This interview took place at New Word Alive, where Sam was one of the worship leaders:
How did you get involved in leading worship?
I joined Soul Survivor when I was eighteen, taking a year out. I got involved in worship. Worship was always something I was interested in, even since I was five. I went to a conference, possibly with Ishmael, and ever since then I wanted to worship Jesus through music. I still remember the first time I led worship in a small Anglican church when I was younger. I was very nervous beforehand.
What has it been like being at New Word Alive?
Well, I really feel as if I have been learning a lot. It’s been very fresh. I have been very excited to hear the teaching of God’s word.
What is worship all about?
Worship is about God and for God and to God (that’s straight from a book). It flows from a revelation of who God is, it is our hearts’ response of love to God. It is about bringing all our emotions and our heart, and engaging our mind.
It’s all about creating a space for people to connect to God, to sing songs that speak to our minds, and create a heart response. The goal is to create a moment of intimacy with God. At that point the musicians, the worship leader, all fade into the background and God becomes the focus for our hearts as we respond to him. Sometimes the words that we are singing are not enough, and we need a time of quiet to just respond to God. Or maybe to sing a simple song like “Lord, I give you my heart.” It’s really all about us gaining a renewed love for Jesus. Then, when Jesus has filled us up, he wants to send us out to be a light to the lost.
How do you prepare to lead worship?
I used to spend ages and ages agonizing over song choice. Now I tend to actually pick the songs in about fifteen minutes so as not to compromise the time I spend with God. It’s important not to over-prepare. I try to get a sense of a theme that seems to be what God is doing.
It is so important to engage with God, and as a leader, connect with the people where they are. You can’t be so far away from where they are that they can’t come with you to worship God. You must leave room for God to do it.
How important is doctrine to Christian young people today?
I would say that there has been an increase in that recently. I think there’s been an increase in a passion for God’s word. It’s obvious that is the heart of New Word Alive and it’s the same back home. We need God’s word, and that leads to a desire to worship. God desires our worship. He knows that in the hard times we want to worship, but it’s just hard. He wants the truths that we sing to be the truth that we live. There are times when things are hard, but there is still hope.
How do you handle the attention that you get as a worship leader in front of thousands?
I think for me the most important thing is that I have a group of friends around me. They know that I am not anything important or special. That takes the pressure off me, as I know that they care for me and will tell me privately if I do something not right. There are just a few of them. But as well as that, it is just about making sure the focus is on Jesus. For most Christians, it is really all about Jesus. We should all be encouraged that we can help people, whoever we are, to see Jesus. We must take the pressure off ourselves. God thinks as much of me whether the worship I just led went well or it really didn’t.
What leaders and worship leaders have inspired you?
I am probably a bit biased, but I have learned a lot over the last few years from the other worship leaders and pastors at Soul Survivor. Big inspirations for me have been leaders who might not be very well known, but they have got alongside me and helped me through the difficult times. They are my heroes as well. Apart from Soul Survivor, I listen to a few worship leaders, including Phil Wickham. I have listened to a lot of Phatfish over the years. There’s a particular song of theirs, “To you, King Jesus,” which has what I think is the best guitar solo in the history of Christian worship CDs.