Advice for Young Worship Leaders
by Adam Wittenberg
Ever think you’re too young to lead worship? Or that you can’t sing? Or that you won’t make an impact?
Many musicians and worship leaders have battled such thoughts, but the Lord is faithful to fulfill His call on your life (Phil. 1:6).
David Forlu is one such worship leader.
When he came to the International House of Prayer straight from high school, he’d led worship “once or twice a year” at his church in Maryland (where his dad is a bishop), but never thought he’d be leading in Kansas City.
“I didn’t even know there was a prayer room,” says David, who is originally from Cameroon and turns 21 in July.
But the Lord opened doors quickly.
During his first semester at the International House of Prayer University’s Forerunner Music Academy, he played a set in the All Nations Prayer Room with Jaye Thomas, who then asked him to perform with him at Onething 2013. After that, David began playing in the Global Prayer Room (GPR), and led his first set there in the fall of 2014, at the age of 19.
Now he sings, plays, and leads worship regularly, unleashing prophetic songs that usher people across the globe into the Lord’s presence.
Here—in his own words—David shares advice for young singers, musicians, and worship leaders to grow in their gifting and godliness.
Learning to Play, Sing, and Lead
I started playing music at age four—drums and then keyboard. I always loved music, but I never knew that I’d be singing. A lot of people said I couldn’t sing.
In high school, my choir teacher helped me learn about all types of music. I began singing specials at church, and even led worship one or two times per year. People were getting more surprised, but it was still not something I wanted to do.
Choosing Music Over Football
I knew the Lord really wanted me to be serious about it, because I had played football in high school—and wanted to play in college—but when senior year came, the Lord just dropped my passion for football. It was like He said, “Get in the secret place, and just start worshiping Me; start singing, start asking Me for songs.” That actually birthed a lot of the songs I sing now.
Leading His First Set in the GPR
I sounded horrible the whole time through. I thought, “This is not for me.” It was really discouraging. I knew how I wanted to sound with my voice, and I said, “No, this is not right. Why are You trying to embarrass me?”
The next thing you know, people are saying they’re so encouraged by me leading that time. I was like, “Do you guys hear what I really hear?” So I started leading a little bit more.
They say this generation has to learn patience, but honestly, it’s true. The average time for someone to develop a sound, as an artist or producer, is about seven-to-ten years. It’s all about timing, but what are you doing in that time? Are you being faithful in what the Lord has called you to in this particular period of time? I have to be as faithful as I can be by His strength, by His Spirit, in this assignment. When all of that is done, I know He’s preparing me for something else, something better, something greater.
Growing in patience is also a fruit of the Spirit. When you’re being patient, you’re expressing a characteristic of God. When you express that characteristic, you grow more in relationship with Him, in intimacy with Him. In intimacy, He reveals things to you that He doesn’t reveal to most people, and another side of His love, His compassion, for you to give compassion. You receive so you can give back.
I’m learning it’s so much bigger than music, but music is very important. It’s also about your heart, and I want to be patient, to grow in patience to be like Jesus. Jesus is the prime example of patience, because He has been waiting for His bride for 2,000 years.
It’s not about being the best musician in five years or the best worship leader—that’s irrelevant. It’s more about the heart posture: how are you dedicating yourself day by day to grow more in love with the Lord, and to hear Him?
Even in the toughest times—because there’s times when things really get stagnant—you look at your peers, you look at your inspirations, and you see their successes, but you really don’t see the struggle behind their success. You gaze on their success, and you feel like you aren’t doing anything, like you haven’t done enough.
Somebody said to me, “The only way to stay humble is knowing your weaknesses and recognizing your weaknesses.” You’ve got to be patient in time. That’s the best thing I can do right now.
Inspiration vs. Comparison
When you see people who you look up to and you want to be like them, that mindset of rushing and racing can quickly grip your demeanor, and that can also build up pride in a lot of ways. How you respond to people—whether it’s musically or whatever you’re doing in life, [even] in little things—it changes for the bad if you don’t understand the process of patience while you’re working.
With all my inspirations, I wanted to be just like them. I wanted to get the same recognition, and I wanted people to view me like them. But you don’t really want people to view you like somebody else. That person’s mindset and frame just doesn’t work with yours, because if you’re putting on their frame, you’re putting on their pride.
It’s great to look up to people and have inspirations, but the one person that we need to look up to is the Lord, because He’s given us our personality—not the people who are inspirational in our lives. The Lord is saying, “Be like Me and you will express your musicality, your worship, and your prophetic gifting, or your business mindset, your character, and your demeanor.”
I’ve really improved in my expression of worship, because it’s different from how I grew up. I was shy, but now the Lord has given me a different expression of worship. I can express my love and realness to Him the way that only He and I can understand. And that’s something that grows.
To grow in prayer, it’s in the short phrases day by day: “Thank You, Lord,” or “Thank You, Holy Spirit.” God’s given me my personality, and He’s interested in helping me grow so that I can express my love for Him deeper and better.
Corey Russell taught that “the way to know Jesus is to know the Father and His house.” For some reason, that just struck me. I said, “Lord, I’m here to know You and Your house.” Since then, that’s been my prayer. That’s what keeps me going.
I take all of that to the stage, or prayer room, or wherever I go to sing or play, and I say, “For Your glory, Father, as I open up my mouth, fill it up.”
I want to write songs that are simple but deep, that weigh a lot, and there are songs that just hit you in words. I see how some people use the Word and make phenomenal songs out of what they’ve read in the Bible. In 2 Timothy 2:15, it says, “Study to show yourself approved.” So I read it, I study it, and I try to put it in my own words.
Personally, what helps me want to get more into the Word and read the Word more is acknowledging and realizing my weakness and how I need wisdom. I always pray for wisdom from the Lord.
There’s two kinds of wisdom: there’s one that’s wicked and there’s one from the Lord that’s righteous (James 3:14–17). I don’t want the wicked wisdom—that’s a very bad place. I want to be able to hear the Lord—to have discernment, love, and the knowledge Him. I’ve realized my weakness, that I need wisdom, and I want to grow in the wisdom of the righteous.
Singing for Jesus
In Psalm 101:1, the psalmist says, ‘To You, oh Lord, do I make music.” It also talks about not putting my eyes on worthless things: “I will sing of Your steadfast love and justice . . . I will not set my eyes before anything worthless” (Psalm 101:1, 3). That’s a huge part of me right now. I don’t want to make music for anyone but the Lord. I want the character of my music and my worship leading to come from the Holy Spirit—meaning I step back and He takes center stage, and it’s all for His glory.
And I always remember the cross and the blood of Jesus. The more I focus on it, the more compassion and gratefulness I have. The work of the cross—that’s my only boast.
My family’s very supportive; they love what I do. We realize there’s power in words. We always want to bless each other [with our speech].
Pride can strike you either way—with fake humility or too much pride. You have to trust the Lord in His own timing, and also position your heart to make sure your heart posture is not for the glitz and glamour.
Never be scared of pride, because it will come up either way. It comes up almost every day, but the fact that you acknowledge the pride issue and seek for help gives testimony to who you actually want to be.
Turn to the Lord, turn for help, and get accountability from people. Trying to fight it on your own only brings resentment, frustration, and a different character that is not you. Your gift will make room (Proverbs 18:16)!
To the guy (or girl) who wants to be the superstar worship leader, I say that I love your excitement, I love your passion, and I love your goals, but do not make that your number one goal or priority. I believe the Lord can give you the desires of your heart, but He can only give it when you know the first priority—and that’s to love the Lord with all your heart—to love Him, serve Him, and love people. Just those two [commands] alone will bring out a whole lot of mess in your life.
It’s okay to have those dreams of being a superstar worship leader, but do not make that a priority. Nothing is given. Let your work ethic complement your dreams, but you should still know what your main priority is.
To the shy person, I would say acknowledge your insecurities, but make sure they don’t overtake your identity. Know and acknowledge that your identity is in the Lord, and whether you’re someone in the secret place who just loves to play in front of your friends and you know that there’s a gift, a calling for more people, for the shy person, remain faithful to what you’re doing. Your gift will make room for you.
Make sure you’re guarding your heart and you’re seeking out for wisdom. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Fools despise knowledge.” (Proverbs 9:10).
I was that person who came to IHOPKC and I didn’t want to play. I just wanted to sit. I only played one set in the All Nations Prayer Room, and [favor] just started coming. Never be afraid of the risk, but always be wise in what you’re doing, and always make sure your heart is connected to the Lord’s heart.
Always remember that your first calling is to love the Lord (Matthew 22:37). “Many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14)
I always had a wrong perspective of [this verse]. That phrase is not really about the Lord choosing; it’s about your response. The way you respond determines if you’re chosen or not. If you’re chosen in playing keys or worship leading, especially as a young person, you should know that the response of your heart matters for eternity. Just keep that in mind.
If somebody just randomly slaps your cheek and makes you very angry, what is your response? When somebody praises you, what is your response? That all ties into your eternal reward. Your response determines your inheritance.
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A Detroit native who was raised in Vermont and Connecticut, Adam worked as a newspaper journalist until 2012, when he moved to Kansas City to complete the Intro to IHOPKC internship. Afterwards, he earned a four-year certificate in House of Prayer Leadership from IHOPU and is now on full-time staff in the Marketing department at IHOPKC. He also serves in the NightWatch (overnight prayer hours) and is active in evangelism. He, and his wife Stephany, have a vision to reach people everywhere with the good news of Jesus Christ.