Having been on both sides, serving as a worship leader for many years and also sitting in a variety of pews, I feel at least moderately qualified to address what I see as a common issue in today’s churches: Worship leaders who don’t understand their role.
A worship leader has one primary function: to lead a congregation in the act of worship. The performers in a church worship service are meant to be the worshipers, not the leaders. While the pastor’s leadership role is one of preaching, teaching and admonition; the praise team, song leaders, choir, musicians and scripture readers are meant to bring attention to God, not to themselves. They exist to help the congregants connect to the Lord in worship.
If you are on a praise team leading your church in a chorus and you notice very few of the people are able to sing along, you should ask yourself if you are leading them or performing for them. No matter how spiritually you present the song, with upturned hands, closed eyes, and soulful expression, if the congregation can’t even follow the tune enough to sing along, you are performing, not leading. There is a place for inspirational performances in a worship service, but they should be presented as such, not disguised as congregational singing. No matter what style of music is used in worship, it should fulfill its purpose of turning the peoples’ hearts toward God.
It is tempting to select repetitive choruses meant to play on the emotions, rather like primitive war chants, but remember, we (the congregation) are to worship in spirit and in truth, with our hearts, minds and strength, not simply our emotions. You have a responsibility to help us keep that in mind.
As a worship leader, if I pull the focus onto myself, or onto the difficulty of following the words or the tune I’m leading, I have failed. The position of worship leader is sacred and a great joy when we help the people we lead to declare this to God:
I have seen your power and your glory in the place of worship.
– Psalm 63:2
As someone who can’t carry a tune (not even in a suitcase!), I really appreciate this post. I have moved away from the contemporary worship service to the traditional hymn book worship service. Even though I’m not the best singer in the world, the words in the old hymns have an incredible depth of meaning. I’m really able to think about the words, meditate on the words, and that means a huge amount to me. I also don’t feel like I’m being prompted to feel a certain way. With the old hymns, I’m able to feel as a response to however the Holy Spirit wants me to be feeling. I hope that makes sense. Thanks for posting this.
Thanks for your comments. I feel the same about the old hymns. I think churches which have abandoned the hymnal are losing a lot more than they gain.
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