Home Worship & Creative Leaders Articles for Worship & Creative Dear Worship Pastor: It’s Not About You

Dear Worship Pastor: It’s Not About You

Of course, there are other ways of losing your followers.

Sometimes worship leaders seem to be having a profound personal worship experience, completely forgetting that there are hundreds of other people in the room who don’t really want to repeat the chorus 50 times over, or who need to know the words before you sing them, or who don’t know what to do if no one on the worship team sings the melody.

When worship pastors do these things, they’re worshipping, but they’re not leading worship.

During my undergraduate years, there was a very gifted young man whose eyes literally rolled back in his head when he reached the high point of the worship experience. I was glad he was having such a good time, and I never said anything to him personally.

But it really looked freaky. He kinda looked possessed. I’m sure it scared off some new students because it was enough to scare Freddy Krueger.

However, when he was informed that people were weirded out to see nothing but the whites of his fluttering eyes, to his great credit he recognized immediately that he was not leading well. He gave up the “possessed” look because he realized it was shoving people out of the body of corporate worship.

So, yes, it’s impressive that you can sing that high. It’s impressive that you can run that melisma all over God’s creation. And it’s impressive that you can enter into some kind of ecstatic trance and repeat the words interminably or else make up new words on the spot.

But worship leadership is not about you.

And if I’m spending time being impressed with your transcendent musical talents, or else stewing that you seem more concerned with displaying those talents than properly leading a congregation, then I’m not spending that time worshipping God. And that, after all, is the point. Not admiring you, but worshipping God.

You’re great. You really are. Your music is beautiful, you have a killer collection of designer T-shirts, and I’m sure you have a great personality. And when you come down off that mountaintop and you’re full of radiant smiles, I’m genuinely happy for you. But you should know that you left the rest of us stranded somewhere on the mountainside.

Or maybe it’s just me. Anyway, thanks for listening. 

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Timothy Dalrymple was raised in non-denominational evangelical congregations in California. The son and grandson of ministers, as a young boy he spent far too many hours each night staring at the ceiling and pondering the afterlife. The questions he asked then carried him on to a degree with majors in Philosophy and Religious Studies at Stanford University, an M.Div. at Princeton Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. in Religion at Harvard's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. He has also studied at Oxford and two universities in China, has won multiple fellowships and prizes for his essays and teaching, and has published in several international commentaries on Kierkegaard.