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Worship Leaders Aren't Rock Stars, but They Must Be Theologians

If I’m honest, I couldn’t tell you the take-home point of a single sermon I heard growing up—no matter how clever the preacher’s alliteration was.

But I can still sing “Holy, Holy, Holy” word for word. I know “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” by heart. “The Solid Rock” is an ever-present companion for me in difficult times. Those songs have taught me a vocabulary to express myself when I come before God, and in that expression to learn the truth of God in a way that will stay with me for a lifetime.

We don’t need to perform scientific studies to see that music and melody fuse truth into our memories and intellects in a unique way. We can all observe how melody attaches meaning, emotions, affections and experiences to words like nothing else can. These songs shape our worldview and make us who we are.

This is true spiritually. The songs we sing teach us theology.

For better or worse, as worship leaders, the songs we choose to sing with our churches will inevitably shape the way they view God and interact with Him.

For example, my wife is a petite, green-eyed, blonde-haired, gorgeous woman. She is kind and compassionate, loves our children and is an incredible mother and wife. I could go on and on about all of the things that I love about her.

But what if I were to come to her and say, “I wrote this song for you to tell you how much I love you”—and then went on to sing about how much I love her brunette hair and brown eyes and how I can’t wait to marry her and have kids someday? She would be confused and would maybe wonder if I wrote the song about another woman.

Or, what if that song was actually all about me? A tribute to myself, how she makes me feel and how I must be so great that she would love me? I praise her for being smart enough to choose to spend the rest of her life with me, because I’m the center of the universe and she is lucky to have me.

I’ll tell you what she’d do. She would be offended and might make me go to counseling to get a better handle on reality.

And she would be right!

I would have to be a lunatic to do something like that.

We do this very thing to God when we blatantly or unintentionally ascribe to God attributes and motives that are not true to who He is, or when we sing “to Him” songs that only exalt ourselves. I often wonder if sometimes, when we are singing to God in corporate worship, He is listening and thinking, “Who do they think they are singing about? Because it’s certainly not Me!”

Worship leaders have the responsibility to make sure this doesn’t happen.

As worship leaders, we may not be in the pulpit, but we nevertheless have a unique teaching role within the church. We are telling people who God is through the songs that we sing. That means that we have to actually know Him. We have to be students of the Scriptures and diligently pursue relationship with Him and a knowledge of Him.

We must be theologians.

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Stephen Miller serves as pastor of worship arts at The Journey in St Louis and just released his new book Worship Leaders, We Are Not Rock Stars, and worship album, All Hail the King. He writes regularly at www.stephen-miller.com, and you can find him on Twitter @StephenMiller and on Facebook at Facebook.com/StephenMillerMusic.