After twenty-some years of churchgoing, I finally realized that what you do on Saturday night significantly impacts your Sunday morning worship experience. This might sound trite, but it’s a subtle truth that makes a huge difference. And it’s especially true for worship leaders and musicians.

I’ve followed the worship leading blog of Davis Santistevan for a couple of years now. David’s blog has had a significant impact on the way I approach leading worship, especially in terms of preparation. There are two things in particular that I’ve always appreciated about David’s writing: (1) he writes simple, practical steps worship leaders can take toward growing their craft, and (2) those steps always include extreme dependency on God. Through his blog and his e-book, David consistently paints a picture of spiritual preparation, not just music rehearsal.

David is the worship pastor at Allison Park Church in Pittsburgh, PA. He’s also an avid songwriter, and recently helped Allison Park release a worship album, “Undying Love.” 

santistevan arm raised

Despite his busy schedule, David was kind enough to answer a few questions about what it looks like to be an anti-rock star worship leader. I especially appreciated David’s thoughts on praying for the congregation and the idea of worship leading as a holistic daily approach. Here is the full interview:

Nick: You said in a recent post that “preparing your heart” is an important part of leading worship: “The more I lead, the less I feel I need to prepare. But the truth is, the better, more experienced, more effective I become, the more I need to prepare my heart. Otherwise, I go on auto-pilot.” What are some practical steps worship leaders can do to “prepare our hearts”? What does that phrase mean to you?

David: Spend time in personal worship well in advance of the “event”. You don’t want to just approach God a few minutes beforehand so he’ll bail you out of mistakes. Prepare your heart and your team days before. Pray out loud. Read Scripture out loud. These are the best ways I’ve found to prepare my heart. Simple but effective. 

Nick: What does your pre-game warm up look like? What do you do, along with your team and congregation, to come into Sunday mornings with a humble attitude ready to worship God?

David: We start with prayer and a quick soundcheck. Then, we spend 20 minutes in pre-service prayer getting our hearts ready. We pray for the congregation. We pray for our hearts to be right. We pray for souls to be saved. We own the whole service, just not our portion as a worship team.

Nick: How does Allison Park’s strategy in church-planting play into the way you lead worship? Does that change the way that you lead your team and the congregation?

David: Our calling to plant churches doesn’t necessarily effect our worship leading, but it does effect how we train and disciple new and young musicians. We invest in people so they become better. We give space for the “average” worship leaders to grow. We train musicians to flow. We give them opportunity to lead in our church plants. We give them feedback. Church planting necessitates raising up and releasing people to fulfill their unique calling as ministers. Never a quiet, dull moment!

santistevan closeNick: You have a pretty intense focus on songwriting. You’ve released a fair amount of worship music, written an e-book on worship writing, and Allison park just recently released a live worship album. How do you balance the tension of promoting these releases without “self-promoting”?

David: Promotion can be a sticky subject in church circles. My perspective is I promote the projects I work on because I believe they help people. I don’t do them to get recognized, famous, or praised. I want to be helpful. So if I release a worship album, I want people to hear it because I know it will enrich their walk with Jesus. If I write a helpful book, I want to get into as many hands as possible. 

I don’t have a problem with promotion. It’s important to just balance your own promotion with also promoting other people’s work and investing in others. Focus on being helpful and you can’t go wrong.

Comments (2)
  1. mamalou March 8, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    Very encouraging interview….I love the point of “spiritual preparation” as well as music rehearsal. I think sometimes we all get going so fast in life and ministry that we don’t slow down long enough to prepare WELL IN ADVANCE for what God has for us to do.
    love you!

  2. Pingback: INTERVIEW WITH STEVEN POTACZEK : Mouthful of Gospel

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