I hear it nearly every week. And every week, it brings out the same feelings in me.
The music was GREAT today!
There was a time in my life that such a compliment would absolutely make my day. And why not? A very nice person has made the effort to walk up to me and validate the thing I care most about. In many cases, that person has made a special point to search me out and tell me how much the music moved them. I should be over the moon, right?
But for the longest time, something about that comment made me uncomfortable. I’d smile and say, “Thank you,” but inside, I just wanted to hide. It didn’t make sense. I mean, why should something so wonderful cause me such heartache?
Finally it dawned on me.
When you say, “The music was great today,” it means I have FAILED.
Wait. What? Seriously? Receiving a compliment equals failure?
Yeah, that’s right. See, if I’ve led you to believe that making great music is my job, then I haven’t done my job very well. As a matter of fact, there are a number of things that your Worship Leader is simply not there to do. Shouldn’t even try.
Here are my Top Five.
YOUR WORSHIP LEADER IS NOT THERE TO ENTERTAIN YOU
News flash … if you’re looking to me for entertainment, then you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Sorry, but I’m just not that good.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m a decent musician. I can hold my own. So can the people on stage with me. But we aren’t stars. We’ll never play to sold-out arenas. We don’t have music videos. We aren’t “marketable.” We don’t have the so-called “it” factor.
More importantly, IT’S NOT OUR JOB TO ENTERTAIN YOU. It’s our job to lead you in praising, thanking, loving, and worshiping the risen Lord. It’s a “together” thing. It’s about us. All of us.
If you see it as “the worship team worships while we watch,” then I have failed.
YOUR WORSHIP LEADER DOES NOT “USHER YOU INTO THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD”
I hear it all the time. “Oh, Bob, your music today … it just ushered me into the presence of God.”
Sorry, but no Worship Leader can do that. Why?
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Those of us in the Worship Leader community need to get this right … because getting it wrong is self-idolatry. I do not bring you to God. Jesus does.
And if I have caused you to believe otherwise, then I’ve got some work to do.
YOUR WORSHIP LEADER IS NOT THERE TO HELP YOU “FILL UP”
Often we come to worship looking to fill our empty Spirit Tanks. We’re running on fumes. We’re at our wit’s end with this crappy world, and we look for that “feeling” that will fill us up until next Sunday, when we’ll come back for a refill. After all, this is a worship SERVICE, right? Isn’t church just a service station?
Sorry, but that’s not the point.
Instead of praying, “God, I’m empty … fill me up,” we should be praying, “God, I don’t have much left in the tank, BUT WHAT I HAVE IS YOURS.”
That needs to be our prayer every time we come to worship. As a Worship Leader, I need to be the one leading that prayer.
As Rick Warren writes so succinctly and so perfectly in the very first line of The Purpose Driven Life, “It’s not about you.” Worship is about Him. It’s about bringing glory and fame and honor and gratitude to the One who gives us life. Who offers us a way. Who invites us to spend eternity with Him in spite of the ugliness of our sin.
In faith, we believe our spirits will be renewed out of His abundant overflow. THAT is how we are “filled up.” Not by worship. Not by music. Not because we need filled up. But because He is so good. It’s my job to help you understand that.
YOUR WORSHIP LEADER IS NOT THERE TO PLAY THE HIT SONGS
Every so often, somebody will come up to me and say, “I really wish you guys would play Name the Song. I just LOVE that song!”
The problem is that many such songs just aren’t worship songs.
They’re not bad songs. Most of the time, they’re great. But many talk about personal struggles or overcoming addictions or other things that aren’t universally true.
It’s easy to get confused about this. Many great worship songs ARE played on the radio. And if that’s the case, I’ll certainly consider them for our congregation. But just because a worship song is on the radio doesn’t mean it’s one we can use. In fact, many worship songs aren’t appropriate for the congregation, simply because they take extraordinary talent just to sing them. Your worship team may not even be capable of leading it.
Again, we aren’t there to entertain.
So feel free to suggest songs. I love knowing what’s on your heart, and I long to know which songs are resonating. But don’t be offended if you don’t hear it in worship. Trust the Worship Leader that God has sent to care for you.
YOUR WORSHIP LEADER ISN’T PERFECT
One day a couple of years ago, we were having an outdoor service that preceded a big music festival featuring a strong lineup of professional bands. To put it mildly, it wasn’t my best day. Our sound check went horribly. I had inexperienced people with me on stage. The congregation couldn’t see the projected lyrics. And I was just … off. From the first note of the first song, it felt like a disaster.
Following the service, a key mover-and-shaker with the festival told my pastor, “We can’t have THAT again next year.”
Let’s get real for a minute. That hurt. Bad.
I’m not fishing for sympathy here. I tell you in hope that you’ll realize … Worship Leaders aren’t perfect.
I have “off days” just like everybody else. Sometimes my voice doesn’t wake up as well as the rest of my body. Sometimes my 56-year-old body doesn’t feel like playing along. Occasionally I just have trouble doing what normally feels pretty natural.
I’ll always give you my best. But I’m not God, so my best on a given day might not be as good as my best on other days.
My sincere hope is that I don’t become a distraction to your worship on those inevitable off days. After all, one of my primary roles as a Worship Leader is to minimize distractions.
I also hope you’ll show me grace. I pray you’ll always remember that I love you and desire for you to grow closer to God through your worship.by