Recently Redpoint Magazine was able to catch up with Jeremy Riddle who is a nationally known songwriter and worship leader. He has a new studio worship album “Furious” that will be released this summer, and he has led worship at many Vineyard youth events across the nation in the past years. Below are a few excerpts from a revealing discussion about Jeremy’s desire for all of us to keep worship centered on the presence of God.
Redpoint Magazine (RM): Can you talk some about your inspiration for this new album?
Jeremy Riddle (JR): I think this record will be filled with more congregational songs than I’ve had in the past. I think it’s funny how much community shapes your writing process. We’ve gone through a lot of seasons, but I’m really freshly enthused about songs for the church. I don’t even see myself as a fantastic congregational songwriter—not a heavy hitter. I mean, I’ve always walked the artist/congregational line—not that in my heart I’m anything but a worship leader—it’s just what comes out in my songwriting isn’t always that congregational. But for this project a lot is co–written, and I’ve found that has been a really good thing for me. It helps keep the songs true to their original goal, and it brings my strengths and their strengths to the table in a complementary way. So yeah, I think we’ve created a couple really great, solid, proven songs, which even from the intro you can tell that they are going to catch on.
RM:I know in your past you have worked with teens. How did that shape who you are and what you feel called to? How did it shape your worship leading?
JR: Leading teens in worship is not your typical assignment—depending upon the group. I think in a lot of ways you are starting at ground zero for 90 percent of the teens. So I think it’s really crucial to teach what it means to worship. Especially with how powerful youth culture is, it’s so important to shape a culture of worship. I think with so many youth, it is in their hearts to respond to God, but unless that culture is there, and unless they are in a group of other kids doing it together, they won’t really engage.
So the trick for me is how do I get this group to engage with the Lord? I would always start with the core group of kids and sow a lot of time into them. I would rope that core in by intentionally building teams with youth (if only adults are on stage, then we could never build a culture of youth). I would suck them in with lessons, and in that I would teach them about worship. I was very simple—I would have them (for instance) read through three psalms in a week, and then make three points about worship. When we’d gather then, we’d discuss what we learned in Psalms, and then start band practice. I always had one strong leader to kind of hold it together, that really helped. Then, once I had a core group of teens involved, I encouraged them to go after God.
“More is caught than taught” is especially true in worship. It wasn’t a lecture on lifting my hands in worship that brought me to lift my hands. It was more an environment that I caught that this was natural and good. With youth it is something that has to be modeled— but this is also true with adults. The lessons I have learned working with youth have definitely transferred to all I do with adults. Adults are really no different—if you don’t create a culture of worship with adults, you get the same thing. I see a lot of places where that culture of worship doesn’t exist, and there is no freedom in worship. But I think being intentional about creating that culture of worship is something that I’m really passionate about. That was something transformative for me in my youth which began my understanding that Christianity is really about a relationship.
RM: As a leader on the national stage for worship, what do you feel God is doing in worship right now in the nation? Do you feel any trends or movements that you see happening across the board?
JR: I sense that the next generation has some authentic and “indigenous” sound that we’re not sure what it is yet, or what form it will take. The music they are listening to is very different, so will it change the landscape of mainstream worship as we know it? I’m not sure, but I’m excited to see where it’s going.
Here’s where I want to see worship in our nation go—I want to see it increasingly be about presence (and in some cases return to presence, or even start there for the very first time). I want to see the manifest presence of God, the desire and pursuit of his presence, be the thing. The central desire should be to bring an authentic offering of the heart.
Also, I feel that worship needs to be more about a group of people relating to God together, than about style or anything else. I’m in a church where there are lots of styles represented, but the goal is the same—the desire for God to come and to draw near and to draw on the hunger of his people. Praise ushers him in, it brings heaven to earth, and I’m excited about groups of people who allow space and time for that. I worry about the restrictions we put around worship. Take time restrictions for example. No relationship functions like that. There are ebbs and flows. So I’m excited about seeing the program become secondary to the presence.
RM: What are you really passionate about right now when it comes to worship and what you communicate to people about worship?
JR: I am so passionate about leading people into their destinies as worshippers. It’s like the old Catechism, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” When we worship, do we feel and experience the presence of God? Do we feel his delight and his pleasure as we receive the revelation of who he is that comes when his presence enters the room? That’s a part of our destiny. I want to see that aspect grown in our churches. I worry that people don’t understand what worship is for, or how to engage in it. With all my heart I long to see a group of people that are learning to respond to God in faith—and by faith I mean action. When people learn how to respond extravagantly no matter what their circumstances are, it moves the heart of God! If there is something I’m hungry to see is people who understand what it means to respond in faith—“this is who You are, and this his how I’m going to respond to You.”
I want to see America in particular revitalized in worship. I think it is [the worship experience] bigger than it’s ever been, but I think there’s something missing still. Experience creates an appetite. So many people don’t have an appetite simply because they have never had an experience. I can remember times where I’ve been totally undone by the presence of God and I wonder, what if I had never experienced that? Especially for youth! They need to experience the presence of God. I once made a whole curriculum for teens just about experiencing God, because I wanted them to each encounter God in a real way. They need to experience God or the world will really throw them off course. The root isn’t going to be how much you’ve learned about usually, but have you experienced Jesus? And worship is such a powerful way to do that.
Jeremy Riddle is a songwriter and worship leader. He first hit the scene in 2007 with the critically acclaimed record, Full Attention. This project had the radio hit Sweetly Broken, which was the number one song on the radio station K-Love for over 40 weeks in 2007. Other singles from that record were Stand in Awe and God of All Glory. Since then Jeremy has toured extensively all over the US. The Riddle Band has opened for Rebecca St. James, Big Daddy Weave and has played events with Brenton Brown as well. In 2009 Jeremy released his second project, The Now and Not Yet with the radio singles Bless His Name and Christ Is Risen. in the fall of 2010 his first full length live project Prepare the Way will be released, which will include tracks from live shows in 2009. Jeremy comes from a family of 7 children and was homeschooled all the way through high school. He graduated from Cal State Fullerton with a BA in political science. Jeremy attended and later served as a youth pastor at the Anaheim Vineyard. Riddle is married with 4 children and now lives in Redding California and is part of the worship ministry at Bethel Church. You can learn more about Jeremy at www.JeremyRiddle.net