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Worship Leader Highlight: Joanna Reyburn

By Admin on September 12, 2009
Joanna Reyburn1. When and how did you know you were called to worship ministry?

When I was about 12 years old, I went to a conference in Kansas City at what was then called Metro Christian Fellowship (which has morphed into the International House of Prayer), at which JoAnn McFatter and Julie Meyer were singing. With worship leaders David Ruis, Kevin Prosch, Daniel Brymer, and Chris Dupre and prophetic singers JoAnn McFatter, Julie Meyer, and Andre Ashby.

That was the first place I had ever seen what we call now spontaneous or prophetic singing. It was at this conference that I told my mother that I wanted to be a prophetic singer like JoAnn.  At that time, I hadn't really sung before in any public kind of way, and my mother had no idea whether I would be able to sing or not, so she recommended that maybe I consider becoming a lawyer instead, but in comparison that could never do for me.

2. How do you prepare a setlist and how do you prepare yourself for leading worship?

Oh boy, here comes some potentially bad advice, I am a bit unorthodox about my approach.  I prepare for leading worship by knowing lots of worship songs and knowing how they work together, and then I follow what I feel there's life on.  That said, I want to explain more of my process.  There are two ways most people organize their worship songbooks and deciding on songs: 1. lumping songs together that are in the same key or 2. organizing them by theme.  I think both are a little awkward.  Your options tend to be singing "Holy" songs in every conceivable key and tempo and loosing the momentum each time you change songs, or singing a random topical assortment that flow together simply because they are all in "D".  Both of those options aren't so good for me.

To me there's nothing more distracting than a crazy anointed worship time getting hijacked by switching songs which involves bringing all the momentum down and changing keys.  Then you have to work hard to get it all back up again. I want to help create a worship experience that flows together where one can start worshiping at the beginning and stop when it's over, without getting stuck with their hands in the air feeling awkward when the whole band crashes out.  That's what I don't want to happen.

The way that I approach it is first of all by "flow" which is really hard to define but includes something like anointing, musical styling, tempo and time signature.  I'll take a worship song and determine that I can lead this same song somewhere between 85-95 bpm, in the keys of C, D, and E.  Multiple songs are organized according to this "flowability."  Let it Rain, Rend the Heavens, Sound of Rain, and Where You Go I Go all have "flowability" meaning I can easily flow into any of them without somebody having to take their hands down and stare at me.  They have roughly corresponding tempos, time signatures (that's important, switching from 4/4 to 3/4 or 6/8 while spontaneously singing can be a train wreck) and keys in which I can sing and they have a consistent topical flow.

We're not jumping from His Blood, to Father Abraham, to come Lord Jesus, to Dark yet Lovely in one worship setting.  I have lots of groupings like that and I name the overall "flow" based on the topic.  So I may have an Intercession one, Adoration, Cross, Heavenly Realm, etc.  I pick two for a corporate worship session BUT (here comes the potentially bad part) I usually don't decide firmly on anything in particular before a worship set.

I warn the musicians, give them the notes for 4 or so potential "flow medley's" and then we wing it and I go with what has life on it.  But because I've done the work on the front end, when I'm in "As Your Crimson Blood Washes Over Me" I know I can smoothly transition into "Oh the Blood of Jesus" and build into "See His Love" because I've done the work on the front end.

3. What is the most important thing you would share with an up-and-coming worship leader?

Get comfortable.  Get comfortable being you onstage and off - whether it's praying or jumping and dancing or laughing or yelling or singing at the top of your lungs, or whatever.  There is plenty of room for you to be you.  Nobody needs a clone of another really good worship leader, because they've got a corner on that market.

Get comfortable singing spontaneously.  Start in your room while you're practicing on your instrument and find a chord pattern and just start singing over yourself.  "I know the plans I have for you says the Lord..." Start there.  If you're a worship leader without an instrument, you can do that a cappella or with a CD of repeating chord progressions.  I go for walks with my dog and just sing the Lord's heart.  I get so much revelation!   Then try singing through a Psalm, or one of Paul's prayers, or Song of Solomon, or Isaiah or Job.  Try singing big, hard, theological words like "propitiation" and "condemnation" and "supremacy."  Get comfortable so when the Lord gives you a song, you're not nervous about the way it will come out.

Get comfortable praying out loud while you're worship leading and inviting others to join in worship, or calling out a ministry time during a worship set.  You're not called to sing songs, you're called as Priests to minister before the Lord and to the people.  Get comfortable leaning on the Lord and not on your plan. The biggest thing I want to convey is that it's great to make plans and prepare and practice, but be willing to throw it all out the window to follow the leading of the Lord.

4. What do you see God doing in the current worship movement?

I think the Lord is restoring the priestly ministry in the earth that there would be a people prepared to say "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD" at His return.

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Joanna Reyburn is a worship leader and songwriter at International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City, MO

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