This is a guest post from Carl Albrecht. He is currently drumming for Paul Baloche and Paul Wilbur. You can connect with him on Twitter. If you have something that you’d like to share with other worshipdrummers, learn how you can contribute here.
Pro WorshipDrummers series]
It’s a great privilege to play music for the Lord. I believe musicians and singers are the gate keepers to His presence for the church and the whole earth. All believers have a call to be worshippers, but the artists have a significant role in being the leaders. We are not better people or God’s favorites. We were just made to “create a space” where we can all meet with the Lord. That’s our job, our calling. (REV. 5:10 “…You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God.” / II CHRON. 34: 12 — 13 “… The Levites — all who were skilled in playing musical instruments — had charge of the laborers and supervised all the workers from job to job.”)
I am often asked what it is I feel during a worship event. What is going on that stirs such joy and celebration, or sometimes intercession and supplication? So I will dig deep to see if I can explain the experience that is so beyond words. Help me, Lord!
The training for church musicians should be two fold. Both technical and spiritual disciplines are a must. (I CHRON. 25: 7 “…all of them trained in music for the Lord…”) So besides the hours of practice and study it takes to hone your musical skills we also need to pursue spiritual disciplines. I know for a musician this can seem like a big responsibility. You may be thinking, “Hey Carl, I just want to play drums in the band. Give me a break!” But stay with me here and I believe you’ll find something in your playing that perhaps you’ve never experienced before.
My technical training involves practicing new ideas. I buy new drum books, videos, and CDs. I go to all the drum and percussion clinics I can fit into my schedule. In fact I just started looking for a new teacher. That’s right! After 30 years of playing professionally I’m looking for someone to help me get to the next level. I like working on new grooves, new songs, and just having fun learning more about the gift the Lord has placed in me.
The spiritual studying is just as important. I’ve just finished reading Don Potter’s book called “Facing the Wall” and “God Songs” by Paul Baloche, and Jimmy & Carol Owens. One book is more about the “heart” issues of being a worshipper, the other discusses songwriting concepts. Both books and others I read stir something deep in my spirit about the calling God has on my life as a worship drummer/ musician/ priest in the house of the Lord. I continue to look for material that stirs my gifts including Bible study. You have also been “called” if you are playing for any worship event. There are no accidents in the kingdom of God. The Lord has given you an assignment.
It’s also critical to stay involved in a local church or fellowship group. Don’t just hide out at home reading the Bible. Being personally disciplined is good, but stay connected to the “body of Christ” at large. And I don’t necessarily mean “church” as we know it. There are things we only learn while in relationship to other believers. The sense of community and covering are vital in surviving the journey of life. My wife, Leann and I love being in worship services with our church family, hearing the Word of God preached, and rejoicing when the testimonies of God’s faithfulness are shared. Is the church perfect? No. And neither are we. Just find a place where the Lord plants you and flourish there. Sometimes my “artsy” friends say I’m the “church guy.” But I’ve seen too many talented people flounder because they had no “spiritual family” to help them. I know this whole idea could lead to further discussion, but let’s just say don’t be a “lone ranger.”
The spiritual life of a musician effects how they worship. If you are just playing the instrument and not pressing into the presence of God you are only doing half of the job. I personally believe if you are not pursuing the Lord like the “lead worshipper” you could be dead weight in a worship band. I know that’s strong talk, but I’ve seen it happen. Musicians and singers who don’t join the worship leader in the pursuit of God seem to wear them out. When you are pressing into the worship experience something happens. Worship leaders have said to me, “Carl, it feels like you’re pushing or compelling me to go after God deeper when you’re playing. What is that?” I’m not totally sure what that all encompasses. All I know is that I’m as desperate for the presence of God as they are.[Tweet “The spiritual life of a musician effects how they worship.”]
Before worship starts I’m praying. I talk to the Lord about what He would like to see happen. Even as I prepare my drums and music, I have my “spiritual antenna” up trying to sense what’s going on in the atmosphere. Sometimes the Lord convicts me of something and I have to repent. There are times I feel intercession rise up in me because there is a battle raging in the spirit realm. I’m also listening to the lead worshipper. How do they feel today? What do they want to accomplish in the worship time? How is the rest of the team doing? Everyone is important! So you see there is a lot happening before the music even begins.[Tweet “Even as I prepare, I have my “spiritual antenna” up trying to sense what’s going on in the atmosphere.”]
When the music starts and we’re moving towards the throne room I have a sense of being “on guard.” Yes, I’m doing the job of a musician. I’m checking the song list, checking my equipment, setting click tracks, and listening to the other musicians, but there is so much more. Don’t miss your primary purpose while attending to the mechanics of music.[Tweet “Don’t miss your primary purpose while attending to the mechanics of music.”]
As the worship continues I listen to any prayers that come forth. Maybe the worship leader pauses because they sense something from the Lord. I go there with them in my heart. I start to pray for them; pray “with” them. I’m asking the Lord to help us meet Him where He is and do as He pleases. If a pastor comes up to pray or read I stay engaged. I listen and watch carefully for anything that is stirring in the spiritual atmosphere of the meeting. What are the leaders and the other team members doing? Is something “stirring” in the congregation? Stay alert!!!
Musically I have no idea what I will do next if we’re moving beyond the song list. As I’m playing all of a sudden sounds will rise up out of me, like the groaning of the spirit in prayer. A loud cymbal crash, a thundering tom fill, or maybe a light tap of a cymbal or triangle, or… who knows … maybe I’ll just keep a steady pulsing groove moving along. It’s like I’m playing the lyrics of a song, the words of a prayer, or just undergirding what’s happening at the moment. The actual notes or technique of playing is no longer a concern. Yes, I’m “in tune” and unified with the team. I am also reaching out to the Lord and praying for His purposes to be fulfilled.
In all of these instances I’m aware of being in the presence of God and wanting the people to feel free to enter. I’m standing guard at the gates of the presence of God so the lead worshipper can take the people in with him.
That sounds pretty wild doesn’t it? Well, that’s what it “feels” like to me. Yet, my words seem so incapable of creating a complete picture. I just pray it helps you discover why the Lord made you a musician. (I SAMUEL 10: 5 — 11 “…they will be coming down from a high place with lyres, tambourines, flutes and harps … and they will be prophesying. The Spirit of the Lord will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person.”
I SAMUEL 16:23 “…David would take his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.” *emphasis by Carl*)
Stir up the gift within you as a priest in the house of the Lord and you will see the Lord honor your efforts. Of course we don’t twist God’s arm, but He desires to see us fulfill the calling He has given us. The Lord truly inhabits the praises of His people. He said He will be found when we search for Him with all of our heart. Even though I feel I know Him well I’m still searching; still reaching. “Lord, I’m desperate for You!”
Blessings to you as you reach out to Him,
Carl[This post is part of the Pro WorshipDrummers series]