Our mission at Worship Musician is to provide practical help for Worship teams. With Chris McClarney on the cover, we decided to launch this new column by interviewing Banning Liebscher, Jesus Culture founder and Pastor. True to form, Banning’s words are inspirational, practical, and applicable. I’ll be sharing them with my team and I invite you to do the same. If you wish to tap deeper into Banning’s wisdom I encourage you to pick up his latest book “Rooted” at www.jesusculture.com/store.
Banning Liebscher: We love doing church in a High School theater. It has been fun to build there. I wouldn’t want to be here forever, but I have loved and am loving the experience. You have to get creative in these environments. You narrow it down to what is really needed to fulfill the vision and create the environment you want. We have a huge value for excellence in all areas and doing children’s ministry well. It is always a stretching area to try and figure out how you can keep the level of excellence up in a temporary space, as well as continue to up our level of taking care of families. One amazing thing that comes from setting up and tearing down each week is that you have to get good at building a volunteer culture. Some of the best community we built in the early days of our Church has been on the teams that show up early and set up. It’s been special to see the level of connection on those teams.
WM: What are some suggested best practices for Churches that set up and tear down each week?
BL: Create a culture of volunteers. Refuse to settle when it comes to excellence. Pay attention to the details. Things begin to fall apart quicker when they are constantly being moved, so you have to stay on top of that stuff. Be really intentional with what you are trying to create with the environment to best serve guests, families, and the elderly. You also have to be intentional about creating an environment where people can encounter God.
WM: Banning, you were the Youth Pastor for Jesus Culture. What things were you most missional about as you poured into the team?
BL: First and foremost, we pushed hard that our job is simply to bring people into an encounter with Jesus. At the end of the day that’s what we are all about. If our team leads worship anywhere in the world and people walk away talking about the band or the lights we haven’t done our job. We want them walking away talking about Jesus, more in love with Jesus. We realize that what we do is pointing people to something greater, which is God and His cause in the earth.
WM: I remember being floored by the presence of God I experienced as I heard Kim Walker-Smtih sing “All I Need Is You” for the first time. Can you talk about how she became the voice of the Jesus Culture movement.
BL: It was just a natural outflow of what we were doing at our conferences and youth group. There were three worship leaders when we started, Kim, Chris Quilala and Melissa How. I knew that God had put something special on the worship and that’s why we even decided to record albums. You could always tell with Kim, even in the early days, that there was something special on her. And then How He Loves blew up on YoutTube and the world was able to hear her. It’s been fun to journey with her and Chris from the beginning and see what God has done with them.
WM: Can you share some of the things you did as a leader to shape the worship team in the early days that you feel were most fruitful?
BL: I answered some of this earlier with what our main goal is. We go after making sure that you are the same on the stage as off the stage. Your internal world needs to be bigger than any stage you are ever on. You can only give from your secret history with God. That we want to serve and lay our lives down for others. That this isn’t about getting a name for ourselves but making the name of Jesus famous. It’s not about Twitter followers it’s about being obedient to what God has asked of us.
WM: The mantle that is on the music Jesus Culture creates is huge – what things as a leader did you do to keep growing and prepare yourself to lead the team and the Jesus Culture movement?
BL: Just learn to love the cave, establish a secret history with the Lord, make sure you have a correct definition of success, and understand that everything we do is simply a gift we give to God, what He does with it is up to Him.
WM: You suggested to my Pastor that we start using Brave Communication at our Church and the results have been phenomenal! Can you briefly describe your take on what Brave Communication is and the value it brings to Churches seeking to improve how they communicate?
BL: This one is huge. I can’t recommend this enough because almost all breakdowns on teams are relational. More than any other area it’s what sinks ships. People and leaders weren’t ever really taught how to communicate without controlling, or how to deal with confrontation in a way that results in connection. We have a view that in communication there is someone who is right and someone who is wrong, there is someone who is powerful and someone who is powerless. But that’s not true. Learning how to grow in areas of communication is the key to creating a healthy relational environment. A healthy environment and healthy teams make the greatest impact and sustain that impact over the long term.
WM: You guys cancelled evening Church on the night of the Super Bowl. To me, it seemed like a really relational way of saying to people that we know – and value – that there is life outside of Church. What did it mean to you?
BL: Just that. The reality is the Super Bowl is a national holiday. It’s a time where you gather with family and friends. We love that. We want you to connect with family and friends. It’s not unholy to do that, and we have a value for that.
WM: Banning, you have written and contributed to a number of books including your latest title “Rooted”. I love the following quote from the book, “We‘ll never thrive in the process unless we accept the place where God has put us, because that is the only place He will work with us. Faithfulness and obedience call us to recognize what God is asking us to put our hands to and what He is emphasizing in our lives.” It is clear that you are missional about being where God puts you. What advice do you have for people in smaller congregations who feel under-resourced, are working on what God has in front of them, but sometimes get overwhelmed in the size of God’s vision for them as well as the weight of leading people to it and through it?
BL: We are never under-resourced. It doesn’t work like that in the Kingdom. First of all God Himself lives within us and has made His power available to us. So we need to get better at accessing what is available to us. In addition to that, people are our greatest resources. The church’s job is to build people. You may not have a lot of money, but there are people God has put in front of you to develop and equip. Also, it takes time to see the vision in your heart happen. Sometimes we think we need more resources when we just need to be faithful with what we have and it will increase. And what we have is what is needed to be obedient to what God has asked us to do in that season. Many times we are frustrated because we don’t recognize the season we are in. So we think we need a certain thing because we think we are in this season, but when we recognize the season we are in and what God is asking of us we realize we have what we need. And if it’s not there yet, God will get it to us in time.