The American church has lost its focus in worship. Shamefully, we make worship more about ourselves than Jesus. We devote ourselves to the comfort and acoustics of our worship centers, and obsess over the satisfaction of our “customers” (first-time visitors). We competitively try to offer a better product than other churches in our area.
Worship leaders are perfectly positioned to adjust our focus. They ought to see their primary responsibility as directing our hearts and minds toward Jesus. Unfortunately, many have bad habits that exacerbate rather than eliminate our distraction.
You can restore your church’s focus in worship. If you want to be a better worship leader:
Pick Better Songs
Earlier this year I attended a conference with my students. The worship band did something that surprised and disturbed me. Throughout the entire weekend, they only played one song that mentioned Jesus by name. And it was the very last one.
To be fair, I only attended three of the four sessions they led. But if Jesus wasn’t mentioned in those three sessions, should we think He was in the fourth? Also to be fair, a song doesn’t have to explicitly mention Jesus to be a worship song. But how long can we not sing about Him before our worship isn’t about Him anymore?
There is a trend in contemporary worship to not mention Jesus in our songs. In fact, we usually sing about ourselves! Most new songs are filled with first-person pronouns – “I,” “me,” “my.” If we are singing about ourselves, whom are we worshiping? We must pick songs that are about Jesus.
We must also pick songs that make sense. Many new songs are vague and strange. They prompt emotion rather than theological reflection. Paul says, “I would rather speak five intelligible words…than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Corinthians 14:19). I would rather worship with five words that make sense than ten thousand that don’t.
If you want to be a better worship leader, pick better songs. This is the simplest and most effective way to help us focus on Jesus.
Worship leaders love to speak on stage. They often offer a thought or say a prayer between songs. Not only does this drag out the worship service; it distracts us from the meaning of the songs.
Worship leaders – your thoughts aren’t that helpful. You tend to say things that are vague, redundant, or unscriptural. You don’t need to cover up your transitions with talking. Just move from one song to the next as quickly as possible, and let the silence hang. If you must do something, read a Scripture.
If you want to be a better worship leader, stop talking. Preachers don’t go onstage and sing; worship leaders shouldn’t go onstage and preach.
What other trends in worship distract us from Jesus? How else can worship leaders get better? Leave your thoughts with a comment below!
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2 thoughts on “How to Be a Better Worship Leader”
In response to your post, I don’t feel the American church has lost its focus on worship at all. But I do feel that some Christians come to church to be entertained. Instead of being fed by God’s word and blessed with his presence.
I believe it is the worship leaders responsibility to lead the congregation to worship. As a worship leader it saddens me greatly when mistakes happen either musically or electronically(audio,visual). Not because of my own ego but because the focus is taken off God and put on to us.
One of our goals as a worship leader is to touch someone’s heart through music, a thought perhaps or a scripture. This is how we minister and serve. Songs are generally picked to coincide with the sermon. And, at times, we let the Holy Spirit lead us into a thought(His thought) or scripture. I don’t believe talking about God could ever be redundant. If that were the case half the pastors would guilty of tautology. I can’t tell you how many times I heard a pastor repeat the same thought over and over again. A 20 min sermon was dragged out to 35-40mins. But then again it’s what you take from the music or sermon isn’t it!
As for new songs, in my opinion, are more than ever focused on God and Jesus. Sometimes people sing songs just to sing. Instead of reading and feeling the true meaning as the lyricist intended. Sort of like you picking(1Corinthians 14:19) to express your distaste for the new music. When clearly Paul is writing to the church in Corinth on speaking in tongues.
Basically if your going into a service with a negative attitude; pray that God’s Holy Spirit will change that negative into a positive.
I didn’t quote Paul out of context. Speaking in tongues was part of the early church’s worship just as singing is part of ours. His desire to worship intelligently through prophecy rather than tongues is similar to my desire to worship intelligently through songs that make sense. The thought behind his statement applies to both instances.
You say one of your goals as a worship leader is “to touch someone’s heart.” Does that include mine? Because what “touches my heart” are songs that make sense and are about Jesus. But you are arguing against my thoughts and dismissing them as “a negative attitude.” Do you want to touch my heart too? Or just everyone else’s?
I’m not trying to be argumentative. I just want you to know that I wrote this post for the sake of my conscience; not to personally critique you as a worship leader.
And there are a few points where I agree with you. I fully acknowledge that preachers can be redundant! That is why my sermons are so short. I discipline myself to be brief and think others should do the same. I even wrote a post about it! You are also right when you say some go to church to be entertained. I have written a post about this as well.