I recently had the privilege of participating in the Cutting It Straight conference in Jacksonville, led by H.B. Charles Jr. and hosted by Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church. At this conference, I discovered the 13 things pastors wish their worship leaders knew.
H.B. started this conference, now in its second year, specifically to influence African-American pastors to preach expositionally. I was invited to be part of the worship track. H.B., along with his music pastor, Joe Pace, hopes to see more black churches singing songs that are theologically rich and gospel-centered. Not gospel like “black gospel,” but gospel like “Jesus bore our sins on the cross to purchase our forgiveness” gospel. While our cultural backgrounds are different, we share a passion to see the Word of God proclaimed in song in the power of the Spirit, and to see churches singing songs that enable the word of Christ to dwell in us richly.
For two of the seminars, I was assigned the topic of “What Pastors/Worship Leaders Wish Their Worship Leader/Pastor Knew.” It was a little challenging because pastors and musicians vary widely in terms of their theology and practice. But here’s my attempt to pinpoint “What Pastors Wish Their Worship Leaders Knew.” Although this post highlights areas that might be problematic, pastors should regularly communicate support and evidences of grace in their worship leader before pointing out things that could be better. For the sake of this post, I’m using the term “worship leader” to describe a non-elder who leads the music during the gatherings of the church.
6 Things Pastors Wish Their Worship Leaders Knew
1. Pastors, not worship leaders, will give an account to God for the people in their church (Heb. 13:17). Pastors are ultimately responsible for the teaching and song diet of the church. Pastors should know in advance what songs will be sung, and should play a part in choosing them. If you want a pastor’s trust, you’ll have to earn it.
2. God’s Word to us matters more than our words to God (Is. 66:2; Ps. 19:7-11). Music ministry is Word ministry. Don’t underestimate the value of proclaiming God’s Word passionately. Seek to know your Bible better than your instrument. Lead us to sing the Word, hear the Word, see the Word and pray the Word.
3. We are what we sing. Therefore, choose our songs and lyrics wisely (Col. 3:16). Pastors wish their worship leaders knew that you are discipling the congregation through your song choices and words. For better or worse, our churches will remember more words from our songs they sing than from the sermons they hear. Build a repertoire of songs that enable us to express the many varied aspects of God’s glory and the many appropriate responses, and make sure we’re singing them.
4. While song introductions can be helpful, the worship leader is not the preacher. Your primary role is to enable the word of Christ to dwell in us as we sing, not to preach. When speaking, typically less is more. Choose good songs, and let the songs do the teaching.
5. Prayers are corporate conversations with God, not filler. Don’t pray simply because you feel awkward or don’t know what else to do. Use your prayers to speak for the congregation, not just yourself. Model what theologically informed, engaged, Christ-exalting prayer looks like. Don’t mix up the members of the Trinity, and don’t pray as though God has forgotten his name.
6. Your job is to support congregational singing, not overwhelm or replace it (Eph. 5:18-19; Rev. 5:9-10). Make sure your sound man knows the value of the congregation’s voice. If you constantly sing harmony, some of us will have a hard time knowing what the melody is. Don’t assume your instrumentalists have to play constantly. Pull back from your vocal mics sometimes, stop playing your instruments and let us sing a cappella.