What the Next Generation of Worship Leaders Truly Needs

(Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash)

For those of us who have been leading worship for quite a while, it's healthy to look back and see what we are leaving in our wake.

Because there's a generation behind us that is observing, learning and picking up what we're putting down.

I don't know about you, but I've been immersed in many viewpoints when it comes to corporate worship:

  • It's all about flow.
  • It's about structure.
  • It's about excellence.
  • It's about the Spirit.
  • It's about good songs.
  • It's about spontaneous songs.
  • It's not about songs.
  • It's about trendy.
  • It's about hymns.

At one point, we were all concerned if clicks and loops would hinder the moving of the Spirit.

I don't think we're in danger of not using enough click tracks and loops. The danger now is an overdependence on them. It's too easy for us to pull off songs with tight execution and call it done.

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And that concerns me. It worries me what values, discipline and culture we are passing down to the next generation of worship leaders.

The Ease of Excellence

To be honest, excellence has become easier. We can hide behind our clicks, loops and well-crafted songs and call it done.

We can "pull off" Sunday after Sunday with the same four-song template. It's comfortable.

But we don't know the voice of the Holy Spirit anymore. We've forgotten how to go deep. We've lost our ability to linger. We have a generation of worship leaders who don't know how to war in the Spirit. We don't know how to use songs as weapons against the enemy. We've lost our ability to encounter.

We're satisfied with a strong performance when we should be longing for a touch of heaven.

What do we need in this next generation of worship leaders? What do our churches need? Leaders who know God. They know his voice. They aren't bored with going deep. They aren't just satisfied with well-crafted, Sunday songs.

We need to get back to the worship leader as a spiritual leader.

Spiritual Leadership

I love how J. Oswald Sanders says it in his book Spiritual Leadership:

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."

Are you pursuing this level of intensity?

Of course, encountering God doesn't need to be relegated to the unplanned and spontaneous, the wild and charismatic. God moves in the liturgical plodding, the quiet reflection.

But this isn't about style. This isn't about leading more like Bethel or leaning into more Anglican tradition. It's not about a more intense band or stripping it back. It's about leading from a deep knowledge of God. It's leaning into relationship with Jesus and leading out of that flame.

Spiritual leadership.

If you're a young leader, pursue this. If you're developing others—raising up the next generation—teach them this:

  • Study God's Word again.
  • Listen to and obey the voice of the Holy Spirit.
  • Learn how to lead an engaging prayer meeting.
  • Go deep with God.

Of course, developing your skills is helpful. Playing to a click, expanding your pedal board and learning best practices is important.

But we can't stop there. We need to pass on a desperation for God—a depth of discipleship.

Are you with me?

David Santistevan is a worship pastor at Allison Park Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

This article originally appeared at davidsantistevan.com.

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