Phil Wickham, Brandon Lake say young people craving 'authentic' Gospel, rejecting 'slick' preaching

Phil Wickham performs at SoCal Harvest Crusade in Anaheim, California, August 28, 2016.
Phil Wickham performs at SoCal Harvest Crusade in Anaheim, California, August 28, 2016. | (Photo: Harvest Crusades)

As an increasing number of young people are leaving the Church or deconstructing their faith, worship leaders Brandon Lake and Phil Wickham are calling for a return to the authentic, simple Gospel to cut through the noise of an information-saturated world.

“I think my generation and younger are less and less convinced by preachers and communicators that are communicating so slick,” Lake, the 33-year-old worship pastor at Seacoast Church in Charleston, South Carolina, told The Christian Post. 

“I know sticky statements are important because you remember them beyond Sunday. But this generation is looking for something to be communicated. God's Word is authentic. It's relevant, it's complete truth, but I think it's important how you communicate it so that you can earn people's trust, that it's believable, that you're coming across authentic.”

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Wickham reflected on the unique role worship music plays in discipleship, especially among the younger generation growing up in a "crazy world" where kids mature faster than ever before, bombarded with information from a young age.

"It's a unique world that we are all in right now compared to all of human civilization,” he said. “The fact that we have so much information hitting us and then and shaping everything that we see, shaping our view of sexuality, shaping our view of spirituality.”

The artist echoed Lake’s belief in the power of worship music to convey the Gospel's truths in a way that is accessible and engaging, especially to young minds.

"It's like the Bible peels the clouds away so you can see the North Star of Jesus that has been clouded by all the things of this world," he said, emphasizing the clarity and direction the Gospel provides.

“The Church doesn't give like just like the simple Gospel, like you forget the power that has to change people's lives and you’ve got to slick it up,” he said.

It’s a simple approach to the Gospel that Lake and Wickham take on their Summer Nights Tour, their series of worship events that last year saw thousands of young people come to Christ across the nation.

This year, the tour features Hulvey and begins in August, starting in Detroit, Michigan, and concluding in Honolulu, Hawaii, at the end of the month. 

“That was one of the most beautiful things on this tour; we invited people to start a relationship with Jesus,” Lake reflected. “You’re hearing me and Phil, who didn't go to school for communication, necessarily. … This is just coming from a dudebro who's in love with Jesus and just wants you to have a relationship with Jesus because we know that that's what you are made for. It’s coming across probably super broken and imperfect if you're comparing it to a professional communicator. But I think what I've seen is this generation is responding to the authenticity into the realness and the rawness.”

Reflecting on the transformative power of their 2023 tour, Wickham and Lake recounted stories of salvation and change, including those of security guards at their events.

"Me and Brandon kept on saying to each other before we walked on stage every night, 'Thank you, God, for letting us do this,'" Wickham shared. “We run on stage and have just a praised party and then tell people about Jesus. It just was beautiful.”

Lake highlighted the importance of celebrating these stories of transformation: "It just gives you all the more fire to go into the next night, especially when you’re tired," he said, underscoring the ripple effect of each individual's encounter with Jesus.

“We're doing this for the one, but most likely it's going to be hundreds if not thousands of people's lives changed.”

Lake and Wickham are two of today’s most visible worship leaders; both are Grammy and Dove Award-winning singer/songwriters behind some of today’s most popular worship songs, including “Goodness of God,” “Graves into Gardens,” “Battle Belongs” and “Living Hope.”

But despite their commercial success, the two worship leaders, who are also husbands and fathers, said the heart of their mission has remained unchanged since they entered the industry: addressing contemporary issues through music while staying anchored in the timeless truth of the Gospel. 

"Whether we're having an acoustic guitar for a home fellowship at our church or we're in an arena with a bunch of people, we just want to see people encounter the presence of God," Wickham said.

“We just want to see people encounter the presence of God, lift up the name of Jesus, see lives changed, to see our lives change. Those simple goals are still at the forefront.”

According to Wickham and Lake, "Summer Nights 2024" will be more than just a series of worship events; it will be, once again, a movement towards authentic spiritual awakening, driven by a heartfelt passion to share the love and truth of Jesus Christ. 

“We were meant to thrive in the presence of God like lungs need oxygen. Our spirits need the presence of God,” Wickham said. “Look at Jesus start doing the things He said to do; you say, ‘Jesus, I need you.' And when you're that straightforward and simple and kind, everybody melts. … We are gross sinners, and we need Jesus so bad. And I know He wants me, which is crazy, and He gives me a way to do it through the cross. … It's simple, but it's so profound. The world just needs to hear that Northstar truth and it's such a beautiful thing.”

Learn more about Summer Worship Nights here.

Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at:

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