The Paul Baloche Interview Part II
The Future of Worship, Coming to Christ & Marriage!
Welcome to Part II of my interview with Paul Baloche. I was recently offered the opportunity to speak with Paul Baloche about his newly released CD titled “Live.” I was grateful that Paul had taken the time to speak with me about his coming to Christ, his thoughts on the future of worship, as well as his relationship with his wife Rita.
Paul is a man of God with a dedicated spirit to not just offer the Lord his worship, but he has dedicated his life to teaching others. When Paul’s not touring in concert, he’s offering worship leading seminars around the globe.
Paul is one of the most blessed worship leaders and worship songwriters of our time. He has written many classics, which will long outlive his time here on earth. This interview led me to a moment of quiet introspection concerning my marriage and my attitudes toward leading praise and worship. I pray you are blessed by it as well!
Paul, I’ve personally heard many music leaders complain that contemporary Christian music is killing the traditional services here and worldwide. What are your thoughts?
As worship leaders, we are the ones responsible for picking and selecting songs. I try to think of the entire generation. I look at the teenagers, and to those in their 60’s and 70’s, and think of it as a Chinese buffet. Let’s have an old hymn here, and perhaps a familiar chorus from the 90’s, and here’s a brand new song.
I try to consciously blend songs from the past to the current — not to please everyone, but to remind ourselves. Hymns remind us of where the church has come from. Many hymns are powerful, theological and biblical; yet there are so many great songs from the 80’s and 90’s up to the recent. It’s important we keep singing those songs.
Many great songs have been recently written that express things to the Lord which are important for us and our generation to express. The Bible says sing a new song to the Lord. If you want Biblical background, all throughout the Psalms David said, “I will celebrate; I will sing a new song to the Lord.”
There’s something about each generation taking a part and putting the heart of God into the language of their current musical form. We just can’t make sacred cows out of songs written hundreds of years ago. Wesley basically took hymns and melodies from bars and pubs back in his day. He knew people would know these songs. He would stick the word of God and theology in there.
I think it’s time to move on. God doesn’t care about the style of music. It’s about what’s going to help His people open up their hearts and connect with the Lord at this moment.
So, if it’s hymns in that moment, I’ll sing hymns. If I’m at a nursing home, or a youth group, I may introduce an old hymn. I’ll tell them it’s a song you may not have heard, but it was written two hundred years ago. Then offer some Hillsong material or a Matt Redmond tune. It’s not important who wrote them.
Do you feel that contemporary music is pushing out traditional services?
That would sadden me. I think it’s unnecessary to push out the traditional. I think there’s a way to embrace both. We have to be careful on both sides not to immediately dismiss the other. If I’m doing a brand new song that’s got a wah-wah pedal, and the beat is pretty intense, I’ll smile and laugh as I say to one of the older couples, “Hey, good for you guys that was a little bit of a stretch. I appreciate you being tolerant and open to this new music. Isn’t it beautiful to see young people excited about the Lord? Now, I’m going to turn the tables, and let’s go back, stand together and just sing an old hymn.”
We must keep the generations together and not divide up the church according to music styles.
Again, let everything that has breath praise the Lord. I think variety is important as we design our services, prayerfully looking for a tapestry of expression. There needs to be opportunity where the congregation can sing; that’s important! Let’s never forget as worship leaders and pastors, the goals are for God’s people to sing, and to facilitate. Sometimes you need to bring the key down from “B” to “G” so people can comfortable sing. However, I think it can really be powerful to say, “Feel free to be seated for a moment and just let this next song minister to you.” Back in the day we called it “special music.” It can be quiet powerful.
To summarize, [it’s] not one to the exclusion to the other, but [it’s] seeing it as one of the tools that can keep our congregation inspired on a weekly basis.
Do your worship seminars cover the training of sound techs?
Yes, I include John Willis from Northern Ireland. He just accompanied me on the entire Asian tour. I’m always telling him I can’t afford him. [laughing] He has run sound for Van Morrison, U2, and Snow Patrol. He loves the ministry aspect. I couldn’t have pulled out the recording of “Live” in Canada without his expertise.
Sound training is vital. No matter how much your team rehearses, it ultimately goes through the hands and ears of the person at the soundboard. It can be frightening if that person has no clue. I encourage every church, if you’re not blessed with an experience sound person, make sure that person attends seminars and events where they can grow and learn. Because ultimately, they’re the one that is going to control what comes through the PA system.
Do you offer sound training in your DVD series?
We can only offer so much. We cover sound issues and insight on how to work with the worship team and tech department. Ultimately, you have to just do it to get the experience. It starts with the worship team recognizing that the tech department is an integral part of their team. Bring them in and completely include them. The tech team needs to understand the goal of the church and worship leader to create an environment that makes it easy for worship.
Consider the services of a local professional sound company; they don’t necessarily have to be Christian. Pay them to attend the Sunday services or rehearsals for several consecutive weeks. Ask them to work with the sound tech instructing them on EQ, compression, sound level, correct speakers, microphones, etc., in use.
What was it like when you gave your life to Christ?
I recall it like it was yesterday, even though it was over twenty-five years ago. I grew up outside of Philadelphia. I was playing in a rock band on the Jersey Shore and thought I was a big deal. Everybody wanted to be the next Bruce Springsteen. I was caught up in the whole scene of sex, drugs, and rock & roll. I thought this was it, we had an amazing band; but by the end of that summer I was miserable. I knew in my soul it wasn’t right.
Through a series of events I met some people who talked about Jesus like He was real. It wasn’t long after that I gave my heart to Him. I went to an event where they asked people to come forward if you want Jesus as your Savior. I went up with my older brother and a couple friends.
For me it was like “Boom,” it was overnight. I came back from that weekend, broke up with my girlfriend, and told all my friends I don’t want to do the same things I’ve been doing. For some people it’s a journey or a process; it wasn’t for me, it was an undeniable moment! The Lord came in, and I felt changed.
Whenever I’ve wrestled with my faith over the years, I look back at that moment. Any atheist or PHD can try to talk me out of my faith, but at the end of the day, I cannot deny what I experienced. And it’s not only that experience, but personal subsequent experiences as well — the experiences of [being] friends with the Lord.
I can’t be talked out of what I know!
How do you and your wife Rita keep each other encouraged in your daily walk together?
We just celebrated twenty-seven years of marriage, and we were friends three years before that. We have three grown children. We do our best like a lot of married couples. Our marriage is so parallel to our relationship with God in that it requires commitment.
It all starts with commitment, not your feelings. We all get up some days where you have all those warm fuzzies with goose bump feelings towards the Lord or towards your spouse. Other times, there’s a season where you’re just going through the motions; but based on your commitment to each other, you’re loving each other through your actions, kindness, and being quick to apologize when you feel like you’ve been irritable. So for those who are married, I think there is a correlation between how things are going between you and your spouse, and your relationship with the Lord.
It’s hard to get up in front of a congregation and lead worship when you know you have unresolved stuff going on with your spouse. So it’s been a help to me over the years to know that before I lead worship, I need to call my wife and say, “Hey babe, sorry about this morning, I didn’t mean for it to get crazy, or angry like that…sorry about that. When we get home we can talk through it, and I love you.” Now I can get on stage and lead worship with a degree of integrity.