5 Essential Characteristics of Worship Musicians

In January 2013, I started leading at The Austin Stone and was faced with the daunting task of building a worship band from the ground up. God holds leaders to higher standards, and for six grueling months, I begged God to meet those standards in my ministry. What was I looking for?

I was looking for Christians with character, who fit my church’s culture, were skilled at their craft, and led with their countenance. Yes, they all start with the letter C. Let’s take a closer look at each characteristic.

1. Christian

John Piper tells a story (31 min into this video) about offering communion to the orchestra at his church. When person after person refused the elements, Piper turned to the worship leader and said “What’s up with this?” The worship leader said, “Well, we brought them in from outside. They’re probably not believers.” Piper looked at the music minister and said, “Don’t ever do that again.” Hebrews 10:19 says we “enter the Most Holy place by the blood of Jesus.” If a musician is not covered by the blood of Christ, they are not fit to lead others into the Most Holy place. Let’s invite non-Christian musicians into our community. Let’s share the Gospel with them and pray for their salvation. But let’s not make them leaders of the Church.

Tweet This: Let’s invite non-Christian musicians into our community, but don’t make them leaders of the Church. @loganwalter

2. Character

2 Peter 1:5-7 says “supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.”

If you’ve been in a band, you know that a group of musicians will fall apart without brotherly love, and the bible says that brotherly love stems from virtue. So we must have standards for virtue in our bands. A good place to start is 1 Peter 5:5 “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” If we want God to give grace to our bands, we must choose musicians who are willing to receive instruction. And as we give instruction, we must remember that 1 Peter 5:5 applies to worship leaders as well.

Tweet This: When selecting band members, choose musicians who are willing to receive instruction. @loganwalter @asworship

3. Culture (or Community)

In college, I attended UBC Waco, where David Crowder was worship pastor. During my time there, I became friends with a gifted guitarist, who moved to Waco to be in David Crowder*Band. This guitarist is a Christian with character, who is skilled at his craft and leads with his countenance, but he was only in DC*B for six months. Why? He didn’t feel comfortable at UBC, and Waco didn’t feel like home. In other words, he didn’t fit the culture. When he left DC*B (on good terms), Crowder replaced him with a guitarist, who had been living in Waco and attending UBC for several years before joining the band. Even after DC*B split up, the latter guitarist stayed in Waco and remained part of the UBC community.

Romans 15:6 commands us to glorify God with “one mind and one voice.” When a church fulfills Romans 15:6, a culture is created, and our bands should fit that culture.

4. Craft

In 1 Samuel 16, King Saul is tormented by a harmful Spirit. Upon seeing his condition, one of Saul’s servants says “seek out a man who is skillful in playing the lyre, and when the harmful spirit from God is upon you, he will play it, and you will be well (v. 16).” In response to this idea, another servant says “I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing…and the Lord is with him (v. 18).”

David entered the king’s court because he was both a skillful musician and a man of God. If he was only a man of God, he would not have been the right man for the job. He had to be “skillful in playing” (v. 16 & 18). If king Saul required skill from the musicians in his court, how much more does King Jesus deserve our skill?

Tweet This: If king Saul required skillful musicians in his court, how much more does King Jesus deserve our skill? @loganwalter

5. Countenance (or Posture)

The word “countenance” refers to a person’s face or facial expression. Because we have to keep our hands on our instruments for most of the service, countenance is an important aspect of how we lead from stage. Our faces should display the fullness of joy that is found in God’s presence (Ps 16:11). But I will also include the word “posture” in this characteristic to encompass the many ways the bible calls us to physically express ourselves in worship.

Tweet This: When we worship, our faces should display the fullness of joy that is found in God’s presence. @loganwalter

We’re called to bow (Ps 95:6), stand in awe (Isaiah 29:23), dance (Ps 149:3), clap (Ps 47:1), lift our hands (Lam 2:19), sing and shout (Zeph 3:14). If our band mates are unwilling to express themselves in any of these ways, or if they are distracting in how they express themselves, then we have an opportunity to show them the scriptures and help them grow in this area.

I’m far from a perfect leader, and no one in my band – including myself – is a perfect band member. But I can confidently say that my band mates are Christians with character, who fit our church’s culture, are skilled at their craft, and lead with their countenance. My prayer is that you and your band would join us in our effort to grow in all five of these areas, “knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58).