The Worship Leader Must Be A Worshipper
“The Worship Leader Must Be A Worshipper”
By: Jesse Crowley, Providence Road Baptist Church in Miami, FL
Recently I found myself reading the writings of Frederick Douglas. It was intriguing to read the firsthand account of a former slave, to hear about his struggles, his own thoughts on contemporary culture, and his journey to the intellectual he became. When writing about his early years, growing up on different plantations in the south, he remembered the songs of the adult slaves. Douglas describe the songs as expressions of ‘discontent and joy, happiness and sorrow.’ The songs remained seared on his mind, lone semi-prosperous moments in an otherwise destitute childhood.
I remember being taken aback, reading Douglas’ account of the songs of wearied men and women--seemingly hopeless individuals, slung in the plight of despair, finding moments of creativity and expression through the medium of song.
But the truth is, you don’t have to be a slave to know the meaningfulness of song. Song is a part of the human experience. As people emote and feel, so they express; and, as people express so they sing. In the context of church planting we are well accustomed to song. We, as church planters and ministry leaders, have seen music play dramatic and pivotal roles in the worship service. Music can lead people to an emotional intimacy with God, but it can, when used inappropriately be an instrument (pun intended) of greater distraction.
The following are some thoughts about music, the Worship Leader, and the church plant setting.
Brothers We Are Not Professionals--But If You Know One, Ask Him To Play In The Church Band
Over the last half century the Church has seen the changing of guard: choirs replaced by praise teams and orchestras by modern bands. The rise of Contemporary Christian Music, FM Christian Music Stations, and the Nashville Music Machine has brought unbridled pressure on the local church plant to be progressive, fresh, and filled with a deep roster of skilled and talented musicians. The obstacles are obvious, but how do you get the right person to fulfill the role?
The approach we take at Providence Road Church is simple. First, the potential musician must be a committed follower of Jesus Christ and committed to the local assembly. Second, the potential musician must have some degree of competency for the instrument they desire to play. And finally, the musician must display humility and a willingness to work as a team.
The church plant faces a real struggle and many start and plod along without the right man for the job. Because the role of song plays an important and often intimately personal role in the individual believer's life, the task of filling the role of worship leader is of utmost importance; however, the above-mentioned criteria are of even greater importance because of the nature of our endeavors. For this reason, the selection of the worship leader should be selective and thoughtful. The wrong worship leader can send wrong messages, establish off-focused norms and derail a team’s morale. In this case, the worship CD you had before was well worth its purchase price.
I Am My Own Worst Enemy
Being a worship leader at a recently planted church at times feels like running the 800 hurdles, only you forget to jump, plow into the guy next to you and hope he’s not too upset. The church planter has the uphill battle of constant and weekly set up and teardown often learning the skills and mindset of a touring band. The managing of volunteers requires time and organization often not afforded to the worship leader.
Time doesn’t change, there is always 24 hours in his day, 2.5 hours in his mid-week rehearsal, and 25 minutes during the Sunday morning worship service. The worship leader must fight for his time; the responsibilities of personal devotion, family, worship ministry, and work vie for his attention and thereby make the worship leader a man of divided priorities. How the worship leader decides to manage his time dictates the nature of the ministry and his ultimate success in leading. Is his ministry defined by preparedness and organization or is it reactive and treading water. It is therefore his priority to be on guard and a dutiful planner.
Back To Life, Back To Reality
Life can be distracting. At times, whether we like to admit it or not we become off-kilter and ill-focused in our purposes, even the noble ones. The worship leader is tasked with the assignment of leading others to glory in God. He serves as a traffic marker pointing to the great attraction by the means of song and melody. The distractions of personal sin, laziness, time management and limitations in skill can side line the church planting worship leader from his greater task.
Regardless of the many distractions that exist, this discussion is really one of foundations. I have found the following three reminders to be grounding and focus-setting in my ministry as a worship leader.
• develop the soul
• avoid the theatrical
• nurture creativity
The personal soul is of greatest priority. If the worship leader is empty, so is his leading. If the focus on Sunday mornings is performance, church members will be left wanting. When the worship leader allows creativity to flow, God is glorified and the Church is challenged. For these reasons, the worship leader must be a worshiper. The worship ministry has no room for empty vessels. The leader of prayer must be one who prays. The singer of praise must be one who praises. Thus his purpose is to pursue God privately and publicly and lead others to do the same