Category Archives: Interview
Mathew Reames: Let me just say it is a joy to have you for an interview. I love your music and your ministry and it is a joy to call you a friend. But let’s get down to the discussion. What have you and your wife been up to lately?
Shannon Lewis: “Other than gearing up for baby number three? Or re-booting an existing youth ministry, while launching a contemporary missional service in a 200+ year old neighbor church? Or travelling with Saint Lewis, while managing our two side businesses? It’s been a busy season – but it’s all been very good. I feel like this new birth comes along with a rebirth for us as well. Besides, I don’t like to be bored. I was also blessed to recently record our second single, “Your Will”, which is honestly been the cry of my heart of late: choosing to lay down my will, for His.”
Mathew Reames: It seems that there has been a lot of transition for you lately. What have you learned through the transitions that others might learn and grow from?
Shannon Lewis: “That no matter how much you know, you’ve still got more to learn, which is one of the reasons that I took this new position (Youth Director / Contemporary Worship Leader at 1st United Methodist Church of Brunswick) – that, and we were really feeling the call to be more missional to our neighborhood.”
Mathew Reames: Now that you are a Youth Pastor, how has your mindset of ministry changed? Do you think differently when dealing with students than you do when working with adults?
Shannon Lewis: “Not at all, actually! My last position as Associate Worship Director had me overseeing – at times – as many as 35 youth musicians, essentially acting as a Youth Pastor and Worship Pastor to a small Youth Group within a larger Youth Group. In fact, in many ways my position now is identical to what I was doing before: I teach & mentor youth to more deeply grasp the Kingdom of God, the Gospel, the worship of God, radical grace, & honor, & I lead, train, & disciple musicians, vocalists, & younger worship leaders to better serve God & His church. Saint Lewis has always been a “youthy” band, playing youth conferences, camps, retreats, & youth ministries – other than my fellow band-mates, I’m far more used to working with Middle & High Schoolers than I am adults!”
Mathew Reames: So now that you are preaching regularly, what themes have been weighing strong on your spirit?
Shannon Lewis: “The themes I personally think are most revolutionary to people today: I want to see revival hit this nation, & I think the truths that most radically are blowing people’s minds – no, blowing people’s HEARTS – right now are: the RADICAL grace of God offered us in the true Gospel; the Kingdom of God & our identity & authority as adopted children of the King; true, Biblical, God-honoring response to Him in full-orbed, heart-mind-soul-strength worship; & the person & work of the Holy Spirit – his renewing, sanctifying, empowering, strengthening work – that it “doesn’t have to be weird to be God”; the importance of honoring God & others; & that God is not only powerful enough to take care of our problems, he cares enough to do so. I’ve literally been rotating through those themes since I’ve started here, & I’m not planning on moving beyond them anytime soon… until I see real revival & reformation take place in our youth, then in our church, & our community.”
Mathew Reames: I would also love to hear from your delightful wife, is there anything she wants to say or share? Her insights on worship are often fascinating. Especially with the family she comes from, that’s like pure worship pedigree right there.
Cyle Lewis: (Cyle) “When you’ve been saturated & accustomed to the spontaneous, prophetic, free worship environments like I have, it’s very easy to think that you’ve somehow ‘got it’ – but God’s been teaching me that if I really love the Lord I should be able to recognize His moving in very different settings, from liturgical & traditional, in the silence even, to the structured, rehearsed mega-church, & every place in between. There’s nothing wrong with having a preference – the bottom line is to glorify the Lord, & to engage with Him – if you do that with a hymnal or with a flag, God’s happy with it. That’s where I am right now: finding God in those places I’ve never considered before.”
Mathew Reames: Ok, I love your insights, and could probably talk to you all day, but I think I ought to let you get back to work, life, and the kingdom of God. Any final thoughts you guys would like to share? Maybe something about beards? Or hotdogs?
Shannon Lewis: “Man, I don’t know – I guess my heart is that we be continually replacing ourselves – raising others up to do what we do hopefully better than we do. I love seeing students I once worked with going off & having an impact on the world. As I tweeted a few days back, I’m just realizing that I’m a generally happy guy because I’m able to celebrate others’ wins – I revel in others’ success. I love seeing others succeed. That’s why I love being able to do what I do – I am blessed beyond measure, right now, honestly. The Kingdom of God is not a competition – at least, if it is, we’re not the winners – the KING wins, & that’s the Gospel – the good news for EVERYONE. Jesus wins, so I don’t have to. That’s all.”
Mathew Reames: Shannon, Cyle, thank you. This has been a great insight. If you want to know more about them, check out their twitters: @saintlewis and @CyleAugusta. You can also check out their respective pages. http://www.SaintLewisMusic.com/ and http://www.cyleaugusta.com/
The Final Thought, please check out their newest single “Your Will” If bought in October all proceeds will go to song co-writer Bobby Gilles who recently lost his newborn son. Please continue to pray for Bobby and His wife as they are in the grieving process
Mathew Reames: Russ, thanks for taking time out of you busy schedule to share your heart with us. For those who don’t know Russ is a musician, graphic designer, fitness guru, and most recently a proud papa. Russ, seeing as you are a graphic artist, lets start by discussing that. You work with secular corporations as well as churches and Christians. Is there a difference in dealing with Christians and dealing with non-christians?
Russ Hutto: Thanks, Mat. I’m definitely in an exciting season of life with my firstborn son, Liam, joining our life and world this past June! That along with being a trainer at a new growing gym AND doing full-time graphic design work keeps me busy! I actually work with several firms who publish hometown living type magazines. They are all very family-oriented. That being said, I really try and work “as unto the Lord” regardless of who my employer or client is. All of my clients know that I spend a great deal of time working with the Church and from the get-go I’ve established that community as being very important to me. My goal with that is two-fold:
- they know and understand when I’m available and when I’m not.
- they understand that it’s a big part of my life!
MR: Interesting, when it comes to graphic design and digital media, what advice would you give to Christians, churches, and ministries seeking to move into the digital age?
RH: First, I’d say that looking at media, design, music, and I guess anything that would fall under the “arts” category as another mode of worship is very important. I know that some folks might not categorize tech and design like that, but I think it’s important that everyone in leadership recognizes that the visual and audio arts can be just as important a part of the offering of worship at any given gathering. Secondly, I’d say not to get caught up in “keeping up with the Jones.” Having the latest and greatest doesn’t make you a better church. Having MTV-like tech production doesn’t make you a better community. Creating an environment where people are valued and can connect with one another as they journey together in faith and worship is what it’s all about. If the media and design doesn’t support that in some way, it’s wasteful. It’s all about the Kingdom!
MR: You are more than just a graphic designer, of course you come from a family of musicians and are quite a skilled worship leader. Is there a connection between the two? What I mean is, how does your work in one area affect your work in another?
RH: I love helping create an environment with music where people can join their voices together in worship and at the same time learn and grow in their understanding of the character of our God. I especially enjoy working with folks on the fringes. By that I mean younger, less talented musicians, or even adult musicians who aren’t quite as experienced. My official “role” at St. Simons Community Church is High School music mentor/coach. I get to coach and mentor high school students in their gifts. It’s amazing! Along with that, I volunteer at the local college campus ministry as well doing basically the same thing – mentoring and coaching worship leaders. Of course, I love when I get to lead, but honestly, I get more joy when I’m in the back of a room watching or on a djembe or guitar while one of our students is leading their peers. That is a great experience as well!
MR: What do you think is the best advice you could offer to people who are creative and want to expand their creativity?
RH: Find something you love that stimulates your creative mind and do it. It could be something literally in the same field, or it could be something totally different. For me it’s fitness.
MR: Ok, let’s talk fitness. I know it’s a bit of a left turn, but why not? You are active in your local Crossfit, and are continually training. What sparked this, have you always been into fitness, or is it a recent change?
RH: It’s actually not that much of a left turn, because my “creative” mind is sharpened when my “physical” mind is challenged. The way that I do that is through physically challenging workouts at CrossFit Brunswick. I got started with CF a little over 2 years ago. I’ve never been into fitness or sports up until a few years ago. Don’t get me wrong, as a young person I was very active and enjoyed backyard sports and pick up games, but I never really participated in organized sports. I was more of a musician growing up!
MR: Is there a spiritual side to your working out as well? Or is it simply for physical health?
RH: In a sense, one of the reasons my mentoring and coaching just really lit up over the last 2 years is because of CrossFit. Believe it or nor, our philosophy and model of operation at CF is very similar to the way Jesus operated. We are passionate about our fitness philosophy (along with nutrition) and our folks see us engaged in it and living it out, and so they are, too. We talk a big talk AND we walk a big walk. We also provide a DAILY opportunity for folks to walk it out as well. At out local gym we don’t do any traditional media marketing or advertising. It’s all word of mouth. When people are outside of the gym and talk about how great they feel and how hard they’re working inside the gym, “outsiders” notice and want what they’ve got (or think they’re lunatics!). Anyways, when I got certified almost 2 years ago and began to experience and coach people in fitness and nutrition, my spiritual “coach” was awakened. I had a renewed desire to help folks in their musical gifts and to challenge them to grow in their understanding of God and His Word.
MR: Ok, one more left turn, let’s talk Bible. What have you been studying, learning, and hearing from God lately?
RH: I’ve been living in John 5 the last month or so. It’s a passage my homegrown has been studying over this time. I’ve been so inspired and at times amazed at how Jesus is simply revealing who He is and who the Father is in this passage. On the surface it seems like He’s scolding the religious folks who are trying to entrap Him, but if you read it several times (and intentionally more slowly) you’ll see Jesus really just explaining in great detail who He is and how He’s equal with the Father and how they’re missing it. It’s a pretty exciting passage!
MR: Ok, one final question. Are there any resources you would recommend that people check out? Books, Music, Video, Webites, Podcasts, etc..?
RH: I’m the editor of The Worship Community so I’m really proud of that community. With our member-driven content, reviews, and active forums section, it’s a great resource for Worship Leaders and ministry team members who are working in the trenches week in and week out. If you’re interested in some intense fitness with some great coaching check out your local CrossFit. If there is not one near, then find somewhere you can do something that you really enjoy, and try and find a community to join with that activity at its core. Also, The Echo Life is a great new website that really merges the idea of walking out your faith and taking care of your body.
MR: Thank you so much for your insight. I love how you are building up the whole body, physical and spiritual. I am reminded of 1st Thessalonians 5:23 “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I appreciate you taking the time to teach, or should I say coach us. For those who want to know more about Russ follow him on twitter @russhutto and check out his website RussHutto.com
Mathew Reames: Hello Mate, (Yes I faked a british accent in typed form) Its good to connect with you again. This is definitely long overdue. For those who do not know Ed, let me do a little introduction. Ed is a worship leader from England, so by default his singing is cooler than mine. He is also a fellow member of the Allaboutworship.com team. But today, I want to discuss creativity and worship with you. Ed, as a worship leader you have access to a lot of great music, but lately you have been working on writing your own music. What brought about this shift?
Ed Rotheram: While songwriting has always been “in the mix” for me as a worship musician and leader, I always faced the argument of “if I write this, how do I deem it more suitable for a set than an established song from an established writer?”. Chris McClarney answered this question for me last year when he said in a songwriting seminar that the Lord had told him that he didn’t just want to hear songs that were already being sung, He wanted to hear the “songs of Chris”. God is desperate for intimacy with us – how do you think He feels when He hears us pour out our hearts in personal songs to Him? The Psalmist invites us to “Sing to the Lord a brand new song, in the company of those who worship Him” (Psalm 149). He wants our songs, our worship, our praise, our hearts.
MR: When it comes to your songwriting, what are some of the challenges you face?
ER: The first is making it a habit. It’s slightly (and I do mean slightly) easier to write when you have a deadline, a studio session or an event to write for. You have the inbuilt motivation and sense of urgency to do it, and therefore it occupies more of your time. At the AllAboutWorship.com “Hymnish” retreat earlier in the year, Tony Wood (staff writer at Integrity) came out with a great quote: “Don’t wait until you’re inspired to write; write until you’re inspired”. If you consider yourself a songwriter: write – make it a habit. It’s tough at the start, but just do it. Marathon runners don’t wake up in the morning and cheerily think “I may just go for a run today” – they’re running before they’ve thought about what they do – it’s inbuilt into their mentality as runners. We writers should be the same.
Secondly – know when a song is finished (and also when it’s not). To me, a song is finished when it has said all it needs to. If the song you’re writing tells a story, or follows a timeline (think the verses to Matt Redman’s “10,000 Reasons”), it’s almost certainly going to need 2-3 verses. Songs like Marie Barnett’s “Breathe” say all they need to about the subject of the song in 1 verse, then have a chorus. This is also ok. Be analytical about what you write – has it said enough, not enough, or even too much? Does it have a clear subject? Does it need another section? Best way of testing this is to play it out or record it, then listen back to it. Are you left wanting more? Is there too much information?
MR: When writing with others, how do you balance between contributing your own thoughts whilst not overriding the contributions of those writing with you?
ER: This is a really good question – one I’ve only really had experience of this year. My best advice is to always bring something to the table. When you come into a writing session, you want to make sure you’re on equal terms. To give you an example, I’ve been in 2 writing sessions this year (one face-to-face and the other Skype), where I’ve brought an unfinished song to the table. One was a good idea as far as I was concerned, but the song needed structure – all the elements were there but it needed someone else to appraise and finish it. The other was a song that had a verse, pre-chorus and chorus, but needed a bridge – somewhere else for the song to go. I left this one with the other writer and they wrote me a simple yet highly effective bridge that finished the song.
Key to this: know what you’re good at. Are you a storyteller, or someone who can write catchy hooks? Are you a starter, or a finisher? Are you a melody or lyrics person? Where do you start and where do you need help? If you can answer any or all of these questions, you’re half way to great co-writing. Find someone who complements you.
Lastly, on this subject (and to get to the point of the question) – honour those who you write with – they are there for a reason too. If you have ever watched Paul Baloche’s Worship Workshop DVDs (and if you haven’t – DO IT!), he talks about a worship band being like a pizza – cut into equal slices for an equal share between members. Songwriting is no different – each person on the co-write should have just as much entitlement to an opinion as another. In the examples listed above, this might seem an odd thing when I brought a near finished song to the table – it only needed a bridge – which may in practice only have been 20-25% of the song – why give the other writer a 50% cut in it? My advice to you is NEVER to think like that – If a song’s unfinished, it’s unfinished. Without that other writer it would never have been finished – hence a 50/50 split.
MR: Ok, lets discuss some scripture for a moment. As a worship leader, and a Christian in general its important to study the word, pray, and seek God. As you have been doing this, what has God been speaking to you and revealing?
ER: I seem to have been around grace and redemption a lot recently. So much of what the world contributes to our daily existence is rubbish that needs to be filtered out. I don’t know whether I’m alone, but my mind is prone to wandering to questions I shouldn’t be asking, guilt and shame I shouldn’t be harbouring – and God keeps tapping me on the shoulder and reminding me that there’s grace for that. All this stuff was left at the foot of the cross when Jesus’ blood was spilled for me. Paul says in Romans that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He wants US. He knows about our stuff – he knows we’ll screw up, but He also knows we’ll come back to Him. Songs about grace and redemption serve as good reminders of who we are in Him, how we can rest sure in His unfailing love – knowing that He is for us and with us until the ends of the earth.
As an additional thing: I tend to go well by things I’ve experienced – talks that have resonated, spontaneous songs I’ve sung in worship, and powerful encounters with the Holy Spirit. This year, God has moved me towards the idea of surrendering myself to Him in worship – forgetting about what I bring, and more about what He reveals and how I respond to that. Herein lies another tip for songwriters – you know those talks you were in that you can’t forget and quote to anyone who’ll listen? You know those experiences you had where God knocked you eight ways from Sunday in the Spirit that keep you excited for a year? Write about them – God stirs us up in these encounters, releases more of His vision, His plan and His revelation to us in them, and GIVES US SOMETHING REAL THAT WE CAN SHARE. This is an amazing privilege as songwriters – use it.
MR: Ok, one last question. Are there any resources that you would recommend people check out? Books, Music, Podcasts, videos, movies?
ER: My best advice here is to try things until you find something that gets you going. You said yourself right at the start – there’s a bunch of amazing music to choose from to get inspiration from at the moment. My advice would be to delve into some of it – then get into the stories. Get into All Sons and Daughters and find out a bit about how they write songs if you want something real – their philosophy for the past 18 months or so has been to look at their church, see what they’re going through, and write songs that reflect that. Remember Jesus – “I only do what I see the Father doing…”? (John 5:19)
On a practical level – if these 3 books aren’t in your collection buy them: Paul Baloche (with Jimmy & Carol Owens): God Songs; Brian Doerksen: Make Love, Make War; and Bob Kauflin’s “Worship Matters”. All three have great things to offer the worship leaders/songwriters out there.
MR: Well I appreciate you taking the time to share your heart with us. It’s really great to hear how everyday people are experiencing the power and presence of God. I love how you help facilitate that. If anyone wants to know more about Ed, follow him on twitter @EdRotheram
Mat Reames: Hi Joel, its good to have you sharing with us again. For those who don’t remember Joel contributed to “The Soul of Tone” series last year and has some wonderful insights. If you want to read his article you can click here. Joel, I love stalking you on the internet, with twitter, facebook, and your websites. It is amazing to see the things you are involved in and the thoughts that you share. But one thing in particular has really stood out to me recently. That is your 1Prayer movement. Could you tell us a little about this?
Joel Klampert: Thanks for stalking! 1prayer has been amazing actually. It started about 4 years ago in my area with 7 churches coming together with the expressed agenda to Pray. Our goal was to pray as one body to see revival in the church and transformation in our community. Within those 4 years we saw 4 of the churches pull out. About a year and a half ago My best friend and ministry compadre, Adam Fagan-Kela, and I were handed the task of running this ministry and facilitating it monthly. We prayed about it and ran it similar to an IHOP harp and bowl style meeting interchanging worship and prayer and leaning into the Holy Spirit to see what was on God’s heart for the night. We were amazed at what God did through it by shoring up relationships, creating a climate of worship and instilling the necessity for prayer. At the same time it gave us a nice dose of reality at how difficult Unity is.
MR: With the different churches involved, how has it been blending the cultures of multiple congregations and denominations?
JK: It has actually been amazing. Honestly the reality is Unity is sticky. You have to fight to keep peoples eyes on Jesus because the minute we start looking at eachother we fragment as a body. With that said though there is NOTHING more inspiring and amazing than seeing a room filled with people from 3-8 different churches worshiping the SAME God and something that is not a conference.
MR: The other thing that follows in this same vein of being “The Church” as opposed to “A Church” is The ForgeCon which you helped create. I know that 2012 didn’t have a conference, but I love the concept. Would you mind sharing about this vision and what the plans are for the future?
JK: The Forge Conference was a blended vision from my friend Doug Gould who wanted a conference with real hands on training for the church and a vision God gave me and two friends of mine. At the time we were meeting weekly as friends and God put it on our hearts that there was a real need in the small church that was not being met in the larger conferences. God paved the way for us to do two conferences in NJ because of this. There were changes in those involved in the second year as my friend Mike Mahoney stepped in to help me and a few others had to step out. What we realized is the church needs to be challenged. The church needs to be taught to think and not handed all the answers on a silver platter. People in ministry don’t need more training…They need a friend. We tried to create an atmosphere with some amazing speakers, artists and the Holy spirit that would facilitate all the above. It is one of the few conferences I know of that has created friendships that still exist today. As far as the future. There is still a need and we currently don’t have the finances or location to continue. We have recently met to pray and discuss a kickstarter and we are still praying about what is next. At the end of the day I want to do everything I can to help the un-resourced and help them create community so they don’t have to walk in ministry alone.
MR: In the years that I have known you, I have seen this emerge as a strong theme in your life. “Uniting the Body to work together.” I personally think you have a lot to share from your experiences, your wisdom, and your personal revelations. What are some practical strategies you can share for those of us who share your heart to see the community united in worship?
JK: I am very passionate about unity. That is for sure. The reason is because I am convinced that there is HUGE power in the united body. I think of a church full of carpenters and skilled workers. Then there is a church down the block and their roof collapses. The issue at play is they don’t know each other. They don’t have a relationship and are not sharing their gifts with one another. This may seem like an odd example, but in an area like New England your average church is less than 80 people. They NEED the rest of the body and the other churches need them. There is nothing wrong with being different. We can be different tribes, but we are one body. As far as practical ways to attack this unity thing besides getting the leaders to meet I have found that unity must start within relationship and not in energy drink style events. When I first came to Newport, RI I was leading worship and also doing youth ministry. I called all the youth pastors of the area and set up a meeting. Our first meeting a youth pastor came in with a sheet of paper and a list of things he wanted to talk about. These were events and planning items. Within unity you must separate AGENDA with RELATIONSHIP and they must happen at two different times. If a cross-denominational relationship is around an event or agenda when that event ends so does the relationship. However if you have a relationship centered around Christ having grace for differences you can do events together with a foundation and clarity.
MR: Ok, lets shift gears for a second, and I want you to share a little what God has been speaking and sharing with you. I know that you spend a lot of time meditating and reflecting on God and His word. What has He been highlighting and speaking to you recently?
JK: This has been a very interesting season. I have been doing a ton of ministry in one church, moved to another one recently as worship pastor. I write, do Graphic design, am married and have four kids. Within all of that I partner in ministry with my friend Adam. I am trying my hardest these days to make everything count. To have a reason for doing everything and to be deliberate.
God has been speaking a lot to me lately as a worship leader, unity leader, community builder and family Guy. I will just bullet point them because I am pretty sure we could write a book with this.
- You can’t lead a flock and your family be a mess
- Preparation is important but so is being open to the Holy spirit making you do a 180
- For years and years churches would design newspaper ads with a picture of their church. Now it is pretty popular to design with images of hipster people drinking coffee and rocking out with smoke machines. While none of that is wrong it is flawed. There is ONE thing that separates us from this world and that is the saving grace of Jesus. Sadly that is the least marketed item for most churches and yet the most sought after by the lost.
- Individualistic and consumerist attitudes in churches are prevalent these days. Coined the “me” church. What I have found interesting is the leaders who complain about it the most tend to be the worst offenders of that spirit. We need to as leaders pray daily NON NOBIS DOMINE – Not to us oh Lord… But to Your name we give Glory. Pride is creating mini kingdoms and humility builds up THE kingdom
- Zealousness, joy, faith and passion are contagious which is why conferences are great. However without constant prayer and pursuit of the CONSISTENT nature of God we will wane and lose our “Saltiness”
- I have been a blogger for 7 years now… only recently have I neglected it, but one thing I have noticed is the GREAT story tellers have inadvertently convinced those who are not good story tellers that their testimony isn’t needed. I think God is calling ALL to profess the good things He has done regardless of how “great” we think it sounds. Testimony blesses the body. Testimony is proof that God is at work.
- We need to spend more time praying for power in worship and believe in faith that like paul and silas our worship of God can break the bondage that people are in.
- God is also speaking to me the importance of unity around communion or the eucharist. Communion in many churches has been relegated to the “if we do it to often it loses its importance”. Yet we do the same number of songs and sermon every week. I think we as the church need to really spend more time on what separates us from this world and what unites us as the Body
MR: Ok, one last question. Are there any resources that you would recommend people check out? Books, Music, Podcasts, videos, movies?
JK: Wow that is a great question… hmm
- Dangerous Act of Worship: Labberton
- For the Life of the World: Schmemann
- The last Christian: David Gregory
- Plan B: Pete Wilson
- In a Pit with a lion on a snowy day: Mark Batterson
- The Cry of the Deer: David Adam
- Mozart’s Requiem
- Klaus: healing waters
- Daniel Bashta
- Sojourn Music
- Bethel Church
- United Pursuit band
- Misty Edwards
- Matt Redman: Facedown
I could recommend for days… I would say this though. Don’t just read books that support your theories. Get out of your finite box and devour everything you can looking for what God may want you to learn. Listen to music that you love and can worship to but also to music that challenges you lyrically and prophetically.
Thanks again Mat!! Glad to be a part.
MR: Well I appreciate you taking the time to share your heart with us. It’s really great to hear how everyday people are experiencing to power and presence of God. I love how you help facilitate that. If anyone wants to know more about Joel, check out his website http://klampert.com and follow him on twitter @joelklampert
Photo Credit: Chris Moncus