GUITAR FOR WORSHIP INTERVIEW

A few weeks ago, I was working my way through a series of links in search of good online resources for electric guitar players who play in congregational worship settings. The author had provided a brief description of each website and when I happened upon the link for Guitar For Worship, I knew I had found the right place.

How was the site described? Satirical, fun, and practical. You better believe I clicked on it.

In fact, I loved the site so much that I contacted its owner, Karl Verkade, for an interview. He was gracious and honest with his answers and I think you’ll enjoy reading.

Karl & Jamianne Verkade (square)Tell us how the Guitar for Worship got started. How long have you been doing it and what was the goal in creating it?

Guitar for Worship was started almost as a joke. I was working as a music director at a church, and my boss, the executive pastor, had a real thing for blogging. Thought it changed the world. I disagreed, as I tend to do. Nevertheless, he told all of us at the church that one of our job requirements was to blog. So I started the blog, thinking I was going to show him how pointless blogging was. (Unfortunately I can have a real passive-aggressive streak sometimes. haha) But then (and I’m still not sure how this happened…I blame my constant quoting of U2 so that search engines had no choice but to point people to my blog) people started reading. I had stats showing actual visitors. Then comments. Then requests for demo’s and tutorials and advice. It was at that point that I had to admit I was wrong (the worst) and started to see perhaps the point in blogging, and that this could actually be used by folks.”

“It’s been just over six years now, and much to my surprise, it’s still going.”

How has the blog changed over the years?

“It really has taken on a life of its own. When it first started to be read, I had to admit to myself that maybe somewhere deep inside I did want to write, but needed an excuse to start, so that if no one read it, it wasn’t my fault. (Yay me.) Because I was excited. I blogged almost every other day, spent too many of my waking (and sleeping) hours thinking about it, and pontificated on things that looking back, I really knew nothing about. Eventually, I calmed down a bit, and really started to see this blog as a place to be completely open and honest about my struggles as a worship leader, the temptation to see the stage as your own personal platform, and the questions and failures with which we as Christians wrestle. I feel that as a western church culture in general, we’re so worried that honesty will lead to a lack of trust. And I think it’s the exact opposite. 

“So the blog for a time, I think, really became a haven for people to feel they could honestly express themselves, and be responded to without judgment by other readers. And with many posts exceeding 80 and 100 comments, I’m so incredibly stoked to say that I have never deleted a comment. The love with which my friends and readers interact with each other over there I think is something pretty cool. 

“This past year, I have blogged less and less, as God has really been pulling my focus into some new (and a little scary and controversial) ideas about which to write. Sort of taking that honesty thing a step further, and a little more out of the constraints of guitar and worship music. But yet the blog continues on, with or without me almost. It will probably continue to morph (it’s morphin’ time! …sorry) over the years in ways I can’t predict, but I think it will always be around.”

One of my favorite things about your site is humor. You somehow manage to find that sweet spot between cynicism and joy. Is that hard work for you or does it come pretty natural?
“Well, thanks! Some of it comes naturally, but at the same time it’s a calculated choice to write in that way. If there’s something I feel that we as worship leaders on the whole are missing, I seem to get my point across a lot better by writing a satirical post in which people can choose to see and be honest about themselves, than in just flat-out saying it. I believe that it’s very hard for us humans to see ourselves in a negative light; and humor and satire break through those walls a bit and force us to be honest with ourselves.

“I have, at times, gone too far, and allowed cynicism to be the end rather than the means. That’s when I then have to try to find the balance again. Cynicism is a great tool to ‘test everything and hold on to the good.’ But it is merely a tool. And the minute you start loving the jokes more than you love the purpose of using them to show something in ourselves that we need to work on in order to glorify God better, you’re sunk.”

What about you as a player? What are some of your goals as guitar player for congregational worship?
“I can’t say too much at this time, but I feel like the church as a whole is on the verge of a big change. And I think that means that we as worship leaders and worship musicians are really going to have to ask ourselves deep in our hearts how much that stage, those pedals, those guitar solos…meant to us, before we can change and begin to relearn what it means to ‘have a heart for worship.’ So as a guitar player for congregational worship, my main goal right now is to strip it all away for myself, relearn worship without the production, and to see what happens if we build it back up from Biblical roots. Will I arrive back at the same place? I’m not sure. But I am beyond excited to finally take the plunge.
 
“As far as immediate goals, say for this Sunday’s services, they’re very simply that people would sing their hearts out to God. That I would choose songs, and arrangements, and keys, and effects, and notes that serve them and not myself.”
Biggest mistake worship guitarists make?
Don’t play five notes where four will do.
 
Your pedals are not who you are.
 
But they are still very important.
 
And I think even Nigel would agree that he should not be the focus. (Hendroff, not Tufnel.)
______________
My thanks to Karl for taking time to talk to us!
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