the shape of leadership

Encouraging Others to Step Out

A conversation with John Dreher

Kristi Northup on January 28, 2020

John Dreher started singing in church at a very young. At age 5, he sang his first solo, “Jesus Loves Me.”

“My mother and father had me very involved,” Dreher says.

In high school, he tried out everything — even cameras and hospitality ministry in the kitchen, but he soon discovered his calling to worship ministry.

In college, Dreher made music as often as he could. Early on Sunday mornings, he served on a worship team at a predominantly white Methodist church. Then he directed the choir at a predominantly black Baptist church. On Wednesdays, he led a Presbyterian contemporary worship service with traditional liturgy. On Saturdays, he served a small Pentecostal church. Those undergrad years gave him a broad exposure to liturgy, denominations and intercultural experiences.

“I found that people were people and God is God,” Dreher says. “The differences are what we make of it.”

During this time, he received the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

“I met some young people who didn’t act like everyone else I grew up with,” Dreher says. “They lived a life of holiness, and it drew me to that experience. It came out of a time of worship.

“I try to create an environment that’s love- and encouragement-based.” — John Dreher

“We were coming home from a service in my friend’s truck, worshipping, and, like the old saints would say, something got ahold of me! That was my first real Pentecostal environment.”

Remaining open to the leading of the Spirit and favoring authenticity over perfectionism in worship are paramount to Dreher.

“I’ve been places where it was fear-based,” Dreher says. “Sometimes the music director is like a slave driver. You’re made to feel like, I better not mess up or get up there making God look crazy.”

A few weeks after Dreher started working at Faith Assembly in Orlando, Florida, the pastor pulled him aside and said, “You don’t have to tiptoe around me. I believe in what God brought you here to do.”

The pastor encouraged Dreher to celebrate mistakes and move forward.

“It set me free,” Dreher says. “In the worship ministry here at Faith, I try to create an environment that’s love- and encouragement-based. We’re going to prepare, practice, do everything we can, but you can’t go back and change what happened. I’m not going to belittle or berate anyone.”

Dreher offers this advice to leaders who want to multiply themselves: “As worship pastors and leaders looking to be multipliers, we have to be accessible and available to those who want to learn. If you have a demanding fear-based environment, you’re making yourself less accessible to those who want to draw from you. You can’t multiply anyone who can’t get ahold of your hand.

“So be accessible to your team, and create an atmosphere where people can draw from you.”

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2020 edition of Influence magazine.

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