Tuesday, March 1, 2016

There's no such thing as worship leaders...

Real or not real? 
There is no such thing as a worship leader. That title, Worship Leader, is a misnomer, even though it's what we are. 
My title is Worship Leader, but I cannot make a single person worship God. 

Perhaps I could coerce a person to sing, or threaten them to the point that they comply with liturgical expression, but I cannot make them worship. I do not bring anyone into the throne room of God. I  do not have that superpower. I cannot control people's hearts. Nobody has that kind of power. That's why I think there really is no such thing as a worship leader. We are always in the presence of God. And it is the Holy Spirit's job to soften hearts and lead people in responding to God in worship. As someone who is called a worship leader, my job is simply to create the opportunity for a corporate worship experience. 

And to be completely honest, it is not the job of the Contemporary Christian music movement to provide worship songs for congregations to sing. Oh, it's great when there are songs that easily cross over from CCM to worship service.It makes teaching the congregation a new song that much easeir when they've already heard it on the radio. But not every song can serve both purposes well, and it is the worship leader's responsibility to know the difference. 

I get it, Worship Leader. Like me, you're busy. Like me, you work more than one job. Like me, you have a family that needs a lot of attention. Like me, you love music, you love your congregation, you love Jesus, and you strive to do an awesome job at helping others to worship. But you can't just pick any old song onthe radio that falls under CCM, can you? 

You need songs that are theologically correct. Oh, I love having a local Christian music station. But sometimes I just shut it off, because  musicians aren't necessarily theologians, and the poetic license they employ sometimes clouds the truth of who God is. This isn't always a black and white area, because every denomination has its own theological bent, and a song that works in the Methodist Church on one end of town might not really fit the Pentecostal Church at the other end. Sometimes, I hear a song on the radio and know that it's a great fit for our church. Other times, I cringe inwardly, because I can't get on board with what that song is really saying about God. It's even harder when a member of the worship team requests a song that you can't agree with theologically. It is not legal to change the words of a song that is not in the Public Domain without permission, so you won't be able to get away with using a song by just changing a word or two. Worship Leader, it is your job to know if this song will fit.  If you don't know, ask for help. 

You need songs that are singable. There are some amazing CCM artists on the radio whose voices are pretty, and they have great big ranges, and amazing vocal agility. But the average church attender can't sing like Mandisa or Chris Tomlin. Listen for songs that keep most of their melodies between middle C and the C above so that most voices can sing them. If the rhythms are too complex, the range is too wide, or the verses too different from each other, the congregation won't be able to pick them up. However, if you choose songs that are too repetitive, your folks might start getting bored. This is your job, Worship Leader - to find those songs that are the most singable. 

You need songs that your band can play. If you work with a team of instrumentalists, you need to know their skill level and ability. That awesome song you just heard might be perfect for the team of professionals that spent months rehearsing it, but maybe your volunteers can't play in the key of F sharp minor. Or maybe they don't have the chops to carry out that insanely cool guitar lick. Let it go, Worship Leader. Let it go. 

You need songs that touch hearts. That might be the hottest song in all of CCM, but is it moving people closer to God? Is it helping people to worship God? Skip the fluff, Worship Leader, and find the songs that tell stories, dream dreams, and touch the heart and soul. 

You need songs that fit your congregation. Churches are not one size fits all, and I am pretty sure that our God loves the variety that makes up His Bride. But that also means your church is different than the one down the street, and has different needs, styles, and strengths. Maybe the church body is in a season of discouragement and need songs that reassure them that God has not forgotten. Maybe they are in a season of celebration, or maybe they need to learn that it's ok to respond to God in song.  Know your people, Worship Leader, and find the songs that fit their needs, help them grow closer to God, and worship Him. 

Worship Leader, this is your job. Not to make others worship. Not to force them to sing. Not to copy the hottest songs on Christian radio, not to be another Chris Tomlin, Lauren Daigle, or Jennie Lee Riddle (even though we love them), but to lead the music that helps your congregation respond to God for who He is and what He has done.  What does that look like in your church? 

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