It can be argued that worship leaders have the greatest impact on how our church is viewed in the community due to the fact that we often have the highest visibility.
When people are curious about a church, they typically don’t start by asking about the programs, the theology, or the preferred Bible translation. They may eventually get to those things, but that’s usually not what they ask about first.
The first question is usually about the music.
Here’s how one of those conversations usually goes:
“What church do you go to?”
“I go to Community Christian Church.”
“Oh! I’ve heard of that church before. What’s the worship like?”
And of course by asking what the worship is like, they are asking what the music is like. So to a degree, they are asking what you are like, worship leader because after all you are the one who plans the music. They are asking if your church does the hymnal thing or the Hillsong thing. They are asking if your church is choir driven or guitar driven. They are asking if the music is relatable to them and where they are at in life or not. They are asking if your music is ’80’s CCM or post-modern Jesus Punk Rock. In essence, they want to know if you sing songs they also like to sing.
Music can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, and music in church even more so. Some come ready to rock out on Sundays, and some prefer a Bach Cantata. The question for us is how we can best utilize feelings about music and worship to reach the community around us, grow the members of our church, and offer the best answer to the question of “what our worship is like.”
When newcomers walk into a church service on a Sunday morning, chances are their first impression will be based in large part on the music. The first person they hear speak from the front of the room will likely be the worship leader, and the first thing they see will be your worship team /choir / hipster Djembe guy. So what will the things they see and hear say about your church? What will these things say about Jesus?
Should we start by asking ourselves if one “style” of worship is better than another, and if so just how far should we go to make our music what we think people want?
The answer has nothing to do with style, marketing, surveys, or presentation. So many of us try way too hard to present the right look and the right sound, and so we warily wade into uncomfortable waters in order to reach a certain group or demographic that we feel we need to be reaching.
And that is the worst thing we can do.
People in today’s world, especially younger people, can sniff out inauthenticity a mile away, and trying to be a hip or relevant version of yourself will yield poor results just about every time.
It’s like that friend you had in school whose dad was trying to be the cool dad. I bet you remember that dad and you certainly don’t want to be that dad. It just doesn’t work. As a worship leader, you are who you are and you do what you do. Be who you are and do it the best you can to the glory of God. There is always room for growth, change, and learning, but only authentic growth and true unbridled worship will honor God and yield great results.
As Matt Redman once said so well, the heart of worship isn’t about the music anyway, it’s about Jesus being honored and lifted up. We need to find and use the best songs for our congregations, but true worship is more than a song.
It’s a sacrifice.
If that part is missing, it doesn’t matter how ‘relevant’ we think we are. We are no longer worship leaders, but noisy gongs and clanging cymbals; nothing more than weekend performers in a Chris Tomlin cover band.
After all, worship is not about music. Worship is not about a set list.
Worship is about Jesus.
Worship is about bowing our hearts and minds and families and jobs and cares and worries before the Almighty Creator of all things and saying we trust Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
Worship is about bringing honor and glory and thanks to Him who gave all for us.
Worship is exhortation and praise, and it is a prayer born of the deepest longings of the heart.
Worship is the very Words of God set to a melody and shared amongst us.
If we are doing things right, a personal daily walk with Jesus will yield worship focused on Christ and not on the songs we select, and worship will become infectious and empowering to your church; a highlight of every week. Set your mind on things that are above, seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and your worship music will truly become more than a song.
“So, what is the worship at your church like?”
“Our worship is about Jesus and nothing but Jesus. That’s what it’s like.”