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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Lonnie Carver: Lifting His Voice in Praise and Thanksgiving

Lonnie Carver, Elder, Pastoral Leadership Council Team,Worship Leader, and Technical Director at Tellico Lake Church in Madisonville, Tennessee

         Playing on the bar band circuit had gotten old for Lonnie Carver long before he became involved in music ministry.  Lonnie had been playing professionally in all sorts of bands since his teenage years. His sonorous baritone voice was well suited to many styles of music and he was always in demand as a frontman. He not only sang well, but also had a charismatic stage presence. But in the tough business of music the unfortunate fact is that the usual venue for bands are the bars and lounges.

         Lonnie Carver was never much of a bar guy. He was outgoing and everybody got along with him, but Lonnie was disillusioned by the honky-tonks filled with cigarette smoke and sad drunks. He had developed an avid fan base that supported his efforts and performances were always well attended. As his career progressed he became noted as a versatile musician who also played saxophone, flute, and guitar and often played backup for many legendary artists as well as touring with his own band.

          Eventually obligations of family made him stay close to home where he continued his music career. He worked various daytime jobs to supplement the music career that he loved so much.  He worked hard and played music constantly, but something was still missing 

         Lonnie Carver is a native of Blount County in beautiful East Tennessee.  Born in Maryville, not far from the Great Smoky Mountains, and raised in the communtiy of Lakemont, he attended Rockford Elementary, Eagleton Junior High and Everett High School. He and his son, Alex, and daughter, Emma, currently live in Maryville. Also living in Maryville is his oldest daughter, Sara Kennedy, along with her husband Chris and their two children Coleman and Jenna. Lonnie accepted Jesus as his savior in 1996 but still struggled with worldliness and mistrust of organized religion. God led him to several churches since that time and blessed him with understanding about what His will is for Lonnie’s life.

         While attending Crossroads Community Church in Maryville, God moved Lonnie to step out of the boat and learn to trust Him only. Through the encouragement and guidance of the leadership at Crossroads, God taught Lonnie to understand and act on his spiritual gifts and encourage others to do the same.

         Lonnie has been a musician/entertainer for nearly 42 years. Traveling the country or working close to home in the music/entertainment industry has given him a unique perspective on the world and its inhabitants. In the spring of 2005 God gave Lonnie a conviction to leave the secular music industry and devote his talents to serving Him in whatever way He desires. In November of 2006, Lonnie was led to inquire of Pastor Tim Heath about the music ministry at Tellico Lake Church. Devine intervention was obviously at work. After prayerful consideration and conversation, it was agreed that God had a role for Lonnie to assume as a part of the TLC team. It is Lonnie’s goal to glorify Our Savior with contemporary as well as traditional praise and worship music. He feels that it is the responsibility of a worship leader to encourage the congregation into genuine and heartfelt praise to God. Most impressive is Lonnie's love for God, His Word, and for people.

Lonnie Carver graciously offered the following interview.

How and when did you get called to do music ministry?

To put an exact time and date is difficult. I believe that God was working on me over several years. Once I made the commitment to use my talent to honor Him, He began to open doors in a very rapid way. In the spring of 2004 I was finally given an opportunity to play with the praise team at the church I was attending. Through a series of circumstances, I began leading worship because no one else was available. This led to playing with the Kermit Easterling Band a contemporary Christian group ( As things progressed it became obvious to me and others around me that God intended for me to step into music ministry on a full time basis.

Why is music in church important?

Music is a universal language. It transcends language barriers and reaches a part of us that cannot be accessed by any other means. The Bible says repeatedly that we should sing with joy to the Lord. It tells us that our voices lifted in praise and thanksgiving are a sweet sound to Him. Regardless of the style of music that a given church uses, if the worshipers are truly worshipping with their hearts they will be drawn closer to God and He will be glorified.

How do you decide what songs to sing each service?

I read the scripture references that our pastor will be using that week. I look for key words or phrases in the scripture that suggest songs. I type these key words into a Bible study program and read all the relevant scripture. I spend time looking over our song list and listening for God’s direction. I trust the Holy Spirit to lead me to the songs that He wants sung at any given service.

How much rehearsal or preparation is needed with the worship team?

I usually start on Monday preparing for our Saturday service. If there are new songs to learn I spend time finding and arranging the songs to suit our praise team makeup. Then I print charts for each player and post them all on our church web page so that anyone can download them. I spend time determining the order of the songs for the worship service and locating any applicable scripture that may be used during the service. Actual rehearsal time is about 2 hours on Thursday evening but the total time that I spend in preparation, including setting up the computer program used for lyric projection, downloading video or sermon illustrations and other technical aspects for the service, is around 6 to 8 hours per week. This does not include prayer and daily study of God’s Word as it relates to our worship service.

Are any of your worship team members professional musicians like you?

No. Our bass player/ guitar player is an old friend that I played professionally with many years ago but he no longer plays on a professional level.

Are there any Christian artists or songwriters that you particularly admire?

Chris Tomlin, Don Moene, Darlene Zschech, Brian Doerksen, Paul Baloche, to name a few.

Some folks like the old traditional hymns—do you have a place for those in your repertoire?

I believe that any song that brings a congregation or individual into the presence of God is worthy of playing. At TLC we use contemporary as well as traditional worship music. The key is that we don’t try to sound like the original artists. We take the song and play it with the instrumentation and voices that we have available and let the Spirit lead as to how we actually do the song.

Were you raised in the church, and if so were you involved in the music?

I was raised in a Methodist Church to the age of 13 but I found the music stale and boring. For many years I refused to sing or even think about “church” music because I was very disillusioned with organized religion.

You have been a professional musician most of you life. How do you reconcile your professional music life with your role as a worship leader?

I recognize now that during all the years I spent entertaining in bars and clubs and concerts God was shaping me into the person I am today. He gave me the talents and abilities and now is blessing me with the opportunity to serve Him with those talents.

Do you think you are now at the point where God wants you to be, or do you think bigger aspirations lie ahead?

As of this writing I am where God wants me and I am very happy and blessed. I also know that this is just a step in a greater plan. I’m excited to think about what God has planned for my life. I know that music will always be a part of it but I think that there are bigger things that He has planned for me.

You can see a Youtube video where Lonnie is playing flute with the Kermit Easterling Band.

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  1. Have a great thanks giving! Thank you for your supportive comments on my blog too. I appreciate all of them :)

  2. Nice interview. Wonderful message in the title- Lifting...voice in praise and thanksgiving. Something we should all be doing.

    Have a great Thanksgiving.

  3. Thanks Lee for the interview. There is so much more that can be said and I will gladly discuss or expand on anything in the interview.

  4. Nice interview Lee and Lonnie. I enjoyed reading it and it gave me an opportunity to learn more about your friend Lonnie whom you have spoken about on many occasions.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  5. I have known Lonnie all my life. I have always admired his God given music tallent, but if you had ever told me that Lonnie would be in service for our Lord and Saviour I would have disagreed. TLC is blessed to have Lonnie as their music minister. Lonnie keep your eyes on the Lord and reaching those bar fans from prior years.


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