ARE YOU STILL GOOD ENOUGH TO BE A WORSHIP LEADER?

guitar-290x255 The title I gave to this post could hardly be more satirical. So, as a disclaimer, let me just apologize up front if any of it hits you as cynical. I want to write in a way that helps us (you and me) to think carefully. The irony really comes in the truth that words really do mean things, so using terminology like “good enough” and “worship leader” ends up saying something about how one views the sum and substance of worship. Those terms convey more of a sort of 2014 Christian culture bubble than a biblical view and practice of Christian worship.

The problem has largely been created as we practitioners have conflated the meaning of the word “worship” with the meaning and practice of engaging in music-making in the corporate act of worship, and have extended that out then to most any experience where such music is used. Market terminology is engaged as vendors realize there is consumable material to be produced and sold in the marketplace of experiential worshipers. In this environment the term “music” nearly disappears from use, and along with it the “outdated verbiage” of titles such as “Minister of Music,” or “Music Director.” Even the term “musician” is supplanted by another word, “artist.” Websites, recording products, conferences, and training tends to capitalize on the worshipology that is rooted in a certain kind of musical practice that reflects pop culture, and promotes the use of voluminous and expensive technology. Little do we realize that over-stimulation eventually numbs sensitivity in the very sensory organs that are being targeted.

The root of the problem in this verbiage is likely deeper than the origination and trajectory of of its etymological path that has brought us to this point where we may not only be confusing people as to what is truly worship, but to where we ourselves may be blinded by the obsessions of personal achievements and/or grandizement, or in rare cases financial gain.

Being “good” as a musician honing your craft seems a laudable objective. We know that the psalmist called upon us to “play skillfully” in Psalm 33. The same could certainly be said regarding the painter, the sculptor, or other artisan. Bezalel and Aholiab were called and empowered in connection with their skills in their respective crafts. The Bible says a good bit about art of different kinds, including cautions against those who use their skills to erect idols, false gods that detract from true worship of the living God. My point is that it is one thing to speak of striving to be a “good musician,” but when worship terminology is employed we meander down theological and doctrinal roads that may well be contrary to the very heart of our stated beliefs. We can easily, even though unintentionally, guide people toward a works salvation, whereby worship is acceptable because we are doing it so good. The adage “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” becomes a convenient axiom of our consumeristic tendencies, whereby the center of control and assessment is in me.  Not to get too far off topic, but this same thinking is how we construct or foster the spirit of ageism so prevalent nowadays pertaining to music leaders for corporate worship. If a musician gets too old to look or act a certain way so as to appeal to a certain section of the population, then they may be marginalized until a younger, cooler version becomes available.

“Worship Leader” is a term that has morphed into popular use to describe the one who has responsibility of shaping and leading the musical experience of corporate worship, whether in church settings, youth camps and meetings, or nearly any other group gathering where music is employed to express praise. It is, in fact, used with such frequency that it has become difficult not to refer to the music leader of corporate worship gatherings as the “worship leader.” As we have voiced along with others previously, however, the term is seriously problematic. None of us would dare say, “I will be taking the place of Jesus, or the Holy Spirit in tonight’s worship.” Surely we would understand such to be blasphemous. Yet, are we not at that very threshold when we act as if we have within ourselves the means to provide a way to the very throne of God? Biblically, only God can provide the way (one way) and that is not by means of a song from a “WL” but rather by the atoning blood of Christ. The preponderance of scriptures in the New Testament that underscore this grace as our only way to commune with God are astounding. Indeed, we recognize that in our astonishment we hunger to make a response of expression, and often that expression is in song and singing. Thanks be to God for that grace to do so, and to engage in it with His children. Thankful are we, as well, for those who have the raw talent and skills to design and lead helpful expressions, serving as liturgists, musicians, music leaders, pastoral guides, worship ministry pastors/leaders, songwriters, arrangers, instrumentalists, and more.

Are you still good enough to be a worship leader? No! Never were, never will be. Thanks be to God, He has called us to rest our worship in the High Priest, our Mediator, Lord and Savior, Author and Finisher of our faith, Jesus.

Two wonderful articles to further understanding of Jesus, the Worship Leader, and another on cautions against discouraging artists in the church.

http://artistictheologian.com/journal/at-volume-2-2013/jesus-our-true-worship-leader/

http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/how-to-discourage-artists-in-the-church

Explore posts in the same categories: Choir Ministry, Church Music, Congregational Singing, Leading Worship, Music Ministry, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship

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