There has been an encouraging trend recently in many circles in the worship world to emphasize the pastoral role of the worship leader (the Doxology and Theology conference is just one example) and challenge worship leaders to think more deeply and theologically about how they’re serving their congregations.
This is all very good.
But, if there is any downside to this much needed emphasis, it could potentially be that worship leaders who already struggle with feeling like there’s so much they have to keep up with, who are already scraping by with relatively little musical training, who don’t have an awful lot of spare time to study anything except all the dirty dishes in their kitchen, and who don’t think reading 18th century German theologians is their idea of a good time, could end up feeling unqualified and unable to measure up.
That would be very bad.
You don’t have to know everything. You don’t have to be really smart. You don’t have to have a seminary degree and be able to notate string parts in your sleep while reading Luther in your sleep while reharmonizing 300 year-old hymns.
Having said that, if you’re a worship leader, you are a theologian. By virtue of the fact that on a Sunday morning, you are responsible for what words people are singing and praying to God, you are therefore a person who is shaping people’s (for the lack of a better word) study of God, which is the meaning of the word theology. And so you do need to heed the challenge to think more deeply and lead more pastorally and take more seriously your responsibility to not just throw together a string of songs or a cool light show.
You need to know: (1) Who you are in Christ. You were dead and now you’re alive. (2) Who you are as a person. You’re you, you’re not that other guy. Be you. (3) Who you are for God. If you exist for his glory then you’re on a church staff for his glory too. You point people to, you celebrate, you magnify, and you never move past what he’s done in Jesus Christ. (4) Who you are for your congregation. You are a servant, not a celebrity, you’re a pastor, not a performer, and you’re a facilitator, not a famous rock star. (5) Who you are as a musician. You’ve been given some gifts and not given others. Use the gifts you have.
Beyond these things, anything else you know is extra. If you’re an amazing composer, that’s great. Compose awesome stuff for God’s glory. If you love reading 18th century German theologians, then read as much as you can and it will ooze out in your leading.
But, if you’re not an amazing musician or a budding doctrinal scholar or a curator of old hymns, you can take a deep breath. You don’t have to (and can’t) know everything. There are a few foundational things that really matter. Get those right and the rest will fall into place.