WHAT WE CALL WORSHIP LEADERS IS NEVER AS IMPORTANT AS BY WHOM AND TO WHAT THE LEADER IS CALLED

Here am I Send Me After leading music for a Sunday morning church service in a neighboring county a young man came up to me to tell me he was a worship leader. He then boldly asked, “can you get me a church?” He knew that in my position I helped churches in worship and music ministry. One of his friends was serving in a church and it was helping pay his way through school. I didn’t want to discourage his enthusiasm or confidence, but obviously needed a bit more information before I could begin to think about how to help this young man. I gave my contact information and encouraged him to email me so I could get to know more about him. He continued to tell me about leading at a youth event, and let me know he was now thinking about writing his own songs. I never heard from him again, and a few weeks later heard from his church’s pastor that the young man had moved on to other things and had lost interest in “getting a church.”

Terminology is sure not everything, but neither is it nothing. Words definitely matter. Titles are never as important as attitude, spirit, and root motivation, but what we call the ones who guide in gathered worship does say something, and communicates a message about what we are doing in worship. A title may well say something as well about how the person leading views himself or herself, and contributes to the overall environment in which we worship. So what do we call the one who is leading us to sing songs of worship and praise, and who participates in the planning of worship? Worship Leader? Lead Worshiper? Minister of Music? Worship Pastor? Associate Pastor for Worship? Assistant Pastor for Music? Music Pastor? Pastoral Musician? Minister of Magnification? Music Director? Song Leader? I have heard every one of these titles used at some point for the one leading music for worship. Some of the monikers seem more healthy than others, but I imagine anyone attending gathered worship would have a sense of what to expect from whoever is called by one of these names.

As important as what we call those guiding the gathered worship experience might be, it could never be as important as Who calls them to plan and to lead. Being called a worship leader is never as important as a clear sense that fulfilling the role is a response to a calling by God deeply rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ itself. Being known as a lead-worshiper is never as important as grasping the fact that genuine worship can only occur by the work of the Holy Spirit among worshipers, and that the role of the leader is one of servanthood. I have noticed that, to a large extent, talk about calling has disappeared from contemporary church speak. In some circles it is non-existent. Perhaps calling is a term not used for music leaders because the New Testament does not identify that role as a church office as such. In fact, there are no specific examples of a music leader at all in the New Testament church. Perhaps it is not used due to the weightiness of such an inference – that I am called by God.

So what is the big deal about calling in relation to worship leadership? Not to play word police, but I see written, and hear spoken often about somebody who is “looking for a worship leader gig,” or who will be at such-and-such event to “lead some worship.” I think I know what is intended by these expressions, but can we admit that the spirit expressed hardly indicates a sense that we are handling the holy? I was having coffee with a young man recently who was considering a path toward worship leadership, and I asked him if he had any sense of calling toward ministry. That gave him pause and together we determined this was something for both of us to pray about. As we unpacked the notion of God’s unique call to Gospel ministry we both shed some tears in light of the awe-some nature of saying, “yes” to such a call. Likewise, looking into holy scripture casts light on the severity of seeking to guide the Bride of Christ in expressions of love and devotion, worship and praise, whether in word or in song. At once we were reminded of the joy of fostering the sounds of praise from many generations, and the peace of knowing and doing God’s will.

The call to Gospel ministry fleshed out in using gifts in music leadership and engaged in pastoral direction of congregational worship and developmental discipleship using the arts is humbling as it is inspiring. Prayerful response to the call should lead us toward what Jamie Brown identifies as “Three C’s of Worship Leading: Christ-centeredness, Congregational accessibility, and Consistency.” Jamie is Director of Worship and Arts (there’s a title I missed before) for an Anglican church in Virginia. Read his insightful and encouraging blogpost at www.churchleaders.com

Explore posts in the same categories: Church Music, Leading Worship, Music Ministry, Singing Worship, Worship Leaders, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship

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