between the Liner Notes
Aaron Shust: The Service of Worship
By Jennifer E. Jones
Nashville, TN In an industry where names like Tomlin, Camp and Chapman dominate the radio, it’s difficult for a new guy to get a song in edgewise. So when “My Savior, My God” hit No. 1 on the "Inspirational" chart in 2006, it was certainly a surprise. For most of us, it seems as though Aaron Shust appeared out of nowhere. However, for Shust, it’s been five years in the making.
“It’s been a slow burn but a passionate one," he tells CBNmusic. "We started playing together as a church band in 2002; 2004 is when I recorded the album, and ‘My Savior, My God’ was released January of 2006. It’s been steady in a positive direction.”
The hit song comes from Shust's Anything Worth Saying and was originally intended for just his congregation at Perimeter Church in Georgia. The adult contemporary worship CD became the talk of the town, and eventually word spread to the musical powers that be in Nashville. By the time his second album, Whispered and Shouted, released in 2007, the name Aaron Shust was well known in contemporary Christian music, and Anything Worth Saying earned him three GMA Dove Awards including "Songwriter of the Year".
"Incredulous," he says with a smile when asked about all the accolades. "I don’t want to use a cheesy word, but I don’t believe it. I really don’t. I’ve been a fan of worship music my entire life. I did my piano lessons. I was a music major in college. I really had no expectations. I wasn’t trying make it in the industry. I didn’t send [out] my demo. To me, it’s a peaceful way to go about it. I wasn’t checking the mail everyday to see if I got accepted or rejected. I was doing exactly what God had me doing."
Shust admits that, as a worship leader, he strived to be content on a small stage while still hoping for more. He says, "True, I had hopes and dreams, but there’s a knowing in being satisfied where God had me. Doesn’t mean I was satisfied. God makes us with dreams and desires for a certain thing. I had the aspirations to do what I’m doing right now.”
In between singing in Atlanta and winning top honors at award shows in Nashville, Shust stayed busy by staying on the road. He’s shared the stage with such big acts as MercyMe, Bebo Norman, and Nichole Nordeman. He's no stranger to a tour bus, but now that he's a husband and father...
“Bring a family into the mix, and it gets a little stickier," he says. "Thankfully before my boy was born, my wife was able to come out with me. I love the road, and hopefully sometime soon my wife and my little boy can join us.”
The touring life offers a sense of ease for Shust as a performer. He shares, “There’s something amazing about being able to get into a groove musically and play what you know how to play, as opposed to working at a church. [There] every time you get up on stage, it’s a different set of music with a different set of people. It’s nerve racking. I barely know this song, and I have play it in front of thousands of people. So there’s something very comforting to me right now that I can learn 10 songs very well and play them again and again and hopefully get better and better.”
He continues, “Also, looking out there and seeing different faces… These people are seeing this and hearing these words for the first time. They probably bought tickets a month ago, and they’ve been looking forward to coming. I’ve got an incredible responsibility when I open my mouth. They’re going to listen to what I say."
That's why he wrote the words to his current hit song.
Give me Words to speak
Don't let my spirit sleep
'Cause I can't think of anything worth saying
But I know that I owe You my life
- "Give Me Words to Speak"
"I pray that prayer so much before I walk out on stage," Shust says. "'Holy Spirit, Your words, not mine.' I can be standing backstage thinking, ‘What in the world am I going to share to these people that’s going to draw them closer to God?’ The answer is, ‘Nothing. You’ve got nothing to say. Let Me speak through you.’”
Christian artists are well acquainted with the fine line between ministry and career. It's even trickier for worship leaders who perform professionally. So where does Shust draw the line? It all comes down to the true meaning of worship.
"There are two definitions in the Hebrew for worship," he says. "One is a bowing and bending of the knee, and the other is labor and service. Take any given Sunday morning. You’ve got a band on stage that is working hard to play their instruments, to make sure they’re playing accurately. Chances are they’re not lost in the rapture and the beauty of God. They’re focused on making sure their guitars are in tune. But that, in God’s eyes in the Hebrew word, qualifies as worship. It’s labor and service.
"On the flip side of the stage, if the people out there are hearing the words, their hearts are embracing the words; they’re getting lost in the emotion of the music, and they’re worshipping through bowing and bending of the knee. It’s comforting to know that I can do this work. I can make sure the guitars are in tune and warm up my voice, and God sees that as pleasing worship."
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