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)

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.

Being Above Reproach

By Greg Brewton

above reproachAs a worship minister serving in the church, we must always seek to be above reproach. Our work is a holy work and deserves Christ-like leaders. It seems every month or so, I hear of a minister who has fallen and is forced to leave the ministry. I don’t believe a minister consciously sets out to destroy his own ministry by falling into sinful habits or practice. It is a slow drift that can be imperceptible at first yet takes a minister way off the path in a short while. Being above reproach is a constant fight on the part of the minister. We are in a spiritual battle for our ministries each day and if we do not recognize the spiritual warfare, we too will fall.

When thinking about how to be of above reproach, a good place to reference is Titus chapter 1. In verses 5-9 the Apostle Paul gives us a list of qualifications for elders in the church. Though every worship ministry position may not be considered an elder-type position, these verses should function as a checklist for the worship minister. Here is a quick listing of the characteristics of an elder: husband of one wife, children are believers, a steward of God, not arrogant, not quick tempered, not a drunkard, not violent, not greedy for gain, hospitable, lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, disciplined, holds firm to the Word of God, gives instruction in sound doctrine, respectable, not a recent convert, and well thought of by outsiders.

This list is really all about the character of the minister. The church leader must be free from sinful behaviors that would prevent him from being a Christ-like example for his congregation. The call to ministry is a call to holiness. Robert Murray M’Cheyne, well-known Scottish preacher from the nineteenth century said,

It is not great talents God blesses so much as likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God. What my people need most is my personal holiness.

Though no follower of Christ is without sin, those who are ministers in the church must be willing to live to the high standard that is set forth in Titus for an elder. Ministers who will not live above reproach should not go into ministry.

Here are 7 guidelines to practicing being above reproach.

  1. We must be under constant nourishment from Scripture. Ministers who do not spend daily time in the Word are already drifting. It’s a dangerous thing to think that we do not have time for God’s Word in our ministries. (Psalm 119: 11, 105)
  2. We must reserve time for prayer in our ministries. Perhaps the single most important influence we have as ministers is being a prayer warrior for our homes and ministries. (Ephesians 6: 18-19)
  3. We must guard our hearts. Be on the alert for improper thoughts or emotions we may have towards another church member or staff person. Never be alone with a person of the opposite sex that is not your spouse. If you think you are strong and above temptation, you will be the first to fall. (I Corinthians 10: 12-13)
  4. We must avoid the appearance of evil. Think about how an action or activity may appear to another church member or neighbor. It may be an innocent activity, but if it looks improper, perhaps you should not be involved. Don’t destroy your witness for something you think you have a right to do. This is being above reproach. (I Thessalonians 5:22)
  5. Don’t put yourself in places of temptation. You know how you are wired and where your weak areas are. Run from these places. If you are viewing pornography, you must escape this sin immediately. It will destroy your family and your ministry. Put in safeguards to prevent you from slipping in this area. (Hebrews 12:1-4)
  6. Get accountability. Sometimes ministers can be the loneliest people. We must have friends and build relationships with someone who can hold us accountable. (Romans 1:8-15)
  7. Never handle money at your church. Always get someone else to collect money or get money deposited. (I Timothy 6:6-16)

Being above reproach can seem like an impossible task outside of the work of Holy Spirit in our lives. I need to be reminded daily how weak and desperate I am in my own strength and how easily I can fall. We are called to be holy ministers for Christ. We can’t do this in our own strength. Every morning before we leave our homes we need to seek the Spirit’s power to live the life of a minister that is above reproach.


Greg Brewton is an associate professor of worship and chair of the Department of Biblical Worship at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY


Storming the Castle – Preparing for Worship


By Dr. David W. Manner

CinderellaCastleOur daughter was five years old the first time our family vacationed at Disney World. After months of planning and days of travel, the final preparations for and anticipation of the first day at Magic Kingdom were almost too much excitement for her to contain.

She selected and laid out her clothes the night before for a quick change the next morning. Sleep eluded her with the anticipation of what was to come. She awakened early, quickly dressed and inhaled breakfast so she would be ready to depart hours before the park even opened. All conversation traveling from our resort to the park entrance centered on what she would observe, experience, eat, participate in, enjoy and then take home at the end of the day.

As we pushed through the turnstiles of the park entrance…she saw it…the icon of Magic Kingdom…Cinderella’s Castle. She, along with thousands of other children dragged their parents by the hands and screamed, “C’mon mommy, C’mon daddy” as we all stormed the castle like medieval knights.

What if our preparation for and anticipation of our worship gatherings exuded a similar excitement that could not be contained? Understanding the necessity for personal worship preparation is radically different than abdicating that responsibility to our worship leaders to create worship through song selections and worship actions.

Consider the following three suggestions for worship preparation from Norma de Waal Malefyt and Howard Vanderwell, Resource Development Specialists for the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship:

1. Internal preparation of heart. Each worshiper carries the responsibility for personal preparation of his/her heart. If God calls us to worship him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24), then we must ask questions about the state of our spirit. Yet, how often do we ask ourselves questions about our readiness of our hearts for worship?

2. Pre-arrival preparation. We may want to call it “pre-Sabbath” preparation. We can learn from the Jews who believe Sabbath begins at sundown. Our activities on the evening before worship will have a formative affect, positively or negatively, on our readiness for worship on Sunday morning. Also, our personal schedule between rising and the beginning of worship on Sunday morning will have a great deal of influence on our readiness of spirit.

3. Pre-service preparation. The short period of time between our arrival at church and the beginning of the worship service is also a critical period of time. Our interaction with friends reminds us that we are here as part of a body in relationship with others. A short while to quiet our spirits will enable us to leave some distractions behind and center ourselves in God. A time of reflective prayer can open our spirit to engage in conversation with God. Even the visual appearance of the worship space will have an impact on our readiness. How conscious are we of these critical minutes?[1]

Since worship does not start when we enter the worship service, it should not stop when we leave. With that understanding I would recommend a fourth suggestion to their previous list:

4. Post-service continuation. Worship continues as we leave the worship service. It continues in our homes, at our schools and through our work. This final step leads the worshiper in a continuous circle back to step one. Harold Best calls it “unceasing worship.”[2]

An old proverb states, “We only prepare for what we think is important.”


[1] Malefyt, Norma deWaal and Howard Vanderwell, Database online. Available fromhttp://www.calvin.edu/worship/planning/insights/13.php

[2] Harold M. Best, Unceasing Worship: Biblical Perspectives on Worship and the Arts (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2003).

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. Before joining the convention staff in 2000, David served for twenty years in music/worship ministry with congregations in Kansas, Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Oklahoma Baptist University; a Master of Church Music degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; and a Doctor of Worship Studies from the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies.

Storming the Castle – Preparing for Worship

Storming the Castle – Preparing for Worship

What if our preparation for and anticipation of our worship gatherings exuded an excitement that could not be contained? Understanding the necessity for personal worship preparation is radically different than abdicating that responsibility to our worship leaders to create worship through song selections and worship actions.

Click the link above to read this post by David Manner!