Special Report by Luchae Williams, worship choir director at Word of Faith Christian Centre and Gateway News music reviewer
Worship leaders in Port Elizabeth were in for a treat when former Delirious frontman, Martin Smith, made a pit stop in the city, to host an informal chat and worship night, at Father’s House Church on Tuesday November 9.
The highly-acclaimed singer and songwriter graced SA shores, along with a host of dynamic international speakers and musicians, for the Gathering Family Christian Festival at Stellenbosch last weekend.
I attended the casual chat, hosted by Burn 24/7’s Pete Gooch. Smith and his daughter, Elle-anna, shared their hearts with more than 20 local worship team members and pastors. Covering topics relating to ministry life, songwriting and humility, Smith shared testimonies and nuggets of wisdom. He said it was an honour to have a moment to speak into the lives and ministry of other worship leaders since “we’re all on the same team”.
Love God, love people
The “Gods Great Dance Floor” singer explained that the key to any form of leadership is loving your people. “They will follow you if they love you, and they will love you if you love them,” he shared.
He reiterated that leading worship means serving people with your life and that in order to truly serve, you have to get to know the people you are leading. “Get to know their children. Be there when it’s hard.”
When asked about leading worship under time constraints he spoke about the relationship between a senior pastor and worship pastor.
“My job is to serve your [the senior pastor’s] vision. I have to submit!” he explained. Smith and his family currently serve at a local church in Brighton, where he and his eldest daughter, Elle, lead worship.
Family has always been the most important thing to the Smiths, who have managed to rear six children despite Martin’s tour itinerary with highly popular Christian rock ensemble, Delirious, in the early 2000’s.
Elle shared how her parents had always gently offered church to their children, without forcing them. She said that being connected to a youth community saved her.
Despite the obvious success that Smith has enjoyed, he admitted that being away from home and from family still hurts.
“I might be a bit more in control now and I can try to pace things — but still it hurts. That is the pain when God sends you out — which is why I say its a miracle that after all these years, it’s not fractured. Whereas for so many of my peers it is,” he said, referring to marriage and family life.
Smith encouraged worship leaders to write songs together, stating that his best songs were the ones he has co-written with other Christian musicians.
“Songwriting is like tithing — you give away and it always comes back.”
He explained that you don’t have to go it alone and that when he co-writes, he finds that the songs are better.
Army of Bones
Some of Smith’s more recent projects includes a new rock ‘n roll band, called Army of Bones, which he refers to as an answer to a “dangerous prayer”. The band does not necessarily fall under the “Christian music” banner, and does gigs in night clubs and at secular venues.
“I felt like God was calling me to keep stepping out,” he shared. “There’s been a longing in me to keep writing music that connects with people outside of church.”
He jokingly refers to it as living a double life, since he and his team often minister in churches in the morning, and end up playing at a pub or in night club in the evening.
“It’s the beginning of something. I’m going in obedience. It’s hard work.”
When the topic of humility came up, Smith shared that true humility is knowing who you are in God.
“It looks different for all of us. The key is to relax — this is who God has made me to be. The more you grow in faith, the more you realise that He’s your Dad and this is who He’s created you to be.”
“If everyone led (worship) like me it would be a disaster. And if everyone led like someone else it would be boring. We need each other. We need people to be who they are.”
He reflected on a previous visit to South Africa where he got to experience an African safari, which he referred to as rather safe, since the wildlife was behind a cage and therefore posed no real danger.
“I say this with total respect to the Church, because that’s what Jesus is coming back for, but my hope and dream when I look at another generation is to see them let out of a cage. Let them be wild.”
“I think that the sound of extravagance and authenticity — that’s the sound of the Father. I’m not saying let’s make church wild. I’m just saying that the more real we can make it, the more authentic, the more dangerous, the more creative, the more spectacular, the more extravagant — I think that people outside of church will get drawn to that.”