‘It’s a balance between work and play.’ We sat down with Brian and Jenn Johnson, Senior Worship Pastors at Bethel Church, California, to talk about music, marriage and their search for inspiration.
Why is music so powerful?
B: Music is a universal language. A song or melody communicates in a unique way, so it’s a tool that God uses. Before you could buy medicine in flavours for children, you’d give it to them with a bit of sugar. That’s how God uses music – his message is that medicine and the sugar is the music.
Who are your favourite artists?
B: Coldplay, Brandon Flowers, I don’t know if The Killers are my favourites, but they move me.
J: The worship artists from the Vineyard movement and Hillsong have given us so much inspiration over the years.
How would you define worship?
B: Worship is responding to an acute awareness of God’s presence.
J: It’s picturing God as the Father, and giving our love and adoration to him. It’s proclaiming who he is, and telling him who he is to us.
What inspires you in your creative process?
J: My kids help me understand how God feels about me. When you see how much you care for your kids, it gives you this incredible idea about how God loves us as a father. Also my friends inspire me! I love people and their uniqueness. I love seeing God in people.
B: Music inspires me, but when I turn my mind off from work I don’t actually listen to much music. For some reason that works for me – I catch my best ideas when I’m not trying. It’s important to dedicate time to work, but often you find songs in day-to-day life. It’s a balance between work and play.
What is it like being married and working together?
B: It’s the best. We’re opposites, so we get the strength of both our personalities. We experience a lot of great things and reach greater levels because we do it together.
J: We back each other up. You get used to saying ‘sorry’ and working things through. In worship, we ‘honour the point’, which means that Brian may be feeling something and he’ll start to sing it out, and I will run with it too. That’s been a big strength for us – honouring each other’s feelings.
When your job is so intertwined with your faith, how do you separate your work from your spiritual life?
J: Having kids and being part of a busy church while making albums and working with a record label is very challenging. It’s important for me to take moments during the day to focus on God and just tell him that I love him. I seem to really hear from God when I go on walks. Savouring spare moments and carving them out of your day to clear your head is important.
B: l like to work out. The space for me is really good. I need space and time to be by myself.
What one thing have you learnt about success?
J: Success shows your true colours. If I could speak to anyone starting out in worship – or in anything – I’d advise him or her to grow slowly and let the process be everything. When a baby chick is pecking out of a shell, the actual pecking process strengthens the chick enough for the outside world. Many people in this generation want success now. They want all God has for them now. That sounds beautiful, but just let God deal with your heart. Do everything not only out of love for God, but out of a genuine love for people. That’s what helps you grow.
What has failure taught you?
J: Caution. Although we’ve made mistakes in our life, we’ve done our best to clean up the mess that we’ve caused. If you let someone down, you go back and say sorry. I think that in any failure, nothing can write you off from your destiny with God, but to fully carry out God’s plan, you need to sort out your mistakes.
What’s your creative vision for your ministry?
B: My vision is to see our label and the Worship University that we run continue to do well.
J: We hope to nurture people that know the value of community. My heart is absolutely set on empowering musicians and worship leaders all over the world, so we train people with an open hand. I love leaders! It’s hard when they leave, but it’s our vision to train people that are working globally.
Photography by Anna Bnan