PK worship leader likes surprises

thompson_surprisesAndrew Thompson leads the call to be men of action

| By Frank Stirk

Andrew Thompson just can’t wait to get on the road again. Thompson is the assistant pastor at Wellspring Community Church in Welland, Ontario. For the past two years, he’s also been the national worship leader for Promise Keepers Canada. That means travelling over a dozen weekends a year to different parts of the country to lead the music at PK conferences.

“I look forward to it,” he says. “It’s fun and it’s work. It’s always great to see and to be surprised by what God does in each city and in each event, to hear the stories of how men’s lives are being impacted by God, and how they’re being transformed.”

God and music have been part of Thompson’s life for about as long as he can remember. He surrendered his life to Christ when he was just four years old, which was about the same time that he sang his first solo in church.

In fact, they have such a grip on him that Thompson, who’s a registered nurse, decided some years ago not to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor and missionary. “I realized that if I took that path,” he says, “I was going to be making a serious choice to disengage [to] a certain degree from singing at my church, because I knew the significant amount of dedication I would have to give to becoming a doctor. And so I made a choice not to.”

That decision freed Thompson to get more involved with worship at Wellspring, becoming its worship pastor and director of outreach in 2000. It was there that he first came into contact with Promise Keepers, starting as a volunteer background singer at local events. In 2010, he became national worship leader for PK Canada, taking over from Marc Brulé, who also happens to be a pastor at Wellspring.

Thompson works with the PK national team leaders on selecting songs for the conferences, always mindful that most men like their music upbeat and loud. (Women, he says, prefer “more emotive, me-and-Jesus-that’s-all-I-need songs. They love that.”)

“We do songs that really rock, songs about God’s attributes, His greatness, the more theologically dense songs,” Thompson says. “And dedication songs like ‘Take My Life and Let It Be.’ And call-to-action songs. Guys like to be challenged.”

From there, Thompson works with the event contact person to put together a band of musicians from local churches. He’ll come in early to rehearse with the band. It’s an arrangement he much prefers over coming to town with his own band.

“I always enjoy the surprise that I find in working with different bands,” says Thompson. “They bring something to the table sometimes that I wouldn’t have thought of that really takes a song to a different level. I’m doing essentially the same list this year 14 times. And so for there to be variety in that, that’s great!”

At three of those events—Mississauga on November 16-17, Winnipeg on March 8-9, and Lethbridge on April 26-27—Thompson and company will be joined by Robin Mark, the well-known, world-travelled, Irish singer-songwriter and a PK favourite.

“Robin is part of the fabric of Promise Keepers Canada now. His music is part of our culture. He really resonates with guys. He is the Everyman, and his songs are relevant to them that way,” says Thompson. “And he has a great heart, a very keen sense of God’s moving. The grace with which he handles people is wonderful to see.”

When Thompson is on stage leading the music, he says he is “more than anything listening to the Holy Spirit.” This is one only way to tell if men are truly being drawn into the presence of God. A raised hand, he believes, is no sure indicator of where a man’s heart is at, since some could be raising it just out of habit.

“Most of the time, guys are in very quickly. If they are singing out the songs, that means they’re in,” he says. “But there could also be the guy who just came from work, is exhausted, doesn’t sing, but in listening to the words of the songs and everything else going on around him, is going, ‘God, you are rocking my world.’”

Thompson adds, “We’ve been in a couple of environments where it doesn’t work, and we’ve understood later that there were some real spiritual dynamics going on there. You just have to continue to press through, regardless of whether they’re responding.”

Thompson is very aware that beyond the songs and the emotions they generate (or don’t), every man on the stage is a soldier engaged in spiritual warfare—and the battleground is the hearts and minds of every man in the room.

“In the Old Testament, the king put the musicians at the front of his army. That was a great place to be, but they knew and recognized how important their role was just to sing the praises of God in front of their army. Sometimes you have to do that, take the risk, until there’s a breakthrough,” he says.

“That’s why prayer is so important to us. I need prayer. My wife and kids need prayer. All of the staff that are participating in this need prayer. We recognize that we are not just doing something good, but we are in the midst of a spiritual battle, and we need to take it seriously.”

The article above is featured in the November 2012 issue of SEVEN magazine.