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)

Idolatry on Sunday Mornings, Pt. 5

By Bob Kauflin

We can’t help but notice the number of times God addresses idolatry in his Word. He hates it when we pursue, serve, or are emotionally drawn to other gods, which are not really gods at all. Idols enslave us (Ps. 106:36), put us to shame (Is. 45:16), and ultimately conform us to their image (Ps. 115:8).

But God’s intention is that we be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29). Like the Psalmist, we should hate them and those who pay regard to them. (Ps. 31:6). Too often, though, we find ourselves to be the idolaters. Today, I want to share another idol that looms large when we worship God corporately. It particularly applies to musicians.

The Idol of Musical Excellence
Offering God our best has biblical precedent. (Ex. 23:19; Num 18:29-30) In today’s culture, that “best” is often defined as music marked by skill, complexity, or even sophistication. So four-part harmonies edge out unison melodies, orchestras trump upright pianos, and full bands with choirs replace solo guitarists. We become more concerned with making corporate worship bigger, better, and more involved. We balk at the thought of someone without extensive musical training and study leading congregational worship. In the process, we lose sight of what makes our offering acceptable in the first place.

Reggie Kidd, in his book With One Voice, pinpoints the problem: “In some churches the quest for ‘excellence’ is an idol, regardless of whether ‘excellence’ is defined by standards of so-called ‘classical’ culture or of ‘pop’ culture. Such ‘excellentism’ needs to be replaced with the quest to pursue the likeness of Christ crucified and him alone. As good as it gets this side of Christ’s return, we’re never going to get it completely right. There will always be a flat tenor, a broken guitar string, an overly loud organ, or a poorly placed hymn. But it’s okay. The cross means it’s covered.” (p. 101-102)

Does that mean we don’t need to be concerned about how we play, whether we’re in tune, or what songs we use? Of course not. God commends musical excellence (Ps. 33:3; 1 Chron. 15:22; 2 Chron. 30:21-22). Years ago, my degree in piano performance taught me (painfully) something about the value of musical skill and excellence. But in congregational worship, excellence has a purpose – to focus people’s attention on God’s wondrous acts and attributes.

In corporate worship then, excellence has more to do with issues of edification and encouragement than simple musical standards. Pursuing excellence wisely means continuing to grow in my skill so that I won’t distract those I’m seeking to serve. It means I might play fewer notes to allow more space for people to hear the words. It means I may have to sacrifice my ideas of musical “excellence” to make the truth more musically accessible to my congregation. It means I might not play at all sometimes so that the congregation can hear their own voices clearly ringing out in praise to God. Musical excellence, defined rightly, is a worthy pursuit. But like all idols, it makes a terrible god.

For more on this topic, download the following free message from the Sovereign Grace site: Understanding the Musician’s Heart by Eric Hughes

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

Raising Gospel-Centered Children

Raising Gospel-Centered Children

Training children to put their hope and trust in Christ is one of the greatest privileges we have. Marty Machowski has devoted decades to helping churches and families do just that. Although my kids were grown before he wrote his materials, I read The Gospel Story Bible to my grandkids and can’t recommended his children’s ministry curriculum highly enough.

I’m excited that Marty will be teaching seminars at bothWorshipGod West andWorshipGod East this year. He graciously took the time to answer a few questions about his life and seminar.

1. Briefly share your testimony of conversion with us.
I submitted my life to Christ I the summer between by junior and senior years of college. Every morning that summer I followed the same routine. I got up, got showered and dressed then ate a bowl of cornflakes while I watched the early morning news. One Monday, in the providence of God, the programming changed. Instead of the news, a televangelist was on, holding a crusade. Since I only got one channel on my small black and white TV, I continued my routine. That week I understood for the first time that Christ died for ME and each day as the preacher pointed to the television audience and called us to join him in prayer, I bowed my head and asked for God’s forgiveness. Sometime in that week, the Spirit of God filled my heart and rescued me from darkness.

2. Why do you think what you’re teaching on is an important topic?
The Bible is clear that the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. Our children, meeting in classrooms during our Sunday worship services represent the largest group of gathered unbelievers across the world. It is critical that our teaching present the gospel. Helping pastors and teacher know how to partner with parents in the gospel work of reaching the next generation is something I’ve given the last 25 years of my life for.

3. What do you hope will be filling people’s minds and hearts as they walk away from your message?
Sometimes we need the encouragement to keep up the good work of the gospel and to be reminded that our labor to pass the gospel to the next generation is not done in vain. Many folks, converted later on, look back at their Sunday school days with fondness, recognizing God was at work in the lessons of their teachers, drawing them to himself.

4. Is there any passage of Scripture that sums up what you’ll be sharing?
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” That verse gives us all the motivation we need to make sure we are proclaiming the gospel to our children.

5. Can you expound on one point that you’ll be making in your message?
It is really important that we avoid teaching moralistic messages to children, particularly when we are presenting the Old Testament stories. It’s not that we can’t draw moral lessons from the Old Testament heroes, but God didn’t give us those stories to challenge us to grow in our courage or to tell the truth. David, for instance, fought Goliath as Israel’s representative head. He went into battle to answer the charge of Goliath for one Israelite to fight for all of Israel. The other soldiers were standing fearfully on the sidelines. David came as a picture of God’s salvation to deliver them from their sinful disobedience.

David was a picture of God’s salvation in Christ, who came to deliver us from our sinful disobedience and defeat our giant – death. While David did display great courage, that lesson is presented, like the others in the Old Testament, to point toward God’s gospel plan through Christ.

6. How has what you’re going to speak on affected your own life?
God has graciously given me six children. While I’ve been tempted to trust in my own work and look for a system to guarantee my successful parenting, God has allowed those efforts to fail, that I might be brought back to my knees in prayer, and then trust in nothing but the gospel and the Spirit of God to save my children. Ultimately, I now know any success in parenting I’ve come to know is by God’s grace and the power of his word.

7. Can you recommend any books, articles, websites, or materials on this topic?
If folks would like to get a preview of the materials I’ve put together to promote the gospel in both church and home, they can visit my website.  If folks would like a great book to read, I would recommendGospel-Powered Parenting by William Farley.

8. What would you say to someone who is trying to decide whether or not to come to WorshipGod2013?
WorshipGod is all about showcasing the gospel in your church. Because you just can’t get a better message than the gospel, you can’t get a better conference than WorshipGod.