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Interview: Worship Leader Moon Danipog

Lorraine Luna “Moon” Danipog is the Praise and Worship Ministry of Palmera Springs Christian Church in the Philippines. Recently, Moon talked to Worship Links about the importance of training your voice, making worship services more accessible to those in need, and building a worship set that inhales and exhales.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions for us. It’s truly appreciated! The first question is an easy one. Tell us a little bit about yourself in five sentences.

Hi! I’m Moon and I am a worship leader in Palmera Springs Christian Church under the Christian Reformed Churches of the Philippines. I love music and I love musically inclined people. I also love other forms of performing arts, like theater, choir, because it is where I developed my talent in singing.

I am a Mass Communication graduate and am currently working for a government agency here in the Philippines where I am assigned to its Publications and Media Relations division. I am also a part-time entrepreneur, a co-owner of GEEX Burger House. I pray to be involved (long-term) in community development and mission in the future.

How did you get started in worship ministry?

I started in our church’s children’s choir when I was still a Sunday school attendee. We would be scheduled at least one Sunday a month to lead the congregation in singing praise and worship songs. Then when I was about seven or eight years old, the Lord assigned me to be a tambourine girl ☺ I served as a dancer for five years and then gradually, became exposed to worship leading by starting as a backup singer. That was the time when the early members became more involved in other ministries like leading bible studies, organizing the ladies’ ministry, among others, while others left to work abroad. We became the new breed of the music ministry.

As I got more matured and began to understand the calling of a worship leader, I prayed a prayer of submission to God—submission of the talents that He gave me so I can offer them back to Him. I will be forever grateful for this great calling. There is no greater gig or break for a musician than to make music for the Lord.

What’s your basic process for planning a service or worship set?

I believe that a good worship set can spring from a collaboration between the worship leader and the pastor. Before planning the worship set, I would ask our pastor or the Sunday speaker about his text or passage, and of course the month’s theme. I would read the text myself and meditate on it and pray for God’s wisdom so I would know what songs can speak of the same message or can prepare the heart of the congregation to listen to this message. From there, I would start listing down the songs, study the lyrics of each song, and see to it that lyrics are okay — when I say okay, I mean something that is scripturally correct, something that is sincere, something that speaks the truth, something that edifies the congregation, and not too much repetitive.

I learned something from a video interview with Matt Redman about the inhale and exhale elements of songs. He was speaking about songwriting and he mentioned something like a song should contain those two elements: inhale is where you breathe in who God is, meaning it speaks of God’s character and what He has done; exhale is where you breathe out your response to that character of God and to what He has done in your life. I can say that this does not only apply to songwriting but also in lining up songs or preparing a worship set. You cannot just have all songs that are exhale-heavy. The same way, you cannot have all songs that just teaches truths about God (mostly hymnals). You have to mix them well, and you have to have good transitions between songs. If you are able to have a good selection of songs, and good sequencing of songs, then the transitions should flow smoothly. A worship set has a message or a story to tell. It is not a smorgasbord thing where you can just select songs in random. It has to be planned carefully.

Sometimes, when I find it hard to choose songs, I do some consultations with the team. I ask them what songs they think fit the passage for Sunday. Before rehearsals, we all meditate on the passage and I would relay to them the line-up of songs and why I chose those songs. I need to make sure that everyone’s on board with me, that they understand what the worship set is all about. So when we step on stage and lead the congregation, we are one in spirit. We know where we are leading them.

Desert Island Worship Mix: You’re trapped on a desert island, and for reasons too ridiculous to explain, you can only have one CD with five worship songs on it. What are they?

The songs would be:

  • Blessed be Your Name (Matt Redman) – It would be a great reminder that whatever comes my way, even though I am in a desert island, I would always bless the name of the Lord.
  • In Christ Alone (Getty) – This is my favorite song. It is like a creed, a song that declares my faith, my belief until the day I die.
  • Still (Hillsong) – need I say more? ☺
  • I Know who I am (Israel Houghton) – This is also a constant reminder of who I was before and who I have become when God found me and saved me.
  • How Great Thou Art (hymn) – It allows me to sing a song of praise for God’s creation, including the physical creation and beyond—God’s great plan for redemption.

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What have you found are some of your greatest challenges in managing a worship team? How do you handle the balance between being a musician and being a manager?

One of the great challenges in managing a worship team is imparting discipline among members (and of course to myself). We have to constantly remind ourselves that worship is so much more about music. Leading worship songs is just a result of an inside-out worship lifestyle.

Another thing is urging them to excel in their God-given talents without removing the main focus on the Object of worship. I guess it is a bit tough thing to do, especially with my current team because majority of them are teenagers. I always pray that God would make them understand that they have to desire to excel so to become good stewards of their talents. At the same time, they should keep in mind that they are doing it not for their glory, but for the glory of the One whom they are serving.

What scriptures speak to you the most about worship?

Matthew 22:37-39 — Jesus answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and the most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’

1 Samuel 15:22 — And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.

John 14:21 — “Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. My Father will love those who love me; I too will love them and reveal myself to them.”

One of the most striking things I learned from our team’s retreat, “Rediscovering Music”, is that worship boils down to obedience and submission to God. Making and playing music is just a tiny fraction of a whole. And in making music, we should strive to express our love, not only for God, but for others as well. Come to think of it, God already knows who He is. He knows what all worship songs tell about Him. He does not want us to just be confined in the corners of our room, singing praises to Him. Perhaps, what He wants us to realize is that music should cater to people. It should tell them truth about God and lead them to worship God.

If you could give one piece of advice to up and coming worship leaders, what would it be? Conversely, what’s some advice you wish you’d received earlier on?

I would probably give Paul’s advice for those involved in the ministry:

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 Good News Translation (GNT)
Love
13 I may be able to speak the languages of human beings and even of angels, but if I have no love, my speech is no more than a noisy gong or a clanging bell. 2 I may have the gift of inspired preaching; I may have all knowledge and understand all secrets; I may have all the faith needed to move mountains—but if I have no love, I am nothing. 3 I may give away everything I have, and even give up my body to be burned—but if I have no love, this does me no good.

For worship leaders and for those who want to be one, always keep your motivation on check. It is important that our decisions, our moves, and our ways are motivated by our love for God and for others. If you love God and you want to express your gratitude through worship leading, that’s great. You can also express your love for the congregation by sharing your gift, thus by blessing the body (the Church) with your talent. The two greatest commandment should always come together. In your rehearsals, do everything out of love. If you just want to make the rehearsal perfect but you neglect maintaining good working relationship with your team members to the point that you become bossy, you are not doing it out of love. You are just feeding your ego and pride. Please, do check your motivations always. Let God search your heart.

For myself, I wish I had heard more words about commitment and consistency. As time passes by, I realized that it is so hard to be consistent and to give the same degree of commitment you gave when you said Yes to the Lord. But thank God for His wisdom through my mentors, peers, and church leaders surrounding me. They help me get on track and fan the flame in my heart whenever I feel some weariness or stagnation in the ministry.

What do you think worship in the church will look like in ten years?

This one is a tough question. I cannot think of how it will look like ten years from now. But I will answer this based on what I hope for. I am hoping that worship and worship services will be more welcoming to people in the streets, to the homeless, to the poor. I do pray that the Lord will open the eyes of our church leaders and realize that the church should open its doors for those who need not only spiritual help, but more importantly, those who have less in everything. The Gospel is for them. I feel some frustrations with the current set up of worship services in the church. We are so exclusive. Sometimes, I feel burdened to the point that I see myself as a hypocrite. I lead worship every Sunday; I enjoy fellowship with the brethren; I eat physical and spiritual food every day; but I can’t feed or help those who are REALLY in need. I feel like my worship is half-cooked, and it hurts me. I know others who feel the same way, but only a few. I hope that the Lord will turn this burden to an inspiration—inspiration to do something to make a difference. I hope that ten years from now, the church will help break societal silos not only outside the church, but firstly, inside the church, because sadly, silos are also existing inside the church. Treatment is not equal among those whom we consider elite, those who are in the middle class, and on the lower class. This should not be the case. This is not what Christ wants to see in His body.

Any new worship artists on your radar at the moment?

I am not sure if they are new worship artists, so I would just label them my newly discovered Christian artists. They are Crowder, John Mark McMillan, and Kings Kaleidoscope.

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What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done while leading worship (that you’re willing to share)?

When I haven’t harnessed my talent that much, I would always crack my voice, once or twice, before the worship set ends. It has become a frustration on my part because I thought I was a stumbling block to a smooth flow of singing worship songs and that I was a total distraction for the congregation to worship. So I strive to be excellent with my craft. I learned the proper discipline when I became a choir member. I got to know my voice, my range, my bad practices, and my areas for improvement. I learned the classical way of singing, pop, and when I had my workshop on musical theater, I learned the Broadway and contemporary theater styles. I figured out how to mix these knowledge and disciplines to arrive with appropriate technique in worship leading.

Thanks again for answering our questions. If people want to find you online, what’s the best way?

Thanks a lot for this opportunity to share my testimony and story as a worship leader. You can find me on:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/MoonDanipog

Twitter
and Instagram: @moonsolara
Email address: lunadanipog@gmail.com
WordPress: www.notesfrommoon.wordpress.com

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