Chris Tomlin, Brooke Ligertwood urge worship leaders to remain scripturally sound as genre grows

Chris Tomlin appears at the 2022 K-LOVE Fan Awards in Nashville, Tennessee. | Jason Davis Photography for K-LOVE Fan Awards

NASHVILLE — As worship music becomes an increasingly popular genre in the world of contemporary Christian music, chart-topping worship leaders including Brooke Ligertwood, Chris Tomlin and Jenn Johnson are encouraging songwriters to remain focused on the "heart" of worship, not earthly success. 

Over the decades, worship music has become an increasingly popular niche in Christian music, dominating charts and awards shows. Relatively modern worship songs like “In Christ Alone” and “How Great is Our God” have solidified their place among centuries-old hymns, sung in churches and worship venues around the world.

Some of the voices behind today’s most beloved worship songs spoke to The Christian Post about their heart for the future of worship music.

Ligertwood, a Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter, told The Christian Post she’s been encouraged by the next generation of Christians who she said have a “really firm hand on the Word of God.” Still, she challenged songwriters and worship leaders to ensure the music they pen and sing “is really biblical.”

“What people are putting in their mouths and singing out, it's going to form what they believe about God, so it has to be true,” she stressed.

The “A Thousand Hallelujahs” singer, who found fame with Hillsong Worship, also highlighted the importance of “prizing what the world doesn’t prize,” like the “unseen and hidden things that are pleasing to God.”

“If we don't get that, right, that's when the consequences to the next generation are devastating,” she said. “So making sure that in our private life — spiritual disciplines and spiritual practices — that we're sowing into those things, because there's a lot of other things that are distracting. We need to make sure that we can keep our hearts focused on what's going to sustain us to finish running the race well.”

The “What a Beautiful Name” singer challenged Christians to “take on the attitude of Jesus” and embrace servanthood, whatever vocation they follow. 

“How can we serve people with our gifts? But also how can we serve people with our lives? How can we serve the next generation that's coming through? Like, can we be champions of others and just hold everything lightly and let the Lord do what He wants with our lives?”

Tomlin, the influential worship leader behind a slew of hits including “Holy is the Lord,” “How Great is Our God” and “We Fall Down,” said he’s encouraged by the success worship music has seen in recent years. He described worship music as the “essence” of CCM, a style of music that helps singers bring worship to God.

“That's what I try to do every night and with my concerts,” he said. “And so that if we're going to keep doing that, with all the new that's coming through, and keep that same spirit of that humble spirit of like, just having people having an encounter with God, that's the difference-maker in this. Otherwise just sounds like everybody else's music.”

Tomlin was nominated at this year’s K-LOVE Fan Awards for Worship Song of the Year for  “Thank You Lord,” his collaboration with mainstream country stars Thomas Rhett & Florida Georgia Line.

The artist told CP the ability of Christian artists to collaborate with mainstream artists — and find success — is evidence that God is “doing amazing things across this landscape of music” and “moving in a really great way.”

“I’m honored to be a part of it,” he said.

Jenn Johnson, who with her husband, Brian, leads Bethel Music — an extension of the music ministry at the Redding, California, charismatic megachurch — told CP that amid the influx of noise prevalent in music, it’s important to strip back and focus on the words of Scripture.

“I think that, for me, staying anchored in the Word of God … I think it's simplification and doing whatever we need to just to protect our hearts to guard our hearts and our peace, and just surround ourselves with who God is, what He's saying, what He's doing,” she said. 

“We love the lost; we're with them. We're reaching them, we want to love on them as well,” she added. “But I think protecting that is super important.”

Jenn Johnson appears at the K-LOVE Fan Awards in Nashville, Tennessee. | Jason Davis Photography for K-LOVE Fan Awards

Johnson, who along with Brandon Lake was nominated for a K-LOVE Fan Award for “Too Good To Not Believe,” shared how worship music has sustained her amid loss and pain, including her mother-in-law, Beni’s, ongoing cancer battle. She that Bethel music recently finished their latest album, Simple.

She advised worship leaders to “have leaders in your life; be committed to a local church, to friends and family who know you and be authentic and real and vulnerable with what you're going through.”

“Don't fake it. Don't be Instagram filtered. Like be real and authentic and let people into who you are to help you grow and strengthen you. And love maturity,” she added.

Matt Maher, the Canadian worship artist behind “Lord I Need You,” told CP that the goal of Christian musicians should be to “work themselves out of a job,” not look for success.

“Everything that we're called to do is really about the transformation and culture and the betterment of society and the common good, helping people flourish, discover who they are and who they're meant to be,” he said. 

The K-LOVE Fan Awards will air on TBN on June 3, airing back to back at both 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. ET.

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