For this post, you’re going to learn a lot from professor, author, and worship leader Dr. Zeb Balentine. I met him a few years ago and had the privilege of serving on a church worship team under his leadership. If you have any interest in worship, teaching, writing, or publishing, then keep reading!
Tell me about yourself! Who are you and what do you do?
I was born and raised in Arkansas. I’ve been married to my wife Michelle for 14 years, and we have three children. I’ve been a worship leader for 15 years, and I currently live in Tennessee, where I am a professor of worship arts at Bryan College and an adjunct professor for Liberty University.
How did you become interested in worship and worship theology?
I kind of fell into worship ministry. I never had any intention of being in that kind of ministry. I had intentions of being a preaching/teaching pastor. But, as time went on, God kept opening up opportunities for me to lead worship. It was a bit frustrating at times because I would have way more worship leading opportunities than speaking opportunities. Eventually, though, I opened my eyes to the signs God was giving me.
Theology has always been a passion of mine, and as I grew more as a worship leader, worship and theology began to come together for me. I love all areas of Christian theology, but over time, God’s calling on my life has led me to focus more specifically on the theology of worship.
What do you think is an appropriate definition of worship?
There are many good (and bad) definitions of worship, but if I were to give mine, it would be two-fold. Worship in general: “Anything we ascribe worth to by devoting our lives to it.” For Christian worship more specifically: “Our correct response to who God is and what He has done.”
I know you’ve written about worship. Tell me about your books.
My first book, The Singing Teacher: How the Worship Leader Shapes the Theology of the Church, was published in 2019. It was written from the perspective of a theology loving, Bible-teaching worship leader. I’ve always felt like I was more of a teacher than a music guy (as far as ministry goes). Out of curiosity, I began to study Scripture to see how music shapes our thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and actions toward God. The more I studied, the more fascinating the topic became. I was so excited about the material that I felt like I couldn’t keep it to myself. I felt like I had to put it into book form.
My second book, Worship Vitals: Signs of a Healthy Worship Culture, actually just released in June. It’s more of a theology of worship practices. It was written as a manual of sorts for churches that want to have a thriving worship culture but don’t know where to start. Most people think that the key is a certain type of music or leader. But the Bible gives us the prescription for worship health. My aim for this book was to bring those prescribed things to the surface.
How did you break into the publishing industry? And what did the publishing process look like for both of your books?
What makes it challenging for me is that I don’t really feel like I’m a real author. Writing books was never really a dream of mine. I just had a couple ideas that I felt I needed to put into book form. But when I tried to publish a book, I didn’t really know what to do, so I just tried several things. I’ve written many proposals for many different publishing companies. Some never replied to my proposals, some rejected my proposals, and some responded positively to my proposals.
With the first book, I went with a subsidy publisher. That was good for me at the time because I didn’t know what to do to put a book together. After writing a book proposal, the publisher picked up the project. From there, doing the editing, rewrites, formatting, cover design, etc. was a very hands-on experience for me.
For the second book, I wanted to try to land a deal with a traditional publisher. If that didn’t work out, I was going to self-publish (which is a viable option nowadays). Thankfully, my book was picked up by a publisher that was one of my top choices, Rainer Publishing.
What advice would you give to readers who have an interest in worship ministry?
Learn from seasoned worship leaders, lead worship whenever and wherever you can, consume lots of relevant content (books, podcasts, instructional videos, conferences, etc.), and, if possible, pursue formal training…like at Bryan College.
What advice would you give to readers who want to get a book published?
Don’t listen to the haters, but listen to honest, constructive feedback (even if it stings a little). Don’t get discouraged from the non-responses and rejections that you receive from publishers. Try to put out the best product you can. A professional editor (not your friend or family member) will go a long way.
Because of Dr. Zeb Balentine’s passion for worship and theology, I wanted to include a short passage from Psalms:
Come, let’s worship and bow down, let’s kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand… (Psalm 95:6-7 NASB)