By Maina Mwaura
Phil Wickham has penned and recorded some of the most popular songs sung by today’s congregations, including “This is Amazing Grace” and “My Living Hope”—the title of his most recent album.
Wickham recently talked with Facts and Trends about this album, how he works with his pastor—Greg Laurie—to plan songs for each Sunday, and his approach to developing other worship leaders.
The song “Living Hope” came from my time with God and my time in His Word. I’m a worship leader in my home church, Harvest Church. So when I began to lead my community through the lyrics of “Living Hope,” it just resonated with me and the song connected well with people. That’s what led me to title the album “Living Hope.”
How was this album different from your previous albums?
From the beginning, I felt like God was asking me to do something different and make sure I was leaving room for Him to move. There were 19 different writers on this album, not to mention everyone that I worked with, I had never worked with before. I didn’t even know who was going to produce it until the last minute.
I felt like God brought the right people at the right time for this album.
Did you have a goal or vision for this album?
The main vision and goal I had was wanting songs the church can sing. In particular, my own church.
As a worship leader, how do you go about putting together a set list for Sunday mornings?
First, I love putting together a set list for my church. I like to start by asking my pastor (Greg Laurie) a series of questions, one being what vision does he have in mind for the upcoming Sunday service. After sensing his direction and hearing what passage of Scripture he’s coming from, it helps me understand what songs to choose.
Once I’m in front of my team, I cast vision to them on what the service is going to be like. I give them direction and understanding of why I chose the songs we’ll be leading. At the end of the day, I’m constantly challenging my team to serve the moment.
Can you explain what you mean by “serve the moment?”
Serving the moment for our worship teams means creating a moment where people can encounter the presence of God and be reminded of His greatness.
Do you believe that serving the moment should be the theme of worship leaders?
How do you develop the worship leaders around you?
I think there are two ways worship leaders should develop those around them.
First, model what it means to worship God. It’s a lifestyle and not just a song. Jesus was the ultimate model of this. Jesus always came to serve, not to be served. It’s not about the coolest song, or lights, or who wears the tightest jeans. It’s about worshiping God and serving the people around us.
I think once a worship leader has modeled what it means to worship God, then the particulars of leading worship can be discussed. A worship leader needs to understand that before they’re an artist or a singer, they’re a servant.
What’s one particular thing, in your opinion, that should be discussed when developing worship leaders?
One of the things that took me years to understand is that our faces should reflect what we’re singing. I believe our countenance on stage matters.
What are two characteristics worship leaders must embody?
One of them is definitely a servant’s heart, and I’ve explained that one enough.
The other characteristic worship leaders should have is a contagious passion for God. Passion for God, by the way, should not be faked. A worship leader should be excited about singing God’s truths. We can’t lead people somewhere we’ve never been before.
What should the relationship of the pastor and worship leader look like?
I think the relationship of the pastor and worship leader should have the heart of humility and the heart to serve Christ. It’s Christ’s Church and He is the head of His Church.
MAINA MWAURA is a freelance journalist and minister who lives in the Atlanta area with his wife, Tiffiney, and daughter Zyan.