Recently, David Santistevan published an article entitled, “What The Next Generation of Worship Leaders Need.” You can read it in its entirety here:
I really like his blog posts and generally agree with much of what he has to say. The same is true for this post. But while I strongly agree with his premise, I think he’s missing a few pieces of the puzzle.
He writes, “The danger now is an over-dependence on them (clicks and tracks). It’s too easy for us to pull off songs with tight execution and call it done.” If this is really the case (although I might assume he’s generalizing), and if excellence is really easier, it points to more than a lack of spiritual leadership among today’s worship leaders.
In addition to a lack of (1) spiritual leadership, I would argue it also reflects an (2) artful/creative laziness, (3) is lacking purpose and (4) focus. I’ve been there. Sunday comes with amazing regularity. It’s SO easy to fall into a complacent programming rut and formulaic, predictable routine.
With all the new(er) tools available to program an engaging, effective worship service, it should leave more time for next-level, prayerful and creative planning for each element of every service.
Easy should never be a goal of a worship service. Real excellence is not easy. And, excellence should always be an objective (Note: I did not say perfection, an impossible, unrealistic target for anyone). God is not pleased and does not accept a 2nd-best, “good-enough,” left-over offering.
We should use these incredible tools as a excellent means to a greater end. Maximize technology, don’t run from or be afraid of it. Let these things be what they really are – a starting point. For example, how can backing tracks be manipulated or customized to fit into and support the purposes of each service they’re being used in? It doesn’t have to be the same every time. Programs like Ableton and subscription services like Multitracks.com are very powerful resources, and can be used to create any kind of experience the worship leader seeks and the congregation needs on any given occasion.
Instead of a “plug-and-play” song set, what if worship leaders purposefully took people on a journey? What if the music in worship told a story, and was designed to lead people toward a spiritual destination? In a previous blog, I wrote, “Worship leaders need to ask themselves, “where do I want to lead my congregation?” One way is to employ a lyrical journey. Worship leaders can begin to move beyond programming clicks, guides and tracks to contemplate transcendent moments and infuse community throughout the set with a greater focus on lyrics and more intentionality in planning.
What if worship leaders had the margin (or took the time) to make every worship service a unique, powerful experience.
One of the most frustrating things for me was to not have the margin to be able to operate/function on this comprehensive level of worship planning. As a worship minister on staff at a local church, I was always responsible for “other” things that quite often took my eye off of the main thing. Although I enjoyed the variety of tasks, I was often unable to completely fulfill what was almost certainly my higher calling and greater purpose. I have a colleague, who is the worship leader (responsible for all things worship including audio, lighting, video, and media programming), the small groups guy and oversees strategic development. An impossible task.
Perhaps churches, recognizing the importance of corporate worship to our faith and community, should leave “other” things to “other” people, and be OK with employing worship “specialists.” Unfortunately, the leadership of many congregations don’t value or understand the necessity of this attention to detail that I believe is needed to achieve effective, excellent offerings to God.
Finally, I’ll close with the same quote that was used in David Santistevan’s article, “There is no such thing as a self-made spiritual leader. A true leader influences others spiritually only because the Spirit works in and through him to a greater degree than in those he leads.” – J. Oswald Sanders (Spiritual Leadership).
None of the above matters if the above is not true and evident in the life of the worship leader. “It’s always about leading from a deep knowledge of God. It’s leaning into relationship with Jesus and leading out of that flame.”
So how goes it with you?