Today I want to salute the average worship leader.
Why? If YouTube videos and conference worship bands are any indicator, we’re unintentionally (I trust) cultivating an understanding of musical worship and its leaders that draws more from rock concerts and Entertainment Tonight than biblical principles.
We can start thinking that the “best” corporate worship context is characterized by bright stage lights, a dimly lit congregation, Intellibeams, fog, high end musical gear, multiple screens, moving graphics, and loud volumes. We can start to think the ideal leader is good-looking, sings tenor, plays a cool instrument (usually guitar), sports hip hair, and writes songs. And by the way, the band members and vocalists should be near studio quality, if not actual studio musicians, and look pretty good themselves.
To be clear, I thank God for godly, good-looking, musically gifted, well known leaders who are simply seeking to be faithful and bring glory to Jesus. I know a number of them. And God is all for skill and excellence when we bring our musical offerings to him (Ps. 33:3; 1 Chron. 15:22). Technology isn’t evil (although it inherently affects the message we’re communicating).
Overemphasizing or consistently focusing on technology, skill, and excellence can leave most us with a nagging feeling that our musicians, our leaders, our equipment, and our songs are never quite good enough. We resign ourselves to the thought that we’ll never be as successful, used, or important as the people we see on YouTube and at conferences. Or we breathlessly pursue the trappings and externals of “modern worship,” attaching biblical authority to very cultural practices.
That’s why today I want to salute the average worship leader.
Are You an Average Leader?
By average I don’t mean mediocre or lazy. Just normal. Because that’s what most of those leading in churches today are. Normal. Maybe you can relate to some of these “average worship leader” characteristics:
- Your musical training, if any, was years ago.
- No one wants you to sing lead on an album, but you get the melody pretty much in tune.
- Your vocal range is a little over an octave, but almost always lower than the recorded key.
- You prepare and rehearse in the midst of a full time job and responsibilities at home.
- You and some of the other musicians could do better with your dieting.
- Sometimes it’s hard to figure out the chords or strum pattern on a song.
- Your sound system has been pieced together over the years and still works. Most of the time.
- Your choices for lighting are ON or OFF.
- Twice a year you lead surrounded by a set for “Phantom of the Opera” or some other school play.
- You have good folks on your team who don’t have a ton of time to practice or rehearse during the week.
- The ages of your team members range from 14 to 56.
- Some people in the church love what you do, some aren’t crazy about what you do, and some aren’t sure what you do.
- You don’t even try to keep up with the gazillion worship albums released every month.
Here’s why I want to honor you. God sees your labors. And he says they’re not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58). “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do” (Heb. 6:10).
God seems to favor doing his work through the weak and the few (1 Cor. 1:26-28; Judg. 7:2-8; Dt. 20:1-8; Mt. 15:32-28). That’s why I think average worship leaders play a significant part in God’s purposes to exalt his Son throughout the world.
While there’s never anything “average” about leading people to exalt the glories of Christ through music and the Word, we can always grow. So to encourage you and spur you on, here are a few thoughts:
- It can’t be said too frequently that while God can use technology, skill, and excellence, he doesn’t require them
- What every leader has to offer people is the gospel, God’s Word, and the Holy Spirit, working through redeemed sinners, i.e., us.
- The same God who seems so present in a crowd of 10,000, is just as present in your church of 113.
- The Holy Spirit doesn’t need a dark room or dramatic lighting to reveal Christ to people. He’s been using natural light quite effectively for thousands of years.
- We’re responsible for the resources we have, not the ones we don’t have (2 Cor. 8:12).
- Being average doesn’t mean we can’t get better through practice, evaluation, and hard work.
- Being average doesn’t give us freedom to uncharitably judge or fail to learn from those who have greater gifts and opportunities than we do.
- Average musicians can be as self-sufficient as gifted ones, which should motivate us to pray consistently.
- The goal of our labors is not success or popularity, but faithfulness.
So if you fall into the category of the average worship leader, I want to thank you for your labors and encourage you to keep growing. God is using you in more ways than you can imagine to build his church and bring glory to his Son.
And because Jesus is the perfect worship leader who paid for all our sins and failings through his substitutionary death on the cross, we can look forward to the day when every faithful leader, average or not, will stand before the Father and hear him say, “Well done.”
Thank you for writing this. Encouraging and timely.
Bob, as an average worship leader I greatly appreciate your encouragement and exhortation!
Thanks Bob, this speaks in a gracious and inspiring way to the situation of the vast majority of worship leaders I know
David, that’s my hope. While many worship leaders need to be more diligent, I think a lot of them battle condemnation and comparison that Jesus wants to set them free from. Thanks for your encouraging words.
Thanks Bob. I love the comment about dieting! Too funny! I think the whole description must have been based on me and my church.
On a more serious note, it is so easy to loose heart, and so it is great to be encouraged. I remember reading the first chapter of your book, ‘Worship God’ and tears filling my eyes as I could relate to the feeling of helplessness. But I am thankful that through these times God has gently (yet firmly) reminded me that it is NOT about me … and I am so thankful it’s not!
I’m thankful that God uses me (at times), but often it’s in spite of me! But in those times when I’m stressing about what to do, how to do it, and so on… in those times when it feels like it gets too much, I am thankful for faithful friends and pastors who help me get priorities straight. The ‘tool’ I need to prioritise is the gospel, and ensure my heart is reminded of it and affected by it! I am simply one sinner, exhorting other sinners to worship our precious Saviour, who has saved us by grace.
Thanks for your encouragement!
Thanks, Bob!! As someone who leads worship and admires those like your self who do it so well, this was indeed an encouragement. Thanks for the humility that always evident in your life and words.
Ricky, if you saw me lead every week, your opinion of how well I do would probably change…but thanks for your encouraging words!
Thanks Bob for tossing this out there. Its encouraging to hear an influencer like yourself proclaiming servanthood and exaltation of Christ. I find it easy to be distracted by the other things (image: lighting, sound, etc..) Your words have encouraged me and will encourage my team to continue to pursue excellence in our calling: to communicate the characters of Christ with clarity.
It’s a great encouragement to hear that we should be faithful (and excellent) with what we have, and not long for the things we don’t have. I also think part of the issue is the expectations the general congregation has which also comes from the videos they watch and the concerts they go to. And when those expectations are heaped upon worship leaders/music directors, we wrongly try to fulfill those expectations. Perhaps this is a good topic to pursue in that book you said you were going to write as a follow up to Worship Matters about what the congregation should be doing during worship. I’ve been waiting for that book….. :)
Eugene, glad this was encouraging. And as a matter of fact I’ve started working on that book again, and it’s going well. Thanks for mentioning it!
My eyes are filled with tears as I write this. It was this statement….
“Here’s why I want to honor you. God sees your labors. And he says they’re not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58). “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do” (Heb. 6:10).”
Thanks for the deep, deep encouragement.
Thanks Bob, Just what I needed….God Is Good!!!!
Thank you so much, Bob for the encouragement. I salute you for reminding us that, indeed our (the average worship leaders) labor in the Lord is not in vain.
Amen and amen. Being married to a Church planter, we never have the luxury of most of the technology you mentioned. We just started using backgrounds in our Power point for the worship lyrics! I guess in a way, I’m glad we have remained so simple through the years. None of that has been a distraction for me as a worship leader. But I know all too easy how thriving for musical excellence, however valid that is, can be a distraction if not balanced by the higher priorities of making Christ known and exalted to His people through our own worship. It’s a real balancing act and some band members want to go to either extreme and sometimes push back against the validity of working hard. I am so thankful for the music coming out the SGM that keeps our aim in our corporate worship Gospel and Christ centered. That is my aim as well and our congregation is seeing the difference in our music. My favorite saying regarding worship is “The heart cannot rejoice in what the head cannot comprehend”. If we put more effort into finding doctrinally rich songs as well as musical excellence, we would serve our churches so much better. There are many musically excellent worship bands out there but their music is shallow, man centered and lack doctrine unfortunately. And we are making clones of this wrong pattern year after year. I think it did the Church a disservice when worship became “popular” and everyone jumped on the bandwagon and too many felt compelled to put out their worship albums. . And church after church are feeling the emptiness of spiritually deficient worship teams. We hear it alot where we live in Southern California. Many are disillusioned with Church today. Especially the more mature, older believer who is searching for a church with substance and tired of the rock and roll church culture. A good verse:”They that judge themselves among themselves are not wise”. Ok, I’m done now~
What Donn said……! Thank you – you spoke right into our situation, God truly gave you these words to say. God bless you, from way over here in Caithness, Scottish Highlands x
Bob, thanks for the encouraging words. I “resigned” my position as an average worship leader a few months ago. “Worship is just not any good”. Really, what does that mean? I served my church full time for over 23 years. We didn’t have the resources to be the hippest church in town. My band guys all were employed otherwise during the week. I didn’t have studio quality vocalists. I was the only team member with music degrees but I fall into the average category. Unfortunately, I fell victim to the “we need to be like someone else” syndrome that many churches deal with.
Anyway, thanks again. I always need to remind myself of Who I serve and that He is in control. Our work is not in vain.
Johnny, so sorry you were let go but grateful my words encouraged you. God must have other places for you to bear fruit!
Thanks Bob. I’ve been really growing in theological and intentional worship leading lately, inspired in part by this blog and others. Just last week, after thoughtfully and carefully preparing a beautiful look at Jesus in the OT through scripture and ending with a new arrangement of O Come O Come Emmanuel….we ended up with the wrong verses on the powerpoint and I think I might have sung the same verse twice in a row by accident – I was so confused I’m still not sure. It was a terrible mess – but that and this serve as reminders that perfection is never, ever our aim. God is bigger than music or lyrics. Thank you.
Bob, from the most average of today’s average worship leaders… thank you for these encouraging words. God bless you!
Thanks Bob, all but the “surrounded by the Phantom set” apply to our music team.
I think I’ll encourage my band members to subscribe to this blog themselves. I can’t keep emailing them every singly blog post :)
Thanks for writing this! It was so helpful and encouraging. I’m really looking forward to your next book!
Thanks for your encouraging words, Andrew. I’d appreciate any and all prayers for the book!
Thank you, Bob. I am 73 and have been a worship leader for over 30 years. A former folk singer … I was barely adequate with the guitar and “gifted” with a very average voice. Yet God blessed me more than I can say. Due to health problems, I am no longer able to play and lead but God is still using me. A year ago God partnered me with a young woman from our church worship band who felt called to be a missionary in Scotland. (I was 71 and she was 21)
God provided, we went into the studio and she recorded a 12 song CD of songs that I wrote over the years. We have given away over 900 CD’s on a donation basis with 100% going to her ministry to the tune of 9,000.00. She just completed her 1st year in Scotland ministering to college students. Also, I give them out at the cancer center where I receive IV Treatments and many patients and medical people have received them. God plus average equals awesome!
Bob, I was greatly encouraged by your story of faithfulness and hope others are as well!
Bob… though I’m now in full-time ministry, I spent 7 years worship full-time+ in “secular” job either volunteering or working part-part-time at churches… this is a timely read. Bless you, friend!
I appreciate many of the places I have been and seen. Some of my most memorable worship has been in languages I don’t even understand because I was blessed to see what God was doing around the world.
So there I sat in a church in India no bigger than my small office with about 30 people inside and several others outside the door on mats. Next to me was a boy with a couple of bongos with cracked animal skins for heads, the only instrument. In my hands was a thin, worn hymnal with letters I could begin to recognize. A lady stands up and starts singing in a musical form with tonalities that I’m not familiar with – little chance of harmonizing with it. Yet the people sang praises to God with hearts of great joy, with me occasionally catching a “hallelujah” or “Jesus” in there.
As a boy, visiting my Pa-Paw as he preached in small one-room churches in the mountains of Kentucky, I remember a church lady come forward and ask to play a song she had written. The elders of the church allowed her, knowing her heart for such things. She sat down with her autoharp and a piece of paper with words scratched on it and began to play. Her voice was laced with age and a thick mountain accent. Simon Cowell would have had many unkind things to say, I’m sure. But I had the sense, even as a boy, that this was a very beautiful thing. I’m sure that lady is today singing beautifully at the throne.
So many more stories could be written. But while we strive to offer God our best, even with the greatest church orchestras and soloists, God is most honored by the acknowledgement that all of it pales in comparison to what God deserves – which we never fully achieve until we come to him broken knowing that only he makes our worship worthy.
Thanks for writing this post! It was a blessing!
Thanks, Bob. I have always known I am an “average” worship leader, and I have always appreciated that fact. I never wanted to be that leader that can slide by on performance. Over the 22 years I have been a worship pastor, I have learned to remove the word “talented” out of my vocabulary and to replace it with words like “equipped” and “gifted”, words that point to my purpose for being a worship pastor to begin with, which is to serve God and lead others into His presence. We “average” worship guys and gals are satisfied to be enough to accomplish the task. It’s not about me.
This is one of the most down to earth, realistic articles I have ever read when it comes to worship leading. Thanks again. This article hit the spot!
I was reading this and drinking in every word. Yep, I’m pretty awesome. lol And the average worship leader characteristics fit my church to a tee.
Yes, people might see the big ministries, but more and more the church is relying on regular joes to lead it.
I’d also salute the average pastors and leaders who are available for their people and really care. Nursury workers, cleaners, greeters and other regular joes get double honor as well.
Josh, thanks for pointing out the other “average” servants in the church who are worthy of honor. It’s especially helpful to be reminded that churches wouldn’t be able to function without all the individuals who serve behind the scenes each Sunday and throughout the week. 1 Cor. 12:21-26 tells us that although we have different gifts, we’re to receive equal care and have equal value.
I appreciate this blog. Especially just after a full day of being the ‘average worship leader’/team. :) Thanks!
This is so helpful in a culture that is all about image and soundbites and lights and fame. So good to be reminded of the fact that even if we aren’t super duper rock stars we can still play our part in our local churches :)
In Colorado Springs, a city full of above average worship leaders, it’s easy to forget all the advantages I have in my ministry. Thanks for reminding me its okay to be average as long as I’m faithful.
I love this. I answer the roll call as an “average worship leader,” and I appreciate your encouragement for sure.
Not to pick on one thing you said, but I was wondering if you have any resources to support what you said about technology: that it “inherently affects the message we’re communicating.” I think I agree, but I want to know if there is a good argument for this proposition.
If there isn’t an outside source for this…can you give me the three minute version of your argument for it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Thank you, brother. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” (Pr25:11)
I don’t think I’ve been called “normal” before. Yay! I think.
Thanks for sharing this bob. I can relate to the “average worship leader” characteristics and thank you also for the reminders.
Praise God…Sometimes as worship leaders we forget to be “worshipping leaders”, we get so swept up in the mechanics of worship, we forget about our object of worship. I know that from experience. Thanks for the encouragement…Blessings
Thank you Bob for a very encouraging post! I can identify with virtually all your “average” leader characteristics, so I really appreciate your words! Thanks Bob for ministring to me. God bless you richly. Have a blessed Christmas!
Robert (from Buenos Aires, Argentina)
A friend forwarded this to me today and, in an undisciplined moment at work, I decided to read it. It is a lovely article.
I want to add something I have come to recognize over time. For context, I am a part time worship leader in a congregation of about 100. But I have also led worship in many settings of up to 2000 people with all kinds of high tech gear. In my experience, there is one very important thing that is lacking in worship that even the best looking, best playing, best equipped musicians/leaders may not be able to accommodate and act on. Its called spontaneity. The most powerful moments I have ever experienced in worship have happened when the leadership did something spontaneous. I’m not talking about repeating the chorus one more time on the fly. I mean things of greater weight, and risk, and consequence. Of course, it can backfire. But if more of us (worship leaders) spent more time cultivating God-consciousness and less time on other things, and then acted on the nudges of the Spirit while worship was happening, the people gathered could be led to places with God that even the best musicians, best equipment and biggest crowds could not take us.
Great point, Stephen. I agree and have done a few posts on spontaneity on this blog. God is always working in and among his people to display his heart and the glories of Christ.
Thanks Bob for this encouraging and timely word. I loved the part, among all the others, about God using natural lighting for a long time. Thanks again.
Chilled out… thanks for the encouragement.
A very necessary word, Bob. Thanks for investing the time and thought to write this. I’m always trying to strike that balance of being excellent, while not distracting from Christ. Not always easy.
Thanks Bob. God bless you for the wonderful encouragement. It was just what I needed.
Bob, thank you so much for writing this article. I currently find myself unemployed for some of the same reasons you have described in this article. I have appreciated your writing and wisdom for years! Thanks for covering important topics such as this!
David, thanks for your encouragement and thanks for being faithful.
Loved this. I found it very encouraging and truthful. Part of our journey in life is recognizing and learning from someone else’s gifts, as that eventually turns into appreciating and being thankful for our own. St. Catherine of Siena said that “when we become who God created us to be, we will set the world on fire”. Here’s to all of us on the path of discovering our authentic selves, and the gifts God has given us to serve Him with.
I stumbled onto this site from your review of “Love Divine”. Clicked the home button on the page and came to this post. Truly could not have been a more timely thing for me to hear. You could have posted a pic of our little worship team (ages 14 to 66). Thank you so much for the reminder and encouragement!
Thanks for your heart of encouragement. This is exactly what I need tonight as I work on Sunday’s musical worship and feel my inadequacy. He is enough! I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!
I’m grateful that this post has been an encouragement. Exactly how I hoped God would use it!
Great encouragement Bob – I’ve printed this off and plan to share it with some fellow worship leaders to encourage them in their ministry. I can relate to a lot of what you say…. and an essential reminder about keeping central what should be kept central (namely the person of Jesus Christ and His excellencies). Thank you!
Awesome. Thanks, bro.
thank you so very much, after reading the post and the comments, it is pretty obvious that the Lord has put this burden in your heart to share it with the thousands of us out there that can relate to your words, it doesnt´matter where we are from, your thoughts are pretty much universal.
By the way, you might want to double check this one reference (after: “God seems to favor doing his work through the weak and the few”): Mt 15: 32 -28. ¿Maybe 32 – 38?
Blessings from Spain, hermano.
Tan, thanks for the encouragement and the edit!
Just one more very encouraged “average” worship leader here. Thank you very much.
Thank you for your encouragement regarding the’average’ worship leader! Especially those who work full time and still find the time to voluntary honour God in a church worship band! It is so seldom that they are appreciated by the Pastor of the church and the church leaders!
God bless you.
Bob — Thank you so much for taking the time to express so clearly and effectively your heart (and God’s!) about the average worship leader. So timely, so encouraging and everyone’s comments have been incredibly comforting as well. I’m a part-time music director on staff for four years at our church of about 1,000. I’m a 47 year old wife and mother of three children, and the dictionary definition of an “average worship leader”. I’ve been seeking God about a word and some direction for 2013. This article, along with David Santistevan’s article entitled “Have We Idolized Excellence” (he mentions you in the article), I know God is speaking so powerfully. Someone on our team suggested we listen to the song, “Clear The Stage” by Jimmy Needham. What a perfect and timely song for all of us involved in music ministry. Thank you again! I think your words quite possibly helped me to avoid some unnecessary pain, crisis and conflict in our ministry.
My name is Ricardo, and I am an average worship leader. Thank you for writing this article. I must admit, I am not a huge fan of the intellibeams and fog machines which we have at our church. The worship I lead is on a smaller scale, for the Spanish ministry, and I have found myself often coveting the better gear, the never ending supply of musicians, etc. And then my drummer may “call in” and I’ll have to scale down and do an acoustic set with different songs on the fly, and I think to myself, “I don’t need all that stuff, and thankfully, God doesn’t either.” Btw, reading your book, Worship Matters– it’s a great book.
One day I dream of leading worship somewhere that has a lighting option on–off! You leaders that have both on and off, do not take this for granted!
I just got back from a worship event that left me feeling both motivated to do better with my worship team yet also totally inadequate. I sensed the Lord telling me to read your blog even though I haven’t been here for about a year. My eye caught this article and it was exactly what I needed to hear. I am sitting here weeping because I am hearing the voice of the Lord through your words. The statement, “there’s never anything ‘average’ about leading people to exalt the glories of Christ through music and the Word” is straight from the heart of God. Thank you, Bob, for also listening to the voice of the Lord and being faithful to write what He puts on your heart.
Thank you so much for this post. All through reading it I was constantly chuckling (the diet thing) and blessed by your words of encouragement for us averages.
Through God’s leading and some articles and books I’ve found, one being your “Worship Matters” book, I am learning more and more about my personal and ministerial responsibilities in our local church. While we’re not the biggest, the best, the brightest church in the state or even our community, I believe we are blessed as a congregation who gathers together to praise our great God!
Thank you for your words, your ministry, and personally thank you for writing books and articles that at times seem to be talking just to me.
I’ve just finished reading your book Worship Matters. It has been a deeply encouraging book for me. I am the worship leader at a small new church plant, and am having our worship team read through your book. I am the average worship leader in your post (: Your writing has given me a better understanding of what leading worship means. Thank you for your work and ministry.
That being said, I would challenge my fellow brothers and sisters in Messiah leading worship to think beyond the title “Worship Leader.”
We are more than that – we proclaim the Gospel in song. We are worship “Preachers.”
Imagine if psalmist Kind David had taken the same approach that many in the church take today . . .
Matt Redman said it best: “I’m sorry for the thing I’ve made it, when its all about YOU . . .”
I wrote a post not long ago that deals with this from a different perspective that you may be interested in:
Interesting article, albeit perhaps a little patronising?
I agree with some things, not others.
Average, defined correctly doesn’t mean normal. No worship, when genuine, should ever be defined as ‘normal’. It’s accepting the invite to God’s throne room! What’s normal (average) about that? If by average, this refers purely to equipment, then this is perhaps more about budget and intention and audience than scales of average.
CONTENTIOUS THOUGHT HERE > In the western world you can’t charge a ticket price or sell albums when all you offer is ‘normal’. When worship music becomes a commodity, you need to sell it. It has to be different to have stand out. So, you add lights, set, video, branding, themes etc.
I agree that these things are not part of the typical musical worship at churches across the UK.
Because there are perhaps two very different things being created in the modern church. Instead of them being variants of the same thing, I feel that they are so different now that they are almost separate.
One is an event.
The other is a gathering.
(I realise my terms need defining a bit better.)
I worry about this trend, but it is happening.
I’m sure the plan for the next WC tour is not just to turn up and play. No set. No lights. No screen. No dress code.
Just, average? Because it isn’t ever going to be like a church service. It’s different.
Baggeeboy, thanks for commenting. I think you just restated what I wrote in my post. By “average” I’m referring to what most of us who lead congregational song are: not uber-talented or gifted, not possessing the latest cutting edge equipment and technology, with people who are often unresponsive. I agree that the rock culture has had an unhelpful influence on the church. A concert and a church gathering are two completely different activities with two different sets of people that have two different goals.
I agree. It’s the subconscious rating system of good, bad or average worship that is the problem. Worship with an old upright and croaky singers is placed in low regard compared to the flawless performance of a well rehearsed band with waxed hair and fashion glasses. We judge with our senses too much. The worship ‘gig’ and church gatherings are separate categories, never to be compared.
Thanks for your article and response.
Thank you so much!! I have been struggling the last few months. We have been blessed with some really amazing technology. But it can be a curse at the same time. We are ever pushing and pushing to be and do more. I have to constantly remind myself and my team that we are here to be in the presence of God. We are not performing for God. Your words were a great encouragement, reminder and inspiration to remain at the feet of Jesus!
I am an average worship leader :) Thanks Bro. Will keep this in minc :)
Bob, very encouraging article. I am 62 years old and started leading worship 5 years ago out of necessity. It has been a struggle at times but also very refining, Overcoming the fear of man has been a huge challenge and a sin that has been difficult to overcome. As you remind us at the end of the article, the goal of our labors is faithfulness, not success or popularity.
I do agree with the intended message of the article; I wonder however if the issue is less about skill levels and technical resources and more about the heart motivations of the musicians and churches who measure “success” by comparing themselves to other (usually bigger and better-known) churches.
I think we should all be the best we can be as musicians. If one is capable only of being average and that is one’s best, then he/she has served God and the church well. If I am capable of becoming better than “average” then I should be exploring my full potential with the desire of glorifying God with my gift. Likewise with equipment: get the best you can afford and be content with that. (We have all experienced great worship that was spoiled by gremlins in the system – often issues that could be easily sorted by taking a bit of tech advice; with so much great gear available nowadays there is little excuse for being sloppy in this area – but neither is it sensible to assume that great gear is what makes great worship.. it’s still only as good as what you put through it!)
However… God does not look at the outward appearance but at the heart. More worrying for me is the trend for musicians to emulate successful worship brands instead of being who they are uniquely. The result is that everyone sounds and looks the same (average?) but are often walking in Saul’s armour; by the same token, so many unique voices are never heard – the authentic expression that is indigenous to the worshipper(s) but is sadly missing from the heavenly offering when it is exchanged for copycat or sausage-machine worship. Language, style, instrumentation, incorporation of dance/movement, – these are wildly different across world cultures but the variety is not always refected in church due to the misguided belief that English worship in 4/4 on guitar/bass/drums is the “best” worship.
I join you in saluting the average worship leader. But let’s not be average. Let’s be unique. Let’s be authentic. Let’s be ourselves before God, the church and the world. Let’s offer God what only we oursleves can offer – a sound that Hillsong and Bethel wouldn’t be able to reproduce! And let’s do it with a full, satisfied heart, regardless of where we’re at with skill and resources.
I’m an average worship leader and this article is encouraging and true. I have one tiny disagreement…I fall outside the age range you mention..as I am nearly 60…but nowhere ready to retire. The song says ” I will praise Your name forever” (not only until there is a convenient time to hang my boots up” and take it easy) after all – eternity is only just beginning… Thanks for this article.
x, totally agree! I just turned 61.
It’s as though you’ve been to my church and seen me leading worship! Thank you for this. I trained as a music teacher more than 20 years ago now and have been leading worship for about the same length of time, but not using my first instrument. No, God had other ideas, and although I could claim excellence in some areas, on the keyboard, I am definitely a hard-working average. I thank God for it as, week on week, I know that I am leading in his strength and not my own. This is not to say that we can’t all practice, learn and improve, but in most churches what you describe here is the reality. I get frustrated by great songs that are so hard to translate to an ordinary setting and long fervently for more writers to remember that the song that works so well in an auditorium with a massive band and a raft of backing singers can sometimes be hard to use effectively when your band consists of an average keyboard player and a motley collection of others, usually no drums, and absolutely no spàre hours in the week for extensive practice. I love excellent music and talented performers, but the line between worship and performance can be a fuzzy grey one sometimes.
When you mentioned “Twice a year you lead surrounded by a set for “Phantom of the Opera” or some other school play,” I just started laughing so hard. Surrounded my VBS decorations in the summer. ahaha Thank you! Also very true on alot of those points.
I believe worship teams should include all ages. Young and old.