Interview with Mark Robins
How did you first get involved in worship ministry?
In my early twenties I was part of a small group who would meet each week to pray and worship – the leader of the group gave me an acoustic guitar (with a bit of a twisted neck!) to learn to play as he thought he could see potential for me to lead songs in worship in the group. I already played the bass, still do, and had played violin at school so was in with a shout!
So it was E, A, G, C, D etc., and avoiding any songs with B in them for a while! Over the years I’ve found easier ways to play these chords as they arise in worship songs – check out “Strummyone” on Youtube, that’s me doing some instruction. If you use the standard shapes, as a beginner, playing these songs can seem impossible – too many fingers to move. I love to see people realising that it can be done with the easier ways I’ve found.
I still remember the very first time I led in a small group of six or seven people. I strummed and began to sing – and they sang with me! I know that’s what’s supposed to happen, but what I immediately felt was the responsibility of it all. They would follow me! That memory stays with me each time I lead and I count it one of the most important things to remember – we should never take it lightly.
What are some ways the Lord has used to help you grow in your worship leading and songwriting?
In terms of worship leading, realising more and more that it’s about His presence and learning to sense where the people are at within the time of worship. Is it time to go on to another song? Is it time to repeat that verse or chorus or single line? Is it time simply to wait on Him? Keeping your eyes open is important here or you won’t see what’s going on! Also, understanding that one of our main aims is to not be a distraction. We do not want to be the center of attention. So, we must be honest with ourselves about how well we do what we do, and how we can become more proficient and, consequently, more serving in our approach. By the same token, I avoid anything too flashy. I want to provide a solid platform upon which the people can stand and focus on the Father, the Son and the Spirit. That is the point of what we’re doing.
In terms of songwriting, you grow by songwriting. That’s not supposed to sound trite, but practice, practice, practice! We mustn’t be too precious over what we’ve written, either. Most of what you produce you will discard, or save somewhere just in case there’s a part of it that could be recycled. The idea that “God gave me this song and it cannot be changed!” shows an immature attitude to songwriting. I’ve learned that an initial idea is just that. The songs I took to Nick Coetzee for “The broken” demonstrate the point – he tweaked them in a way I’d never have done to get them that last step along.
There are song structures that can be learned, other “rules” that can help, but, however great you think your song is, it’ll be others who actually decide how good and useful it is. It can be tough, but the less precious we are about this, the easier it becomes. We can develop a professional attitude and take constructive criticism from those we seek to serve in song, and either rewrite or keep for another day.
One last point - make a song about one central theme or point, a song thought, if you like. It’s common to hear early efforts attempting to encapsulate the entirety of theology in a single song!
I’ve lots more to say but not the space to say it here!
What is your involvement with Worship Central and what is your favorite part of your role?
I am the Southern Regional Coordinator (UK) for Worship Central which is a school of worship headed up by Tim Hughes and Al Gordon and run out of Holy Trinity Brompton in London. Tim and Al wanted to push their vision to equip the local church out regionally across the UK; to make it less about them and London. To this end, we are building relationship between churches across the denominations in each region by gathering together those involved in the provision of musical worship. We have such a common experience and yet we have tended to get on with it on our own, in our own places of worship. What could it be like if we got together to encourage each other and share the highs and the lows? I am very excited by the possibilities – the Worship Central platform is naturally ecumenical which is wonderful and amazing. I have big hopes for next year, to encounter God, equip the worshipper and empower the local church.
My favourite part? Well, I don’t think I have a favourite part as such, it’s just very exciting to be involved in something with such great potential for the local churches to come together. Having said that, the tour night at Central Hall in Southampton was, once again, fantastic!
Could you share with us your most embarrassing moment while leading worship?
I’ve escaped, so far anyway, any really bad moments! I did lead at a fancy wedding once and started a song in the wrong key. It only dawned on me as I saw the chorus approaching and realized there was no way I was going to make those notes now! So, I just had to stop, apologize to everyone, and start again. I did find that embarrassing...
Mark is on the musical team at New Community Church's Central Hall in Southampton where he regularly leads Sunday morning worship. He has a passion to see others released into their calling before God and as part of this has a role guiding musical direction in the team.
When not holding a guitar Mark enjoys a good game of golf, very occasional triathlons and coffee. He is married with four children, two Gibsons and a Stingray.
Be sure to check out his album, The Broken, on iTunes.Comment on Facebook Comment on Twitter
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