On Sunday, March 11, we have the opportunity to celebrate the leadership of Dennis Worley, who has faithfully served the Worship Ministry of Brentwood Baptist for 25 years. Continue reading to learn more about Dennis, his years in ministry, and what he’s excited about for the future of our church.
Congratulations, Dennis, on 25 years! Thank you for your servant heart, your excellent leadership, and for teaching us how to authentically worship Jesus every day of our lives.
Dennis and Karla Worley came to Nashville in 1980 and were both involved professionally in the Christian music industry. After about ten years, they moved south to Franklin and began to look for a church in Williamson County.
It didn’t take long for them find Brentwood Baptist Church, which at the time was located at 409 Franklin Road. Dennis recalls, “The church was in the middle of a search for a new pastor, and not long after we joined, we called Mike Glenn.” With Karla’s work as a recording artist, she and Dennis were traveling a lot while Dennis also worked for a music publishing company. Despite their schedule, Dennis said, “Mike and I became good friends.”
A New Opportunity
One of Mike’s first big challenges as pastor came when the minister of music had to be dismissed. Dennis recalls, “Mike asked me to come to his office one afternoon, and when I got there, I waited as one after another, the other ministers joined us. I thought, ‘Oh man, I must be in big trouble!’” Mike explained that the Minister of Music would be leaving and, with no prior conversation with Dennis, told the then-small church staff that Dennis would be filling in. Dennis’ reply: “Um…I have a job!” To which Mike characteristically answered, “Hey buddy, when I came here, you said if I needed anything, just ask!”
Dennis continued to serve as the interim while the search committee looked for a new minister of music. They asked Dennis if he would like to be considered for the job. “I was an unlikely candidate,” Dennis said. “I hadn’t been to seminary. But I believe God used my collective experiences, including a music degree from Baylor University, serving as director of summer tours with the Continental Singers, producing and publishing church music resources, and traveling with Karla to churches all across the county, to prepare me for this assignment.”
Betty Wiseman, chairman of the committee, and the others put Dennis through the proverbial wringer, including administering a theology test. Throughout that process, in Dennis’s words, “God made it clear to me that He was calling me to lead this body of believers in worship.”
The Challenges—The Joys
“In 25 years, our church has gone from community church to metropolitan church to multi-campus church. There are lots of growing pains that go with that—from buildings and crowd sizes to understanding who we are and what ‘together’ looks like.”
One of the unique challenges of serving as a worship leader in Nashville is the number of talented musicians everywhere. He wisely realized, “At Brentwood, worship ministry requires stewardship—good stewardship of all the talent and experience and creativity that God brings to us. From the beginning, the biggest challenge constantly was to keep the focus on worshiping God, not displaying our talent and resources.”
Dennis spent the first five years teaching the choir to be worship leaders, not just talented musicians or performers. And he’s been quick to remind them of the difference. “I would say that for all 25 years, the biggest challenge is to keep the priority on worship fifty-two Sundays a year, not just the big events,” Dennis says.
“The Other 30 Minutes”
When asked about his greatest blessing, Dennis has no problem articulating the answer: “For these past 25 years, I have been responsible for ‘the other 30 minutes on Sunday morning’—what the people learn about God and experience with God every Sunday week in and week out, apart from the pastor’s sermon. That’s a huge trust. Some people have gotten their primary experience of worship and understanding of God from Mike Glenn and those ‘other 30 minutes.’”
Dennis knows the joy and the burden of every worship leader is to know and understand the hearts of those he’s leading. He says, “In leadership, particularly in ministry, we are necessarily out ahead of everyone else, and we can sometimes ‘see it’ first. So a big joy for me is to get to see the moments when ‘they get it.’ When their character is shaped or their reaction to life is changed by what they know and have experienced with God.”
Recently, Dennis’s role changed. In 2017, he became the “Lead Worship Minister,” with responsibilities for encouraging and developing the worship ministers at all of the campuses across the Brentwood Baptist family of congregations.
Of that new role, Dennis says, “I now have the greatest view of our church. I rotate from campus to campus every week, so on Sunday I’ll visit at least two different campuses and sit in their worship service. Since the preachers teach from the same text, it’s fascinating to see how each worship leader interprets that and what each campus’ ministries are doing to support it.”
Dennis meets with worship leaders every other week to learn from and encourage each other. This is Dennis’s sweet spot. He says, “The challenge for me is to support these leaders, to advocate for them, to resource them, to protect their hearts and their soul care, to help them grow professionally and spiritually. Yes, each campus is unique. But we also share some common DNA, and one challenge before us is to balance uniqueness with common priorities and values. Right now, we are working to develop a Worship Manifesto articulating those priorities and practices that guide what we do, however we express it.”
Dennis credits longevity in ministry, including his own, to the quality of the people. He says, “I pray that I have invested, shepherded, and stewarded them well. Getting to serve one congregation this long—it’s not like the joy of child birth; it’s like the joy of a parent watching their child grow up.”
Dennis’s, and for that matter, Karla’s, fingerprints are all over the character of the Brentwood Baptist Worship Ministry of the past 25 years. Dennis has undoubtedly shaped the DNA that’s common to all of our worship services and campuses.
A Biblical Expression
Dennis sums it up this way: “Today, it looks like seven different campuses with very different personalities planted in very different neighborhoods, expressing themselves in authentic ways. The style or the leader may vary, but the intent of the worship, and the elements that are non-negotiable—Scripture, prayer, theologically sound lyrics, and musical excellence—it’s consistent from week to week and campus to campus.
That’s what we mean when we talk about Brentwood Baptist DNA in worship, and I think that’s what people mean when they visit a campus and say, ‘It feels like Brentwood Baptist.’ I hope we’ve created a biblical expression of worship that they can recognize when they see it.”