Kim Walker-Smith’s first time leading worship was forgettable.
“They said, ‘We want you to try leading a song,’” Walker-Smith said. “I was terrified, and that very first time I ever led a song on a Sunday morning, I completely messed up. I burst into tears in the middle of the song because I was so embarrassed, and I ran off the stage. I left everyone hanging … I was backstage crying, ‘I am never going to do this. This is not what I’m made to do.’”
Walker-Smith, who wasn’t raised in a Christian home, is one of the founding members of Jesus Culture and now leads millions of people into God’s presence.
“It’s kind of funny, but one of the greatest ways I was set free from the fear of failure is failing so many times,” Walker-Smith added. “Then you find out it’s not the end of the story. I have done every embarrassing thing on stage from forgetting the words, singing the wrong song, singing the wrong note, tripping over wires. I fell off a stage one time. I failed so many times that I just got over it and learned to laugh at myself.”
After making three albums with Jesus Culture, Walker-Smith, who was 27 and unmarried at the time, quit her job as a loan processor at a bank to devote her life to ministry.
“I felt the Lord challenge me and say, ‘Am I your provider or is your job a provider?’” said Walker-Smith, 37. “It felt like a huge leap of faith to leave my job and go into ministry full time. I opened my eyes one day and went, ‘How did I get here?’ It was my following Jesus, and He just led me into this. It was never my plan.”
Walker-Smith has been with Jesus Culture since its inception in 1999. They travel around the world to awaken a generation to worship God. Some of the band’s top songs include “Holy Spirit,” “Rooftops,” “Spirit Break Out” and “Break Every Chain.”
Walker-Smith released her first solo album, “On My Side,” in 2017, and she just published her first book, “Brave Surrender.”
The Outlook talked to Walker-Smith by phone from California, where she lives with her husband, Skyler, and their three children.
Why does music have such power, not just in the church, but within society?
“Years and years ago scientists discovered sound waves and realized that pretty much everything was made up of these tiny sound waves,” Walker-Smith said. “All of us as Christians went, ‘Well, yea, that makes sense because God spoke the world into existence.’ It’s literally in our DNA and completely in the fibers of our being to respond to sound, music and our Father’s voice. Music is a big part of our culture and storytelling, how we express our feelings and emotions.”
Songs often are connected to meaningful moments.
“Music is very powerful in connection to our memories,” Walker-Smith added. “This is why there are certain worship songs, maybe an old hymn, that we hear and instantly we can be brought to tears because it’s connected to a powerful memory and a moment where God showed up for us. Maybe it’s the point of salvation for you or when you finally got free of something.”
What is worship and why is it important?
“If I were to simply define it, I would say, ‘Worship is God pouring His presence and love out on us and us responding to that and pouring our love back on Him,’” Walker-Smith said. “It’s an exchange. It’s a relationship. If that’s the case, it doesn’t matter the song, the band, the instruments. What matters is this moment. What I remind myself is He is worthy. It’s not about me. It’s about Him, and He is deserving of my worship regardless of how I feel.”
Walker-Smith said worship is a two-way street.
“We are worshiping God, and it’s for Him,” she said. “We want to bring Him our sacrifice of praise. We want to give Him all we can and all we have in worship. Many of us have experienced, ‘I fix my eyes on Him and suddenly everything else pales in comparison.’ That fear I walked in carrying because of that doctor report is suddenly gone, and I have total peace because I took a moment to fix my eyes on Jesus ... He fights our battles for us.”
While she leads worship at churches, conferences, events and camps, Walker-Smith said worship should be a daily experience.
“I don’t think worship is meant to be confined to a Sunday morning and some sort of routine before the pastor speaks,” she said. “I think worship is an act and a choice that we live out every day. It’s living in an awareness that He’s there with us every moment of every day. It’s walking in communion with Jesus.”
How do you keep worship fresh?
Walker-Smith said worship shouldn’t be predicated on our feelings.
“What’s really funny, and I’m not a theologian, but I do know in pretty much every other religion they worship out of obedience and ritual,” Walker-Smith said. “We are the only religion that I know of where we are worshiping out of our feelings. We have so many Christians say, ‘Well, I only worship when I feel like it.’ The Bible actually commands us to worship … simply because He is worthy.”
Walker-Smith encourages us to keep singing in all seasons.
“I take a moment to stop and remember what He saved me from,” she added. “I remembered the pit I was in before He found me. I remember the sound of His voice calling me out of it. I remember the hopelessness I felt. I remember the desperation I felt. I remember how lost I felt and how amazing it was when Jesus saved me. When I start thinking about that and allowing myself to feel those feelings, I cannot contain my worship when I remember who He is and what He has done in my life.”
With three children under 6 years old, Walker-Smith reminded herself of this while traveling.
“This was especially big for me when my kids were all little babies,” Walker-Smith said. “I’m on a tour bus with a newborn, and I’m not sleeping, and I’m exhausted, and I’ve got to get on a stage every night, and every night I would take a few moments in the quiet and remember what He’s done. Every time I get moved to tears because I’m so thankful.”
What’s your favorite song and the backstory behind it?
“Currently my favorite is ‘Just Be,’” Walker-Smith said. “It’s a newer one that I’ve written, and it’s a little bit old school in the chords, which I love. The song means so much to me because life is so busy and crazy all the time. I homeschool my kids. We travel, and we live in a world that is constantly going and busy. The very first line of this song is, ‘Everything else can wait, I’ve come to seek your face.’ When I come into worship in this moment, there is nothing more important than just being with Jesus.”
As a mom, Walker-Smith joked that this song is for her personally.
“One of the questions I get asked a lot by other parents is, ‘How do you make time when your life is so busy?’” she said. “After you have kids, they just suck up the oxygen in the room. They take every moment of every day. They follow you everywhere. You cannot get a private moment. What was so freeing to me was to realize that God is not restricted to time like I am. God can do something so powerful in two minutes or two days, and if all I have is two minutes while I’m washing the dishes, if I can take that two minutes to just point my heart to Him, He will show up.”