Occasionally a worship leader gets the uneasy feeling that something is wrong, even when everything seems right. There are no dead spots in the services, the musicians are staying in tune, and no one in the congregation has complained for a whole month! But the pastor has communicated that worship is in a rut.
What's the problem? It may be that the worship leader is coasting in his calling. The pursuit of growth is a vital part of the worship leader's call, and a primary way he can serve his pastor.
Our first responsibility is to be growing in our knowledge of God. It's easy to assume that our present understanding of God is adequate for leading others in worship. But God is infinitely glorious and His praise will never be exhausted, even in eternity. Therefore, we must study God passionately to worship Him rightly. We must become faithful theologians.
Maybe you didn't realize that worship leaders were called be theologians. Actually, we don't have a choice. Every worship leader is a theologian. We simply choose whether we'll be a good one or a bad one. Obviously, a commitment to study the Scriptures is the most important element of a right theology. But we can also read the words of others who have spent their lives pursuing a deeper knowledge of God. I have benefited immensely from books like The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer, Knowing God by J.I. Packer, and Desiring God by John Piper. Others that speak of the faith in a more systematic way include Concise Theology by J.I. Packer and Essentials of the Faith by R.C. Sproul. These books and more should be on every worship leader's bookshelf. More importantly, they should be part of our regular reading diet.
Another area we can grow in is our understanding and application of the gospel. A Puritan phrase that I've come to appreciate increasingly is "Labor to be affected by the cross." As a worship leader, I need to do whatever I can to make sure that Jesus dying for my sins is more than just a theological concept, or some distant historical event. Apart from the Bible itself, some of the books I highly recommend on this subject are The Cross-Centered Life, by C.J. Mahaney, and The Gospel for Real Life, by Jerry Bridges. Either of these books are guaranteed to deepen and strengthen your love for our Savior and His sacrifice.
Other areas of growth to pursue include musicianship and music theory. Certainly God manifesting His presence in our midst is never ultimately dependent on our level of musical skill. However, musical knowledge and proficiency equips us with more tools to serve God's people effectively.
Finally, the most meaningful expression of support to your pastor, and perhaps the most difficult, is communicating a willingness to step back or step down if he feels someone else could do a more effective job leading corporate worship. As worship leaders we should be quick to encourage others who might do a better job than us. We might not end up giving God glory from the stage, but we'll definitely be giving Him glory in our hearts.
Next time we'll look at some of the ways a pastor can effectively serve his worship leader.
Bob taught on this subject at the 2000 "A Passion for the Glory of God" worship conference. You can read the outline at Sovereign Grace Ministries. Bob is featured in a set of songwriter interviews. You can watch him here.
Read Part One of this series here.
Read Part Two of the series here.