Worship leaders called to be spiritual leaders first
NASHVILLE, Tenn., — A worship leader in a church has no less responsibility to the Bible than the preacher. He has to be, first and foremost, a spiritual leader, said Mike Harland, director of LifeWay Worship, on his monthly webinar titled "The Choir Room."
On Oct. 21, more than 900 people via computer joined the studio audience at LifeWay Christian Resources' home office in Nashville, Tenn., for the free webinar session titled "Transformational Worship in a Transformational Church." Harland's guest for the program was Ed Stetzer, vice president of research and ministry development for LifeWay Christian Resources.
According to Stetzer, "It is by having a personal, spiritual relationship with God that a worship leader earns the right to lead the congregation in worship. The congregation has to be taught how to sing in worship. They need to be taught that God is the audience for their worship; the congregation members are to be participants."
Having a worship leader with a choir, a band or a worship group on the platform can lead the congregation to assume it is just there to listen to the platform group sing - that the congregation is the audience. The worship leader has a responsibility to teach the congregation it is part of the worship choir, singing to an audience of one - God.
"They [the congregation members] have to be taught this, because they may not understand it," Harland said. "They need to participate in a sing-along with the ones leading worship. They have to be reminded that music is not the warm-up to the message."
Harland added that while worship styles and professionalism will vary from church to church depending on size, number and availability of musicians, quality in worship is always the goal. Having excellence from the worship leaders won't make the congregation more likely to sit back and listen.
"Excellence in music does not lead to passivity in worship," Stetzer agreed. "Bad theology leads to passivity."
Involving the online viewers of "The Choir Room," Harland and Stetzer answered questions submitted by the virtual audience. One viewer asked how worship leaders in small churches could deal with a lack of musicians/volunteers.
"First look at what and who you have," Harland responded. "If there are people who haven't played an instrument in years, encourage them to take it back up. It's amazing the great community that can be built when people are making the effort together. The congregation will love that they are trying, too.
"Something else you can do is to take them to see how other churches do worship," he said. In addition, Harland suggested using tools like LifeWayWorship.com - an online resource for congregation worship.
Harland said that, sadly, some churches are experiencing a lack of worship involvement because they gave up doing children's choir and youth choir in years past.
"You can't expect them to just jump into worship leadership and adult choir when they haven't had any experience [with a music program]," he said.
Harland said that LifeWayWorship has created resources to help pastors of small churches - often the only staff members - who may not feel comfortable taking the lead in worship.
"He can use some of our resources and have all the instruments he needs," Harland said. "He can choose songs that will go along with the sermon Scripture. There's a lot of help available. If you don't have a choir room at your church, we want to be your choir room."
Watch a video of "The Choir Room."
Visit LifeWay.com/TheChoirRoom for more information.
The next "The Choir Room" online event will be at 1 p.m. (CST), Nov. 18. Rick Heil of the worship band Sonicflood will join Harland to discuss a new relationship with the International Mission Board and how LifeWay Worship will be involved. Dennis and Nan Allen will also visit to give a preview of the new Let's Sing! Easter musical, "More Than A Carpenter," based on the book by Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell.
Photos by Russ Rankin.
- Stetzer and Harland stress importance of spiritual leadership among worship leaders.
- "The Choir Room" webinar included 900 virtual viewers.
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