My friends and I have often discussed the “Mount Rushmore of Worship Leaders.” If there was a monument to worship leaders (which is a weird idea the more I think about it), which four worship leaders would have their faces etched in stone? Really, this is a Top 5 list for people who feel thinking up of five names is too much work.
When I have talked to people about this, it has brought up some great conversations as deep as “real greatness” for a worship leader and as shallow as who has the coolest hair cut. What has surprised me the most is how often the same names come up. In my circle of real life friends, there seems to be some consensus on who would go on this theoretical Mount Rushmore.
Here’s what I think. I would love to hear what you think because I need your help completing this list.
The way Darlene Zschech leads worship is inspiring. She is both lost in the moment and present at the same time. She leads with authority and gentleness. She is in tune with the Holy Spirit and sensitive to the people she’s leading into worship. In many ways, she is everything I aspire to be as a worship leader.
Darlene Zschech wrote Shout To The Lord, a song so influential that here in the states it made an appearance on a top rated television show. Click here to see it. It takes a special kind of song writer to write a song for the church. Darlene Zschech doesn’t write for her own voice, she writes for our voices. She is more in love with the voice of the church than her own. That’s one of the reasons why Shout To The Lord has been an anthem of the church for decades.
Zschech is also a leader of leaders. She has always worked with other worship leaders. This isn’t always easy. Worship leaders are an eccentric group of people. She has invested in them, guided them, and set them up for success.
Delirious? was Praise & Worship before there was a Praise & Worship genre as we know it today. Like Darlene Zschech, I can point to worship leaders they have influenced over the years, but I have a hard time finding out who influenced them.
What Delirious? did in the 90’s had a huge impact on the way churches sounded in the 2000’s. They didn’t just create a sound that was innovative. They created a sound that was accessible. Even if a church didn’t have the talent or resources to capture every nuance of a Delirious? song, they were able to capture the essence.
Many of the songs they wrote became staples in churches all over the world. Many of them still hold up today. Even when the songs were left to the devices of amateur and budding musicians, the songs still worked and inspired worship.
Martin Smith’s face would be the one etched in stone, but you can’t count out what Stu G and the rest of the band did. You can’t do something that significant without collaboration. I’m putting Martin Smith on the rock, but let’s not forget the entire team and family that made up Delirious?.
This man’s instincts for the singable are surpassed by none. Somehow he can craft a melody with a small range that feels epic. It doesn’t take long for a congregation to latch onto a Chris Tomlin song, but it takes a while to let them go. Many of the songs the church sings were either written by him, cowritten by him, or discovered by him. The impact Tomlin has made on what the English-speaking church sings may be felt for generations.
Tomlin has worked with and invested in a lot of other worship leaders. Tomlin is another leader of leaders. It’s easier for a worship leader to work apart from other worship leaders. To collaborate on songs and events like he has really says something about the kind of person he is. He has invested, sharpened, and been sharpened.
Whether it’s a college ministry or a huge national conference, Tomlin has always been faithful to serve right where he’s at. When Tomlin was starting out, he had no reason to think that he would be leading stadiums full of people in worship. That wasn’t his motivation for leading worship. There wasn’t even a praise and worship genre like we know it today. Even so, he served because that’s what was needed of him at the time.
Whenever I ask people who would go on their Mount Rushmore of Worship Leaders, I usually hear the first three names I just listed. I’m surprised how many people agree on the first three. However, number four is always tricky. Almost no one ever agrees on the fourth worship leader.
I’m going to need your help on this one, but first let me point out some similarities in the worship leaders listed so far. Pay close attention, because these are things we could all learn and improve.
They’ve always been faithful where they are at
This is huge. God cares more about this than how many songs a worship leader has on CCLI top 100. Many times the reason we aren’t faithful is because we aren’t content with our current situation.
They have invested in other worship leaders
Good worship leaders do not horde their knowledge, experiences and wisdom from other worship leaders. They humbly invest in other worship leaders, knowing they have a lot to learn. They are not threatened by another worship leader’s success. They are rooting for it.
They have contributed to the songs the church sings
All of the above worship leaders have contributed significantly to the songs the church sings. The fourth worship leader should also have done that.
Who do you think the fourth worship leader should be? Let me know in the comments, below. Here are three candidates I’m mulling over:
- Matt Redman
- Israel Houghton
- Paul Baloche
This is what I think. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.
Till next time,