I have a vision. It’s a vision of the church bursting at the seams with worship leaders who truly, faithfully serve their people. They engage their people’s hearts and minds with the gentleness and (sometimes) forcefulness of a shepherd among their sheep. They bring truth to bear on their church families through the creativity and beauty of music. For now, it’s just a vision. But it’s a vision that I will lean into – seeking to bring to fruition in my own life and the lives of others.
For the past two months I’ve served as a Worship Resident at the Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas. It’s been a whirlwind of emotion, energy, and joy. Most of all, it’s been a life-shaking, perspective-shaping experience of learning. I’m learning what it means to be a worship leader who faithfully serves Jesus and His bride, the church. This post is a little window into some of the convictions that God has been developing in my mind and pressing into my heart over the past couple of months.
In my last post, I wrote that I believe God is calling me to be a shepherd-musician, which means that: 1) I serve people through being a shepherd, and 2) I serve people as a musician, leading others in corporate song to God.
But in this post I want to take the scope of that calling beyond myself. I believe that all worship leaders serving the local church are called to be shepherd-musicians. The local church needs worship leaders who are committed to being both. Let me explain.
- Worship leaders should be shepherds.
Whether they recognize and embrace the role or not, worship leaders are shepherding their congregations. Think about it – worship leaders have been given a platform to stand and speak truth every week. The songs sung, the liturgy (order of worship) chosen, prayers lifted up, and words of exhortation spoken are all ways that worship leaders are shepherding people every week.
Worship leaders are already shepherding their churches, for better or for worse. They are leading, and the church body is following. Outside of church gatherings, the people of the church are looking to their worship leaders as an example of what it means to follow Jesus. The real question isn’t whether our worship leaders are shepherding. Rather, it’s how well are our worship leaders shepherding – both on and off stage? We need worship leaders to embrace their role as shepherds, and to seek to engage in ministry by seeing themselves as pastors of souls rather than disinterested performers of songs.
2. Worship leaders should be musicians.
Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre;
make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!
Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
Psalm 33:2-3 ESV
Over fifty times in the Bible we’re commanded to sing and make music to God when we gather together – but have you ever noticed what the Psalmist says about the music we are to make when we gather? We are to play skillfully. Skill in musicianship allows a song or series of songs to progress, to develop, and to be an undistracting and evocative means to helping people in the congregation sing truth in praise to God, and to stir and encourage one another to obedience through those truths.
To put it simply, worship leaders are responsible to create an atmosphere that invites others to sing. Note that I did not say that worship leaders are responsible to “wow” people from the stage with their musical prowess. That’s not the kind of musicianship I’m talking about. Worship leaders engage in and oversee among other instrumentalists a musicianship that helps create an atmosphere conducive to God’s people worshiping and enjoying Him through song. Worship leaders are tasked to superintend this process – ensuring that ultimately the music being made is skillful for the purpose of authentic worship of God among the congregation.
This is the calling of every worship leader – to serve others. This is done specifically and especially by shepherding and engaging others as a musician for the purpose of bringing God glory, and helping His people to enjoy Him forever. May the church be bursting at the seams with worship leaders who gladly serve their people as shepherd-musicians!
In my next blog post I’ll try to provide some hands-on, practical application to what I’ve explained here.