Let’s be honest, we talk about worship a lot in church: How many hymns should still be sung on a Sunday? How loud should we be? Are lights and smoke okay? Does this song have good theology? Should we let the worship leaders wear jeans? While these are all good questions to think about and answer in our churches, there is one question that is rarely discussed:
What is a worship leader?
Far too often the words “worship leader” and “musician” are synonymous. Churches can be so hungry for musical talent that we put any and every person who claims they can sing or play on the stage. This method is not only faulty, but can also be dishonourable to the Lord. When we worship God, we must give him our best (Col. 3:23), and as such we should be putting worship leaders on the stage that are first worshippers before musicians. But what is a worshipper? Here are four qualities all worship leaders should have:
In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God” (Ps. 10:4). When we are prideful we cannot worship God. We cannot seek him. Worship, by definition, is the lifting up of God and the lowering of self. It is acknowledging our place and God’s place. Pride does not fit into this definition. Are you seeking to demonstrate humility?
This is an expression of humility. As musicians and worship leaders, we must express humility through teachability. There is no such thing as a musician who does not need continued growth. Likewise, there is no such thing as a godly worship leader that cannot grow as they draw close to God. We must continually strive to be better at our craft and our walk so that we can give God the best we have and serve the church the best we can. Teachability is key to becoming a better worship leader than you are today. Are you teachable?
There are few things more distracting than a passionless worship leader – standing stagnant on stage, singing the words or playing the music with no emotion and zero expression. Worship naturally leads to passionate and joyful expression. Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! (Ps. 98:4) We are called to worship the Lord joyfully! It should not be seen as just another song or a task we fulfill. We need to worship with emotion! Do you?
I have left this one to the end for a reason. As worship leaders, we are called to excellence but not perfection. There is no such thing as a “perfect worship set” or “perfect musician”. But since we are seeking to give God our best, we strive for excellence in all things! Psalm 33:3 says Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts. Skill should never be the only focus for auditioning team members. Character always comes before competency. But we must not be afraid to require adequate skills and training. In setting the bar high, we remove the distraction of poor musicianship and serve with excellence as unto the Lord.
The things that we debate about as worship leaders are often the least important things. Yet this short list should give worship leaders and churches a good place to start when training and selecting worship leaders. When we elevate God and elevate our standards, God is blessed and God’s people are blessed. Consider this very famous verse that has become the motto in my life and in the lives of so many other worshippers around the world: Do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31b).