Real Life: An Interview with Lincoln Brewster

On Labor Day weekend (September 3 and 4), Lincoln Brewster, Dove-award nominated musician, brings his band to Willow Creek’s South Barrington campus for a free concert at all services. Matt Lundgren, executive producer and worship leader at Willow, connected with Lincoln to ask a few questions, worship leader-to-worship leader.

Matt: What was the first song you ever wrote?
Lincoln: It was titled, “If I Was the Only One to Love.” I was five and I wrote it for the mandolin.

Matt: The mandolin? There has to be a story behind that.
Lincoln: My mom was a musician, and she introduced me to music by handing me a mandolin. I was about five at the time and I wanted to learn more. From that day, something clicked and just felt right. My mom never had to fight with me to get me to practice. I was self-motivated.

Matt: When you started playing music, did you ever dream you’d be leading worship for a living?
Lincoln: Not only did I not dream it, but no one I grew up with would have believed it. When I was growing up, if a vote had been taken as to the least likely person to have a song in the Baptist hymnal, I would have won. So for me to lead worship at a church? That’s a shocker. Someone looked at me recently and said, “This isn’t the life you planned, is it?” No, but I wouldn’t trade it. It’s been amazing.

Matt: How so?
Lincoln: I was born in Fairbanks, Alaska and raised in a town called Homer. I grew up in a non-Christian home in an environment with alcoholism, drug abuse, addiction, and domestic violence. A month ago, I took the band to Homer and we played in my old high school auditorium. It was an amazing experience to lead people to Christ in a place where I had once been so far from God. I was a kid who desperately needed God, yet despite the large Christian community in Homer, no one ever invited me to church. That’s one of the things I challenge people with now. If you’re sharing your faith, invite people to church.

Matt: How did you go from a mandolin-playing five-year-old to a guy with a career in music?
Lincoln: Through a wild string of events. I was working at a Wilson’s Leather shop in Modesto, California and I got a phone call from Steve Perry (lead vocalist from the band Journey). It’s a long story, but the outcome is he invited me to be part of his band.

Matt: Sounds like you were living the dream!
Lincoln: In a way, I was. I got to meet and hang out with people I’d only heard and read about. I was a huge Van Halen fan and I got to go to Eddie Van Halen’s house and rehearse with him. At the time I was fairly new in my faith, and I knew this was not something I’d do for the rest of my life. We were out on tour and while I was on stage at a concert in Cleveland, I knew this wasn’t what God was calling me to, so I left.

Matt: That was a bold move for a young Christian. How did your faith journey begin?
Lincoln: In high school, I dated a girl who was a Christian. While I didn’t grow up in a church-going home, sometimes I went to church with her—mostly to get into the good graces of her family. I wasn’t opposed to going to church, but no one had ever asked me to go. We dated for several years, but she told me she was going to break up with me because she knew the man she married had to be a Christian.

Matt: When did you give your life to Christ?
Lincoln: I was visiting a friend in Los Angeles, and one night, I couldn’t sleep. I knew I wanted to receive Christ into my life, but I had no idea how to do it. So, at 2 a.m. on Valentine’s Day in 1992, I prayed and said, “God, I don’t know how to do this, but I know what’s in my heart right now and if I don’t get this prayer right, I trust you’ll cover me.” When I went to sleep that night, I knew I was a Christian. And I experienced an immediate change in my heart and in my perspective.

Matt: So what happened to the girlfriend from high school?
Lincoln: Laura? I married her! She later told me, “I gave you up and got you back as a believer.” We’ve been married for 17 years, but we dated for five years before, so we’ve been together for 23 years.

Matt: Tell us about your family.
Lincoln: Laura is my wife and my best friend and we have two sons, Levi and Liam, and they’re awesome. I’ll probably bring pictures to show at Willow this weekend. Being a husband and a dad is the greatest thing in the world to me. It’s a miracle and I’m grateful that God has given me the opportunity to be the dad I never had when I was growing up.

Matt: So after you left the rocker life. What did you do?
Lincoln: After the tour, I moved back to Modesto and got plugged into church. I really fell in love with the local church there and they offered me a job as the tech guy. I also had an offer to tour with K.D. Lang—those were my job options: K.D Lang or church in Modesto. I took the church job and people thought I was out of my mind, but I knew it was what I was supposed to do.

Matt: How did you go from tech guy to worship leader?
Lincoln: The church asked me to lead worship for the youth. I didn’t even know what that meant, but I did it. And I was horrible. I’m not saying that to be modest because I really was awful. But I was learning and growing and I was in a place where I could do that. I also had a great mentor. It took awhile for me to get comfortable with leading worship, but all along I had a feeling in every fiber of my being that this is what God created me for– leading worship. So that’s how I ended up doing it, even though it was never in my plans. I just wanted to be faithful to what God was calling me to do. I still do.

Matt: How have your songs changed over the years?
Lincoln: My most recent CD, Real Life, is about my life, and some of the songs are more contemplative, but that’s not where I live as a songwriter. At my core, I write worship songs—that’s where my heart is.

Matt: Do you have a favorite song?
Lincoln: Right now, my favorite song to lead is Chris Tomlin’s “Our God.” I’ve loved it from the first time I heard it. For congregational worship, I think “Our God” is a near-perfect song.

Matt: When it comes to leading worship, what is the toughest part for you?
Lincoln: It’s when people show up thinking worship means they listen to me play music. I’ve been known to stop and say, “Hey, this isn’t your time. This is not my time. It’s God’s time. Treat it like that.” Sometimes the effort is in the offering—showing up and responding as though Jesus is in the room. Because He is. On the other hand, when it comes to leading a group of people who don’t get it, then sign me up. That’s my calling. I want to take them on a journey to experience God in new ways through worship.

Matt: What’s next for Lincoln Brewster?
Lincoln: The biggest thing is focusing on my family. My kids are 6 and 9 and they’ll be teenagers before I know it, so I want to soak up my time with them—laugh and play with them. No matter how much I try to slow time down, I can’t. It’s going fast. And I will continue to write music and serve my local church as well. I’m on the executive team there and that fits with my strategic side. I love speaking into the direction of the church.

Matt: You have a lot of roles—husband, dad, musician, songwriter, worship leader, and you serve the church. What’s your biggest challenge?
Lincoln: My biggest challenge is to stay encouraged. That may sound weird, but biblically, it’s true. As soon as you start listening to the enemy, he’ll discourage you and when you’re in that frame of mind, it’s hard to do what you’re called to do…and do it well, whatever the role may be.

Matt: So how do you stay encouraged?
Lincoln: By staying passionately connected to God.

Lincoln Brewster and band are in concert at at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 3 and at 9 and 11:15 a.m. on Sunday, September 4. The concert is FREE and no tickets are required. For information on regional campuses, please visit their individual websites.

Posted by Ian Philpot on 08.30.11 under Events.

11 Responses to “Real Life: An Interview with Lincoln Brewster”

  1. As a regular attendee and staff member at Bayside Church where Lincoln serves, I can tell you he is the Real Deal. As much as I love him as a musician, he is an equally great person. His humility is what impresses me most…

    Posted by Dan on 12/13/09 August 30th, 2011 at 11:39 pm

  2. I first saw Lincoln in 1994 at the Arie Crown Theatre when he was touring with Steve Perry. I knew it was a one off tour so I kind of forgot about him. A few years ago I was thinking about him and Googled his name. I was so surprised he was now a Christian artist. So I got the cds and was blown away. I can’t wait to see him this weekend. It will be great. Such an inspiring young man.

    Posted by Fred Altstadt on 12/13/09 August 31st, 2011 at 4:33 am

  3. This was so great to read! I love Lincoln Brewster and I loved reading about his journey. It’s encouraging to see how God has used him but also how Lincoln is always listening to hear what God would have him do with his life……and he follows through!

    Posted by Patty Creager on 12/13/09 August 31st, 2011 at 9:35 am

  4. Lincoln, what a great snip-it into your testimony. I found myself getting teary-eyed to know your wife had the conviction to say she had to leave you because you weren’t a Christian at the time. And, what a great God we serve and love! His grace brought you two back together. AWESOME! If you wrote your life testimony I’m sure it would be a powerful message. I’d be amongst the first to read it! God bless and thank you for the powerful messages in your music.

    Posted by Veronica on 12/13/09 August 31st, 2011 at 3:00 pm

  5. Matt,

    Thanks for the interview. It is great that we will get to hear Linclon this weekend.

    Just want you and your amazing band( Steve Kelley & team) to know that to us regular Creekers, you’re SIMPLY the BEST!

    Keep leading us in worship music!


    Posted by Jacob Mathews on 12/13/09 August 31st, 2011 at 5:06 pm

  6. Looking forward to the music led by Lincoln Brewster. Wish his son’s and wife could join him on this Labor Day Weekend!

    Posted by Joanne Kirchoff on 12/13/09 September 2nd, 2011 at 7:38 pm

  7. Totally impressed with Lincoln Brewster and his story of how he became a christian. My family and I cannot wait to see him on stage Sunday mornng. Lincoln, God be with you always.

    Posted by Laura Seger on 12/13/09 September 4th, 2011 at 4:19 am

  8. I really enjoyed your concert and message last night. I’m 62 (old) I really enjoyed your music.
    Thank you and please come back again.
    Patricia Glienna

    Posted by Pat Glienna on 12/13/09 September 4th, 2011 at 11:27 am

  9. Could I get a list of the worship songs that Lincoln sang this sunday?
    They blessed me so much!
    Thank you!

    Posted by Angela Suh on 12/13/09 September 4th, 2011 at 8:47 pm

  10. Lincoln:
    Thank You for being open to God’s prompting to heal my arm. My arm was healed immeadiately, but I didn’t recognize it as such right away. I wasn’t looking for healing and expected it to get better soon. It was bothering me for only a short time. Driving to the worship service was painful for my arm. God was teaching me that I need to be open to his promptings more and listen to him. Just wanted to say, Thank You for that and also for leading us in worship to the only true God.
    Blessings to you and your family.
    Carol Norman

    Posted by Carol Norman on 12/13/09 September 7th, 2011 at 8:05 pm

  11. The concert with Lincoln Brewster, spoke to my heart, at times tears would fall. It was a GREAT worship time. Thank you Willow for providing this opportunity to its members.

    Posted by Regina Santora on 12/13/09 September 8th, 2011 at 1:42 pm

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