I recently stumbled across a post on the Reforming Baptist blog from a couple of years back called “What Bothers Me About Worship Leaders”. I’m sure the guy who writes the blog is a super nice guy and if we were having lunch we’d probably have a good conversation. This is not me finding a blog another Christian brother wrote and ripping on him or his position on my blog. The concerns he raises are one’s I’ve heard other places and I think they’re worth addressing. The truth is that, aside from his 1st point, all of his concerns have some validity, and he’s expressed them better than most. I think they’re points worth addressing. You can read the original post HERE
1. THE POSISTION OF WORSHIP LEADER IS A MODERN INVENTION
This isn’t on his list but it is found in his opening paragraph and it’s something you hear every so often from certain corners of the Church. The concept of a worship leader isn’t a new thing, no matter what anyone says. There have always been people who God has called and gifted with talents in writing and creating art and song for the purpose of delclaring the praise of God. It has looked different over the years, but the intent has generally been the same. Anyone who says otherwise is either ignorant of history or is just basing their statement on the relatively recent history of their tribe of churches. WorshipLeader has a quick run down of the “History of Worship Leading” HERE.
That being said, even if the position of Worship Leaders were a modern invention, that doesn’t mean that they are wrong or evil. A “missions pastor” is a new invention, but a church being orgainized and intetional about missions isn’t bad right? What about an “Outreach Pastor” or a church IT guy? Let’s not forget my current position of College and Youth Pastor. Those are all new positions that have been created out of cultural need or an attempt to have better or more effective organization. All are new, none of them, on their own, are bad.
2. SOME (WORSHIP LEADERS) DON’T GET WHAT WORSHIP REALLY IS
This is the first point on the actual list. It’s really easy to say “so what, some pastors don’t get what preaching really is,” and you’d be right in saying so. But lets go deeper. Let’s say that this is the case and a worship leader in your church doesn’t know what worship really is. Are you going to write them off? Or are you going to disciple them? Think of Aquila and Priscilla in Acts 18. They didn’t stop Apollos from preaching, they disicipled him so that he would have a fuller understanding of the gospel.
I’ve met worship leaders who don’t get what worship is. I’ve met worship leaders who have been woefully undisicipled. But that doesn’t mean we write the position of worship leader off all together. I’ve met pastors and elders who aren’t saved, let alone get what church and the gospel are all about, yet I don’t want to see that position abolished either.
3. SOME HAVE THEIR OWN AGENDA
Yup. Some do. I do in fact. I have an agenda, although I prefer to call it vision or goals.
But what the blog post is really talking about are worship leaders who are using the church as a stepping stone to being the next Chris Tomlin or Paul Baloche. That may be true, but it’s been my experiance that most worship leaders, in most churches (who are the folks I write this blog for) are just people who are faithfully serving their local church as best they can, and any Rock Star aspirations we may have once had died a long time ago. For my money, I think the problem he is discribing is far more rapant in the pulpit then in the Worship Ministry.
That being said, Paul wrote to Timothy that people would use his youth as a reason to critizise him and that he shouldn’t give those people the oppurtunity. If we continute to serve rather than be served then be served then we will give critics no room for accusations. If we love our church and serve them faithful, there will be no place given for this accusation in our ministries.
4. MANY TRY TO CREATE AN ARTIFICIAL EXPERIANCE
This critisicsm is nothing new. People have been making this point for hundreds of years. Before lighting rigs and PA systems it was church organs and choirs. The logical fallicy is that “because something is new it must therefore also be bad” needs to die and die now! But let’s take this charge against us and see what we can learn.
Are you forcing it? If you feel like the people aren’t engaged to you start to yell and conjoule folks to “c’mon” or “lets go” or whatever words you use? I’ve admittedly always been very uncomfortable with the music in the background while someone preaches the gospel. I think we’ve all see worship leaders and music ministries try to force or create something that is not there. Let’s not let that be what’s said of us.
Now, on the otherside. If you think that having the lights and sound done well is an ‘artificial experiance’ then I’m not sure what to tell. So is having the church at a comfortable room temperature. So what are you gonna do?
5. MANY LEAD BY FOLLOWING THE FADS
I have a problem with this too, but its a problem in many different parts of the church, and the music is just an obvious expression. But there is a differene between following a fad and being in your context.
When you try to follow the fads you’ll always be left behind. The newest thing won’t be new by the time you fully impliment it, and once you do you’ll have to reinvent the wheel again when the new trend starts. It’s a waste of time, energy and resources. This concern is probably where I have the most agreement with critics of modern worship leaders.
I do the music that comes naturally to me, and I change my stylistic expression only as it applies to the cultural context I minister in. If you’re church is still in a past cultural context, whether that be the 1950’s or the 1850’s, anyone who’s context and expression is relatively current will look like they’ve sold out or gone trendy, instead of what it really is.
6. THE LEADERSHIP SHOULD BE THE WORSHIP LEADER
Note: On this blog we refer to Pastors/Elders/Overseer/Ministers as “Leadership” since different churches have different structures
This point is in the Reforming Baptists closing paragraph instead of his list, but it’s point I’ve heard made many times before . I’ve been told by pastors I’ve served under before that they are ultimately the worship leader. I’ve even had a pastor tell me what keys to play my songs in (nevermind that my voice couldn’t sing that high or low). So fine, lets say Leadership is ultimately supposed to be the worship leader, let’s think that through fully.
Looking at it from the Leadership side: As a Pastor, I have natural authority and responsiblity. Let’s say I’m in charage of a Sunday Morning service, so in a sense, I’m ultitmately responsible for what happens. But that’s not a effective way to lead or manage. I take Jethro’s advice to Moses in Exodus 18 very seriously. It’s not good for anyone if the Leadership is micromanaging. We have children’s ministry leaders, and facilites leaders and Audio/Visual leaders and people charged with praying and yes, people charged with leading the church in song worship. So while the Leadership should be the ones setting overall vision and having ultimate responsibility, they aren’t the ones leading the songs, and it’s a bad system when we try to act otherwise.
Looking at it from the Worship Leader side: As a worship leader, I’ve always tried to catch the vision for the church’s overall ministry and the music ministry specifically from the Leadership. At the last church I served at I had a very simple mandate: “Make it good and keep it younger”; that was it. I submitted to that charge from leadership, and if they had an issue we’d talk it through and course correct if nessesary.
I think that this set up is probably true for most worship leaders. We may not be in the Leadership ourselves but we serve under them, stand along side, and work with them to accomplish the goal of facilitating a time of song worship for our local church.
SO WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
Like I said at the beginning, I’m not ripping on another blogger. If anything, I appriecate how the Reformed Baptist blog stated common criticisms of what we do in a way that is clearer than most critics.
I think it’s good for us as worship leaders to know the criticisims that are often laid before us so that we can:
-Check ourselves and our ministries and ask the Lord to show us any crooked ways we might have
-Have an answer when honest questions come
-Make sure that we aren’t conducting ourselves in a way that would give an oppurtunity for such criticsim.
Iron sharpens Iron, and I feel that by reading blogs from other points of view and thinking through their critique, I and my worship leading are the better for it.
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