What Pastors Wish Their Worship Leaders Knew


shutterstock_92514370_FotorThis past week I had the privilege of participating in the Cutting it Straight conference in Jacksonville, led by H.B. Charles, Jr. and hosted by Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church.

H.B. started this conference, now in its second year, specifically to influence African American pastors to preach expositionally. I was invited to be part of the worship track. H.B., along with his music pastor, Joe Pace, hopes to see more black churches singing songs that are theologically rich and gospel-centered. Not gospel like “black gospel,” but gospel like “Jesus bore our sins on the cross to purchase our forgiveness” gospel. While our cultural backgrounds are different, we share a passion to see the Word of God proclaimed in song in the power of the Spirit, and to see churches singing songs that enable the word of Christ to dwell in us richly.

For two of the seminars I was assigned the topic of “What Pastors/Worship Leaders Wish Their Worship Leader/Pastor Knew.” It was a little challenging because pastors and musicians vary widely in terms of their theology and practice. But here’s my attempt to pinpoint “What Pastors Wish Their Worship Leaders Knew.” Although this post highlights areas that might be problematic, pastors should regularly communicate support and evidences of grace in their worship leader before pointing out things that could be better. For the sake of this post, I’m using the term “worship leader” to describe a non-elder who leads the music during the gatherings of the church.

1. Pastors, not worship leaders, will give an account to God for the people in their church. (Heb. 13:17)
Pastors are ultimately responsible for the teaching and song diet of the church.
Pastors should know in advance what songs will be sung, and should play a part in choosing them.
If you want a pastor’s trust, you’ll have to earn it.

2. God’s Word to us matters more than our words to God. (Is. 66:2; Ps. 19:7-11)
Music ministry is Word ministry.
Don’t underestimate the value of proclaiming God’s Word passionately.
Seek to know your Bible better than your instrument.
Lead us to sing the Word, hear the Word, see the Word, and pray the Word.

3. We are what we sing. Therefore, choose our songs and lyrics wisely. (Col. 3:16)
You are discipling the congregation through your song choices and words.
For better or worse, our churches will remember more words from our songs they sing than from the sermons they hear.
Build a repertoire of songs that enable us to express the many varied aspects of God’s glory and the many appropriate responses, and make sure we’re singing them.

4. While song introductions can be helpful, the worship leader is not the preacher.
Your primary role is to enable the word of Christ to dwell in us as we sing, not to preach.
When speaking, typically less is more.
Choose good songs, and let the songs do the teaching.

5. Prayers are corporate conversations with God, not filler.
Don’t pray simply because you feel awkward or don’t know what else to do.
Use your prayers to speak for the congregation, not just yourself.
Model what theologically informed, engaged, Christ-exalting prayer looks like.
Don’t mix up the members of the Trinity, and don’t pray as though God has forgotten his name.

6. Your job is to support congregational singing, not overwhelm or replace it.  (Eph. 5:18-19; Rev. 5:9-10)
Make sure your sound man knows the value of the congregation’s voice.
If you constantly sing harmony, some of us will have a hard time knowing what the melody is.
Don’t assume your instrumentalists have to play constantly.
Pull back from your vocal mics sometimes, stop playing your instruments, and let us sing a cappella.

7. Truth matters more than tunes, but that doesn’t mean we should sing great theology to bad melodies or accompaniment.
Choose songs the congregation enjoys singing and can sing.
Occasionally try changing the arrangement, tempo, or feel of a song so the congregation can hear the lyrics in a fresh way.

8. Keys that serve the congregation take priority over keys that make you sound good. (Phil. 2:3-4)
We don’t come primarily to listen to you sing, but to lift up our own voices.
If you have to sing higher, try occasionally adding fills that heighten the impact and meaning of the lyrics we’re singing.
Congregations get weary if they have to sing a lot of high Ds and Es. If we’re singing F#s they’ll probably drop an octave or faint.

9. Don’t teach us so many new songs that we never learn them and so few new songs that we fail to benefit from them.
Learning about two songs every three months is doable. Learning 4 songs a month isn’t.
We have access to more songs more immediately than any time in history. Teach us the ones that we will feed our souls for more than a few weeks.
If your aim is to serve us, you won’t have to try to impress us.

10. Blaming sin on being an artist/musician doesn’t make it any less sinful.
Moodiness, over-sensitivity, procrastination, pride, irresponsibility, and laziness aren’t due to having a certain temperament but to indwelling sin.
Getting to know non-musicians in the church can provide perspective and encouragement.
If there’s anything in your life that might hinder or disqualify you from serving in your role, please let me know. I want to help you.

11. Your goal in leading isn’t performing, but pastoring and participation.
If the people in the church generally aren’t singing, you’re performing, not leading congregational worship.
Your job isn’t done just because you practiced. People have to actually sing.
Leading with your eyes open most of the time will communicate your care and help you gauge how people are responding.

12. You’re not the Holy Spirit, but you can depend on Him.
Music can’t open the eyes of our hearts, illumine our minds, our change our lives. But God’s Spirit can.
You don’t have to tell us to “sing louder” or “sing it like you mean it” or exhort us with “C’mon!” Give us doctrinal fuel and for our emotional fire and trust the Spirit will do the rest.
When you spend time in prayer asking God to empower what you do, you’ll lead more often with a humble confidence that is easy to follow.

13. Ultimately, Christ is our worship leader, not me or you. (Heb. 2:11-12, 8:1-2)
You don’t have to bring us into the throne room. Christ has already done that. (Heb. 10:19-22)
You don’t have to feel pressure or be anxious about leading us. Christ perfects all our offerings (1 Pet. 2:5)!
The more you point us to what Christ has done and is doing for us, the less we’ll see you and the more we’ll benefit from the ways God has gifted you.

If you’re a pastor and identify with some or many of these points, don’t keep it to yourself. More importantly, take your musical leader out for a meal and express your appreciation in specific ways. Then talk about what could be better. Who knows what God might do?

What would you add?

(Image courtesy of shutterstock.com)

Which Comes First: Praise or Worship?

by Sheri Tesar

praise-worshipThe words “Praise and Worship” are linked together so often that I wonder if many people really pay any attention to difference between the two words. “Praise and Worship” has become as common a phrase as “salt and pepper,” “peanut butter and jelly” or, if you’re Forrest Gump, “peas and carrots.” We use the phrase “Praise and Worship” to describe a specific musical genre or the musical portion of the Sunday morning gathering. It is helpful when leading others in praise and in worship to remember that “Praise and Worship” is not a genre of music but two different, but related concepts.

Praise is a part of worship, and worship is much larger than singing songs of praise. Have you ever thought much about the relationship between the two distinct words “praise” and “worship” and why they are usually linked together in that particular order? (I have seen these words linked together as “Worship and Praise” on occasion, but very seldom.)  The customary order is “Praise and Worship,” and I believe they are linked in this order for a reason. It is not because they fall this way alphabetically, but because this is the order in which these two events occur.

Praise always precedes worship. Until we praise God –that is, until we recognize and acknowledge how infinitely great and awesome He is, and until our hearts are filled with gratitude for all He has done for us, we will not worship Him –-that is, we will not bow down before Him as our Lord and offer our lives in service to Him. The acts of both praise and worship appear in Psalm 95, and they appear in that order.

The psalmist begins Psalm 95 with an invitation to praise God. “Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord, let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation!” (Ps 95:1 NIV) We are invited to sing joyfully to the Lord, to shout triumphantly to the One who gives us victory. The psalmist goes on to invite us to “come before [the Lord] with thanksgiving; and extol Him with music and song” (vs 2). We are invited to continue our praise of God by offering Him thanks for all that He has done for us.

In verses 3-5, the psalmist offers us reasons as to why we are to praise the Lord. “For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods” (vs 3). He is greater than anyone or anything else. He is God. He is the King of all the earth. All of creation was crafted by Him and belongs to Him.

Once we acknowledge the unsurpassed greatness of our God and praise Him for who He is and what He has done for us, the psalmist invites us in verses 6-7 to worship the Lord. “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker” (vs 6). We are to bow down in worship before the King and Creator. As part of His creation, we are to kneel in reverence and obedience before Him because we belong to Him, and He is the One who tenderly cares for us and leads us as He sees best.

I have often struggled with how the final four verses fit with the first part of Psalm 95. It has always seemed to me to be a rather abrupt change, but in reflecting on this psalm recently, I now see that it fits very well.

The first seven verses are comprised of invitations and instructions from the psalmist. He invites us to praise God (vs 1-2), instructs us on the reasons why we should praise Him (vs 3-5), and then he invites us to worship (bow before) Him and instructs on the reasons why (vs 6-7).

The voice changes in the final three verses to a message from God. He warns us as to what will happen if we refuse to accept the invitations and instructions given to us in the first 7 verses. God lets us know what will happen if we refuse to worship Him or bow down before Him. He warns us not to “harden [our] hearts” or to test Him (vs 8-9). God advises us to remain firmly in His care and not to be prideful, stubborn, and insistent on doing things our own way. This is not a threat from an egotistical leader who wants all to bow before Him. This is a warning from a loving Father who wants His children to obey Him because He knows best. It is in our best interest to follow the psalmist’s instructions in the beginning of this psalm.

“Praise and Worship” is not a musical genre or just another inseparable pair of words. Praise is words that honor the Lord for who He is and what He has done, and worship is the ensuing attitude of humility, obedience, and willingness to submit to the King and Creator of the universe, the One who is infinitely greater than we are and loves us more than we can comprehend.

Engage in praising our God. Recognize and audibly acknowledge to everyone how great He is. Sing, shout, and praise His holy name. Then make the conscience decision to worship Him, to bow before Him and submit to Him in reverence, humility, and obedience.

Sheri Tesar has an M.A. in Worship Studies from Lincoln Christian Seminary and a B.S. in Worship Arts from Dallas Christian College. She has served as a Worship Minister and as an Adjunct Professor of Worship. She and her family currently live in Littleton, Colorado.

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.