Every so often it’s good to review. To look back, to look forward, and to look over the state of things as they are. I think the time has come for that in the evangelical church. The role of worship leader has changed in many churches, tribes and denominations, but often those groups have not changed with it.
It used to be that a church’s music was provided by one faithful saint, who played an organ or piano. Numbers would be placed on a board or placard indicating which hymns were to be sung that day and in what order. The congregation either say without a leader or at the pastors leadership. There would be a few songs at the beginning of the service, with a possible solo piece and a short song at the end. Often, these songs were chosen by the minister, or in the case of larger congregations, by the cantor (old name for music minister). In many denominational churches today, something like this still exists. But for many churches, what I have described above is completely foreign.
In the 1970’s a new style of worship (contemporary) emerged from the Jesus movement and churches of that era. The Maranatha/Vineyard song books were the hymnals of a new generation of believers. Sunday services were now largely divided in half between the message and the singing. The position of worship pastor was born. The Worship Pastor now picked the songs, lead the band, and lead the congregation. This has lead to an unintended influence shift in the church, that in many churches has gone unnoticed, and it’s worth reviewing and addressing.
What do worship leaders who and why does it matter?
WHAT IS A WORSHIP LEADER?
WE DECLARE WHO GOD IS
Every week in churches across the world, worship leaders use the phrase “God you are”.
God You are HOLY
God You are LOVING
God You are MERCIFUL
God You are KIND
God You are GOOD
All of these things are true. All of these things are right. But if that’s all we ever present in a worship service, we are presenting an incomplete picture of who God is. We are not declaring the whole truth of God, His nature, His character, and His actions because of who He is.
God is also ANGRY: At sin, at evil, at rebellion, at the pain that all these things cause those He loves.
God is also WRATHFUL: Romans 1:18 says “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness.”
God is also POWERFUL: You might question why I put this on the list here, and not above. The reason is how Jesus is portrayed. He’s portrayed in film as soft. He’s portrayed in the church as He WAS in His first coming: weak, marginalized, homeless, etc. But not in balance with how the Bible says Jesus is NOW leading to His second coming: Powerful, with eyes of fire, coming in a robe dipped in blood, to wage war on the demonically controlled armies of this rebellious world (Revelation 19)
I’m not advocating that you show up to church next Sunday and lead songs that only talk about God’s wrath (if you could even find enough to fill a church service). I’m not suggesting that we show up on a Sunday and only talk about how angry God is. What I’m advocating is a balance. Let’s be biblically balanced in what we declare about God. Let’s sing and talk about God’s love and goodness, but let’s not forget God’s holiness and justice which includes wrath and anger at sin.
WE DECLARE WHAT GOD HAS DONE
We declare what God has done on the cross and in Jesus’ resurrection. This has been a personal challenge for me. The resurrection is HUGE in the New Testament. Our living King Jesus is all throughout. But the truth is that every spring, as I prepare the songs for Holy Week, I find that I have no trouble putting a Good Friday set together, but my Easter sets are more often just a task of finding up beat songs since there are so few about the resurrection.
The unintended result of this imbalance is a church that isn’t focused on our risen savior the same way the first christians were. This is why I’m reviewing what we do as worship leaders. If nothing else, I want to think about what I do, and what I do well, and what I can do better, if it helps you then that’s great.
WE DECLARE WHAT GOD IS DOING
God is working. God is moving. God is saving. God is changing people’s lives. God is healing broken hearts, lives and families.
God is also near the broken hearted (Psalm 34:18). God loves the depressed and downtrodden. We declare all these truths in worship.
WE DECLARE WHAT GOD WILL DO
Do you talk about the Jesus’ coming in your songs and prayers? Whether your church is from the pre-trib or post-trib camp. Whether your church is on the welcoming or the planning committee for the second coming. We all believe Jesus is coming back. We all believe the bible when it says He will make things right. We all believe the bible when it says we will be His people and He shall be our God.
We believe the Gospel when it says that “all who call on the name of Jesus shall be saved”
We believe that “nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus” and that “He who began a good work will be faithful to complete it”
Do we declare this great hope in our song, prayers and praises?
WHAT WE SAY, PRAY, AND SING MATTERS
Please, please, please do not think that I am being negative. I think most churches genuinely want to praise and honor God, and those who don’t probably wouldn’t have anyone reading a blog like mine anyway.
I think the church is doing a lot of things right. I think the church is seeing more balance in it’s approach to worship then it has in the past 40 years.
But I also think there is a lot of opportunity, both for good and bad when it comes to our times of worship.
What a worship leader says, prays and sings matters more than ever in the life of the church. People may not remember what the Pastor said in his sermon 6 months from now, but they’ll remember the songs. I’m not saying that’s right, I’m just saying that’s how it is.
A Pastor can strive all he wants to teach and preach the whole counsel of the word of God and the whole, complete Gospel, and it will be undermined if the other half of the service is unbalanced or unbiblical.
WHAT AM I ADVOCATING?
I’m advocating that the leadership of the church takes a closer look at the songs that are sung, the words that are prayed, and who is praying and singing them.
I’m advocating that the men and women who lead the church in worship be people of The Word, who know there Bibles and not just the church cultural narrative.
I’m advocating that there be some discussion about the songs we sing, and the truths about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit that aren’t covered or are over or under emphasized.
I’m advocating that we look at the role of worship leader as being more than just who can play or sing the best and ask who can lead the church in biblical, gospel centered worship the most effectively.