There are many land mines for the worship leader who serves as the church lead musician each week in front of the congregation. Those who attend have opinions that range from personal preference to theological heresy. Add to that the job of working with the lead pastor and staff team who have their own ideas. Often, opinions and directives fly in the direction of a worship leader with little dished out in the other direction. Why? Well, it is a dangerous proposition to do so. I know this because I talk to worship leaders on a regular basis from all over the place and have been in that seat for many years. Here are four questions I chose that a lot of worship leaders might relate to that will help bring up the conversation in your setting. Let me know what you think. After all, open dialog is important in learning and leading. So, after reading this, please give me your input!
Why do we have a weekend (or Sunday) service? I’m sure there are traditional, theological, and practical reasons as to why this happens. But, how do we explain it to our people?
Yes, there are components to a worship service. There are biblical grounds for teaching, worship, prayer, and the gathering itself. In a particular denomination, there are clear lines relating to tradition and values that dictate what goes on and when it happens. But, many of us are in “non-denominational” settings with no clarity as to why there even is a weekend service. When asked, I find lead pastors have a hard time articulating this unless they are of a mainline background. Sometimes, the best answer from those of us in the non-denominational group is to admit we are making it up as we go! And, for those being subversive to tradition to admit the same. Many worship leaders want to know the “why” but are afraid to ask. I say, “ask it!”
Why don’t you teach more about worship, pastor? We do this every week and never talk about what it is to our people.
In almost every setting I have served, it seems that I desired more teaching from our leaders about the theological basis for our worship–especially the worship service. What is true is that it does not sell to teach about something you are identified with so publicly. The lead pastor may feel this way, too. However, this event is the most public thing a church does yet it is the most UNDEFINED to those attending. Again, this is especially true for us in non-traditional settings. There has to be communication about it and surely teaching to keep the objective above the subjective. It is a dangerous question to ask for some strange reason. Why? Perhaps pastors just hope people “get it” by osmosis. We talk about giving money. But, we don’t explain the act of the gathering. Teaching about worship puts it into the objective then makes the leadership and the community of faith accountable to something other than their subjective feelings about it. Is it people’s feelings we are trying to shield? Is it our own subjective opinions we justify by keeping things fuzzy?
What are the spiritual and practical goals from a worship service? Are we about the ABCs (attendance, buildings, and cash) or about evangelism, or expressing worship, or building the saints?
More specifically, this question probes the motives of the leadership culture. Are we reaching people to get more people? So, this means a cycle of putting butts in seats to get more butts in seats to pay for more butts in seats. Yes, we count people because people count. But, are we only counting their money and a couple behaviors such as how they enrich the offering plate? Or, are we shooting for a higher calling in people? Defining this is dangerous because it exposes our mixed motives as leaders. We want to pay the bills. Let’s be honest about that. However, let’s also be open to challenging ourselves to be more than that. This is surely easier said than done which is why this question is so dangerous to the worship leader and all involved. Self-protection tells us to not expose our weak points. But, wisdom screams at us to hold to the higher value. Admitting to the tensions with humility may be the healthiest thing we can do as leaders. Imagine leading worship with that kind of honesty.
What is the role of “art” in our expression of theology? If the Bible is mostly literature that is narrative, how do we apply that part to our life as a church?
This one is more let-me-scratch-my-head than anything else. However, the danger is when a trained musician, artist or creative is helping design and lead a worship service. This type of person is tuned into the skill of communicating a story. This question is most dangerous to the worship leader because he or she may not want to be held accountable for theological facility. However, that should be the case if you are leading in front of people in a gathering that we call church. And, as far as this one question is concerned, I think most lead pastors would want to partner in if the artist-type creative was able to hold his or her own in these matters. In a perfect world, I believe the artist must see his or her role as partnering in expressing not just an experience of worship, but the theological undergirding of the life of the church and every believer. Music must mean more than an experience in a moment. It must be tied to timeless truths and lead people to where God is moving.
I am not sure where you are at with all of this, but I would love to converse about any of the above. Let’s do it.