In that there have been and are so very many worship conferences, books, dvds, webinars and other means of teaching what the Bible, church history (past and present) and assorted surveys, etc. can give us on worship as a topic, I am certain what I will now say has been said before.Today it struck me that one of the major frustrations of worship leaders is how to rightly and hopefully in a beneficial way, bring depth yet freshness to a local congregation without getting someone upset at?? them. Some leaders and congregations love change, flux, the new thing, a fluid approach to worship- and I mean utilization of various art forms, music styles, liturgies and so on. Some only love the long-held traditions and all that entails in their immediate sphere of congregational worship… and anything that seems to threaten their sense of the familiar is suspect. Certainly all this also affects a worship pastor or leader's spouse and kids as well as the local church they are -or were- part of. As you might imagine, there is no "one size fits all" to be found. We know Jesus says the Father's desire is that we worship Him in spirit and in truth. We know how Jesus taught His disciples to pray. By now most believers have some understanding that worship is far more than music but encompasses the whole of life and must transcend style or form. And so in most any believer's gathering there is yet a rather wide range of tastes and desires… which to be blunt, Jesus as their worship leader would not Himself be able to satisfy! I've lost track (and a great many have lost their job and/or position of service) of the number of worship leaders who have voiced the hurt and frustration of not being able to somehow find grace-based relationships with persons in a local setting due to these things. Music and the arts/art making- which are commanded to be made by God all through the Bible- is core to unity and koinonia (fellowship). Conversely, they are also the stuff of pettiness, disunity and division all-too-often. I highly recommend a great deal of prayer, God-seeking and especially fruit of the Spirit bearing, patience in particular if you are called to lead worship ANYwhere. Too loud, too soft, too new, too old, too many musicians, not enough musicians, no drums, lots of drums and rhythm instruments, too long, not long enough… I love/hate that style… the list is endless and after awhile there are those worship leaders who just give up. They quit trying. Often there is a bitterness that sets in, a root of which can truly bring an unhealthy separation from the body of Christ if we let it. One over-reaching solution (or possible solution) is working hard at honest and open communication from the very start. Perhaps others aren't great at it, but many musicians aren't either! Dealing with a fellowship's expectation BEFORE taking the job is a huge part of the answer in avoiding later collisions. Being flexible and willing to serve as opposed to demanding your own way, your own personal "worship sweet spot" in terms of songs and approaches YOU feel most comfortable with, this is also part of the solution to potential battles. Again, no one size fits all.
So today my brain took me back to something I heard many years ago on this topic and I'll simply say it like this: if you are a worship leader, consider yourself a missionary to the particular tribe you're being called to serve. Most every issue regarding wonderful and fruitful as well as horrid and crash-and-burn missionary work in church history also fits the life and ministry of a worship leader in any given congregation. They are to be listened to and respected, not exploited and pushed into your own musical or even spiritual worship culture. Read that sentence again please. The ripples of this will bless or curse you as well as the congregation. I must also mention that excellent talent and brilliant song selection do not overshadow lousy attitudes and lack of godly character in a worship leader's life! It's a two-way street. If God calls you to speak Chinese you likely aren't called to Brazil… unless God is leading you to Chinese immigrants among the Brazilians of course. What I mean is that?? too many worship leaders want the gig. You really only want to be where GOD calls you and among those where you and they are a "fit". Hand-in-glove. This rarely happens immediately so of course time is a factor in a maturing worship leader and maturing congregation's life. There are also times and seasons, both for us as individuals as well as for a particular congregation. Things change and people often do as well, so there is a sense of flux that we simply cannot wish away. We must be faithful to God and to the best of our ability, to hear and in love, follow Jesus in our calling. Lastly, colonization is nearly always considered a mistake regarding missions. Basically demanding the locals accept and assimilate your chosen culture and subculture is simply not part of living the Good News among a tribe you were not born and raised by. I am not saying leadership is easy anywhere, and I am indeed saying that asking a lot of questions, listening hard and also communicating who you are from day one and all along the path is likely the best and of course best way to establish integrity-based worship leading in any place and among any people. God help us serve Him and our brothers and sisters, with and without music! Thanks for stopping by 🙂