Is “Worship Leader” Just Another Name For “Performer”?

We all struggle at times as worship leaders, musicians and techs to find the right balance between presentation and performance, humbleness and showiness, reverent yet engaging. There are a hundred words to describe the point where a church service crosses the redline from worshipful to inappropriate. In many ways our creativity is at war with our conscience. To aggravate things, musicians and techs are often called out as being too slick or showy – much more than teachers and preachers are – even though we implement many of the same techniques to communicate with our congregations.

Let’s start with the basics:

1. You are a leader

If you are a leader, then others must follow you. I was in a church recently that had no singing worship leader. The songs were led by the organist from the back of the room. Guess what? The organist was the worship leader that day. Without her, we would have had 15 minutes of free worship! Not a bad thing, but it’s important for us to sing the same song when we gather. We have to get over the reality that when we step up in front (or back) of our churches and begin singing, we are leaders and others will follow us.

Tweet This: When we step in front of our churches and begin singing, we are leaders. Others will follow. @leadworship @asworship

2. People respond to engaging leaders

Think about your teaching pastor for a moment. How many people do you think would attend your church if your pastor stood up every week and read the Bible mono-toned for 30 minutes without passion or vocal inflection? Zero! His family would probably leave as well! Seriously, we are humans and God made us to be sensitive to one another’s emotions, facial expressions, vocal inflection and body movements. This isn’t bad. This is how God made us! Think about how Jesus taught. He used relatable stories, hyperbole, humor and intensity. We should do the same.

3. Presentation should be within context

There are things that can happen during worship at a Passion or Camp Electric event that would be totally ridiculous at a church on Sunday morning. Moving lights with a light haze looks awesome in a large room with high ceilings. Fogging your 200 seat auditorium might be a distraction. It’s fun to jump, dance and worship at a large event when everyone is joining in, but at 8 am on a Sunday morning, people might be offended. Context is king. And choosing to serve appropriately within your church context shows maturity and love for others.

Tweet This: Choosing to serve appropriately within a church context shows maturity and love for others. @leadworship @asworship

4. The “red line” is different for everyone

We really, really need to understand this. It’s easy for us to see a video from another church and instantly get critical about the way they lead or their sound and lighting. Our sinful nature convinces us that we somehow have the perfect balance that pleases God and that everyone else is wrong. Even within our own churches, there will always be disagreements on what is appropriate. The sooner we understand this and offer grace to one another, the better we can move on with the important things. The best response to someone who complains to you about something you did during worship is to say, “I’m sorry that offended you. It certainly wasn’t my intention. I appreciate you telling me.”

Tweet This: Our sinful nature convinces us that we somehow have the perfect balance that pleases God and everyone else is wrong.

This is a great topic for discussion within your worship team and church leadership. A little conversation and understanding will help you navigate being an artist and a humble servant.