A Worship Disruption: A New Paradigm Of Worship Whose Time Has Come

It is time for a major disruption in the worship paradigm of the church.

2020 set the stage, and we’re ready for a change.

The early Church’s vision of worship as the primary discipleship mechanism of a Christian was right. Robert Webber’s vision of the ancient future worship of the Church, drawing wisdom from all worship traditions, was right. John Wimber’s vision of spiritual leaders who lead Spirit-responsive and empowered worship in our generation was also right.

2020 Was Not Just About Worship Going Online

In 2020, the church confronted its flaws in our worship paradigms. For 2000 years, worship has been understood to be the primary discipleship mechanism of the Church.

We discovered again that “Worship makes disciples,” wins over “Worship gives us experiences with God as disciples.” See the difference?

When our stages were taken away, our light shows, and even some of our rhythms in our liturgical churches, we faced a new reality that would require a new kind of Worship Leader to take us forward.

We became awkward for all the right reasons, but we thought the awkwardness was about “worship going online” rather than God inviting us into a completely new paradigm.

The awkwardness was not about going online. The awkwardness was about a sea-change happening in the world – and in the Church.

And so, it’s time to start the hard conversation about where we are, and where this is all going.

It’s time for a new kind of Worship Leader

The statement, “It’s time for a new kind of Worship Leader,” I don’t use lightly.

And, along with others, I’ve invested 30 years of my life aiming toward understanding that statement toward this disruptive moment we are in.

A few truths, from my experience with worship communities around the world:

  • Worship Leaders in contemporary or charismatic traditions have wanted to learn, often without guidance that understands their tradition, how to effectively lead people into encounters with the Holy Spirit that involve intimate connection with God, physical healing, personal transformation, and supernatural dynamics
  • Worship Leaders in liturgical traditions have learned how to effectively use the rhythms of the calendar year, the patterns of more intellective approaches to worship in the saying of creeds, confession, the public hearing and reading of the Scriptures, and more
  • Worship Leaders happily remain weak in one or more areas of their worship leadership development because their tradition accommodates it, life is hard, expectations are limited, it’s easier not to grow in the short term, education is expensive, and learning would have to be self-initiated and self-motivated
  • Worship Leaders are all over the map when it comes to caring about the crafting of worship experiences that actually disciple – rather than just giving people their next experience with God
  • Worship Leaders tend to stay in their camps, not leaning into learning about worship from other streams of the Church
  • Worship Leaders around the world feel a need for change in our paradigm – especially as it manifests itself in the worship industry and in local church experience/role models
  • Worship Leaders want to learn from many traditions – but it feels daunting and they don’t know where to start – or if they should even try
  • Worship Leaders sometimes think, deep down, their musical gifts and current perspectives on worship are enough
  • Worship Leaders are often more focused on their local experience than on the wider tides of worship and the groans of 21st century culture globally
  • Worship Leader “success” role models don’t carry a wide range of concern about ancient-future, Spirit-responsive, ideas coming together
  • Worship Industry approaches to worship leader development are more varied and diverse than ever, but are typically always aiming at the musical encounter as the primary language of worship (for obvious reasons)
  • Worship Leaders deeply feel the importance of worship to the life of the Body of Christ impacting the 2021-and-beyond world
  • Worship leaders tend to think everything is fine if they are solid musicians with a passionate heart and basic admin, group, and leadership skills

It is rare to find worship leaders who have the combination of:

  • A practical, Spirit-Responsive skillset in leading worship that invites and facilitates the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the worship encounter
  • A discipleship-rooted philosophy of worship and leadership
  • A sacramental theology of worship that holds a deepening understanding of embodied worship practices in worship (communion, baptism, and the role of other physical expressions of worship)
  • A deep understanding of Christ-ordered spirituality in the seasons of the Worship Year, including the Cycle of Light (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany) and the Cycle of Life (Lent, Easter, Pentecost/Kingdomtide)
  • A working knowledge of worship gifts living in Contemporary, Liturgical, Charismatic, Orthodox, Catholic, Celtic, and Multi-ethnic traditions
  • A creative flow that goes beyond songwriting to crafting worship tools that feed their local church from many angles

Worship Leaders must begin…

  • To learn from 2000 years of worship history, including from Contemporary, Liturgical, Charismatic, Orthodox, Catholic, Celtic, and Multi-ethnic traditions
  • To learn more about sacramental theology in communion, baptism, and more
  • To learn more about the role of Scripture, as well as the Creeds, Confession, and more in corporate worship
  • To learn more about leading truly Spirit-responsive worship experiences that welcome the gifts of the spirit to impact people in the context of worship
  • To learn how to better serve their local church through both online and live worship experiences cultivated with wisdom from 2000 years of church history
  • To embrace a change in the current worship paradigms that are driving the modern worship industry and are also driving discipleship In the local church
  • To read some books, do some hard reflection
  • To offer the best of their creativity to serve their local church and the church as it emerges from this 2020 transition
  • To set aside divisive and distracting cultural conversations, for a season, to focus hard on the enduring essence of worship


Peace and grace,

Dan +


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[Photo by Carlo Aberto Burato on Unsplash.com.]


Sheltering Mercy: Prayers Inspired by the Psalms

Sheltering Mercy, along with its companion volume, Endless Grace, helps us rediscover the rich treasures of the Psalms—through free-verse prayer renderings of their poems and hymns—as a guide to personal devotion and meditation.

The church has always used the Psalms as part of its prayer life, and they have inspired countless other prayers. This book contains 75 prayers drawn from Psalms 1-75, providing lyrical sketches of what authors Ryan Smith and Dan Wilt have seen, heard, and felt while sojourning in the Psalms. Each prayer is a response to the Psalms written in harmony with Scripture. These prayers help us quiet our hearts before God and welcome us into a safe place amid the storms of life.

This artful, poetic, and classic devotional book features compelling custom illustrations and foil-stamped hardcover binding, offering a fresh way to reflect on and pray the Psalms.