The Calling of a Worship Drummer

Carl worshipping

It’s a great privilege to play music for the Lord. I believe musicians and singers are the gatekeepers to His presence for the church and the whole earth. All believers are called to be worshipers, 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.”)

People often ask what I feel during worship.  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. 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.  I like working on new grooves, new songs, and just have fun learning more about the gift the Lord has placed in me.

The spiritual study is just as important. I’ve just finished reading Bill Johnsons book called “When Heaven Invades Earth” and “God Songs” by Paul Baloche, and Jimmy & Carol Owens. One book is about spiritual issues; 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 are also “called” to this 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. 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 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 worshiper” 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. All I know is that I’m as desperate for the presence of God as they are.

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 worshiper. 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.

When the music starts and we’re “flowing in worship” I have a sense of being “on guard.” Yes, I’m doing the job of a musician… 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. WORSHIP GOD!

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 I just undergird 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 worshiper 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. 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

 

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About Carl

Carl has been a professional drummer & percussionist for over 30 years. He has played on over 80 Integrity Music projects; Maranatha Praise Band recordings 7 thru 10, & numerous other Christian, Pop, Country, Jazz, & Commercial projects.

Comments

  1. Gary Klock says:

    What I appreciate about Carl is his Attitude, Approach, and Ability. And, it is the first two that impress me the most (although he is an excellent percussionist.) He realizes that it is not about the drums. It is all about Worship. The drums are just the “instrument” he uses to Worship God. And his approach is to be in the Word, Prayer, Fellowship, and following the leading of the Holy Spirit. Carl recognizes that he needs to be Spiritually prepared every bit as much as, if not even more so, than “technically” prepared. In my opinion, this is what it means to be a Worship Drummer.

  2. Wonderful article Carl! Truly an inspiration for a drummer growing with a praise and worship team. It’s been 21 years since I last played in high school and was asked to fill in for our praise team Father’s Day of 2010. The former drummer ended up moving and they asked me if I would join and have been playing with the team since. We attended the Baloche conference in Texas earlier this year and it was a true blessing for all. I have listened to and watched all of your dvd’s and they have helped tremendously. It is very obvious that you have found your calling. I have just shared this article with our team and we are excited to include your suggestions into our music ministry. Thank you for all you do. God’s speed. David 🙂

  3. Mark Little says:

    Hi Carl,

    just in from an early morning at work and sat down with a coffee to catch up on emails. Thank you so much for what you have written. i am a drummer and drum tutor at Green Pastures, the people’s church, in Northern Ireland. God planted a dream in my heart a few years ago to nurture, inspire, empower and release are young people into their calling in music and ministry. I will share this article with them and the guys in creative team in church. All to often we get caught up in the skill and forget about the importance of heart. i’d rather have a team of heart than skill! When the heart is right it’s easy to work on the skill. This article will inspire. Thank you so much. You are a true blessing. i’m praying that one day God would appoint an opportunity to meet you this side of eternity. Bless you.

  4. HERRY BENEDICT says:

    ***I’ve edited this comment, because the language barrier made it unclear… I think I’ve captured his heart.***
    Dear Servant of God, Carl.
    l am so glad to get this opportunity to say – you bless the world with your Gospel Service. For sure, the worship & praise, revival music you do, helps people all-over the world turn to Jesus. I am surprised that when people listen to your worship-songs (music) in the church, while most of them don’t know how to speak english, suddenly start speaking in tongues or other languages. It is a suprise that how the spirit captures us even without a message delivered? ln that way… I’m impressed that the drums are not just operating like a professional performance, but it is a talent in the heart which is a gifting from God. It’s like praying with singing (playing), so that the songs have Holy power. How blessed they are, when in South Africa, you Servants of God did Perform live in their land!! I very much desire to get visitors like you in my Country; Tanzania-East Africa. FOR ANYBODY THAT HAS LISTENED TO YOUR GOSPEL MUSIC, WILL NEVER FORGET YOUR SERVICE AND HOW SPIRITUAL YOU ARE! MAY GOD KEEP YOUR SERVICE IN HEAVENS MEMORY-BOOK. WELL DONE.

    • This was an older post… I was cleaning up the web site & found it again. / I am humbled by how the Lord touches people from all over the world with the music we have done. All glory to God. Carl

  5. Jeff Mitchell says:

    Wow, just wow!

    “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 worshiper can take the people in with him.”

    There was no accident my worship team watched the Worship DVD of you, Paul and others years ago. It launched you Carl as my favorite drummer. I learned so much that day and have dedicated to remain as focused on Him as possible, both before during and after musical worship. My drumming has become less about me, and so much more about Him, I am so blessed!

    Thank you Carl, for allowing God to continually use you as a lamp stand for others on their journey with Christ.

    • Hi Jeff, I’m so humbled & blessed that you have been encouraged by these teachings. It is truly my honor. Let’s keep bringing glory to the KING of kings… we are all the jewels in His crown. Press on! Blessings, Carl

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