Worship 101: Excellence vs. Discipleship
Maybe my experience is limited, but I don’t see a lot of worship leaders participating in discipleship.
I do see them participating in a never-ending pursuit of excellence, though.
Whoa whoa whoa whoa! That’s a pretty inflammatory statement, Seth.
Yeah, it is. But is it false?
It is highly probable that there are worship ministries taking part in discipleship out there. To say otherwise is like saying “no one in Kentucky likes apples.” I have no way of really ever knowing that.
All I can say is that over 18 years in ministry, having been a worship leader myself for parts of it, and on staff for most of it, it always seems to me that discipleship is for everyone except the worship leader.
Think about it. Youth pastors meet with students to disciple them. Exec pastors meet with staff to disciple them. Pastors meet with couples and individuals to disciple them.
Worship pastors meet with their band once a week to practice music and another time to play the music. Maybe all of that happens on the same day.
Am I wrong? Who is the worship pastor meeting with during the week to train up? Can the worship pastor take a Sunday off because there’s someone to replace them with that you don’t have to hire from outside?
We are Called to Make Disciples, not Experiences
In our world of excellence in worship, that often translates as “play your part well and don’t distract during worship.” This certainly is a big part of worship leading on a Sunday morning, but friends, this is not the end of discipleship.
In our efforts to create a perfect experience, I believe worship leaders sometimes miss the true call of the Christian is to first make disciples. Does that include teaching someone how to run an excellent service? Absolutely! But first and foremost, it is showing someone how to follow Jesus like you do.
Some of the Most Gifted are not Talented at First
I have an older mentor in my life who did youth ministry in the Woodlands area several years ago. He told me once about a Disciple Now event that he and a few other churches ran together and how they hired out a young worship leader to lead the Saturday night worship time.
Survey says? He sucked. They thought this kid would never be good at this, but they gave him a chance anyway. It wasn’t the best music, but the worship was sweet and honest.
That kid was Chris Tomlin.
Michaelangelo (the artist, not the turtle) once said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside of it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”
“Every block of stone has a statue inside of it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”
There should be some people in the worship ministry that the worship pastor is trying to sculpt into great worship leaders. Can you name that person?
If we can accept a slightly less excellent experience in worship, we might be able to train up an excellent worship leader. But often, there are barriers to this.
The Skill Requirement is Too High
Just like the height requirements on some rides at Six Flags, a theme park here in DFW, some worship teams have a “must rock this hard to play” line that goes to 11 (that means “too high” if you don’t get the reference).
How are you going to train someone to do what you do, worship leader, if they already know how to do what you do? Just because the skill might not be there yet doesn’t meant that the heart isn’t.
If there’s potential, bring them into the fold somehow. Maybe let them cut their teeth in another ministry to get better? Maybe take time to give lessons? Wouldn’t it be worth your time to disciple your next worship leader by teaching them a few things?
Nobody taught me how to lead worship. I just did what I thought I’d seen other people do. But my brother taught me how to play guitar. I’ve taken 4 guitar lessons in my whole life that I paid for.
But the first time I got to play guitar in front of someone was the night I was leaving a youth group to become a youth pastor for the first time. I knew I needed to learn so that I could lead worship. I knew 6 chords when I started leading worship for a youth ministry.
Skill isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I bet David sucked on the harp for a while too before Saul decided he’d let him play in the palace courts. I believe David wrote some famous songs though. Sorry, Psalms, not songs. My bad.
When excellence trumps discipleship in your worship ministry, it’s often due to ego. We have to have this awesome band that plays so well and sounds so well and are all 20-somethings in order to compete….
Compete? With whom? The church down the street? The internet? Hollywood?
Ugh. Not what worship is about at all.
The Discipleship Process is Valuable
Whether you are the mentor or the mentee, the process of discipleship is valuable. It’s obvious why the process is valuable to the disciple, but as the worship leader who is pouring your life into another, how are you benefitting?
It teaches you patience. It teaches you humility. It teaches you what Jesus was like with his followers.
Ultimately, until you take someone under your wing to disciple them and teach them to do what you do, you’re missing part of your own understanding of what it means to be like Christ.
I’m so over the worship show. I could care less how perfect the music is or if the lights work right or if the lead guy uses a keyboard or guitar. I just don’t care about that stuff anymore.
When I see a worship leader mentoring others at every level of the worship ministry of the church, I’ll follow that guy/girl into the throne room of God any Sunday. Play “Awesome God” or “Lord I Lift Your Name on High” for all I care.
Leading worship should be about leading, even behind-the-scenes of your worship ministry.
Wow, and I thought I didn’t have much to say on this…