9 things worship leaders need to stop doing

We ask a lot from our worship leaders today. They’re not just song leaders anymore. Instead, they’re supposed to craft and lead worship “experiences” that people walk away from saying, “Wow! I really met with God this morning.” So basically, they have to create worship so amazing that God actually shows up, because apparently God doesn’t attend the really boring services down the street.

So, worship leaders have a tough job. And, having served as the worship leader in a number of venues over the years, I understand what that job is like. So, I don’t want to pick on worship leaders any more than absolutely necessary.

But, I really enjoyed Philip Nation’s recent article on 9 Thoughts for Worship Leaders. He does a nice job highlighting a number of mistakes that we can make when we forget that we are “leading” others in worship – i.e. we’re not just doing what we like or what sounds good. And consequently, we have to keep in mind the people that we are leading.

Check out the article to see all of his comments, but here were a couple that really resonated with me.

2. We don’t sing La-La-La.

For some reason, songwriters will substitute words with Ooh’s, Aah’s, and La’s of different progressions and combinations. Though it may sound really cool on the radio, most of us just feel stupid standing around singing La-La-La-La. And, anyway, it doesn’t feel like worship when I’m just cooing like a baby at God.

4. Stop singing in the key of “Tomlin.”

Let me say it plainly: if the worship leader is singing toward the top of his/her vocal range, then you have left everyone behind about seven bars ago. If you can sing like Jason Crabb or Chris Tomlin, that’s great. For you.

9. Love Jesus more than music.

All leaders face the temptation to love their work for God more than God Himself. It is our own temptation toward idolatry. To speakers, I would say that they should love Jesus more than their words about Him. For worship leaders, love God more than the music about Him. No matter what else happens on the platform, it will be obvious where your passion rests.

Although I think there are a number of other things that could be added (e.g. we need to stop referring to ourselves as the “worship” leader if we’re only responsible for music), he does a nice job of highlighting some issues worth considering.

9. Love Jesus more than music.

About Marc Cortez

Theology Prof and Dean at Western Seminary, husband, father, & blogger, who loves theology, church history, ministry, pop culture, books, and life in general.

Posted on February 15, 2011, in Worship and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. oh but everyone has to have a fancy name because being a servant of christ isnt glitzy enough. so the delusional like being called the ‘worship leader’, actually pretending that they lead worship when we all know that it’s the holy spirit who leads real worship.

    • I actually don’t lay this one on the “worship leaders” themselves. Most of the ones that I’ve known have been humble servants seeking to use their gifts for the well being of the church (with exceptions, of course). I think the problem lies with a horribly underdeveloped theology of worship in the church as a whole – i.e. worship is singing. So, if anything, the problem is with the pastors who fail to cast an adequate vision of what worship really is (not you, of course, since you are a paragon of godly wisdom) and the schools who apparently failed to equip them for that task.

  2. Can I add one more? Turning up the volume to the degree that you get distortion does not cover up poor musicianship. Apparently we must sacrifice our hearing and suffer permanent hearing loss to truly worship.

    • Ouch. I haven’t run into this particular problem too much, but I do find that many musicians keep the volume turned up high enough that you can hardly hear the people singing. I think you lose a lot of the “corporate” aspect of worship when you can only hear the people up front. And, research suggests that when the music is too loud, people move out of “participant” mode and into “observer” mode.

    • I completely agree with this one – louder isn’t better either.

  3. I will throw this out too: Please dress in a way that is not distracting. I was an an event last semester and the “worship leader” was wearing skinny jeans, which were much tighter than they needed to be. In addition, he was wearing a scarf. It was September. I live in Texas, so September is still in the 90s. Ridiculous.

  4. While I haven’t been directly thinking of what worship leaders shouldn’t do, I have been thinking whether or not churches actually need “worship leaders,” or at least having a staff position for worship leaders. I suspect this is related to your statement above, Dr. Cortez, that our idea of worship is primarily understood as singing. I am still unconvinced that the gathering of the church is for worship, but that worship is a result of the church gathering. A great deal more could be said here, but I will leave it at that for now.

  5. I recently read a book of Tozer and he was a guy who had a lot of scathing remarks for the emotional drival that passes for worship in so many services. I’m not sure I’d go as far as he did, but I think his greatest point I’d agree with is that genuine worship induces an emotional response – not the other way around. Sublime is not worship, though worship may be sublime.

  1. Pingback: February 2011 Biblical Studies Carnival | A Fistful of Farthings

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