There are so many different kinds of churches, with different expressions of worship, using different musical styles, in different parts of the world, with different histories, different emphases and different callings. The worship leaders at these churches have different callings and have to discern how to serve their congregations most effectively, taking into account all of the uniqueness about their setting.
But taking into account all of the differences between churches (even churches across the street from one another!), can there be a shared calling amongst worship leaders who serve churches with a massively broad array of worship expressions?
I believe that ALL worship leaders—regardless of their setting—are called to maintain the three C’s in order to be an effective worship leader.
Regardless of all of your church’s distinctions, the people in your congregation are fundamentally no different from anyone else in the world: They need Jesus. Effective worship leaders are doggedly persistent in pointing their congregations to Jesus week after week, month after month and year after year. We never move on, we never assume people have “gotten it,” and we never muddle up the clarity of the gospel with layers and layers of figurative or literal fogginess. Every person in every seat of every church, from ancient cathedrals to hipster coffee shops, needs Jesus. So every worship leader has a responsibility to exalt him above all things. Every Sunday. We’ll be doing it for all eternity, so let’s set the pattern now (Revelation 5:9-10).
2. Congregational accessibility
From high-church to low-church, from rock-and-roll to smells-and-bells, from full-time production teams to volunteer worship teams, from rock star worship leaders to a sleep deprived young mother who told her pastor she’d lead this Sunday … we have a shared responsibility: to help people articulate praise to God in unity. It takes some creative theological hop-scotch for worship leaders of any variety to convince themselves that it’s OK if people in their congregations aren’t actively engaged, or at the very least, being invited to engage. We have to do all we can to help people sing along. While we can’t make anyone worship God, we can certainly do things (in our various and different contexts) to actually help people, not hinder people. Effective worship leaders take this responsibility seriously: to help their congregations exalt God in worship (Psalm 34:3).
Over time, any congregation in any part of the world with any kind of worship expression will respond positively to worship leadership that consistently points to Christ in a way that helps people respond to him. How can I say this? Because this is what the Holy Spirit does. The Holy Spirit points to Christ (John 16:14). Consistency not only ensures that we’re pointing in the right direction and sending the right message, but it builds trust with our congregations. When a congregation trusts its worship leader, it will follow that worship leader, and if that worship leader is pointing that congregation to Jesus, then a beautiful thing takes place.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to worship leading. What I do in my Anglican church on Main Street in Fairfax, Va., wouldn’t work at a store-front church in Daytona Beach, Fla. And what you do in your bible church in Brighton, England, wouldn’t work at a cathedral in Sydney. So the practicalities of how we apply our principles will differ wildly from church to church. But those principles must guide the practicalities. And the principles of Christ-centeredness, congregational accessibility and consistency will help us remain faithful to our shared calling as ministers of the gospel.