Joshua Taylor is a worship guitarist and music instructor in Washington State. Recently, Joshua talked to Worship Links about the future of worship music, his upcoming book, and how to handle a train wreck.
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’m a creative, and study music, business, photography, design, and writing, and I really enjoy hiking, fitness and the outdoors. To pay the bills I work a currently work part-time job as a supervisor at a major delivery company in addition to teaching guitar lessons. I’m currently working on a book about open chord techniques, similar to what you see modern worship players do. Follow updates on Twitter, @GuitarTeacherJT for when it’s ready to come out.
How did you get started in worship ministry?
I went to a tiny Christian High School, played guitar, and we formed a band, which eventually became the youth worship team for the church. I think the first songs we played were “Pharaoh Pharaoh,” “Awesome God”, and “Wipe Out.” 🙂
What’s your basic process for planning a service or worship set?
When I’m leading I play a few songs on my own during the week, then I figure these songs go well together and I’d love to play them for the service. Most of the time the worship leader and pastor throw together a few songs, and we practice them. If it goes too bad, or we’re just not “feeling it”, we try something different. Our services are very loose and spontaneous.
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?
- Jon Thurlow’s Take Your Place-“My soul, long for You Lord in a dry and weary land.” Get it? Desert? Anyway…
- Misty Edwards’ version of Resting Place
- As a Deer
- Matt Redman’s version of Here is Love
- Audra Lynn’s Yet Will I Sing
What I really wish on the island for is my guitar.
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?
Some of the challenges are getting musicians to play how you want them to play, getting better rhythm and control, etc. I always try to push them to do their best. The biggest challenge is flaky people.
As for the difference between musician and managing, I just have to consider it’s not just me on the piano or guitar. When people play wrong rhythms or out of tune guitars it drives me nuts so I call ’em out. I’m not sure what the balance is, I do both at the same time, and am just used to it.
What scriptures speak to you the most about worship?
The most appropriate one is the first commandment, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, which is in Matthew and Deuteronomy somethingorrother.
How do you handle training issue in your worship team, whether it’s spiritual (what worship is all about) or technical (guitar techniques)?
I really encourage bringing in new people, especially the younger talent, which gets me really excited. As I get older, I step into the role of trainer, they must increase, I must decrease. Pastor and the other leaders teach them the spiritual aspects really well, so I only need to give two cents here and there. My focus is on theory, dynamics and rhythm so that’s where I focus on training people on the team.
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?
My advice would be don’t pick songs that are too wordy or hard to sing. Pick songs that are easy to sing, and focus on the attributes of God or the cross like “Ten Thousand Reasons” or “How Great is Our God.” “Bless me” songs tend to focus on yourself and your emotions, whereas worship songs put the focus on God.
As for what I wish people had told me was is that there’s life outside the church. Coming from a revival type background, you’d think we’d walk on clouds all day. Pastor has often emphasized the need to come as you are, sins and all, and let God do His work, instead of coming to God when you feel spiritual and hiding in shame when you don’t. You can’t pretend you’re something you aren’t, so why try? This applies to a worship leader, a pastor or any other Christian, and it would transform worship if we were this authentic.
What do you think worship in the church will look like in ten years?
The way the country is going, I can’t guarantee the same freedom of worship that we have now. But assuming we are still free to worship, mainstream music will probably sound similar, but there will be niches of new music, very passionate, and very different to our ears.
Millennials are extremely passionate and creative, and there’s potential to push us to the edge, the same way drums and guitars did back in the 70s. I’m all about letting people focus their passions in a means they relate to, setting boundaries, but not putting them in a box either. We just have to explain that it’s not about having the latest cool sound or effects. Though we might just have the latest cool technology, there’s nothing wrong with that, so long as the focus is right.
I’m looking forward to what the next generation will come up with. Being in my late 30s, some of their music and attitudes I don’t care for, but I have to be willing to put aside my own biases if God wants to do something with them. As I mentioned before, songs should still emphasize the attributes of God, Scripture and a similar focus, just a different and unique sound. All I ask is please come up with songs other than C G Am F, and please come up with something different from the usual Coldplay or U2 influences, because I’m ready for something new.
Any new worship artists on your radar at the moment?
I’m a few years behind, but I like the stuff coming out of International House of Prayer and Bethel. I don’t know all the names, but it’s great worship.
What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done while leading worship (that you’re willing to share)?
When me and the another guitar player and the drummer all started playing the same song differently and the congregation sang at different tempos and there was utter chaos. I’m not exaggerating, it was bad. Pastor looked to me from the piano and said, “We’ve got to get out of this song!” LOL!
Thanks again for answering our questions. If people want to find you online, what’s the best way?
I’m all over the place online. You can find my guitar training blog at http://www.guitarlessonsgresham.com/blog and my music, writing and photography at http://www.unchartedstreams.com. For social media you can add me on Twitter or Facebook. If you play guitar, you’ll definitely want to keep updated on my open chords book.