Big Interview - July August 09 - Tim Hughes

Songwriter Tim Hughes believes worship leaders like himself should take their call seriously and responsibly. GEORGE LUKE reports

So there I was, walking through a shopping mall in Swaziland’s capital city Mbabane, when I happened upon a CD shop and decided to sample some local music. The shop assistant put on a CD by a gospel artist from neighbouring South Africa. Track number three was a cover of Here I Am to Worship.
A broad smile erupts across Tim Hughes’ face when I tell him the story.

“It always surprises me when I hear stories of that song reaching out to the furthest parts of the earth,” he says. “That’s the amazing power of a song; it can go anywhere!

“I’ve been in streets in Manila, leading kids in worship with it; I’ve had recordings of street kids in India singing it; it’s unbelievable. It’s amazing what God can do with a song that he breathed. And that encourages me and inspires me to keep writing.”
Happy Day, Tim’s new live CD/DVD, was recorded last September at the Shepherds Bush Empire in London. Alongside Tim were guests Martin Smith and Stu G from Delirious?, the rap group 29th Chapter and the Sacred dance team.

“It was fantastic!” says Tim. “It was definitely one of the most high-pressure things I’ve ever done.

“We had over 2,000 worshippers there, and we wanted it to be a great night of worship. We also wanted it to be a great recording – both for the CD and the DVD – so there was that pressure, too. But it all came together wonderfully well.

“Just being able to lead worship and see people respond was incredibly exciting and an enjoyable experience.”
With recent songs such as God of Justice, and his participation in Martin Smith’s Compassionart charity project, social justice has been on Tim’s mind a lot lately. Much of that goes back to his time with Soul Survivor.
“Mike Pilavachi and the Soul Survivor team really sensed God’s heart and teaching, that the Bible shows that worship and justice are intrinsically linked,” he recalls. “You can’t just sing songs and have a great festival if you’re not actually caring for the poor, the homeless, or those in prison.

“If you read Amos, the Israelite people put on great festivals, great worship songs and sounds – but they were mistreating the poor. And God said to them: ‘Away with the noise of your songs; I cannot stand your religious feasts.’ That got us thinking.
“In 2000, we did a mission in Manchester with The Message. We saw thousands gather for worship in the morning, then go out into the streets and make a difference. Then we did Soul in the City in London.

“Each time we stepped out, we saw the impact of it. And it’s the same here at Holy Trinity Brompton. When we worship God through serving the poor, God’s blessing is there in a very powerful way. That’s what we want to commit the rest of our lives to doing.”
Another project Tim is passionate about is Worship Central, which aims to nurture aspiring worship leaders. “I think that in terms of seeing the Church really come alive, worship is going to be an absolute key,” he says.
“Our vicar, Nicky Gumbel, said that 20 years ago, people were joining churches purely based on the preacher. But now – and whether this is good or bad, I don’t know – people are primarily joining churches based on the worship.

“That means for us as worship leaders that we’ve really got to raise the game. Many worship leaders – myself included – haven’t had official theological training. I’m hoping to get that.

“So how can we really engage with what worship is? How can we train theologically? How can we take this responsibility seriously?
“The first thing I’d say to anyone who’s passionate about worship is encourage them to take that call and responsibility very seriously; get involved in Worship Central, and do all you can to allow God to use your gifts. There’s a huge responsibility on us, and it’s a very exciting challenge.”

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