I have been a worship leader/pastor for more than twenty years, and now more than ever the church is facing a crisis of faith, morality, and overall biblical foundation and discipleship in worship leadership.
Before addressing the problem, let me say that I love to worship. I also love the many styles, sounds, and artistic expressions we have in the modern worship movement today. This is a great time to be a worship leader. The tools, technology, and freedom we have today is amazing. However, let me also say that trendy style, technology, youth, tattoos, swagger, cultural relevance, and even songwriting talents are not credentials for leading the people of God into the presence of God. None of those things are bad. However, if we are going to address the crisis that is unravelling, we have to adjust our model towards biblical foundation much more than cultural relevance and trendy, cool personal traits that look great on the church worship album cover.
So what’s the problem? Ephesians 4:11–12 says, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”
Could it be that in the age of mass Twitter followings, digital downloads, and streaming media, worship leadership has become more consumed with those who have amassed the biggest “presence” as opposed to those who have been biblically equipped to do the work of worship ministry and steward His presence? Be assured, the first doesn’t automatically equal that the second has happened.
Could we possibly be seeing the results now of a generation of incredible musicians, songwriters, and artists struggling with their faith largely because their gift was taken full advantage of before there was a solid foundation of biblical truth set in their heart and soul? Are the poisons of an unbalanced equipping in cultural relevance over biblical foundation beginning to bite us? I want to submit that the problem is rooted in an overall lack of equipping and biblical foundation in the Word. We’ve exploited the gift prior to equipping the saint.
In the days to come, we as a Church should take the posture of the apostle Paul when he said, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2
We simply cannot follow the cultural pattern of this world when positioning our leaders in worship. We must pattern our process to equip our worship leadership with a biblical foundation and character of Christ. We cannot continue exploiting their talent until there is at the very least a full foundational biblical equipping in:
THE WORD OF GOD
We simply cannot afford psalmists who do not have a solid theological foundation in the Word. One does not have to look far into the current top 20 worship songs to find God’s love being described with what has at the very least been categorized as “artistic reach.” The alarm bells are sounding for psalmists who have the theological wisdom to press pause before they press record. Worship leaders and Christian artists alike must know the Word! No amount of edgy style and artistic license dismisses a lack of biblical foundation.
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is a lot of fruit to see in someone’s life with each of these character traits. Add Humility and Wisdom and you have the bare minimum of foundational character traits we need fully equipped worship leaders in. Christian leaders commit yourselves to the work of discipleship before exploiting musical gifting on the platform. See the fruit before using the gift. No amount of platform gifting dismisses a lack of Christlike character.
Our psalmists and worship leaders must be equipped with the importance of intimate daily relationship with the Lord. This is a discipleship issue when raising up leadership in worship. It’s also a personal discipline that the fruit of must be seen. No amount of talent and influence dismisses a lack of intimate relationship with Him.
Record labels and publishers are not spiritual coverings. CCM, please support your artists by first ensuring they have in place healthy spiritual covering to which they are submitted. Work with your artists and their spiritual covering to ensure they are at the very least grounded in the unchanging Word of God, strong in the character of Christ, in-love with Jesus through relationship, and covered by healthy spiritual leadership. No amount of industry success dismisses true spiritual covering.
There is so much more, but the above is the bare minimum. Bottom line,
- Biblical foundation first—then culturally relevant considerations.
- Christlike character first—then address platform presence and performance.
- Intimate relationship with Christ first—then comes influence and following.
- Spiritual Covering first—then add industry support.
If we continue to exploit the gifts of our worship leadership while failing to equip them first with solid biblical foundations, Christlike character, relationship with the Father, and spiritual covering, then we are setting them up for failure and even worse—a crisis of faith.