
sick, or something in their system isn't what it should be. Their
natural state is to want to eat." Spiritually, we're made the same
way. There's something wrong with us if we don't want to feast, or
if we're not hungry. We need to come back to God and ask, "Lord, how
do I get my hunger back?"
Bill always says, "You start eating to become hungry." You feast on God's
faithfulness, and in community, and in talking about Him and hearing
other peoples' testimonies, and on His Word.
I think it becomes a daily shaping of our lives that is more about
overflow than it is about spontaneous. It's recognizing a hunger, a
desire, and a need for God. When that is in the room you can easily
put language to it because you are working at keeping yourself in
that place of hunger and dependency, day in and day out. You're not
just desiring for God to come be your savior, but to have a
friendship with Him and a communion with Him.
[Steffany] I think that's the biggest thing I'm trying to get to -
staying connected. Not finding my connection once I get to that
place of leading worship. There's no shame or judgment in any of
this, because I've been in lots of different places in my worship
leading. When I was younger, I would come in and not be sure of what
I was looking for or where we were going. We would sing until we
found something. That still happens sometimes, but the hope is that
we don't wait until we are there to get connected.
We've stayed connected and we come in continuing the open conversation.
That becomes how you so easily tap into the presence of God during
It really is simple, and it's supposed to be. When you try too hard, it
feels awkward for everyone in the room. I've been there. We've all
been there, where we tried to push something and make it happen.
That's just a part of learning, a part of growing in maturity,
wisdom, and favor with God and with man. It's about learning that
your power is in your position, not your push.
Like young worship leaders who learn that they don't have to scream to be
powerful. You learn that when you're already connected, you don't
need to shout when you're already that close. There's a moment for
shouting, and there's a moment for just breathing. And neither are
more or less powerful than the other.
[Amanda] I love the word 'practical' because it truly is about
practice. When you learn an instrument, you practice, and you fail.
It takes years and years to learn how to return to the well. With
spiritual practice, we tend to exalt the scripture about going from
"glory to glory" and we don't know what to do with that tiny little
word in the middle - "to". We spend a lot of our lives in-between
the glorious moments.
One of my friends sent me an encouragement the other day from the
scripture passage about Elijah, and how he was listening for the
voice of God. He was looking to all of these grand displays of
power, but then we get to the scripture about how God spoke to him
in a still, small voice. The original text actually says that Elijah
heard God in the sound of sheer silence. For me, that was deeply
healing - He is tending to my minuscule needs in the still moments.
Gratitude is something that takes daily practice too. I have a gratitude
journal that sends me a prompt on my phone to take time to be
grateful. Things like, "What are three things you're thankful for
this morning?" It sends me daily affirmations, and then at night,
too, it helps to set my heart on the right thing. It sets my heart
in the path of the miraculous presence of God and opens my eyes and
awareness to that. It awakens me to the fact that it's always
How much of your personal worship time
at home translates into what you do
in times of free worship?
[Steffany] All of it - it's everything, and it's changed with
every season of my life. When I was a teenager, I could go lock
myself in my room for eight hours and just bury myself in my bible
and have these beautiful worship moments as I just laid there. I
built some serious history with God there, and I gained some
But it grew into something else. I got married, and I would cry with the
Lord and say, "How am I going to have time for You now?" and the
Lord would say, "This is a new season, and our love is deeper. It's
going to look different now, and that's okay." And the season
changed again when I became a mom, and the Lord said, "If you seek
with me all your heart, I will be found by you. You will find Me in
everything. I'm in every moment."
It's about shifting your awareness to realize that He is Emmanuel. He is
God with Us. You can't turn out a light that's shining from the
inside. He is ever-present, and in every fiber of our being. It was
about shifting my attention, and He said to me, "You don't have to
reach for Me, I'm right here!"
My idea of worship was so connected to what I had experienced in church,
or even to sit down around a piano, or a moment like that where I
felt moved to worship. And now, worship is in every breath. It's an
open conversation, and it's changed everything. It's also calmed me
down, internally, to where I'm not self-important, like I was when I
was a teenager. When we mature in God, we realize that worship
doesn't always look like a roaring room full of people, and our
worship should look different when we're not in that room. It
shouldn't look the same.
I don't share intimacy with my husband outside of my house - that would
be weird! There should be something sacred that is between us and
the Lord that doesn't happen in corporate worship. When I catch
Stephen's eyes across a crowded room of people, there's something
between us that only we know.
And it's like that with God. When we step into a corporate place, if
everyone has met with God before they come and has their own history
with Him, and they can catch His eye and press into that place, what
can happen in that room is unstoppable because they came in
[Amanda] It's all connected, How we live is really our display of
devotion, more than the markers -- and the markers are amazing! They
are for remembrance and for us to be revived. There's a resurgence
that happens when we gather together and have an assembly of people.
We all share testimony and sing together, and there's something
powerful that will always happen in that environment.
But I think that translates to the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. The
lives that we lead is the worship that will be remembered, more than
the songs that any of us write.
[Kalley] It translates quite a bit. I did a song back on
Starlight called "I See the Light," and that was birthed
out of a time where I was just sitting after singing through a song
on the album where I felt like I had more to say. So, I sat there at
my piano and I began to just sing out my story, and that's where
that came from. Sometimes though, you forget about it, and then you
find yourself in a worship set, while you're not trying to make
anything happen or to create anything, and it mentally comes back.
You remember that moment you had with God, and you think to
yourself, "Why don't you try it out here? That might relate and be
for more than just you."
And then you have that to give. I'm not an accomplished musician, but I
do carve out time to worship, in the traditional sense. I really
value and prioritize being in corporate worship where I am not
leading. It's so essential. I can't always be the leader. I have to
know how to be led, I have to know how to receive. That becomes a
lot of where that happens for me, as well as my time alone with the
I would say though that, for me, I really love the Word. A lot of my
worship is in the reading. It's also in relationship with people,
where I'm running with them and we have a hunger that we stoke in
one another. A lot of that informs what happens in the spontaneous.
There are lots of churches who don't do free worship or lead out in
the spirit for a variety of reasons. For those who are curious about
it, can you share where opening up time for free worship allows you
to go in a service that traditional song arrangements don't?
[Amanda] Everything has its place. I don't think that God is
boxed in by anything. The Father kneels down and gets on our level
and has a conversation with us, just like a good father would have
with a child. It's for the purpose of expanding our world-view.
Worship is never about whether the spontaneous moments are
Anytime we get together and want to sing to God and sing about His
goodness, promises, and faithfulness, He is always there. He's not
confined by our services. I've watched services that are planned and
plotted out to the second, and I've been deeply moved and impacted
by them. It's about looking for the golden thread of wherever that
particular expression of people are finding life, and what they're
finding in God.
There are communities that are more centered around contemplative prayer,
and I think there is so much life in that, too. There are places
that won't necessarily focus on the same kind of expression that we
use, but that doesn't mean that they're not expressing their
God-given ability to understand, share, and participate with what
God is doing in the earth.
As far as spontaneous worship is concerned, I think that when we learn
about the exchange and the continual communion with God, then
spontaneous worship is simply born out of that. When I'm with a good
friend, the spontaneity flows. We talk with each other, and we
express things to each other, we thank each other, and we have a
conversation. When I'm in healthy communion with a friend, it just
flows. It's not contrived and I don't have to try to make it happen,
it just happens.
When we teach community, the point is communion. It's going to look
different for each person because we're all different, but it's more
about communion with God than it is about spontaneity. Anytime the
pressure is put on being spontaneous, it actually closes it up. When
it's just about communion, receiving and hearing from God, and then
responding, that's just a natural friendship. That's natural family.
That's like walking into someone's home and going to the fridge, and
just being a part of the family flow.
To me, that's where spontaneous worship is born from. If I haven't
communed in a long time, then there is an awkward re-introduction.
But if the point is communion and connection, then the spontaneous
worship, while taking many different forms, will flow from a heart
of abundance and gratitude.
[Kalley] It's about yielding, having flexibility and being aware
that maybe God wants to do something apart from our plan. What if He
did have a change of plan, or want to show up differently? Am I
actively building a place for Him to do that? When we surrender to
Him, those are the best times. He always has a better sense than we
do of who is in the room and of what could happen. I want to live a
life that is yielded, and I don't want to turn that off in a worship
By nature, songs are prophetic. Our voices are prophetic. God wants to
use all of it. I love to yield to what God wants to do. I'm always
asking, "God, are we finished yet? This is Your service. These are
Your people. I get the honor of being a part of it, but this isn't
my idea, it's Yours."
For me, it's about yielding, and checking in at certain moments when you
feel like something might be rising up. You feel like maybe we
should just wait here, maybe we should just give it four bars. And
you don't even always have to sing something. If you're not used to
it, maybe you go back into the bridge when maybe you would have just
normally stuck to the arrangement.
What are some suggestions for churches who want to open things up,
but don't know where to start, and also want to be sure they're
ready to do it
once they step into it?
Pastoring people through the process is the best advice I have. It
gives the people freedom to ask questions. For people who are just
in the beginning stages of this, it needs to be an open
conversation. It helps so much! It's actually very simple to step
people through the process. Some will still be nervous, and some
will still be skeptical.
It's going to take them getting in the water to feel it out. And some may
still not get it. But what I do know is that we will find what we
are looking for. If we are looking for God, He will be found by us.
If we're looking to be critical, then we'll find a reason to reject
it. We will always find what we are looking for, deep in our hearts.
For churches who are wanting to get their feet wet, a great place to
start is for the teams to really connect with their pastors, and let
them know that they are wanting to take things to a deeper place,
but that you want to make sure the people are coming too.
The truth is that a little teaching goes a very long way. You don't
burst into a prophetic moment with people who don't understand it.
You pastor them through the moment. In trying to make this
transition, if we're not careful, one of the things that we can get
caught up in is trying to pastor the Presence, rather than pastoring
the people through the moment. Jesus does not need our pastoring. He
is the Good Shepherd. He will not lead us where He is not, and where
He won't be.
It always helps when your pastor will do a series on worship. It gets the
people prepared, and they feel like they can confidently sign up for
what is coming. And it gives them scriptural context, because it's
everywhere in scripture. People have to find their own expression.
We have to be clear that what we do at Bethel is just one expression, and
other churches have their own expression. Maybe what we've
cultivated at Bethel will help you. Learning from other people is a
part of good growth.
To get your feet wet, I would say to try a song and then take a couple of
minutes to go off the page. Speak to the people and say, "This is
what we're going to try, just for a few minutes. This is why we're
going to do it." Tell them that we're going to take a little trip
there, and then we're going to come back. Let them get their feet
wet and know that the water is fine, and it's a good place to be.
maybe next time they'll go knee-deep. It's like in Ezekiel 47, where
he describes being led deeper and deeper into the water. I feel like
that's what the Lord calls us to. He's not a Father who just throws
us in and says, "Swim!" No, He leads us into it, and He walks with
us and lets us get used to the way it feels as we get deeper.
That's really descriptive, but I think it's also just about keeping
things simple. It's easy for people with lots of charisma to feel
like, "We need two hours! We just need freedom, and more time with
the Presence of God!" But the God that I know can do anything He
wants to in just a moment. He doesn't need two hours to move. Don't
despise the two or three minutes where you take a risk. Then, as you
build trust with the Lord and with each other, you have that much
more space. Maybe it turns into two hours of worship. But make sure
that everybody knows that you're going there together.
[Amanda] I was a part of the House of Prayer for several years,
and one of the things that we would do is play a song that we knew
really well, and we would take our time with it. Then, we would stay
on that chord progression and, with our bibles in front of us, we
would sing simple phrases and songs. It gave us direct access to
language that we could all rally around. It actually flexes that
creative muscle, and it brings everyone along with you. We've all
been in services where someone has gone off on a really long,
blissful moment, and the rest of the room was left behind. The goal
is to take everyone with us and to create an experience for all of
us to share in together.
Paul Young said, "In a healthy family, the family moves at the
pace of the slowest person." We have to keep that in mind too. We
have to be sensitive to the person in the back who negotiated a
really hard week just to come to church, and it's all they can do to
just sit there. Their "yes" is just the fact that they showed up. We
need to keep that in mind, with compassion. There is always a
starting point. Just start right where you are, and where your
I think that having a clear vision of communion and connection with God
is important, and to understand what that means. If we understand
the reason why, then we will practice it. It's like when I was
learning piano. For the first few years I would listen to music that
I wanted to play, and then I had to practice to get there. It didn't
just happen overnight. I had to return to the simple things that I
knew and practice them. Sometimes we want to fast track it, but the
beauty can be in the one note that you learn how to play delicately,
or with fervor.
[Kalley] I really try and take the pressure off of leaders and
teams when I talk about it. Maybe when you finish a song, just loop
on the chorus chords and go through the progression a few times. Let
the band know what you're going to do, and that you're not going to
throw them off the deep end, and maybe just try singing the word
"Alleluia" over the progression. Maybe just try some "ooo's" over
it. And then maybe you wrap it up and you say, "We tried something
new. We did it"
And then maybe the next time you give a little bit more space. But it's
about exploring together and taking the pressure off to try and make
something happen. Just be yielded and leave room for God. It doesn't
have to be perfect. That's when it becomes a performance. Just give
it a shot.
Sometimes an album like the Moments album will come out, or you'll
see YouTube clips of a worship gathering, and it can be easy to
think that either you have it, or you don't. I see how it comes out
of Steff and Amanda, but I'm still waiting for that. That's not what
it sounds like when it comes out of me! But it's really not like
We all just have to start somewhere, and it's going to sound like us.
We're worshiping a living, eternal God, and in my experience, it's
always going to feel a little clunky. That's not a disqualification,
it's just a part of it. I like to encourage people that if it looks
like we (at Bethel) have it all together, we don't! If it looks like
we know everything that we're doing and we know it's going to land
and be perfect, we don't! For every "Spirit Move" on the
Moments album that you see, I have so many songs that didn't go
that way! You just gotta try, and have a lot of grace for yourself
and for your team for trying something new.
Do you keep a click going when you break into times of free worship?
Yes! Most of the time. The guys that I play all of the time are like
family at this point. We travel together and we play at home
together, and they know when to turn it off for me. I have signals
that I give them when we're going into a new, creative space. If I
feel like we're going to stay in one place, they'll leave the click
in for me.
But sometimes I'll give them the signal that we're going to create and
try something new, and they'll turn it off for me. It helps to feel
like we're taking a breath and we're starting fresh. Then, when we
find a flow, they'll put it back in for me.
I love the click. I didn't know that a lot of singers don't like it, but
I feel like everyone should have it in their ears. It changes
everything and keeps you so connected to the band. I want to feel
that connection. What they're doing is so prophetic and powerful.
You'll see me turn around, or make eye contact with various singers
and musicians on stage, and that's because we're going somewhere
together. It seems nuts, but we'll just stare at each other in the
face, and it feels holy. It's like I can see the Spirit of God in
them, and I can see them tapping in to it, and we can celebrate that
Are there specific terms or phrases you use to describe the specific
things that happen during spontaneous worship. If so, what are they
and what do they mean to you?
A common term that we use is "breathe," and just letting things
breathe a little bit. What if, sonically, we just let things
breathe? Maybe bring things down a little bit and just see what
might be created. We use a lot of language about just pausing and
playing around and explore. We try to keep things light and simple
and fun. We like to just explore and see what happens.
There are times where you feel something rising in the room, and then
it's not time to breathe, it's time to charge at something.
Sometimes, deep inside, you feel that people want to give something.
If we build this thing, and then give people permission, there can
be an exploding that happens from the inside. People want to praise,
and they want it to look more like shouts than quiet.
There's less terminology that happens in the moment because we're not
talking to each other during the song, but maybe just a fist pump to
the team like, "Let's go! Let's gallop! Let's charge it!"
I guess we don't always unpack it, but there can definitely be times to
just give voice to something, whether it's pausing to let the moment
breathe, or charging at something, or pushing through. A term that I
use for that is, "giving past convenience." In other words, pushing
past comfort. I'll give people the reminder that this is an offering
and a sacrifice. If you feel uncomfortable, then that's an offering.
[Amanda] Over the past few years I've spent a lot of time singing
about the breath of God, and returning to the breath. I try to stay
true to my season and singing out my season. The phrases I use may
be a part of the things that I read, or study. Like, learning how to
breathe, how to take a deep breath. I've done anxious worship for a
long time, which I believe in because I believe in taking all of
myself to God, all of the time, which includes all of my anxiety.
But then, there are moments where my propensity towards finding answers,
or even just reading gets set aside. The other day I was reading,
and I felt the Holy Spirit telling me to put the book aside and to
just go lay in the grass. The point was that my anxiety was
searching for answers, and the Holy Spirit was telling me to find
peace first, and to just commune with Him. He told me to lay in the
grass and let myself be tended to by the sun, and then come back to
my search for answers.
I think it's personal to everyone. Every worship leader has a different
assignment on this earth. There's language that we all rally around
that is beautiful, and it works. And then there are intensely
personal seasons that we go through, and we use those to remind
ourselves, both in front of people and privately, to return to the
breath. You have to sing it over your own life just as much as you
sing it over everyone else.
Kalley, I've noticed that there are times you keep your eyes closed
while leading worship. I've heard senior pastors ask worship leaders
to keep their eyes open so it doesn't feel too introspective.
While I understand that perspective, you don't seem to be losing
connection with the congregation when this happens.
Can you put into words some of the things that happen in the moments
close your eyes?
We stand in the midst of this beautiful tension. We are leading
people, and we are listening to God. There are moments when I go
into spontaneous worship where they feel like they're not the same
thing. I have to choose, in that moment, how to navigate that
For me, I need to focus. If I feel like something is rising up, like
there's something off the page that we need to explore, sometimes I
will close my eyes to try and focus and tap into that. Pastorally, I
am aware that people are waiting on me and that I'm holding
leadership at that moment, but I also know that God is saying
something and doing something, and if we chase that it could
actually serve people so much better than just my plan.
So, sometimes I close my eyes just to focus in on what God is saying. It
can help put blinders on to some of the distractions and help me to
zero in on what He's saying. But, almost always, once I've get that
thing out and I've heard from God, when I feel like I've found it,
then I'll open my eyes, because I love taking it in and having that
communion with people as we go somewhere together.
Steffany, just as Michael Pope has become the 'face of guitar' for
Bethel Music, when I think of the spontaneous worship there, you're
the one that comes to mind first.
In watching the various videos, it is pretty clear that you find
tremendous freedom when you lead worship. Can you tell us about your
journey as a worship leader and how Bethel has impacted that?
I was in a little Nazarene church where revival broke out, and I was
completely rocked, forever. The environments that I grew up in were
relatively formal, so the Steffany that you see now is quite a shock
to the system. That's part of the beauty of it! The people who have
known me my whole life have watched me grow in depth, and the deeper
it gets, the wilder I get! It requires me to give myself more!
I came to Bethel to get something. I knew I needed to come here and that
there was something for me. But I also came to bring something. I
knew I had something to give. And that's because of my history with
God. That's because my parents said, "Okay. We know what you'll get,
but what are you taking with you?"
Michael Pope! What he does goes so much deeper than just playing
guitar. In addition to his role as a Music Director, he also creates
these amazing guitar melodic sequences that carry more weight than
just a traditional 'guitar part'.
Can you give us your insights into what Michael brings to the team?
I love Michael, just as a human being. He is stunning and excellent!
He has given his life to his craft, and I believe he is becoming,
and will become, a chief musician like the Word talks about. He
loves what he does, and he can truly craft a melody. He and Bobby
Strand are my favorite guitar players. Their guitar lines are juicy!
Both of them will play what they are told to play, but when they get
the chance to create something, that is the best! That is when the
best juice comes out.
When a worship leader who is not a guitar player, like me, is asking them
to play something, it comes out okay. But when you give them the
freedom to create, it's amazing what comes out of them, and we all
kind of just freak out. The truth is that if we give them space and
room to create, and we cover them, they are equally as prophetic as
we are. They will go there if we teach them and then let them go
there, and what comes out is stunning. When we make them just play
everything that we tell them to, they will never develop that.
Michael is a part of the crew that has helped to develop that idea,
rather than just playing songs. That's why you feel that about him.
[Kalley] I'm so glad that you asked this! Moments could not
have happened if we did not have the confidence of a band of people
who in excellence and skill could support going off the map, and
have hearts where they won't stand in judgment or have a critical
spirit of the direction the worship leader is going. I only feel
support and encouragement from the band. Their attitude is always,
"We've got your back, even though we don't know what this is going
to be like! If it's amazing, we'll all go together, and if it isn't,
let's all go down together."
There is no way that, emotionally, I would feel safe to explore those
things in the same way if I didn't know that I have a full band of
people behind me who are ready to make that happen. I get to soar on
top of something.
I feel like this Moments album is a celebration of our teams, more
than anything. It's a celebration of the musicians who, so artfully
and with so much excellence, listen to heaven and put notes on it,
and we get to join in with them. I love this album because it shows
the partnership and dependence that we have on incredible musicians
who show up and serve whatever is needed in the moment with humility
Steffany, in a video Amanda posted on her Instagram feed you're
doing a vocal warmup singing major triads, ascending in increments
of half-steps. How extensive is your knowledge of theory, and how
deep does your musicianship go?
I know that those are major triads, and they are half-steps, but I
don't ever use the language. I grew up in a musical household, but
my knowledge and my ability to teach it are two very different
things. It's not the thing that I have studied so that I can stand
in front of you and teach music theory. But my ears do hear the
changes, like when people are singing harmonies using notes that
don't belong in the chord - it makes me banana-cakes!
I have good internal rhythm, and I always have a click in my ears. I feel
and hear the music very clearly, and if you're talking to me about
music theory, most of the time I will know what you're talking
about. There are a few things that are above my pay grade! But I've
actually been going back and learning more than I did when I was
younger. My mom was an incredible musician, but I became a little
lazy. Vocally, I learned a lot over the years. Voice was my main
instrument. So, my music theory isn't as strong as I would like it
to be, but I am still growing in my learning so that I can speak the
Style! Many, if not most, worship leaders are passionate about
cultivating the unique voice God has given them. What are some of
the things you've done to develop your sound as worship leaders on a
practical level in terms of technique, as well as finding your own
In a beautiful way, we're always going to reflect the people who
have changed our lives. As far as music goes, my influences are from
mainstream as well as the church. If I were to list off all of the
people that have affected me and influence my sound, it would make
sense to you, you would be able to hear that bit of a sound in my
It's like a baby who learns by mimicking sounds and repeating what they
hear until they can speak for themselves. Then, they grow up and
find their own voice, make their own sounds, and try out their own
language. It's been like that for me in worship. When I got to the
place where I didn't actually need to sound like someone else to
feel safe or confident, then I started expanding and growing.
There's something beautiful about the sound of all of us singing
with one voice, and no one needing to take the lead.
That's my dream, as a worship leader, that I could lead the people to a
place where I completely disappear, and with one voice they just
take over, find their own song, and lead themselves in worship.
That's my 'heaven' as a worship leader. I hope I'm out of a job soon
- that's my hope!
[Kalley] Bethel Music has provided vocal lessons for us, which is
just amazing! We're talking about upkeep on an instrument, and we
want to steward that really well and bring the best that we have.
Sometimes you have to be really humble and recognize that just
because you can sing doesn't mean that you're singing it right,
technically. That has been something that Bethel has invested into
us, which I so appreciate.
As far as finding your own voice, I always find that people are more
insecure about that than they might even let on. For me, I hated the
sound of my voice. I knew I had a message, but it felt like a
vehicle where I was just asking people to ignore the rust and trust
that I would get them somewhere. I had all of these different ways
where I wanted to make it feel okay and not be so insecure, so I
began to negotiate with the Lord, maybe if I heard from three people
that they liked it, then I would change my mind. Or maybe if Brian
and Jenn said that they liked my voice, then certainly I would like
my voice too.
One day the Lord interrupted me and said, "You know, you never asked Me
what I think about your voice." And I felt like, "Wow!" I had been
searching everywhere, high and low, for affirmation, and I had never
asked Him. So, I closed my eyes, and He began to speak to me about
my voice and about what it does. He told me about how angels start
spinning when they hear my voice, and about how heaven and earth
shakes, and how the Northern Lights begin to dance, and all of these
things that I never would have thought about myself.
I heard the Lord's perspective: He gave me my voice, and I don't get to
sit and critique it. It's a gift from God and He's proud of it, so
who am I to stand in judgment of a good thing that God made. I
needed to apologize, and I told Him, "God, I've been ashamed for not
sounding more like (insert favorite worship leader name here), but
You gave me, and only me, my voice, and I need to own that."
I began to realize, as He told me what my voice did, He didn't speak at
all to what anyone thought of it or whether anyone liked it. Maybe
it doesn't matter what everyone else thinks. Maybe there's more of a
purpose than everybody approving of you. I try to carry that now,
not in an arrogant way, and I'm not just trying to disregard
He gave me a good gift when He gave me my voice. I need to have the
humility to say, "God, You did a good job when you made me, and I'm
going to use my voice and make it the best that I can make it."
[Amanda] I think we're always growing. There are certain things,
for me, that I return to. The piano, in particular, is something I
always come back to. If nothing else makes sense, and I get too
crowded in my head and get too analytical, or just second-guess
myself, I just go to the piano and play. I play until I feel
grounded and connected again. There's something that happens with
that instrument that doesn't happen with anything else.
All of us have a history of the way that we discover, go after, and
pursue God. It's our own way, and our own language and
understanding. We let Him into our understanding to expand it. That
practice will follow us through our lives. I just want to be
attentive to the season that I'm in, and to pay attention to it and
capture it and write it down. And I want to share it and be as
authentic and vulnerable as I can be. As I grow in that, it will be
even more true. Styles change, trends change, sounds change, and I
don't want to just get stuck in one thing. There will always be
things that speak to you and move you, like strings and horns and
classical music for me. But I think that styles are meant to serve
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(from Reckless Love)
The solo debut from
Bethel Music's Cory Asbury
showcases the young songwriter's strong original compositions with
ten powerful expressions of praise. Reckless
"Water And Dust," "Only Takes A Moment,"
the title track, and others.
Moments: Mighty Sound is our first spontaneous album captured live at Bethel Church. This full-length album features powerful songs accompanied with moments of raw and unfiltered worship. This project captures the essence of our worship and the cry of a people hungry for God's world to invade ours.
Bethel Music's Steffany Gretzinger offers the anticipated follow-up to her critically acclaimed 2014 debut. Blackout overflows with rich, cinematic soundscapes and reflective moments of worship, celebrating the inner peace of a life devoted to Christ. Titles include "Save Me," "All That Lives Forever," "This Is The Sound," and more.
Bethel Music Kids
Bright Ones is the growing kids' musical ministry of California's Bethel Church. Originating as Bethel Kids, the group is now comprised of teens 12-16 looking to share the good news of Christ's kingdom. This thirteen track set features new versions of Bethel originals alongside fresh new songs, including "Get Your Hopes Up," "You're Gonna Be OK," "He Loves Me All The Time,"
Starlight, their first full length live recording. This powerful performance features guest worship leader
"There's No Other Name,"
plus more anthems of worship with Bethel artists Jenn Johnson, Steffany Gretzinger, Amanda Cook, and others.
(We Will Not Be Shaken)
The thriving musical community at Redding, California's Bethel Church gathers for an exceptional live offering. Recorded during an evening of worship on a mountaintop overlooking Shasta Lake, We Will Not Be Shaken features eleven uplifing original songs from the collective's taented team of songwriters. Includes the hit, "No Longer Slaves."
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