Recently I was thinking about who my three greatest musical/ministry influences are. Here’s who I came up with (and the first will surprise you).
The first musician to influence my work and musicianship was, believe it or not, the Christian singer Carman. His songs were musically kitschy, his performances were over-the-top, and his theology was shaky, but he was bold, accessible, and engaging. As a very young boy, my borderline infatuation with Carman resulted in years of backyard concerts and elementary-school talent show performances of his songs. This was all used by God to do three important things: get me comfortable singing in public, teach me the power of private worship, and help me see the value of congregational engagement in worship. Later, in my teenage years, God exposed me to a broader and more mature pool of Christian musicians and worship leaders who allowed me to grow, but the foundation was laid by a childhood love for an eccentric contemporary Christian music performer (as much as this gets me teased by my friends!)
The second and most influential musician in my life was the man my father hired to be our church’s youth and worship director when I was seven years old. Tim MacGowan became a hero to me, a model of a faithful husband and committed father, a full-time minister who led with strength and humility, and an excellent musician whose goal was to see his congregation exalt and encounter God together each week. He trained me as a young musician to play skillfully and humbly and to lead worship in an accessible, not-distracting way. Beyond music, he was a mentor and a friend to me, eventually serving as my best man and continuing to this day as one of my closest friends and continuing ministry influences.
After continuing to lead worship as much as possible throughout my teenage years, I became familiar with the ministry of Bob Kauflin. Bob had a major influence on my practice and theology of music and worship leading. His unwavering commitment to (1) the celebration and proclamation of the good news of the Gospel in corporate worship, (2) excellent musicianship, (3) the leading and ministry of the Holy Spirit as he points to Jesus, and (4) corporate worship as an act of pastoral care profoundly impacted my work and musicianship. God used Bob’s ministry to cultivate within me a deeper love for God’s glory, a theology of music and worship, and a desire to see worship leaders use music more effectively to help congregations see and savor Jesus Christ.