Music director helps members 'practice Heaven'

Pam Griffin
Wesley Burk, new music director at First Baptist Church, and his wife, Amanda, look forward to recruiting more vocalists and instrumentalists for the church.

First Baptist Church in Destin has selected a new music director.

“We had many apply for the position,” said Dr. Farren Roper, pastor of First Baptist. “All had excellent potential, but Wesley Burk has the extraordinary talent and superb credentials to take our worship services to the next level in song and praise.”

Burk assumed his new position on Mother's Day, which coincided with Roper's first anniversary at the church.

"This involves one Sunday morning service, a Wednesday night service, and a Sunday evening rehearsal for both services," Burk told The Log. "I'll work with a core group/choir of singers and musicians, mainly adults, to facilitate these services."

The position of director of worship and music is a 10-15 hour a week job, planning, rehearsing and facilitating. Burk works closely with Roper to plan services themed around the preaching series.

"We will start with the scripture text and prayerfully go from there," Burk said

Many worship pastors and music directors are full time positions; some are led entirely by volunteers. Still others are part-time jobs, and Burk is currently studying to take national tests for security.

“I am contracted with Thrivent Investment Management,” he said. “Also, I sell LED lighting and display modules for American LED Technology, Inc. on a consulting basis. That's a lot, right? A lot of fun!"

Before First Baptist, Burk was choir director at Westminister Presbyterian Church in Fort Walton Beach, also a part time position.

"But I've also been on staff full time at churches, both here in Florida and Michigan," Burk said. "And I've volunteered before. No pay, but jewels in my crown in Heaven."  

Burk has studied piano all his life and attended Huntington University in Huntington, Ind., where he majored in ministry and minored in piano.

"I worship best at the piano, personally, and I've noticed others tend to 'catch it' easier when I am leading and playing, if I am the one leading," Burk said. "So I will lead from the piano each week."

Burk and his wife, Amanda, hope to recruit more vocalists and instrumentalists, "do everything we can to make His praise glorious," and develop the musical tradition established at First Baptist.

"I'd like a really big choir, because that is what Dr. Roper wants, and I think that would be a lot of fun," Burk said. "Of course we will develop our vocal skills, strengthen our breathing, and practice listening and blending each week in rehearsal, not just practicing songs. We should not apologize for skill, and we should expect to bring our best offering together."

When the Burks met with the choir several weeks ago, many turned out. Burk felt that when they sang together they had a nice collective sound.

"As we grow and develop, I hope that those interested in high energy, choir led services who don't presently have a church home will check us out," he said.

Burk also plans to start a children's choir at First Baptist and hopes to see a community children's choir in Destin.

"I've always had a great time with children's choirs," he said. "I'd love to run auditions and start an honors community-wide children's choir for the fall/spring season. Wouldn't it be amazing to see about 100 of our own Destin kids singing correctly, in harmony, blending like adults? Children's voice unisons are angelic, when done well."

As a worship leader, Burk said his main objective is to help people practice Heaven — shrug off the earthly and experience the Heavenly.

"Music can be the platform where God unites His people in high praise," he said. "God can use our times of music in our services to reveal His personality and His thoughts, speak to His people, and mainly be close and receive His praise.

"The Bible says He builds His house on our praises. Seriously. With our praise is built the house where God lives. That's Heaven on Earth."

Burk said this is true, no matter the denomination.

"This isn't just a Baptist thing, although Baptists sure do love their songs about Heaven," Burk said. "This is Baptist, multi-denominational, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Methodist, Lutheran, Anglican, Catholic. It is everyone who claims Christ.

 "I commend the worship leaders, praise teams, and choirs of our Destin churches for their great, Heaven practice sessions. I think of you whenever I pray, 'Our Father ... let Your Kingdom come ... on earth.'"