My First Worship Pastor Was Tone Deaf

Posted by Casey J on 3 October 2018

My First Worship Pastor Was Tone Deaf...

I’ve had a lot of conversations recently about the “quintessential worship leader”.
What do they look like? How do they sound? What qualities do we see threaded throughout those mounting our platforms weekly all over the country? 

Well, let’s just be honest with ourselves. The number one quality is clearly Chelsea boots. Number two is skinny jeans. Scratch that. DISTRESSED skinny jeans. Throw in a long tee or flannel and that pretty much wraps us up! 

Don’t worry. No need to go burn your closet down. I’m mostly joking. Mostly. I do, however own all of those items.

But honestly, I was thinking of how much the idea of a “worship leader” has changed in my own life.

I grew up in a time when my “worship leader” was on old deacon leaning on a folding church chair turned backwards.

He was probably wearing a slightly ill-fitting suit. And, well... he was more than likely tone deaf.

But every Sunday he would “lead” a church full of people in singing a predetermined worship song. Well, they didn’t really call them worship songs and they DEFINITELY weren’t searching CCLI. Every song came out of a little red book with a gold emblazoned cross on the front. 

You see, before I knew of Chris Tomlin, Israel Houghton, or the Binions, I knew hymns. Every Sunday, I would join a group of people who looked like they were going to the most important meeting of their lives—big hats, dresses with ruffles (my legs are itching at the thought of it), suits, ties and not a single skinny jean in sight. It was HOT, and there were no cushions on our pews. But we sat and we sang and HE met us there. Every time.

I saw God there; and I heard Him. And I became convicted that somehow those hymns had a lot to do with what made that happen. Fast forward 20+ years and you probably have to physically force me to get dressed up. I always feel weird; and even if I’m not wearing ruffles, my legs do start to itch a little. 

I’ve been amazed to see how sacred song writing has become a catalyst for amazing worship experiences all over the world. Inside of my head is a Rol-A-Dex of hundreds, probably even thousands of contemporary worship songs.

But somehow just as I’m singing “How Great Is Our God,” I start to hear the words in my heart: “then sings my soul, my savior God to thee, how great thou art” and before i know it, those two songs have merged together. What was birthed on a hard pew in Decatur, Georgia has now become a new song on a stage with people of all colors and shades being reminded of an immutable and timeless truth: God is good.

No. I’m not advocating that we all start wearing ruffle dresses - I’m definitely a fan of skinny jeans. But there is a beautiful intersection between the place we all started and the place God has us now. There are songs that combine the tradition of old and the revelation of now. My first worship leader may have been tone deaf, but those songs have kept me rooted.

Long live the hymns. May they never lose their power and may we never forget their melody.


Follow along with Casey J

Check out her new single "If God"


Casey J is a native of Atlanta, GA. After working for several years as an elementary school teacher, Casey accepted God’s call and began to pursue ministry through music full time. In 2015, Casey J recorded her freshman project entitled “The Truth” (Tyscot Records/MBE), a collection of songs with corporate worship at their core. The lead single from this project, “Fill Me Up”, earned massive traction and ranked high on several national charts. Subsequently, “I’m Yours”, written by Casey, followed with similar success and propelled her to a Stellar Award win for New Artist of the Year in 2016.

Casey J recently recorded a brand new worship project entitled “The Gathering” (Tyscot Records/Casey J). The eclectic compilation, captured at an outdoor venue with a handpicked audience, brings to life the beauty and power of corporate worship in an unrestrained, organic form. This highly-anticipated project is slated for release in early 2019.

This fall, Casey J returns with the recording's first radio single, "If God", which beautifully answers life's most difficult questions with the resounding affirmation found in Romans 8:31: What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? "If God" is available for download on all digital platforms


More like this

The Task We’re Facing

First penned by China Inland Mission worker, Frank Houghton, at a time when persecution in China was at its height, "Facing a Task Unfinished" has been a rally cry for missions in the Pacific Rim for many years. Keith Getty talks to WeAreWorship about why he’s calling people to sing about mission...

6 Tips for Leading Worship Rehearsals

If you are new, or have been leading worship rehearsals for a long time, these 6 tips will help you effectively lead your team!

What's Happening With Worship In India?

Depending on who you ask, there are anything from 24 million to 70 million Christians in India. Whatever the real number, one thing is perfectly clear: the sound of Christian worship in India is getting ever louder. In this feature we speak to songwriter, worship leader and Mumbai resident Sheldon Bangera.

Free Songs

with chords, lyrics and MP3