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Saturday, May 31, 2008
The Worship Leader's Job Description. Part 2

In the former post, I began a conversation about what we most need in those persons who design and lead our weekly worship gatherings and experiences. If you didn't see that, I encourage you to go back and read the short entry. If you'd like, you can read the entire John Witvliet article I referenced in the former post here.

So What do I think communities of faith most need in the person who shapes and leads their weekly worship gatherings and experiences?

1. Biblical Memory & Theological Imagination. Worship leaders and designers more and more serve as the primary theologians of the church. On a weekly basis in a typical church they stand in front of the people and offer more leadership than any other person. Are they leading us into a spiritual experience of "God" through music and media or are they using music and every other means available to narrate us more deeply into the story of Scripture? Are they growing in the capacity to help us remember?
2. A Priestly Mind and a Pastoral Heart. More than taking us on a spiritual journey, worship leaders have the task of orienting us inside of the presence of God. Are we the loyal subjects "down here" worshipping a distant Sovereign who is "up there?" Or are we being ushered by the Spirit into the family room of God as the Sons and Daughters whose hearts cry Abba? While these are not mutually exclusive realities, the latter does not necessarily follow upon the former. Are they growing in the capacity to help us abide?
3. Prophetic Vision and Intention. Are our worship experiences an escape from Earth into a nirvana like experience of Heaven? Or does worship clothe us in Christ, leading us through the wardrobe into Narnia where the thirst for mercy and the hunger for justice breaks our hearts and opens our eyes to a bleeding God walking the streets of a bleeding World. Think about your last worship experience. You had an audience with Father-Son-Holy Spirit. Did anyone mention the Sichuan province in China? How about the devastation crushing families in Myanmar? What about the grave dictatorial injustices being perpetrated in Zimbabwe or what about the systematic executions of little boys and the rape of little girls in Darfur? Did anyone bring up the aging community elders who are dying of loneliness in local nursing facilities? Are our would be worship leaders growing in the capacity to help us intercede and intervene?

Any thoughts, additions, edits or improvements on these?


posted by John David Walt | at 5/31/2008 07:31:00 AM



Blogger iheartpadrons said...

i think the third point puts a lot into perspective...another way i took it was that our times of worship are to be journeys into the reality of the Trinity in the here and now, as opposed to an escapest view of entering the presence of God. Worship leaders must call people into the reality that God is here, now, working in the midst of our world and His people, and not an experience of taping into an other-world, far-off God. I've been in a lot of places where there is so much more focus on getting to heaven and thed likes that there is no focus on God's kingdom coming in the here and now. His hope is ours today, and good worship leaders lead people into the hope that is tangibly ours through the grace and mercy of Christ. Not that heaven or the hope we have in the promise that all will be made well again is not part of the story, but it cannot be the only part of the story, especially the way the story is explored in corporate worship.

8:37 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Wright said...

Hey! Just found your blog through a friend and really dig it.

I'm a worship leader in a Methodist church in Texas. I'm pretty new to the site, but so far, I'm really enjoying what you have to say.

8:51 AM EDT  
Blogger David Guion said...

Hey JohnDeere,

Great couple of "Job Description" posts.

I do think that it's crucial for Worship Leaders to also see themselves as Worship Pastors.

Exchanging the term "Leader" for "Pastor" can certainly emphasize our role as a shepherd.

Obviously, everyone who leads music is not necessarily an Ephesians 4 "Pastor." Still, in a corporate sense, there is a "pastoral" aspect to leading worship.

Again, great topic.

David Guion


11:08 AM EDT  
Anonymous guy m williams said...

"Worship leaders and designers more and more serve as the primary theologians of the church."

True. It is helpful to keep in mind that the pastor is a (if not the) worship leader. This isn't to sieze the title from a lead musician, but to recognize the responsibility for faithful stewardship concerning what you point out above. Part of my job as the pastor may be spiritual formation of my worship music leader, since his prayers, his leadership in music, and his transitional words, etc will shape a large part of the service.

Good stuff to think on.

11:49 AM EDT  
Blogger Marcus G said...

JD - a friend of mine posted this a while back: http://ornamentalsheep.blogspot.com/2008/03/worship-leading.html

It's aimed at a more liturgical church setting than many readers here will be familiar with, but I think many of the bishop's points (and Richard's reflections on those points) are still worth considering.

9:14 AM EDT  
Blogger Marcus G said...

Alternatively, you could go here:


But it's quite a different take...

9:29 AM EDT  
Anonymous john page said...

From the earlier post, he mentioned "spiritual engineers." I very much disagree with that terminology. It implies that if we get just the right mix of songs and media and message and theme then God "will show up."

Maybe I'm a little simplistic but isnt' God Immanuel? God with us? Never leave us or forsake us? Are we not in God's presence all the time and everywhere?
To think that we have to "engineer" the circumstances so as to "usher us into the presence of God" sounds not too different than "well, I need to spill the blood of this spotless sheep each week so I can enter the holy of holies."

This post stirred up something, JD, so I'm grateful you posted it!

I have major problems with "worship" being only considered what happens at the "worship service/gathering."
I just posted something about the efficacy of preaching today over at godthoughts, so this topic is fresh.

6:03 PM EDT  
Blogger iheartpadrons said...

i agree on one level with john page; "spiritual engineering", as far as the formulaic creation of an event to conjure up the presence of God, is a poor term to use. but, i would agree on the term on another level.

any time a person preaches, sings, serves, sacrifices, gives, or obeys in any way, they become a reference point to the presence of the God they serve, like a monument. They, in some way, engineer a place in which God is marked as alive and well in their world. One of the functions of worship is proclaiming the greatness of God; it declares and celebrates the Truth of who He is and what He's done, and it also calls others to see, hear, and experience the truth. i think it was john piper who said "Missions exist because worship does not."

So while I fully agree that "God with us" never needs to be lured out of His God-cave by our pretty songs and words, I do believe that worship (in that huge broad sense john highlighted) marks His here-ness in our world, and every time we do so, it is engineered by our actions.

and so, in that sense, spiritual engineer is not so off the mark.
to me. hahaha.

9:10 AM EDT  
Blogger JAy. said...

I think that one aspect of a good worship leader that has been missed here is the need for psychological awareness. This also plays in to the "spiritual engineer" phrase. (Stick with me a minute - I hope to make it clear.)

When people enter a worship service, the world is still heavy on their minds. Regardless of what we would like to believe about our congregations, a vast majority of the people who attend services will have done little to no preparation to experience worship.

It is up to the worship leader, be it the lead musician, the preacher who delivers the sermon (if not the same person), or the combined efforts of both, to ensure that the service starts and proceeds in such a way as to allow people to forget the troubles and issues they face every day and simply experience God for a while, i. e. worship.

Thinking this way, the worship leader is not that different than a psychologist performing hypnosis. The intent is to help the worshipper shut down the random thoughts that stream through their mind normally so they can simply concentrate on one thing - God.

8:44 AM EDT  
Blogger JohnDeere said...

JAY You raise a good insight here. I would probably include this sensitivity in the category of Priestly Intent. A priestly worship leader has a sense of the people and their anxieties and distractions and has the task of GATHERING them into community to worship Trinity. Isn't this how we should conceive of the Gathering--- that transitional threshhold between world and worship where we establish presence with one another and with God?

You make me nervous with your analogy to hypnosis though. ;-)

1:56 PM EDT  
Blogger JAy. said...

Ahh, JD. You have stumbled upon one of the two great risks of having a mind that holds vast amounts of random information. First, it is sometime hard to find what you are looking for. Two, as you point out, sometimes it is scary what actually does come out.

I intended the "hypnosis" comment to refer to the more clinical methods of hypnosis, not the game-show/night-club use, or the "Borg" sci-fi presentations.

A good hypnotist helps the subject relax. Once relaxed, the subject is able to block out noise, both audible noise and mental noise, to concentrate on one thing.

However, if you could get an entire congregation to start clucking like chickens, you might win America's Funniest Videos!

2:38 PM EDT  

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