An Audience of One

Ron Kenoly speaks out on the worship 'bandwagon,' the senior pastor's role, and the line between entertainment and ministry.

Ron Kenoly is comfortable leading thousands in worship, but these days he is consumed with helping fellow praise and worship leaders perform for an audience of One.

"Worship is the only thing that we can give to God," says the Dove Award winner and multiple Gold certified recording artist. "He wants us to create a place where He can come and receive from us whatever's in our hearts--and it's not just the music."

The Academy of Praise is a mentoring program for praise and worship leaders that Kenoly launched after sensing that larger conferences were not meeting a growing need: individualized impartation.

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The four-day academy, which he conducts several times a year, allows Kenoly to teach 100 participants, learn their names, pray for them and give them personal counsel (

"God's given me an opportunity to have high visibility in the last few years," Kenoly says. "But now, at this place in my life, impartation is just as important as demonstration of praise and worship."

Recently Ministries Today sat down with Ron Kenoly to discuss current trends in praise and worship music, the role of the senior pastor and what makes a true worshiper.

Ministries Today: What are the key issues worship leaders are facing today?

Ron Kenoly: None of them are new things, but the biggest is that the pastor doesn't understand or take the music department seriously, or the music leader is seen as a threat to the pastor--because sometimes the music leader is a better music leader than the pastor is a preacher.

Second, I find that a lot of worship leaders are using the praise and worship ministry as a stepping stone for a record deal. Instead, I believe that this position is in the body of Christ to help the pastor realize the mandate that God has placed on his life.

The praise and worship minister is always a subordinate position. He or she can't have a different vision than what the pastor has. Their vision has to be right in line with the pastor's vision. When you have two visions, you have division. That's how Satan gets in--when you divide, he conquers.

Ministries Today: So, the worship leader should not have as much clout as the senior pastor?

Kenoly: That's out of order. All of Christianity is about authority and submission. Even in the Godhead, Jesus was equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit. But Jesus submitted to the Father. Then Jesus said I'm going away, but I'm going to have the Father send a Comforter. So the Holy Spirit is submitting to the will of the Son.

Are they all God? Yes, they are. Does God love the pastor more than the worship leader? No, He doesn't, but God has placed the pastor in authority, and the worship leader has to submit to the will of the pastor, because God has told the pastor to build a church in a certain community, and God is holding him responsible for its spiritual welfare.

He didn't call the worship leader to do that. He put talent, skills, gifts and abilities in worship leaders and said, "Go, and serve in that church."

He doesn't tell worship leaders to found churches. He tells them to go and support the ministry or the mandate that God has placed in the pastor.

The praise and worship leader will always be--and should be--subordinate to the senior pastor. Period.

Ministries Today: How do you define a worshiper?

Kenoly: One who creates an environment for the presence of God. God will only come to the right environment. Everything has its proper environment, and because God is holy, He can't just show up anywhere.

He can only show up in a holy atmosphere, because if He showed up in anywhere but holiness, He would contaminate Himself. If God contaminates Himself, He's not God anymore. He has to protect Himself.

This is why He is looking for people who will worship Him in spirit and truth. When He finds a true worshiper, He can manifest His presence. In fact, that's what the tabernacle in the Old Testament was all about--creating an environment where God can come and show His glory.

Ministries Today: What are the mistakes you see worship leaders making?

Kenoly: I see a lot of people jumping on the bandwagon for the money. And that's a dangerous thing. The popularity of praise and worship music has created an attraction for glory-seekers, but praise and worship ministry is a lot different than the Christian entertainment industry.

Christian entertainment is all about God, but praise and worship ministry is leading people to God. I can tell you about George Bush, but it's a different thing if I can take you into his presence.

That's not to say that praise and worship is not entertaining. Pure ministry will always be entertaining, but entertainment for the sake of entertainment will never be ministry.

For instance, there are many people who will come to a Benny Hinn crusade to see what Benny's going to do next. But, Benny's goal is to see the power of God move in those meetings, and he could care less about the entertainment value. When people get out of their wheelchairs--that's ministry.

When Jesus ministered throughout Judea, thousands followed Him. Jesus was the only game in town, so when He showed up, people thought, "What's Jesus going to do next."

Today, we have a lot of people in the worship ministry because it's popular--because they want to be like Israel Houghton, Michael W. Smith, Darlene Zschech or Ron Kenoly. That's the wrong reason.

Ministries Today: What words would you have for pastors reticent to try new ideas or release the reigns of someone who has an anointing in worship leading?

Kenoly: Ultimately, the pastor is the worship leader. He's the one who has to create the environment. The music leader merely facilitates the activities that we call praise and worship, but the pastor has to demonstrate that he wants a worshiping congregation.

If the pastor is not the worshiper, you're not likely to have a worshipful church. Bill Gothard said this in one of his Basic Youth Conflicts seminars: "What parents do in moderation children do in excess."

I believe that same principle applies to the church. What the pastor does in moderation the congregation will do in excess. So, if the pastor is not demonstrative in the praise and worship time, the people in the congregation will not think it's important. He's got to provide the equipment, pleasant singers and the other things that help in worship.

Ministries Today: What's encouraging as you look at the worship-music scene?

Kenoly: People are wanting to worship, no matter who's leading them. That's what God desires.

Worship is the only thing that we can give to God. Preaching is not for God--it's for us. The music is really for us--that's not for God, either. God's not impressed with my voice or the hot licks on the piano or guitar.

Every perfect gift comes from God. He made us, so He's not impressed. The healing, deliverance and prophecy is for us. Even the offering. We can give, but He gives it back to us.

Everything is for us, except praise and worship. That's all He wants. He wants us to create a place where He can come and receive from us whatever's in our hearts--it's not just the music. He's looking for heart expressions that will manifest themselves in songs.

Ministries Today: So, what's in your CD player right now?

Kenoly: My sons--the Kenoly Brothers. I'm excited that they want to serve the Lord with the gifts God has given them. I'm excited seeing that the Lord is paramount in their lives.

Robert Andrescik is editor of New Man magazine and magazine manager of Strang Communications.

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