When I was a senior at North Greenville, Dr. Voddie Baucham, Jr. was preaching at our weeklong Staley Lectures. Our campus minister, Dr. Crouse, gave me the gracious opportunity to lead worship for all of the morning and evening chapels that week.
Hearing Dr. Baucham before, I was really humbled to be a part of this event and excited to spend some time with him. In preparation for the week, I decided to check out his website. On his FAQ’s page, I found something that scared me to death.
Q. Why do you place so much emphasis on who leads worship at the events in which you participate?
A. I have a very high view of the role of the worship leader. I view leading worship as a sort of pastoral responsibility to which one must be called, and for which one must be equipped. Unfortunately, we live in a time when every kid who knows five chords and ten songs thinks God has called him or her to be a worship leader. Hence, there is a flood of young, inexperienced, untrained, and often biblically illiterate worship leaders who have done nothing more than learn the top songs off of a few worship CD’s. This is a travesty!
These guys go on to steal songs from men and women whom God has anointed and gifted to write songs, and use them to make CD’s of their own. All of this is done in the name of having “product” to sell on the road, or to promote ones self as a worship leader. Imagine John Mayer going into the studio and saying, “forget the hard work of producing an original album, lets just take the top ten songs from last year and put them all on my new CD this year.” That would be unthinkable! Nevertheless, that is what is happening every day with so-called worship leaders in this current generation; and they think that paying someone a few cents per copy makes it ok. I would rather not be a party to that.
I also do not think it is a good idea to work with people with whom I do not share a ministry philosophy, or theology of worship. I do not think that a worship leader and a preacher should just be thrown into the mix together because they are both “good at what they do,” and they both “love God.” That’s like putting a wishbone quarterback on a run-n-shoot team and expecting him to do well because he has great athletic ability!
A good voice and a love for God is not the sum total of a worship leader’s qualifications. Nor is it the ability to “move a crowd.” There is the question of the depth of one’s theology and how that depth is communicated in the songs one chooses to use, and how one chooses to use them. There is the ability to choose songs that are appropriate for the given audience and occasion. There is the ability to sense where God is leading and moving during a service, or a series of services (I.e. choosing response songs that suit the manner in which God is calling people to respond to what they’ve heard).
These are just a few things that must be taken into consideration. Unfortunately, they rarely enter into the decision of whom one will invite to lead worship. Often, the only questions asked are, “does he do the songs our people like?” and “does he sing well?” That is the type of shallow, carnal approach to ministry I try to avoid.
Needless to say, this answer from a very large and very smart man deeply frightened me and my acoustic guitar. I shared with with our Worship Academy last week and reminded that the charge of worship leaders are not to churn out Christian hits to give everyone a warm and fuzzy. We are called to be “pastors with guitars.”
This week, in Worship Academy, we are going to talk about the art of Biblical Songwriting. If you want more info on this training, go here and RSVP. I would love to learn from you how God is developing you to a true worship leader.