It can be dangerous when the role of a worship leader is over exaggerated. If we’re not careful, the worship leader can be elevated to the role of an Old Testament High Priest. Likewise, it can be dangerous when the role of a worship leader is under valued. If we’re not careful, the worship leader can be diminished to the role of a church jukebox: you put some money in it and tell it which songs to play.
Worship leaders are not high priests and they’re not jukeboxes. They’re pastoral servants, called by God to preach the message of the Gospel through song, and to serve a church’s musicians and congregation by helping them make much of the greatness of God. The role of a worship leader is crucial. When they get off track consistently (over months and years), they can get a congregation off track too.
Here are three common worship leading errors that can have a detrimental impact on the churches they serve:
1. The primary focus is on the wrong person’s surrender
In a laudable attempt to help their congregations worship God from the heart, many worship leaders put the primary focus of their leadership and songs on how much they’re surrendering. Their heart is in the right place. It’s their focus that needs to be shifted.
When the primary focus shifts from us and our surrendering to the cross and Jesus’ surrendering, then a congregation’s heart begins to be warmed and freed and affected by the shout from the cross that “it is finished” rather than the shout from the worship leader to “sing it louder”. Heartfelt worship springs from the gospel.
2. There is no primary focus
The worship leader without a focus is like a broken clock. He’s right sometimes but not on purpose.
This song is about that, and that anthem is about this, and this Sunday we’re singing these kinds of songs, and that woman is singing this kind of solo, and this group is leading that kind of music, and all your congregation can say is “huh”?
What makes you tick? Anything? If nothing, then you’re a broken clock. Not terribly helpful. But when the gospel makes you tick, then you start pointing to the right things whenever people look at you.
3. There is no passion
Passion-less worship leading could be attributed to a whole host of factors: maybe crippling criticism, burnout, pressure, or a lack of any support. If a worship leader experiences any of these things, he’s not likely to throw himself into the ministry or into his role on Sunday mornings. Likewise, a worship leader who feels really safe and comfortable is not likely to want to rock the boat either.
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Power. He is the Spirit of Freedom. And he is the pointer to Christ. The absence of passion in a worship leader or in a worship ministry shows an absence of the Spirit’s empowering presence. When the Holy Spirit’s power is at work in a worship leader and in a worship ministry, the result is a passion for the glory of God above all things. And this passion will inevitably result in the boat getting rocked. And so be it.
When worship leaders stay focused on the Gospel and stay dependent on the Spirit, then their congregations will stay well served. May we resist the pull to focus on our meager sacrifices, and instead give ourselves to passionately and consistently point our congregations to the glory of God in Christ, by the power of the Spirit.