Stephen Jenks is a worship leader and recording artist, as well as the Director Of Operations for Eagles’ Wings. Recently, Stephen talked to Worship Links about joining the eternal worship service, glorifying God in the details, and wardrobe malfunctions.
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.
I was born in New York City and came to faith at a young age. I started taking piano lessons at age seven. At age 13 I began to lead worship. I went to college for music, and when I got out of college I joined Eagles’ Wings, a global ministry focused on spiritual awakening, unity and raising up the next generation. I have served with Eagles’ Wings for 18 years, leading worship and teaching across America and in five nations.
How did you get started in worship ministry?
I grew up taking music lessons, so music was always a part of my life, but it was my mother and father who first modeled for me what it meant to be a worshipper. My mom has a beautiful voice and she would write scripture-based songs that we would sing in our local congregation. My father is not musical at all, but I can remember him walking around the house or down the street singing praises to the Lord. When I was in my teenage years I would observe the worship leaders in my church, one of which was also my music teacher, and I begged them to teach me about leading worship. They did, and I discovered the amazing joy of being able to connect with God together with other believers in the place of His presence. When I went through a hard period in my life I would sit at the piano and play and worship for hours, just me and God. Like King David, I would pour out my heart to God, writing songs, singing familiar choruses and just being with him. That is what I love doing to this day!
What’s your basic process for planning a service or worship set?
This one will probably be a little hard for some folks to deal with, but to be honest, I rarely stick to a set list. I know that may sound strange and even unprofessional to some, but it is not because I am lazy or just throw something together. It is really because I believe that worship is a dialogue not a monologue. It is not just us singing to God but God communing with us, singing over us. For me the preparation of heart is where we begin – I ask the pastor what he is sharing on, I read the scriptures, I pray and try to discern what themes might emerge. I do come to rehearsal with a songbook for each of the worship team members and a list of songs to draw from. This gives a basic roadmap of some possible songs. We rehearse the worship team on those and make sure we do everything we can to minister with excellence musically working transitions, tempos, vocal lines, etc., but once the service begins I may or may not do all the songs we practiced in the order we practiced. Again, I know some readers must be shaking their heads and saying “This could never work in my church.” That may be, and each needs to find how God intends them to do it, but I will say this: I have ministered this way in literally hundreds of different churches with as many different worship teams with usually an hour or less rehearsal and it always somehow comes together. So to sum it up my biggest preparation for worship is being available and listening to where God wants to take the worship time and following Him as he leads us in His presence.
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?
- “Great is thy Faithfulness” sung by a great choir. Can’t beat the solid theology of the hymns
- “Knowing You” by Graham Kendrick, one of my all-time favorites.
- “Indescribable” sung by Chris Tomlin
- “Lord You are Good” by Israel Houghton
- “You Are Near” sung by Darlene Zschech
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?
There is always a tension between practical administration/logistics and spiritual sensitivity. I have come to recognize that God calls us both as “kings and priests” (Rev. 19). The “kingly” role is one of government, administration, organization. The “priestly” role is one of spiritual discernment, waiting before the Lord, ministering to him in worship. I think somewhere along the way we can start thinking that one is more important than the other. I have come to believe making up a worship team schedule can be a spiritual activity if it is done to the glory of God, and there is nothing more practical than spending time in His presence. When I understand that everything I do is unto the glory of God, then even the mundane tasks can take on significance. Also there is a subtle danger when working with a worship team, that the music can become the focus more than the people we are worshiping with. I am all about excellence in music, but I also see my role as building up worshipers, including the ones on my team. So I am constantly looking to teach, model, and most of all encourage to see them grow. Lastly, the biggest trap we as musicians can get into is comparison and performance, that becomes all about “me” either in pride because “I am so good.” or in condemnation and shame because “I am not as good as so-and-so.” Both of those are a trap that I am constantly guarding my heart on and admonishing the teams I work with about. The way to stay out of the trap is remember we are ministering to an “audience of one.” When we keep our focus on offering our best to Him, then we stop looking around and measuring ourselves against each other.
What scriptures speak to you the most about worship?
There are so many but a few of my favorites are:
“The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zep 3:17) What an amazing thought that God sings over us. This is why I believe worship is a dialogue. God sings over us, we sing back to him, and we share in this amazing never-ending serenade between God and man.
“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.” (Joh 4:23) Too often we think that “worship” is something that we are seeking, but this scripture is amazing in that it state God is actually seeking us, to reveal Himself in spirit and truth.
“Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, (Rev 5:8-9) This scripture describes the current activity in heaven, and reaffirms that we never “begin worship” here on earth. We just join a worship service already in progress, and get to declare his glory with all of heaven.
Tell us about Future Worship. What’s the story behind the album, and where can we hear some of it?
The album title comes from a track I wrote based on spontaneous song that came to me during a worship service several years ago. The chorus is “Eternity in time and space, eternity come fill this place, eternity and amazing grace, this is future worship.” The idea being that, worship is the place where eternity and earth come together. Every time we worship we have a chance to join with elders, angels and saints in giving glory to God. The album contains eight original songs, all written on my journey of worship. Some of them are up-beat declarations like the rock tune “Ransomed”, others like “I Want You (More Than I Want)” are a cry for wholehearted devotion, and songs like “Mystery and Majesty” declare the truth of our relationship with Christ. My prayer is that it would be a way for people to connect with some truths about us and God that we might not often think about or sing about. You can listen to the tracks and order the CD at www.stephenjenksmusic.com or you can purchase on iTunes or Google Play.
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?
To up and coming worship leaders I would say: 1) Worship is a journey. Be willing to take the journey first in your personal worship life with God, then as you lead the people of God in worship. 2) Don’t try to be exactly like someone you hear on the radio or CD. You are your own person, with your own sound. Learn from others but don’t be an echo; be a voice. 3) Learn to be a “lead worshiper”, where you lead by example in worshiping God. I wish earlier on someone had told me “There will always be someone better than you. Don’t compare yourself with others, just simply worship God with everything you have as best you can. God delights in you and in your growth in the journey, not in everything being perfect.”
What do you think worship in the church will look like in ten years?
That is a great question, and a sobering one. Depending on where you live in the earth right now, worship in the church looks very different. How are our brothers and sisters in Syria or Iran expressing their life of worship? It is not necessarily with the newest rhythms and riffs played on a light-soaked stage. As we look at the cultural shifts taking place in Western society it is not impossible to think that worship, which we have taken for granted as a freedom we would always have, may come under greater attack and scrutiny. I don’t think that means all gloom and doom though. History has proven that when the Church passes through persecution that the substance and authenticity of faith becomes that much deeper and richer. Whether or not we go through the same challenges the Body in other parts of the world are facing, I believe worship is going to become more about a lifestyle than a 90-min service, and it will be more about communion with God and community with one another that just about good music. I am excited for what the days ahead hold.
Any new worship artists on your radar at the moment?
I really enjoy Rend Collective and City Harmonic. Rend Collective is really coming from that community aspect and their songwriting is great. City Harmonic has this powerful, passionate declaration that they are making which really resonates with me. Of course many are being blessed by Jonathan David & Melissa Helser’s anthem “No Longer Slaves” which is just such a powerful proclamation. I like artists that come from the place of living their worship with authenticity and then combine that with creativity to bring about a sound that uniquely communicates a part of the heart of God.
What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done while leading worship (that you’re willing to share)?
Well, one time I led worship with my pants zipper down for the first 30 minutes. That was pretty embarrassing.
Thanks again for answering our questions. If people want to find you online, what’s the best way?