What is Worship and How Does it Shape Us ?: An Interview With Scott Johnson
Worship is central to the Christian life and communion with our Creator. Scott Johnson, a new face to the relevant worship scene, has just released an album with some insightful and moving songs to move worshipers to that effect. I caught up with Scott to discuss some of his views on worship.
When did you feel called to lead people into worship and become a song writer?
It all began when I decided to lead worship in High School. When I was about 21, I started getting serious only to be sidetracked as I tried to be in a rock band. During that experience, I realized that it wasn’t my style. I moved away from that pretty quickly. Secular music never had a big grip on me. Only the sounds caught me. It seemed like they were putting out all the cool stuff and Christian music was lagging. But past that I was never interested in it. I can’t sing a love song. I don’t know what I would write about. But worship music always had a grab on me. It was a higher calling. About writing to something that was worthwhile instead of some girl who could care less about you in week or so was not for me. It was a slow process moving into where I am at today.
You had a long history of being in worship bands. When was it that it became unequivocally clear that this is what you were called to?
Leading on Sunday main service was a huge transition. It wasn’t the High School fun thing to do and based, for me, in a selfish desire. Leading a congregation in worship and seeing the excitement that it brings to them moves me into deeper worship. But I would have to say, I knew right out of High School that ministry was something I was interested in. It was a slow combination of things that molded together.
One of the big questions that is popular to ask now and is, despite it’s popularity, an important one is “What is worship?” What is your take?
The obvious things are praising the creator of the earth, Jesus Christ/God. But it matters how we speak of worship. The cool thing in church now is to have the worship sermon that is not just about music. It’s about our daily lives. It is obviously not just the music. But since I am a worship leader, my main focus is on the music side of worship. That is a desire and calling to praise God. To cry out to God. To come back to God if it is appropriate wherever you are at in your life. And that is the time to do all those things.
What makes the medium of music that has attracted people for thousands of years so important? What makes worship through music more unique compared to other forms of worship?
It is clear that music is a gift that God has given us. I think it is very important and there is something in all of us that is moved by music. This is seen in the people walking around with their iPods in their ears. Music is really important and is a big thing that God has given us. It speaks about it in the scripture a lot. I think it is something deep. Just look around and music is a really important thing and God has given us the ability to worship him through it. Which is like a double-whammy.
So what does it look like when a group of people are worshiping genuinely through song?
One must plan for worship. For me, physical worship takes different forms all the time. There are some who are really in it all the time. One person lifts their hands. One person just stands there and singing. God has given us all different ways to worship and I think He speaks clearly of the different forms: of falling on knees when that time comes and praying prayers or clapping. I think worship is a lot of different things according to what the person is responding to.
What do you discern is the difference between modern worship and rock bands, and what about people’s reactions to them?
I think a lot of times it is a fine line on what people are doing with worship and just a rock band. I think that is a line that we definitely need to draw and encourage people to reflect upon.
What are some of the thoughts and emotions that should be going through people’s minds and hearts during worship? To often, people get caught up in the “wow, that rift was really cool?” How does “cool” music play into worship and the worshippers heart?
I think mentally it is a preparation. Praying for what God will do, whether it is in your room, in your car, or in a church—it is the same. It is preparation. We must not expect anything without preparing or one may be going in there and trying to produce something that isn’t real. They let the music be their motivation rather than the words or the biblical principles. Personally, I like focusing on the words. It is a powerful mixture between the song and the sermon. You focus on what is being said in those lyrics. And it is powerful. It is a time to remember.
Before the current approach, worship was something completely isolated from the sermon. Often you would have a chunk of random songs and then you have a sermon. That was the context in which I was raised.
Me as well
So I think most people can relate to that sort of setting, good or bad. For many, the newer approach seems odd. What is the reasoning behind worship after the sermon as opposed to exclusively before?
Worship is a way to respond. With whatever worship is geared toward, the sermon or the theme, you definitely want to make the songs work for the truth just taught. For me, I always try to choose songs that are relevant to the sermon. I try to make a pathway to reflection on the core theme. After the sermon, it is a time to reflect. To get right with God. Through worship, we physically respond to what is taught in the sermon.
You have written a few new songs in addition to putting your own take on some popular songs. For the songs you have written and the songs you are writing, how does your view of God, theology, and scripture shape your approach to the lyrics you write?
Having the Bible in the lyrics is central. You can go very deep in your lyrics but we must guard against it not transcending or going over the congregation. While theology is important, worship must be relatable as well.
You can’t sacrifice accessible worship for deep sound theology.
Very much so. When we look at hymns, they are deep, powerful, and often accessible. But not always.
What are your hopes for the album?
My goal was to bring a new sound into my community and what people don’t always get in worship. One goal is to just get my foot in the door. This is my first recording. I have many new takes on older songs as well as a few new originals. Ultimately, I want people to genuinely worship.
Thank you very much for discussing your new project Scott.
Be sure to check out Scott Johnson’s Website Scott Johnson Live. He has also made special arrangements for those wanting to download his two original songs. For the THEOLOGY21 readers, both are just one buck! A great deal I might add! Click here to purchase and download.
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