Cory Asbury is a dynamic worship leader and songwriter with a wide experience of leading all over the world while on an 8 year journey with IHOP. He is currently on staff at New Life Church in Colorado Springs and has released 2 solo albums as well as being included in compilation records with IHOP. Recently, Cory joined our discussion board and answered our members’ questions about all things worship.
What are the essentials for any worship leader?
I think the essential quality for any worship leader is humility — Learning to stay humble whether you’re on top of the mountain or in the valley. I would also say learning to talk to God. Moving beyond just doing a karaoke set, singing cover songs and learning that it’s a dialogue between us and God, and us and the congregation.
When did you feel the call to lead worship?
I had always loved music but IHOP is where I felt the call to lead worship, when i saw that music could be used as an avenue to point people toward Jesus. Everyone was going in the same direction with their hearts aligned and that became really beautiful to me. At IHOP, I had my first real encounter with God and felt His love in a tangible way that I’d never experienced before. I just wanted to encounter Him more and more.
How do you encourage those who may be unfamiliar with a prophetic and spontaneous style of worship?
Pastoring your congregation is key here. I think that looks like giving a clear, biblical explanation as to why you’re doing what you’re doing. You can’t expect to throw something totally new at your congregation without any reasoning and expect them to be fully on board. So I think it’s great to spend some time pastoring people into understanding what the prophetic is and why you’re incorporating it into worship.
Also, I think building a culture takes time. Even after explaining it to them, it still takes time to build a culture that knows how to flow and how to engage in “spontaneous” and “prophetic” moments. So don’t beat yourself up if it seems like they aren’t in it right at first…give them some time to learn.
Who inspires you? And how do you stay inspired to write new songs?
I really love Jonathan Helser’s tender spirit. He has a pure heart of worship that is really rare. You can tell that his relationship with Jesus is strong. The way he leads worship, you can see that he is having intimate conversations with the Lord. Also, Rich Mullins — his story is amazing.
I am constantly reading the Bible and meditating on it. I tend to find one passage and hone in on it for a week or two and talk to the Lord about what it really means. That’s what keeps me inspired — when the Lord opens up the scriptures and gives you revelation about them.
How do you keep a pure heart before the Lord?
I think God does a pretty good job of keeping us humble. I like to call it the “ferris wheel of favor”. Some days you’re on top of the world, feeling great, and you can see everything clearly. Other days feel like you can’t see a thing and no one notices you. We all go through our ups and downs, but everything is for that audience of one with Jesus. My times outside of leading worship are how I stay fresh and keep my zeal for God. Jesus would regularly get away and be with God in the secret place. He didn’t get filled up by ministry; intimacy with His Father was what replenished Him.
How do you include God in your decisions?
I try to include Him in everything. That’s the goal, a constant conversation. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 speaks of praying unceasingly. That can sound like we have to constantly bow our heads, but I think the writer is talking about bringing God into the story of our everyday life. The Hebrew mindset was that God is in all things. For really big decisions like moving to a new state, I personally like to fast. I set aside a few days to seek Him and try to hear His voice.
What is the greatest challenge you have overcome?
When I first started leading worship, I felt accusation each time I stepped on the platform. The lies of the enemy hit me hard. I would open my mouth and hear “Your voice sounds bad”, “Don’t sing that, it’s stupid”, and “You can’t lead these people”. So one day, out of desperation, I asked the Lord, “Is this really what I am supposed to do?” He made it clear that this was my path so I just purposed in my heart to continue, no matter how hard it felt. I pressed through the accusation and after six months, I never experienced it again.
What advice would you give to young worship leaders?
Stay humble. That’s the biggest thing to me. I see so many young leaders who think they’re God’s gift to worship leading. And some of them have an undeniable, God-given gift but I see them get puffed up with pride and become unteachable. Wise people will try to help them but they are unable to receive correction. So stay humble and teachable and God will promote you as He sees fit.