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Aug 03 2007

Interview With Tim Smith, Mars Hill Church in Seattle

by Mark Driscoll

Some years ago when Mars Hill Church (which I founded in 1996) was small and struggling, I met a young man named Tim Smith at a conference hosted by Leadership Network in Glorietta, New Mexico. Tim had grown up around Portland, Oregon, and was at the time working as an intern at a church in Saint Louis, Missouri. As we spoke, God revealed to me that Tim had a great amount of giftedness as a worship leader and Bible teacher. Through our discussions, he and his wife, Beth, moved to Seattle without any job or financial support based simply upon God’s sense of calling on their life. They lived with my wife, Grace, and me for a few months until they were settled in with jobs and housing. At that time, Tim came on at Mars Hill Church as an intern in the area of worship. He had never played an electric guitar, written a song, played in a band, and, to be honest, could not really sing. But he loved Jesus, loved his wife, loved the Scriptures, and had great gifts as a leader along with the humility to learn.

He began studying music and theology, taking music lessons and singing lessons, and before long was running the entire worship department for our church. In time, he proved to be such a gifted leader that we brought him on as a pastor and he has since built an enormous department. Currently under his leadership is the entire Sunday church event at Mars Hill and he has hundreds of staff and volunteers working under him in areas that include sound, light, video, composition, recording, etc., in seven services on three campuses (and expanding to fourteen services on six campuses in the coming year). Tim is in every way a brother to me and someone I deeply appreciate as a friend. The number of bands, variety of styles, and quality of songwriting and musicianship that he has led is nothing short of staggering. He is a godly man, deep theological thinker, gifted artist, skilled leader, and excellent preacher whom I often praise God for bringing to our church so that it could grow from hundreds to thousands of people.

Additionally, Pastor Tim has a deep passion to equip and encourage other worship leaders as both theologians and musicians. As a result, he is now embarking on a series of new projects that I wanted to let everyone know about in the following interview we conducted. Additionally, anyone wanting to check out some of his work can download live worship songs for free at

MD: Could you explain to folks what you have going with

TS: Doxologist is the voice of my team and me as we seek to wrestle with the theology, missiology, and practice of worship, both gathered and scattered. It is primarily a blog-based site right now as we get it off the ground, but we have a lot of things planned, including additional theological content, an internet "radio station," and all kinds of other things. Here is a link to our "About Us" vision statement:

MD: You are hosting (with Resurgence) the Continuous Worship Conference September 17–18, 2008 in Seattle, with early registration (until August 31) set at a mere $35. Could you explain the details of that event?

TS: The event will be a combination of both practical and theological instruction. Joining us will be the entire worship department of Mars Hill Church, helping to answer people’s questions about everything from lighting to sound and video gear as well as systems, consultants, and resources that are helpful to worship leaders. Also joining us will be many of the worship leaders from the Acts 29 Church Planting Network. Our featured speaker is Harold Best, whose book Unceasing Worship is among the most important theologies of worship that I have read. The conference schedule is as follows:

Pre-Conference Track (Monday morning/afternoon): Mars Hill Music and Production Staff – Practical issues of corporate worship

  • Building missional worship bands
  • Audio and video production
  • Songwriting workshop

Session 1 (Monday PM): Mark Driscoll – Worship and Idolatry

Session 2 (Tuesday AM): Harold Best – "Is worship the only word for worship?"

  • Worship as the continuous outpouring of humanity (unceasing worship)
  • Worship in the larger theological sense
  • Deal with many of the themes from his book Unceasing Worship

Session 3 (Tuesday afternoon): Harold Best – "Jesus: the sole mediator of worship and the helplessness of music"

  • Confront the false understanding of music, arts, and worship leaders as mediators of the presence of God
  • Declare Jesus as the sole mediator and all other mediators as idols

Session 4 (Tuesday evening): Tim Smith – "Missional Worship"

  • Culture as the fruit of human worship
  • Discerning an appropriate response to God’s initiation among a particular people in a particular place and time

For more information on the conference, the official statements are on both the Resurgence and Doxologist websites.

MD: What is going on with your new record project?

TS: We are currently working on our first full-length studio album in five years. It is a compilation of a number of our arrangements and re-writes of hymns. We are going to call it the Rain City Hymnal and it will be out sometime this fall with a pre-release available exclusively for attendees of the Continuous Worship Conference. The album will include some well-known standards like "All Creatures of Our God and King," "How Great Thou Art," and "I’ll Fly Away," as well as some lesser-known hymns like "I Sing the Mighty Power of God" and "What Wondrous Love is This." Five of our current bands are contributing to the project.

Hymns are the perfect illustration of "missional worship." Most hymns have a separate author for text and tune. Over the years, many of these songs have had their lyrics put to three, four, or sometimes five or more different tunes. These amazing lyrics have been put to different musical contexts to fit the culture of a particular people, place, and time. Mars Hill is just one more link in that chain of musical missionaries trying to bring glory to God in a way that makes sense to the people of Seattle.

MD: Resurgence is launching the Re:Lit line of books. What do you have planned for the Re:Sound line of music?

TS: When it comes to the subject of corporate worship, there tends to be two divergent schools of thought: those with the theology and those with the music. Those that invest deeply in a larger biblical and theological understanding rarely have music you want to listen to. Likewise, those who invest deeply in particular cultural traditions of music, rarely have a solid, biblical theology as their foundation. Re:Sound exists to bring a rich biblical understanding of worship together with music you would actually like to listen to, all for the glory of God and the building of His church. Worship, in the most simple sense, is our response to God’s initiation. The most appropriate response to God’s initiation among a particular people in a particular place and time will come from that people. Re:Sound exists to highlight diverse musical expressions of worship and challenge musicians to the task of contextualizing the gospel into music.

(c) 2007 The

The Resurgence

Resurgence is a movement that resources multiple generations to live for Jesus so that they can effectively reach their cities with the gospel by staying culturally accessible and biblically faithful.

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The Resurgence

Resurgence is a movement that resources multiple generations to live for Jesus so that they can effectively reach their cities with the gospel by staying culturally accessible and biblically faithful.