On Worship: An Insightful Glimpse into the Mind of Dustin Lau
If you haven’t heard of Dustin Lau, you will. His new album has not left the confines of my car speakers since his new solo album released. Clashing Indie sounds with sweeping worshipful lyrics, his songs and their lyrics stick with you. One can’t help but fall into worship while listening. Many know Dustin as one of the guitar players for Jack Hamilton whose new album topped the Itunes charts in both worship and in general only weeks ago. As a regular opener for Jesus Culture and Jeremy Camp, Dustin Lau’s music will be sure to catch your attention in the coming year.
We had the privilege of catching up with him during his very busy touring season to ask a few questions about worship.
(Jonathan Keck) This is sure to be a complicated question but what is worship?
(Dustin Lau) This has been a question I’ve had, and still wrestle with. For about 13 years I’ve been involved with leading worship. Early on I thought I had it figured out. But the more time that’s gone by, I realize I know so little. It’s not just about music. It’s not a genre that makes millions of dollars and moves millions of records every year. It’s definitely not just those 20 min on a Sunday morning that warms everyone up for the message. How could it be? If that’s the fullness of worship, the angels would have stopped singing ‘holy’ around the throne centuries ago. Over the years, worship has taken on many definitions for me. I’m still on a journey of discovering what it looks like, but today it means this—it’s a life. It’s my life before God. It’s the invasion of me into his presence, heaven into me, and a life that brings what it has and gives it to the one who created it. I love leading worship, gathering and singing songs on Sunday mornings or whenever. I love all that. But we’re missing it if we think that’s the fullness—Especially in thinking about some of the models we have in scripture, like the angels singing ‘holy’ over and over, or David dancing wild before the ark, embarrassing his wife. Yet, God calls David a man after His own heart. That’s the stuff I think about, and feel like we’ve missed the point of worship when we can barely lift our hands without feeling uncomfortable or told we’re being a distraction. As a worship leader, I’ve had to wrestle with the fear of man for sure—my ability as a musician, a singer, the song choice. Is it gonna make people ‘enter in’, which is just a more spiritual way of saying, are they going to like the song. Is it singable and familiar? Does it appeal to everyone? If we try to make everyone happy, we end up appealing to no one, because it’s not real. It’s not spirit and truth. It’s based more on man pleasing than God pleasing. I’ve come to realize that it’s not a worship leaders job to make everyone enter in, that’s the Holy Spirit’s job. The worship leader’s job, every time, is just to go somewhere worth following. The veil has already been torn…permission granted. We who are covered by the blood now have full access into the Holy Place of God, the very place we’ve been created for. And if people get too caught up on song style being a distraction, they’ve missed it. His hands are open and we’ve officially been invited to have access to Him in the beauty of holiness 24-7/365. That’s why worship for me these days is really about bringing my life…there, in that place. Even if what I got is not much at all, or full of fear or whatever, I know that I come alive when I meet Him in the beautiful place of his holiness.
(Keck) What does worship do for God?
(Lau) I think worship moves His heart in a deep way, much more than we can comprehend—especially when we choose out of our free will that which costs us. Like Mary at Jesus feet pouring out costly perfume and wiping His feet with her hair and with tears. Or David saying that he cannot offer to God that which cost him nothing. God is not so insecure that He demands worship from His ‘subjects’, but gave us a free will. And when we choose to offer Him that which costs us deeply…ourselves, we completely move His heart. When we lift our voice in singing, creating art and making music, He’s near. His throne is established there. When we choose to be with Him in worship, He is receiving the reward of all His suffering. Us.
(Keck) What does worship do for us?
(Lau) That’s a loaded question. There’s so much. Above all, it gives us the desire of our hearts which is Jesus. We meet Him in that place. It addicts us to His presence and suddenly Sundays and mid-weeks just aren’t enough. The more we taste and see, the more we want. It breaks and shapes our hearts. I’ve been physically healed in worship, and have had people come up to me and tell me that in worship they were healed. One lady I’ll never forget, when I was just starting to lead worship, came up to me in this pizza shop we were doing worship at, and told me that her ankle was sprained. And when we were singing it got completely healed. She was so shocked that she decided to return to her husband she was leaving. She was literally on the way out-of-town leaving her husband with her daughter, stopped at this pizza shop where worship was happening, got healed and returned to her husband. I think that anything is possible when we worship God. He loves it. He’s pleased and meets us in that place with all the possibilities that Heaven holds.
(Keck) One more quick question. Your single and the album itself is entitled “ridiculous mercy.” Why is it His mercy ridiculous and how does that speak to you so much so that it labels your entire solo project?
(Lau) Great question. I remember a couple of years ago sitting in my worship room at the wurly elec. piano, ready to let all that had been built up inside me out in song. I usually process the best when I’m writing stuff down in a journal or a song. My wife and I had gone through a rough season together. The community we were a part of was crumbling, to say the least. We lost tons of people who were close to us. Families that we loved were being torn apart. It’s the kind of stuff that tries your heart, for real. It was when dark things came into the light and you see who your real friends are, who actually has love and grace in their hearts for you and who won’t abandon you in your worst hour. Sitting down and processing all that had happened, the only thing I could think about was His mercy. It was the glimmer of hope for any sort of healing that could come to us and everyone around us that were being ripped apart. Mercy could be a dead cliché word until you’ve come face-to-face with it and it comes alive in you personally. The only way I could describe it was that it was ridiculous. That God actually says that it [mercy] always triumphs over judgement. That it gave us a fresh beginning and realigned our hearts with His. It’s the very thing that made us still feel validated to be His own. I remember hanging out in Hosea 6:1 & 3 a lot which says; “Come let us return to the Lord, for He has torn so that He may heal us; stricken that He may bind us up…let us know Him; let us be zealous to know the Lord. His going forth is prepared and certain as the dawn, and He will come to us as the heavy rain, as the latter rain that waters the earth.” It was mercy so ridiculously good. So I decided that that phrase summed up the whole season I was in for the past couple years, wrote a song about it and made it the album title.
(Keck) Awesome. Thank you so much for all the incredible insight and you’re heart for God and worship—not to mention some incredible music.
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