Having obtained the #1 slot in all of Christian music with his latest live CD/DVD worship offering, Withholding Nothing (eOne), Orlando-based worship leader and pastor William McDowell continues to cause ripples throughout the global church community with his accessible, yet astute, worship music catalog. In this CCM exclusive, the ASCAP-Awardwinning, and Dove- and Stellar-nominated musician talks about incorporating worship with soul and skill—and why worship music is truly without definition.
CCM: What was the impetus for recording Withholding Nothing?
William: As a songwriter, I recognize the gift of songwriting in me. And even though the gift is in me, I choose to wait to write until the Lord is speaking something specific to me over a certain season for the body of Christ. I look at my assignment as a messenger. During certain seasons, songs flood and I’ll write in bunches. This was a season where God was saying something. – See more at: http://www.ccmmagazine.com/article/william-mc-dowell/preview/#sthash.dte8WTix.dpuf
CCM: How did the title track become the title track?
William: We wanted to capture new declarations along with some of the popular declarations we had recorded on other projects on this recording. Spending time at my piano one night, I sang the chorus of “Withholding Nothing”, and I began to sing it over and over. I felt like it would be a great new part to “I Give Myself Away,” a song I wrote that has literally traveled the world.
Leading up to the recording, we spent quite a bit of time preparing because I believe in practicing His presence. As I began to play the chorus of the team, something unique began to happen. Then on the night of recording, people took over the song. It had this organic movement where the audience was driving the declaration. And so it was captured that way, as only a chorus. We wrote the rest of the song six months after the recording. So Withholding Nothing wasn’t the driving force behind the recording. It is what the recording became.
CCM: Expound on the idea of “practicing His presence”.
William: In worship there is only one audience, God. If you are an effective lead worshipper, the goal is not to sing to people, but to sing together with people to God. Obviously we want to be excellent at what we do, but ultimately you get all of your parts down excellent so everything is focused on Him. We get a sense of where to go, what to do, what to say publicly because of what happens privately as we spend time in His presence.
CCM: Musicians in church can often excuse poor technique because of sincere hearts. With the high regard you maintain for professionalism in your worship ministry, what is your opinion on the necessity of rehearsal to facilitate worship music?
William: In scripture, when David was brought before Saul because Saul was experiencing troubling spirits from the Lord, the Bible said David was skillful and the Lord was with him. They were not mutually exclusive. He was both skillful and the Lord was with him. I don’t want to be one of those people that refuses to multiply my talents. We have a responsibility to be a good steward of the gifts that are given us.
At the same time, it matters not if you are gifted but your heart is not in a position of submission before God where you can flow with Him. In our ministry we absolutely flow with Him spontaneously. But I would submit the reason why we can do that is because of the excellence we pursue.
CCM: You are considered an “urban worship” artist by industry standards. What do you think of that label?
William: I would challenge the whole notion of “urban,” because in the past four years I have been in more than thirty countries. And what I find is that there is a sound that exists around the world and in the hearts of people that is multi-cultural.
In Acts 1 and 2 the disciples are told to wait in the upper room until they receive power by the Holy Spirit. Acts 1 lists the disciples and other women, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, as being there. A traumatic experience has just happened in their lives. Jesus was murdered in the most unjust judgment in the history of the earth. And he rose again. So they are processing all of this. And are waiting together. Scripture says they are all together in one place and one accord. In Greek, “one accord” means they were all together, not thinking the same thing, but were altogether in the same place with the same passion.
Mary was probably thinking, After he taught you, fed you, and did miracles for you, you guys couldn’t even stay with him for an hour of prayer? Peter is probably thinking, I can’t believe he wants me to lead this church after denying him. John has lost his best friend. You have all these emotions in the room, yet they all need what He promised. As a result of staying in the same room with the same passion, everyone heard a sound like a mighty rushing wind and heard the mysteries of God in their own language. The common sound was released because of the common passion.
When someone asked me, “Who is your core demographic?” My answer was “The hungry.” Whoever is hungry for God. We are not identifying with the same sound. We have the same passion.