This semester at Southern Seminary I had the privilege to work with 34 music and worship students in a class called “Leading Worship.” As I reflect back on the class I must say I am greatly encouraged by the skill and passion of these young worship leaders. Students were given opportunities to plan and lead the class in musical worship. As they were leading worship for the class they were critiqued and video recorded for evaluation.
We discussed the importance of a worship leader’s daily walk with the Lord. We stressed the significance of their time in the Scriptures and prayer throughout the week. We talked on more than one occassion about the need for private worship throughout the week in preparation to lead the Body of Christ in corporate worship on Sundays. The heart of the worship leader must be passionate in his response to the Gospel. It is impossible for the worship leader to lead a congregation to a place he has not been.
Realizing the importance of the private devotional life and daily walk of the worship leader, we also realize that a person who is doing well in these areas can also be a poor and distracting worship leader for the church on Sundays. If a worship leader comes before the church on Sunday and stumbles on song introductions or transitions, botches a musical entrance or melody, or otherwise seems unorganized, he can be a great distraction to his congregation in worship.
Students in the worship leading class were evaluated in a number of areas of worship leadership such as: clear speech that was not too fast or too slow, introductions and transitions that help the worshiper understand the flow of the musical portion of worship, the use of Scripture to guide the worship time, facial expression, eye contact, effective voice leading, physical gesture of the body or hands, posture, and worship planning that demonstrated the transcendence of our God and Christ-centered worship.
One student commented to me that if the heart of the worship leader is not right, the outward leadership qualities no matter how strong do not matter. I agree with this statement, but I also believe that a worship leader whose heart is passionate for the Lord and does not pay attention to the outward leadership qualities in worship leadership can be also be an ineffective worship leader.
Worship leadership that is professional-looking and does not exude a passion for Christ in the daily walk of the worship leader is nothing but a show. A congregation can tell if their worship leader’s expression is authentic from his heart or if he is just presenting a “slick, showy” musical portion of worship.
Worship Leaders, I challenge you to bring a heart of passion for the Gospel combined with the discipline of worship preparation to your congregation each time you have the privilege to stand before your people and lead them in worship. Don’t be a distraction to your people with poor preparation or delivery. Help them see Jesus and His Cross up front and you, the worship leader, in the background.