Post Grad: Greyson Johnston

Over the next few months, we're going to be sharing interviews with some of our graduates. They'll be full of practical tips, personal stories, and encouragement for anyone in worship ministry. 

We couldn't think of anyone better to kick this mini-series off than Greyson Johnston—a man of many talents. Greyson has contributed to past albums (both as a vocalist and as a photographer). He and his wife joined their friends to plant a new church in Beaufort, SC. 

Without further adieu...

Greyson and his wife, Lauryn, with their two boys, Everett and Walker.

Greyson and his wife, Lauryn, with their two boys, Everett and Walker.

Tell us a little bit of how you became a worship pastor.

Worship ministry has always been a part of my life. Not necessarily because I wanted it to be, but because it’s where my family was. My mom has always been a worship leader in whatever church we found ourselves in. I started playing guitar in middle school and then, since God graciously blessed me with a little bit of talent, I began “leading worship” in high school. It was never something I really took seriously then. I was just having fun playing guitar and singing… maybe getting emotional sometimes. There were a few people who really spoke prophetically over me and, honestly, it scared the mess out of me. I was 16. I just wanted to play music and have fun. Once I got into college, which is another story in and of itself, I really recognized the call God had on my life (10 years ago!) and I began to pursue it with full zeal, though rather haphazardly! Since then, ministry has become a bit more refined and focused, but I’m still learning every day!

How would someone describe your approach to leading worship?

This is a hard question to answer without also asking some of those under my leadership. I hope the intentionality of my leadership is evident. We spend a lot of time and prayer over how services are shaped, in that everything has a place and everything should be serving a purpose which is to present a model of the gospel-centered Christian life. In that, my leadership must be centered on Christ, rooted in the scriptures, and led by the Holy Spirit. I think most people would say I land more invitational than challenging as far as what I may say personally, but I do allow the Word to challenge us all. Something that we have worked really intentionally on and prayed about, since even before we launched in January, was to get our congregation singing, and boy did God deliver. As I grow in my leadership as it pertains to Sunday mornings, I’ve learned that God doesn’t need us to sing. It is the person next to us that needs us to sing the truths of God and the gospel! In that, I really believe everyone in the congregation is as much a worship leader as I am. I want to grow new individual leaders for sure, but most of all I want to empower the church to lead each other.

Greyson leading a song at the live recording for  Invitation, Vol. 1

Greyson leading a song at the live recording for Invitation, Vol. 1

What are some of the most challenging parts of being in ministry?

In a church plant as the “worship guy,” you often wear many hats. What we are doing has been the absolute hardest thing I have ever done, but it is absolutely the most rewarding. I wish I could focus completely on my role as Worship Pastor, but everything has a season and I am trying to be present to what God has for me here in the often overwhelming throes of church planting.

What are some theological topics that you're passionate about?

Currently, we are exploring liturgy and what that means for our church. Every church has a liturgy, whether they would call it that or not, and I want everything we do to have purpose.

I guess if we want to talk about theological issues, I won't stop singing of the finished work of the cross anytime soon.

What are some of your most rewarding parts of being in ministry?

The most rewarding part of ministry is always seeing the bones of people dead in their sin come to new life in the resurrected Christ. What has been so very sweetly rewarding since we have launched Cross Community Church is being able to start a song, then back off the mic and let the church lead themselves. There have been many times our church brings me to tears just singing the Doxology because their voices minister so much to me!

What are the last five books you read?

  1. The Practice of the Presence of God - Brother Lawrence
  2. God’s Lyrics - Douglas Sean O’Donnell
  3. The Life You've Always Wanted - John Ortberg
  4. The Reason For God - Tim Keller
  5. Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer - Eugene Peterson

Who are your heroes?

Aaron Keyes is my hero because this is the best answer.

In seriousness, I’ve been captivated by the story of Johann Leonhard Dober and David Nitschmann who were two of the first Moravian missionaries to the West Indies. They sold themselves into slavery because they would otherwise not have been able to work with the slaves. It is said they called out from the ship as it left, "May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering!” I know I do not live my life with this sort of willful lack of self-preservation, but I hope that one day if that day comes, that I would be able to say these words and mean them.

When was the last time God surprised you?

The last time God surprised me is really silly. A musician accidentally knocked my guitar (1978 Taylor 815… beautiful, mojo, the best) off its stand and the neck broke from the body. It was surprising, then, how well I reacted as he left church alive. It’s how I know I’ve matured as a Christ follower. The next week I’m driving up to Spartanburg, SC to drop the guitar off to be repaired wondering what I’m going to do for Sundays and how I am going to afford to even fix it when I get a call from a guy in our church telling me he’s raised money to buy me a new guitar! Out of all the things God could be doing, he showed me His love through this guitar. That was surprising enough, but the next week Hurricane Irma started bearing down on us and I about lost my mind. We just bought a house in March and I was so scared that we were going to lose it. I have never been that anxious. I love that God used a guitar to show me that he cares in even the small things so that I know he is still with me in the big things.

How does grace find its way into your daily life?

I love seeing God’s grace in my kids when they smile and laugh and tell me they love me. I hate seeing God’s grace in their faces when I get upset at them and it reminds me how far I need to go, but I am thankful for that grace anyways.

Greyson and his wife, Lauryn.

Greyson and his wife, Lauryn.

As a leader, modeling grace is important just like modeling it for my kids is. Aaron told us one time that if we build up new leaders with the same deficiencies as us, we just multiply the suck. I do not want gracelessness to be a trait my legacy is marked with.

What is one piece of musical equipment you can't live without?

It’s got to be the guitar. It is home.

What advice would you give to a brand-new worship leader?

  • Forget about yourself and your selfish ambition. 
  • Find your identity in the work of Christ and not in the work of your hands. 
  • Develop a philosophy of worship.
  • For better or worse, the songs you put in the mouths of the people you are leading will be, arguably, the most formative of their view of God and it would be best if you didn't take that responsibility lightly.
  • Set clear boundaries of work and family. Family is your #1 ministry and if you fail in that you have already failed in your church ministry.
  • Be a good employee.
  • Be a good friend.
  • Duplicate yourself and learn to give control to other people as they grow in their leadership under you.

What was your most prominent take away from 10,000 Fathers?

I think practically and how it has played out in my ministry, songwriting would be the most visibly evident take away from my time with 10,000 Fathers. It has become an integral part of how I lead. But, I think overall it has to go back to identity in track 1. It is so simple, but so vitally important that our identity be found in Christ and in Christ alone and to cling to the truth in the name he has given us. This is truly the umbrella that covers it all. If our identity is in our work, our character will be found lacking. If our identity is in the songs we write, they aren’t worth singing. If our life isn’t found in Christ alone, it isn’t worth multiplying.

If Jesus played an instrument, which one would He play and why?

Obviously, the correct answer is all of them, but His favorite would be the electric guitar because He is the rock of ages.


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