[WM] Having listened to “Your Love Never Fails” and “Miracles” a few hundred times on repeat, I’m pretty familiar with the sound of your voice. As I’ve been listening to you sing “Living with a Fire” I keep thinking about how much I enjoy hearing you sing this song – you sound great! What are some of the things you do to ensure that when you step up to the mic you bring your best, and what advice do you have for vocalists when it comes to caring for ‘their instrument’?

[Chris Quilala] First of all, thank you for the encouragement! I wish I could say I always feel confident when I step up to the mic, but that just isn’t the case. I believe it starts with confidence. I am constantly reminding myself that God called me to sing, to bring Him honor. Knowing that God has called you to do something will keep you from comparing yourself to others. That being said, there are several things that can affect my voice. Nerves, lack of sleep or even what I ate the day before can really impact the way I sing. Being a good steward of the voice God gave me looks like eating healthy, getting lots of rest, drinking lots of water etc. Vocal warmups and cool downs are very important! I have to remind myself to do these throughout the week not just before or after singing.

[WM] While worship music is not about performance, when worship teams play songs, there is a dynamic of needing to perform the material well enough that the congregation can get immersed in an atmosphere of worship. The lyric, “You fan my faith into a flame” is really beautiful, and does a great job of setting up the chorus for the congregation. As a guitar player, that line happens at about the same time I’m looking down at my pedalboard, preparing to support the chorus with my next patch. What advice do you have for worship teams on how to ‘deliver the goods’ without missing the moments of worship they’re setting up for the congregation?

[Chris] Love this question! It’s hard not to focus on all the things that go into playing a song live. Millions of pedals, transitions, tracks, following the worship leader – there’s a lot going on. Practice! On your own and rehearsals with the band will help to minimize these distractions so that you can focus on worshipping. Our job is to bring God our best on and off the stage. When we come prepared we are better able to focus on what’s happening in the moment. Our drummer Josh said years ago, “We practice, practice, practice so that when we get on stage anything can happen.” Meaning, the more prepared we are, the better we can follow the Holy Spirit in those spontaneous moments of worship.

[WM] The other thing I noticed about this song is Kim’s background vocals – she’s awesome on this. What is it like to have such a talented worship leader singing BVs for you?

[Chris] I love getting to lead with Kim. She has such a powerful voice and has so much authority! It’s been an honor leading worship alongside her all these years.

[WM] In the video for “Living with a Fire” on New Song Café, Kim mentions you’re about to celebrate twenty years as Jesus Culture. Shortly thereafter, you point out that this song is a reflection of the way you live your lives – as a daily offering of surrender. The fact that you have been doing this for so long speaks to the vitality of your DNA and the level of your conviction.

Unfortunately, many people don’t have the benefit of being planted in one place for so long, nor the ability to drink from the kind of firehouse that you guys do with Banning. If you were to create a user’s guide for building a life of ‘living with a fire’, what are some of the most valued things you’d want to share from your culture?

[Chris] We’ve been blessed to have an amazing community around us for all these years. We are constantly encouraging and challenging each other to keep things simple and focused. Community is huge, Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” That being said, our love and passion for Jesus starts with Him first loving us. We live for the secret place, where it’s just us and Jesus. Daily allowing the Holy Spirit to fill us with His love, and passion and in turn, we minister to God and others out of that revelation of His love.

Our “public” lives should always be a reflection of the secret place we have developed with God. When we get on stage to lead others in worship it’s never the end goal, it’s just an overflow of a lifestyle of burning passionately for Jesus!

[WM] In the Worship Together video, it looks like you’re every bit as comfortable talking about Jesus as you are singing about Him. In looking back at the video for “How He Loves Us” I noticed that you’re back there nailing it on the drums (time, feel, fills etc.). Leading worship is a lot different than sitting behind a drum kit, so one might presume that there was some kind of metamorphosis that happened with your case. One of my favorite things about drummers is that although they might not say it, they don’t miss a thing.

Conversely, when most worship teams look to add another worship leader, the drummer is not usually the first place they look. All that to say, sometimes we all need to make a faith walk to get where God wants to position us. What is your advice to worship musicians for taking a step of faith out of their comfort zone, and what tips do you have for teams who want to encourage and equip people to step into a larger calling?

[Chris] Ha! Seems like a lifetime ago! I miss playing the drums, I’ve considered scheduling myself to play on a Sunday but I’d definitely need to do some serious practicing beforehand. No matter what God has called you to, it always takes a risk stepping into something new. For me worship leading was definitely something that I felt uncomfortable with. Banning, our pastor was always pushing me out of my comfort zone, because he always saw that there was more in me. Submit your life to godly mothers and fathers and never be afraid to step into something God has called you to! It would be sad to get to the end of our life and look back wishing we hadn’t let fear keep us from fully living out what God had for us!


WM Living With A Fire Jesus Culture
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Live: Living with a Fire Tour with Kim Walker-Smith, Chris Quilala, Bryan & Katie Torwalt, Chris McClarney, Banning Liebscher, and Nathan Edwardson

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