Worship leader. Artist. Seldom have the two labels blended as seamlessly as in the music and message of multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter Evan Wickham. His debut album, Mysterious Things, released in 2006, is a tour-de-force collection of intimate worship, heartfelt expressions of joy and wonder at God’s blessing, and a celebration of the redemptive power of salvation in Jesus Christ. “Keeper of the stars, Lord of time and space,” Wickham sings on the album’s gorgeous centerpiece, “Hallelujah Jesus.” “I will live my life lifting up your name.” These lines are clearly the heart of Wickham’s music and ministry.
What are your roles and responsibilities in your church?
I pastor the worship community and lead worship most Sundays. My job is basically these four things:
1. Create a culture of worship across the family of churches.
2. Identify and multiply worship leaders
3. Write songs together with the other worship leaders here
4. Pastor the worship community of A Jesus Church
So, #1 pretty much happens on Sundays. #’s 2-4 happen the rest of the week.
Tell us about your church (style of worship, size of church, what church looks like in your part of the world, how the church is impacting the community, etc.):
Our church family is called A Jesus Church. We are a family of three churches in the Greater Portland Area. I typically lead worship at Westside: A Jesus Church in SW Portland. My friends Matt Zigenis and Jon Neufeld lead worship at Bridgetown: A Jesus Church and Sunset: A Jesus Church, respectively. We write together and pull from the same songs, but we each have our own unique approach musically, I think. There are about 4,500 people that worship at Westside, most of which are young and middle aged suburban families. Bridgetown, on the other hand, is about 1,800 single 20-somethings who live in or commute into the downtown area to work or study. I think the musical styles of each of the churches reflect the different demographics in attendance – but not too much. We’re one family, and we share a high value of expository preaching and responsive, worshipful encounter. We share the same basic DNA, and we all place a huge emphasis on missional communities. That’s the primary way we engage our culture in Portland. We share life together on the way to living out the gospel to our city.
What is the spiritual climate of your city?
Portland is only 4% “religious”. That includes Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Hindu, etc. The other 96% is simply “spiritual” or “other”. Interestingly, there aren’t as many atheists here either. Most of the 96% embraces a form of pluralism or mysticism. Tons of neopagans here too. It’s the “coexist” mindset. Of course, tons of Portlanders dig Jesus and are usually willing to have a conversation about him over really good coffee. We jokingly say that Portland is where young people go to retire. It’s only funny because it’s kind of true. Genuine community and relationship are uniquely valued here. People are longing to belong.
How do you prepare to lead?
Each Tuesday, I get the basic outline for the upcoming Sunday teaching. On Wednesday I send the setlist to the band. I typically like to incorporate something fresh each time I lead, whether it’s a new song, or different instrumentation, or some other atypical element. Thursday night is band prayer and rehearsal.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget could you not live without?
What apps, software, instruments, or other tools do you recommend?
I’ve found that limitation lends to creation. In other words, less really is more when it comes to writing songs. For me, nothing beats a pencil, a pad of paper, and Voice Memo for iPhone. For demoing out ideas, I think LogicPro is insane. It’s totally worth the learning curve. Get to know the default plugins as much as you can. Get lost in the sample library. It’s the best music making software I’ve ever seen.
What’s your workspace like?
It’s a shared office space with basic tracking gear and a decent upright piano. Mood lighting. French press. Nice quiet spot for co-writes.
What are you listening to right now?
I love the newer M83 stuff. I’ve also recently revisited the older Aqualung stuff. That guy is brilliant. But surprisingly, Sting just finished writing a musical that’s sounds incredible. Peter Gabriel just released multiple gorgeous orchestral albums of originals and covers. Paul Simon’s latest record “So Beautiful or So What” is transcendent. Right now, I think I’m really inspired by artists who are consistently creating beautiful and meaningful content in their “golden years”. It’s almost like I believe them more, ya know? It’s like – ok, the franetic noise of pop culture and youthful idealism is behind them… so what now? What are they going to say? That’s when I most want to listen.
Can you tell us a recent setlist you’ve used?
-Here For You (B)
-Everlasting God (B)
-Agnus Dei (A)
-Our Deliverer (B)
-Make Us One (A)
-Hallelujah Jesus (Bb)
Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert? How does it affect your leadership style?
I’m right in the middle I think. I love being with people, but I don’t think I do confrontation very well. It’s way easier for me to tell everybody they’re awesome than to graciously pastor individual people through difficult situations. I’d appreciate your prayers in this area!
What is your relationship like with your senior pastor?
John Mark Comer. I couldn’t love and respect the guy more. He’s probably the first person at the church that really befriended me — years before I moved from SoCal to be a part of the Portland community. He’s full of prophetic vision for the church, and he’s just a great hang.
Any advice you want to give to other worship leaders?
Pray without ceasing. Listen to the Holy Spirit. Read a story. Only settle for good coffee. Go for quiet walks. Read the whole Bible in a new translation. Do something ridiculous. Write a song with zero religious clichés in it. Tip bigger. Let Christ inform every facet of life.
Fill in the blank. I’d like to see ____________ answer these same questions.