Not Missing the Sweetness of Being a Local Church Worship Leader

1Once upon a time I was having a conversation with a musician/singer/songwriter who was having a hard time breaking out in the Christian music market. I asked him what he thought he would do in a few years if his music didn’t take off, and he said that he might just end up leading worship at a local church somewhere.

Another time, once upon a time, I was having a conversation with a worship leader in a local church. In his free time, he was in a band that had started to be invited to play at some youth retreats and other events. I asked him what he thought things would look like for him in a few years, and he said he hoped that he could end up touring, recording, and moving to Nashville to live the life of a musician/singer/songwriter.

Two different people with two different stories, each of whom viewed the role of a local church worship leader as if it were just a safety net, there for them in case they couldn’t do something else.

On the one hand, it’s understandable that a Christian with musical gifts who’s looking for a way to support himself with those gifts would explore the world of worship leading, and on occasion find that the world of worship leading isn’t where they sense a calling. And that’s fine.

But on the other hand, it’s unfortunate when local church worship leaders see their job as merely a holding cell, or a launchpad from which they can soar into mainstream success one day.

Leading worship in a local church is a privilege, an honor, and a great responsibility. Walking alongside a congregation from the vantage point of the person charged with leading them in song throughout the different seasons, ups and downs, joys and sorrows, and attendance fluctuations is certainly challenging, but also incredibly rewarding. And if you’re always looking for greener grass or a brighter spotlight, of if you’re always resenting having to serve in this capacity, then you’re forgetting what a privilege it is.

Being a local church worship leader can be incredibly hard, whether you’ve sensed a call to it since you were 13, whether you’ve fallen into because you didn’t make it the music business, or whether you’re still doing it and hoping to do something else one day. But it can be incredibly sweet. Don’t miss out on the sweetness.

5 thoughts on “Not Missing the Sweetness of Being a Local Church Worship Leader”

  1. I think this is my favorite post from you yet. Grateful that you are courageous enough to talk openly about these things and yet my heart is so sad because so much of it is true.
    We must have a higher view of God and the local church. She’s not a stepping stone or a platform for anyone to launch a career from- she is the physical presence of Christ on earth to accomplish God’s will and purpose. As a worship leader, we have a Holy call to lead the people of God up into the higher heights of proclaiming His excellencies! The Top-20 radio hit list can’t begin to compare to that sacred calling. Proclaim God’s greatness above your own and don’t fool yourself with an immature view of your position as a singer/songwriter and think that God has called you to write top-20 hits for Him to be famous and known. His call is not for you to be known. Examine your hearts worship leaders, while there is yet light!

  2. Great post. The up-and-coming CCM star is partly to blame for this phenomenon, but only partly. The truth is that lots of congregations would be more than thrilled to be that “farm system” for big-league CCM talent. Because of our view of worship as congregational entertainment, rather than corporate worship. The best solution here would seem to be the same fix that I proposed for “performancism” – focus corporate worship on worshipping together in many forms, deliberately de-emphasizing musical performance. Also choose based on non-performance qualities – stop choosing like Israel choose their first king (they got the statuesque Saul who had no heart for God) and start choosing unlikely sorts (like David, Gideon, Moses, and Peter).

  3. Wow! Hit the nail on the head…

    Unfortunately, all too many pastors consider the Worship Ministry a volunteer ministry not worth payment.

    I think in a very large part this can lead to people who would otherwise consider leading God’s People in Worship a precious calling to think of it as a sideline until they get their talent together and can earn a living with the musical gifts Jesus gave them.

    IMHO the music minister is a full time ministry position equal to the pastorate itself.

  4. Thank you for this post. I lead worship at three services a week. I also have a working cover band that plays a few nights a week and play other professional music engagements.

    I look forward to every service because it is my opportunity to sing with no other motivation than offering praise and glory to God.

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