What God Wants Pastors and Worship Leaders to Know

by on October 12, 2015 in —Defining Terms, —Worship and the Pastor

IMG_2467_FotorRecently I posted on What Pastors Wished Their Worship Leaders Knew and What Worship Leaders Wished Their Pastor Knew. Today I’d like to finish by suggesting a few things I think God wants both groups to know. These points certainly aren’t everything that can be said, but they might be helpful to keep in mind as we work together to serve our churches and bring glory to the Savior.

1. The church belongs to Jesus, not us. (Mt. 16:18)
Rivalry and disunity contradicts what Jesus came to do – make us one (Jn. 17:11, 21-22; Phil. 2:1-2).
If we think the other leader is taking away “our” time, the primary problem is the way we view our role.
Even though we’re on the same team, Jesus has appointed pastors to teach and lead in the church. At the end of the day, the worship leader should follow the pastor’s lead.

2. Our musical leadership and preaching are meant to flow from a life of worship. (Rom. 12:1-2; Heb. 13:15-16)
No amount of public fruit can make up for a lack of private devotion or the ongoing practice of sin.
If your devotional or family life is consistently suffering because of the time you give to public ministry, it’s time to take a break and get help.
God values our lives more than our gifts. He can use us, but he doesn’t need us.

3. We’re on the same team and have the same goal – to see God’s glory in Christ magnified in people’s hearts and lives. (2 Cor. 4:6)
Pastors use words while worship leaders use words and music.
In general, musicians need to remember to aim for the mind while preachers need to remember to aim for the heart.
The goal of our efforts should be to hear people say not, “What great worship!” or “What a great sermon!” but “What a great Savior!”

4. No leader will be effective apart from the the Holy Spirit working through God’s Word and the gospel. (1 Thess. 1:4-5; 1 Thess. 2:13; Rom. 1:16-17)
Neither our musical chops or our communication skills ultimately determine our effectiveness. God has established the means He works through and only He can bring the fruit.
We can’t add something to Scripture or the gospel and make them better than they already are.
What we win people with is what we tend to with them to. Rather than seeking primarily to make the music/preaching more creative, unusual, or innovative, we want to be faithful to make God’s Word and the gospel clear and relevant.

I pray that whatever role you serve in, pastor or congregational worship leader, you’ll find great joy in knowing that Jesus himself is building his church and the gates of hell – or challenging relationships with those who serve alongside you – will not prevail against it.

Bob Kauflin currently serves as the Director of Sovereign Grace Music for Sovereign Grace Ministries in Louisville, Kentucky.

Idolatry on Sunday Mornings, Pt. 4

By Bob Kauflin

I’d like to continue addressing a topic I began a couple weeks ago, that is, identifying the idols we may serve in our hearts even as we gather to worship God with His people. In previous posts we looked at music, tradition, creativity, experience, and liturgy. Here’s one more (well really, two).

Biblical Knowledge
I hesitate to include “biblical knowledge” as a potential idol. The reason I do is that we can wrongly pursue a knowledge of doctrine that is distinct from a knowledge of God Himself. We have to acknowledge this possibility or we easily fall into the error of the Pharisees, who took more pride in their “rightness” than in their relationship with God. We too, can be more impressed with the accurate theology in our songs than the fact that God has shown us mercy in Jesus Christ.

Doctrine and theology, humbly studied and applied, always lead us to fear, love, and worship God more, not less. For that reason, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for pursuing a knowledge of Scripture that didn’t lead to Him. “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40, ESV) As we grow in our understanding of and love for God’s Word, it should always produce a corresponding humility and godliness in us. How tragic that those who defend certain ways of worshipping God most vocally often disgregard the humility God esteems most highly. (Is. 66:2)

Biblical Ignorance
On the other side of the coin, we can exalt our ignorance of Scripture as we worship God, claiming that “words get in the way of worship.” At some point in the future I plan to share on the primacy of God’s Word in our worship. For now, it’s enough to say that when we don’t intentionally value God’s Word as the controlling influence and primary substance of our worship, other authorities rush in to fill its place. We are not more spiritual, nor closer to God, nor more mature if we think we don’t need words to communicate with God. God has always placed His Word at the center of our communion with Him, whether that be through song, prayer, or preaching. Through God’s Word we best come to know Who He is, who we are, and how we are to relate to Him. (Ex. 20; 1 Kings 8:9; Ex. 34:6-7; Josh 1:7-8; 2 Chron. 31:2-4; 34:29-33; Ps. 119; Ps. 19:7-11; Mt. 15:8; Acts 13:48-49; Col. 3:16; 1 Tim. 4:13)

Bob Kauflin currently serves as the Director of Sovereign Grace Music for Sovereign Grace Ministries in Louisville, Kentucky.

Idolatry on Sunday Mornings, Pt. 2

by Bob Kauflin

I tried to come up with a shocking title for these posts to alert us to the difference between a “professed” God and “functional” god. That is, the God we say we believe in, and the god that actually governs our desires and actions.

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, idolatry can be active in my heart even as I’m outwardly worshipping God. That’s a sobering thought. Whenever I think I can’t worship God unless “X” is present, I’m making a profound statement. If “X” is anything other than Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, I’ve moved into idolatrous territory. Idolatry is always evil, but the idols we pursue aren’t necessarily evil things. They are evil for us because we value them over God.

Pages could be written on each of the potential idols I’m about to cover. Most, if not all of them, touch on areas that can and should be used with discernment to serve God’s people as we gather to sing His praise. Some of them are more important them others. But all of them are meant to exalt God, not replace Him.

Musical styles for congregational worship have caused quite a stir in recent years. Actually, they’ve been causing a stir for centuries, and for good reason. Music is a powerful medium that can affect us positively or negatively. However, the root of the division is often (though not always) people insisting they know what kind of music God likes. It hasn’t helped that “new music proponents” are often arrogant, insensitive, selfish, and impatient. However, we can make an idol out of what’s old and familiar as easily as we can make one out of what’s new and creative. Music must be wisely chosen for its ability to serve both the lyrics and the congregation in order to truly honor God. But thinking that we need a certain type of music to truly engage with God is, at its root, idolatry.

Every church, even those that claim to be non-traditional, has traditions. A tradition is simply something you’ve done more than once. Can traditions serve God’s purposes in the church? Absolutely! Paul encourages the Thessalonians, ““So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.” (2Th. 2:15, ESV) But are our traditions today equal to Scripture in authority? Absolutely not! Every generation is responsible to examine whether or not the traditions they’ve inherited (or are seeking to establish) are biblical and truly help people exult in God’s worthiness and works. The complementary idols of familiarity and comfort are often revealed in the words, “We’ve never done it that way before.”

Lest this list seem one-sided, NEWNESS can also be an idol. We’re convinced that some fresh, different, never-been-done-before idea will make our congregational worship more effective. Or powerful. Or appealing. Maybe it’s lighting…or a new stage set up…or a video clip…or candles…or banners…or “interactive artistic activity.” Creativity is never our goal in worshipping God. It’s simply a means to the end of displaying and seeing the glory of Christ more clearly. New forms or mediums of communication can give us a different perspective, causing the truth to have a greater impact on us. But if we walk away from a time of corporate worship more affected by our creativity than our Savior, or think that the Word of Christ is old news, God help us.

I’m aware what I’m writing may offend some. I pray that’s not the case, although what we perceive as an “offense” might be the Spirit’s conviction. It could just as well be my poor communication. But this I know: God is committed to receiving all the glory, honor, and praise each time we gather as His people, redeemed through His Son’s atoning sacrifice. He will have no rivals. “I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” (Is. 42:8, ESV) Each time we meet to worship the triune God, HE should be the all-consuming center of our attention and affections. His greatness and splendor should become bigger in our minds, hearts, and wills. His desires and commands should become more precious to us. Jesus Christ and His atoning work should be more glorious and amazing to us.

Tomorrow, I’ll share more idols I’ve found myself worshipping on Sunday mornings. In the mean time, I pray you’re encouraged by the Father’s costly love for us.

For more on this topic, download the following free message from the Sovereign Grace site: Worship Music or Music Worship by Bob Kauflin

Conditional Worship

by Russ Hutto

Conditional Worship

“I just can’t worship with that kind of music.”

Have you ever said something like this?

I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before. I’ve definitely thought it at times.

I was at a traditional church several years ago when God opened my eyes to this. I was sitting there during the music and thinking about how I would do the song differently. Then God basically slapped me in the face. I felt Him say to me, “Gary, worship me. If you can’t worship me with this kind of music, then your idea of worship is shallow.” I walked away from that a changed person and a changed worship leader. Over the years, I have seen and heard testimonies of people who have worshiped and connected with God for the first time, even though they didn’t prefer the music style that I was bringing. That is what it is all about. It’s not about the methods or styles in which we worship. It’s about bringing worship that the Father is seeking, which is in Spirit and in truth.

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. (John 4:23 ESV)

That being said, I’m concerned that there is a danger we need to watch out for in our churches. The danger is CONDITIONAL WORSHIP. It’s when God’s people convince themselves of certain conditions that need to exist in order for corporate worship to happen. For some, it may call for a killer band and for others, it may call for a choir. For some, it may be lights and multimedia and for others, it may be stained glass and candles. These things are not bad ideas at all. When used properly, there are so many things that can enhance the experience and touch the senses, but we need BALANCE. We need to learn to worship God no matter what the circumstances. Paul said in Colossians 2:16 – “So don’t put up with anyone pressuring you in details of diet, worship services, or holy days. All those things are mere shadows cast before what was to come; the substance is Christ.” (The Message)

What is the substance of your worship? If it’s not Christ alone, then you are probably suffering from CONDITIONAL WORSHIP.

Here’s a few signs you can watch out for:


Is your worship experience inconsistent? If it is, you need to realize that it’s not the church’s fault. It’s not the worship leader’s fault. It’s not the pastor’s fault. The issue is found when you look in the mirror. If Christ is the substance of our worship, then we will experience consistency in corporate worship. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” When Christ becomes the substance of our worship more and more, we will experience more and more consistency in heart-tugging, life-changing corporate worship.


Jesus is not boring. Following Jesus with surrender is a true adventure. When Christ is not the substance of our worship, then we require lesser things to keep our attention in corporate worship. We require certain styles, certain songs and certain sermons. Eventually, we tire of those things the same way a spoiled kid gets tired of unwrapped Christmas presents after a week of playing with them. If you are bored in corporate worship, maybe your attention is being arrested by lesser things. When you fix your eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-3), you will never lose sight of true, exciting worship, no matter what the conditions.


Hesitation in corporate worship manifests itself in our inspection of everything, before we surrender everything. It’s when we look at who is on the stage or what is on the agenda, as we assess whether or not the order of worship will satisfy our wants and needs. Surrender and obedience are at the heart of worship. Delayed obedience is disobedience. When we delay or hesitate to bring an offering of praise to God, we’re not trusting that Christ is truly all we need. In Matthew 4, when Jesus called the disciples to follow Him, it says that they “immediately” left all they had and followed Him. May we not hesitate. May we follow and worship with trust and surrender.

Conditional worship is a sign that we have grown stale in our relationship with God or maybe we just have not grown at all. It reveals a heart that is not completely His.

When we completely, unconditionally surrender our heart to God, our worship will be complete.

God’s love for us is unconditional.

May our worship for Him have less and less conditions.

He loved us so much that He sent His only son to die for our sins. Christ is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). Christ is the substance of true worship and the only condition in worship we will ever need.

Russ Hutto works 9-5 in print design. He volunteers in music ministry at St. Simons Community Church and also travels to worship with congregations and help with Worship Ministry Development. He’s into reading Star Wars novels & working out at CrossFit. As the TWC editor, he’s always on the lookout for great content for The Worship Community.

Idolatry on Sunday Mornings, Pt. 1

So these nations feared the LORD and also served their carved images. (2 Kings 17:41a ESV)

What is our greatest hindrance in worshipping God? We could come up with a number of potential answers.

“Our worship leader isn’t very experienced.”
“The services are too planned/spontaneous.”
“The songs are too complex/simple.”
“The band/orchestra/organist/guitarist sounds bad.”
“There are too many new/old songs.”
“Our church is too big/small.”

Ignoring for a moment that all these statements refer to a meeting context, they reveal a profound misconception about the hindrances to true worship. Contrary to what we might think, our greatest problem doesn’t lie outside us, but within our own hearts. It’s the problem of idolatry.

The passage above from 2 Kings describes a situation that existed when Samaria was resettled by the king of Assyria. It’s a situation which can potentially exist in our church services today. We can fear the Lord externally, engaging in what we perceive to be all the proper elements of worship – singing, giving, praying, kneeling, listening to God’s Word, etc. – and be actively serving false gods in our hearts. God makes it clear in Exodus 20 that he will not tolerate any competition for the allegiance and affections of our hearts. “You shall have no other gods before me.” That succinctly describes idolatry.

When someone mentions idolatry, we can picture some tribesman in New Guinea bowing down to statues of wood or metal, and think, “Thank God I don’t struggle with THAT.” Idols, however, are far more pervasive, insidious, and deceptive. Idolatry is attributing ultimate value, authority, or supremacy to any object other than God.

We foolishly think idols can provide for us what only God can give. They tempt us every day, all day. It’s not surprising, then, that even my ten year old daughter, Mckenzie, deals with idols. One of her primary idols is “not taking showers.” Otherwise known as the idols of control and pleasure. She confessed to Julie and me today that for the past three days she’s only beenpretending to take a shower. (For some reason, most ten-year-olds find taking showers as appealing as scratching a chalk board for ten minutes.) After working through a tearful confession with my wife, and learning of her discipline (no playing with friends for three days), we talked about her heart. I explained to her that not taking a shower was an idol for her. She thought that remaining dirty would bring her happiness. Instead it led to deceiving those she loves the most and dishonoring the God Who created her for His glory. And it definitely didn’t deliver on the happiness promise. Ultimately, idols never do.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing thoughts on some of the more prevalent idols we deal with as we gather to worship our Savior each Sunday morning.

For more on this topic, download the following free message from the Sovereign Grace site: The Idol Factory by C.J. Mahaney

Healthy Worshipers Bunt

by Dr. David W. Manner

buntIn his search for the roots of violence, Mahatma Gandhi drafted a list to give to his grandson titled the “Seven Blunders of the World.” Number seven wasWorship without Sacrifice.

Paul focused on the divisions that segregate us. In the twelfth chapter of Romans he wrote, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – which is your spiritual worship.”

Paul used this image of the body to represent the whole person, including ideologies and preferences. Living sacrifice signifies an ongoing, constant, all-inclusive submission. To sacrifice is to surrender for the sake of something or someone else. It is the act of giving up, offering up or letting go. The antonym of sacrifice is to hold on to.

A bunt in baseball is designated as a sacrifice for the purpose of advancing another runner. Executing this sacrifice is called laying down a bunt. What a challenging word picture for the church as it gathers together in communal worship.

Worship Bunters…

  • Lay down their preferences because they love those with whom they worship more than they love those preferences.
  • Acknowledge that worship did not begin and will not end with the worship preferences of their generation.
  • Admit it is arrogant to assume their favorite worship and God’s favorite worship are the same.

Charles Thomas Studd, an English missionary who served in China, India, and Africa had this statement as his motto:  “If Jesus Christ is God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for him.”

Dr. David W. Manner serves as the Associate Executive Director for Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists with responsibilities in the areas of Worship, Leadership and Administration. He is the author of the Worship Evaluation Blog.