Podcast Episode #172: The True Measure of a Good Worship Leader with Aaron Keyes

Aaron Keyes of 10KFAM and Mere Worship joins the podcast to discuss the importance of having a community of worship leaders, emotional versus devotional worship, and the true test of our effectiveness as worship leaders.

Jason and Kristina can't stop talking about Top Gun: Maverick. Enjoy!

On why it's important to connect

A lot of worship pastors are working in silos. They don’t have people around that understand them, how they work, how they think. They don’t have anyone to help them get beyond things that might be holding them back and they probably don’t have a background of school where they’ve learned how to go deeper, think more theologically instead of reacting where culture is going.

Pastors often have masters and doctorate degrees–they’ve studied. They’ve learned and we are at a time in history where someone who has had little to no theological training has as much influence as someone who has a decade of training. When the senior pastor and the worship pastor are working well together it’s powerful and dynamic, but when they are isolated and independent of each other, it’s like a runner who’s legs aren’t working together.

The big worship movements that have gone around the world you’ll find senior leadership very connected to worship leadership. You can’t overlook the relational intimacy between those offices. Without that component it has a fraction of the impact.

On showing the value of community 

The bullseye has gotten hazy. How do you define success? Do you define it immediately with how engaged the room is with what we’re leading? Maybe that’s a good metric, but what about the long term? What effect does our worship this Sunday have on a year from now? Did any of those feelings translate? Is there abiding fruitfulness. My feeling is that if fruit doesn’t last, we did it wrong.

In John 15, Jesus says. “if you abide in me you will bear much fruit and it will be fruit that lasts.” That’s the only kind of fruit I’m interested in these days. We are the first generation in history that says if someone is musically gifted they should be spiritually authoritative. If you’re just leading songs, we don’t really need to talk about your life, but if you are leading worship that really makes some claims on your life, and I don’t know how we’re going to be pushed to do that without community. We need people who know us to speak into who we are and how we do things.

On emotional vs devotional worship

As a worship leader, I often look at the people who are obviously engaging, the ones that are really with me. But what about the back row? What about the people with their arms folded? We’ve often modeled emotional worship. That is, I give it when I’m feeling it. If I’m feeling in awe of God, I bow. If I’m feeling exuberant I dance. This approach forces people to either watch, join or lie. I think there’s a huge opportunity as worship leaders to lead from a devotional place. I lift my hands out of obedience to the word. I bow in spite of the fact that I’m not feeling it. I’m saying yes as an act of devotion. Emotional worship comes from a surplus of feeling but devotional worship comes at a cost and sacrifice.

On physical responses in worship

Don’t just look at expression, look at their whole being. If someone is exuberant and joyful in daily life and they shut it down on Sunday, you can say “that’s not you”. If someone is quiet, introspective, and reserved and they come in and are going crazy on a Sunday that might seem off as well. Psalm 86 says “Unite my heart” then goes on to say I will praise You with all my heart. Reverence and joyous celebration are not exclusive. Think of a wedding. When I’m leading a couple in the vows, everyone is silent and sitting in rapt attention. A few moments later when I announce the couple for the first time, the place erupts in raucous celebration. That is no less reverent. Reverence is responding rightly to revelation. We should be bringing our whole being to the moment. 

There are some really basic characteristics of what a faithful Christian life should look like. Think Galations 5 and the fruit of the Spirit, 1 Corinthians 13 of what love looks like. No mention of anything emotional there by the way. If we’re not seeing those things happening over time, then I don’t really care what someone felt on Sunday; we need to be transformed–that’s success. It doesn’t happen in a moment, it happens over time. If we’re not becoming more like Christ, I don’t think we’re worshipping Christ. I don’t know how you could say that we are.

Listen to the podcast on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Kristina Kislyanka leads worship and student ministry at her church in Washington state. She’s passionate about songwriting, producing music, and growing community within the Church. Kristina is a member of the Maverick City Music Choir. 

Podcast Episode #172: The True Measure of a Good Worship Leader with Aaron Keyes

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