A worship leader in the 21st Century is much more than a lead singer, or a choir director working out of a well-worn hymnal. When I started leading worship in the late seventies, we were on the cusp of a worship revolution that would take the church by storm, and hymns would eventually be overshadowed by the worship chorus, the hymnal with lyrics being projected on a screen.
In the process, a worship leader’s skill requirements have dramatically increased over the years in order to accommodate leading worship bands, technical advancements in sound and lighting, and the use of computers. Still, there is a basic core of traits that have always been present in effective worship leaders through the ages, and they continue to be essential, regardless of denomination or style of music.
When I attempt to break down these traits, I choose nine essentials from a historic point of view — one that doesn’t necessarily take into consideration a building, technical aspects or congregation size. Here, in Part 1 of two posts, I list the first five of nine traits:
Trait 1: Serves the local church with excellence.
Charles Dickens, in the classic novel David Copperfield, wrote, “My meaning simply is, that whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do well; that whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself to completely; that in great aims and in small, I have always been thoroughly in earnest.”
The Free Dictionary defines the adjective ‘earnest’ as. ”With a purposeful or sincere intent; serious; determined.” As believers, we must earnestly give God our best, not our leftovers. In Colossians 3:17, the Bible says, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (NIV)”
As professionals, we want to always do well at our game. As Coach Pat Riley once said, “Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better.” Not only do we strive for excellence as a personal standard, but it shows honor and respect toward our congregation and most importantly, God.
Trait 2: Is a servant leader.
Jesus is the archetype of servant leadership. Through His example, we learn how to love, encourage, correct, cast vision, pray, focus and obey God, among many other qualities. Jesus never asked a disciple to go where He wouldn’t go Himself. Ultimately, Jesus was willing to go to the cross on our behalf. He endured physical pain and suffering, rejection, loneliness and taunting from his executioners and fellow condemned prisoners alike. He was willing to fight to the death for us. Through that example, we must not only lead, but we must serve others with their best interests at heart, even when it costs us greatly.
Sometimes leaders must ask others to do tough, challenging things. But on the other hand, we must also be willing to make personal sacrifices as servant leaders, sometimes to the point of washing feet, if that’s what God calls us to do. Stephen Covey said it well: “What you do has far greater impact than what you say.”