A Salute to the Average Worship Leader

Worship-Leader_FotorToday I want to salute the average worship leader.

Why? If YouTube videos and conference worship bands are any indicator, we’re unintentionally (I trust) cultivating an understanding of musical worship and its leaders that draws more from rock concerts and Entertainment Tonight than biblical principles.

We can start thinking that the “best” corporate worship context is characterized by bright stage lights, a dimly lit congregation, Intellibeams, fog, high end musical gear, multiple screens, moving graphics, and loud volumes. We can start to think the ideal leader is good-looking, sings tenor, plays a cool instrument (usually guitar), sports hip hair, and writes songs. And by the way, the band members and vocalists should be near studio quality, if not actual studio musicians, and look pretty good themselves.

To be clear, I thank God for godly, good-looking, musically gifted, well known leaders who are simply seeking to be faithful and bring glory to Jesus. I know a number of them. And God is all for skill and excellence when we bring our musical offerings to him (Ps. 33:3; 1 Chron. 15:22). Technology isn’t evil (although it inherently affects the message we’re communicating).

A Concern
Overemphasizing or consistently focusing on technology, skill, and excellence can leave most us with a nagging feeling that our musicians, our leaders, our equipment, and our songs are never quite good enough. We resign ourselves to the thought that we’ll never be as successful, used, or important as the people we see on YouTube and at conferences. Or we breathlessly pursue the trappings and externals of “modern worship,” attaching biblical authority to very cultural practices.

That’s why today I want to salute the average worship leader.

Are You an Average Leader?
By average I don’t mean mediocre or lazy. Just normal. Because that’s what most of those leading in churches today are. Normal. Maybe you can relate to some of these “average worship leader” characteristics:

  • Your musical training, if any, was years ago.
  • No one wants you to sing lead on an album, but you get the melody pretty much in tune.
  • Your vocal range is a little over an octave, but almost always lower than the recorded key.
  • You prepare and rehearse in the midst of a full time job and responsibilities at home.
  • You and some of the other musicians could do better with your dieting.
  • Sometimes it’s hard to figure out the chords or strum pattern on a song.
  • Your sound system has been pieced together over the years and still works. Most of the time.
  • Your choices for lighting are ON or OFF.
  • Twice a year you lead surrounded by a set for “Phantom of the Opera” or some other school play.
  • You have good folks on your team who don’t have a ton of time to practice or rehearse during the week.
  • The ages of your team members range from 14 to 56.
  • Some people in the church love what you do, some aren’t crazy about what you do, and some aren’t sure what you do.
  • You don’t even try to keep up with the gazillion worship albums released every month.

Here’s why I want to honor you. God sees your labors. And he says they’re not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58). “For  God is not unjust so as to overlook  your work and the love that you have shown for his name in  serving the saints, as you still do” (Heb. 6:10).

God seems to favor doing his work through the weak and the few (1 Cor. 1:26-28; Judg. 7:2-8; Dt. 20:1-8; Mt. 15:32-28). That’s why I think average worship leaders play a significant part in God’s purposes to exalt his Son throughout the world.

Don’t Forget
While there’s never anything “average” about leading people to exalt the glories of Christ through music and the Word, we can always grow. So to encourage you and spur you on, here are a few thoughts:

  • It can’t be said too frequently that while God can use technology, skill, and excellence, he doesn’t require them
  • What every leader has to offer people is the gospel, God’s Word, and the Holy Spirit, working through redeemed sinners, i.e., us.
  • The same God who seems so present in a crowd of 10,000, is just as present in your church of 113.
  • The Holy Spirit doesn’t need a dark room or dramatic lighting to reveal Christ to people. He’s been using natural light quite effectively for thousands of years.
  • We’re responsible for the resources we have, not the ones we don’t have (2 Cor. 8:12).
  • Being average doesn’t mean we can’t get better through practice, evaluation, and hard work.
  • Being average doesn’t give us freedom to uncharitably judge or fail to learn from those who have greater gifts and opportunities than we do. 
  • Average musicians can be as self-sufficient as gifted ones, which should motivate us to pray consistently. 
  • The goal of our labors is not success or popularity, but faithfulness.

So if you fall into the category of the average worship leader, I want to thank you for your labors and encourage you to keep growing. God is using you in more ways than you can imagine to build his church and bring glory to his Son.

And because Jesus is the perfect worship leader who paid for all our sins and failings through his substitutionary death on the cross, we can look forward to the day when every faithful leader, average or not, will stand before the Father and hear him say, “Well done.”

 

80 Responses to A Salute to the Average Worship Leader

  1. Ricardo January 5, 2013 at 10:09 PM #

    My name is Ricardo, and I am an average worship leader. Thank you for writing this article. I must admit, I am not a huge fan of the intellibeams and fog machines which we have at our church. The worship I lead is on a smaller scale, for the Spanish ministry, and I have found myself often coveting the better gear, the never ending supply of musicians, etc. And then my drummer may “call in” and I’ll have to scale down and do an acoustic set with different songs on the fly, and I think to myself, “I don’t need all that stuff, and thankfully, God doesn’t either.” Btw, reading your book, Worship Matters– it’s a great book.

  2. Austin January 8, 2013 at 10:29 AM #

    One day I dream of leading worship somewhere that has a lighting option on–off! You leaders that have both on and off, do not take this for granted!

  3. Celeste January 15, 2013 at 6:15 AM #

    I just got back from a worship event that left me feeling both motivated to do better with my worship team yet also totally inadequate. I sensed the Lord telling me to read your blog even though I haven’t been here for about a year. My eye caught this article and it was exactly what I needed to hear. I am sitting here weeping because I am hearing the voice of the Lord through your words. The statement, “there’s never anything ‘average’ about leading people to exalt the glories of Christ through music and the Word” is straight from the heart of God. Thank you, Bob, for also listening to the voice of the Lord and being faithful to write what He puts on your heart.

  4. Michael Tollett February 13, 2013 at 11:25 AM #

    Bro. Bob,

    Thank you so much for this post. All through reading it I was constantly chuckling (the diet thing) and blessed by your words of encouragement for us averages.

    Through God’s leading and some articles and books I’ve found, one being your “Worship Matters” book, I am learning more and more about my personal and ministerial responsibilities in our local church. While we’re not the biggest, the best, the brightest church in the state or even our community, I believe we are blessed as a congregation who gathers together to praise our great God!

    Thank you for your words, your ministry, and personally thank you for writing books and articles that at times seem to be talking just to me.

    michael

  5. Jason Soto March 9, 2013 at 1:41 AM #

    I’ve just finished reading your book Worship Matters. It has been a deeply encouraging book for me. I am the worship leader at a small new church plant, and am having our worship team read through your book. I am the average worship leader in your post (: Your writing has given me a better understanding of what leading worship means. Thank you for your work and ministry.

  6. Even If Ministries April 30, 2013 at 10:23 AM #

    Good article.

    That being said, I would challenge my fellow brothers and sisters in Messiah leading worship to think beyond the title “Worship Leader.”

    We are more than that – we proclaim the Gospel in song. We are worship “Preachers.”

    Imagine if psalmist Kind David had taken the same approach that many in the church take today . . .

    Matt Redman said it best: “I’m sorry for the thing I’ve made it, when its all about YOU . . .”

    I wrote a post not long ago that deals with this from a different perspective that you may be interested in:

    http://evenifministries.wordpress.com/2013/03/28/do-lyrics-to-songs-matter/

  7. baggeeboy July 11, 2013 at 5:10 AM #

    Interesting article, albeit perhaps a little patronising?

    I agree with some things, not others.

    Average, defined correctly doesn’t mean normal. No worship, when genuine, should ever be defined as ‘normal’. It’s accepting the invite to God’s throne room! What’s normal (average) about that? If by average, this refers purely to equipment, then this is perhaps more about budget and intention and audience than scales of average.

    CONTENTIOUS THOUGHT HERE > In the western world you can’t charge a ticket price or sell albums when all you offer is ‘normal’. When worship music becomes a commodity, you need to sell it. It has to be different to have stand out. So, you add lights, set, video, branding, themes etc.

    I agree that these things are not part of the typical musical worship at churches across the UK.
    Because there are perhaps two very different things being created in the modern church. Instead of them being variants of the same thing, I feel that they are so different now that they are almost separate.

    One is an event.
    The other is a gathering.
    (I realise my terms need defining a bit better.)
    I worry about this trend, but it is happening.

    I’m sure the plan for the next WC tour is not just to turn up and play. No set. No lights. No screen. No dress code.
    Just, average? Because it isn’t ever going to be like a church service. It’s different.

    Thoughts?

    • Bob Kauflin July 11, 2013 at 8:11 AM #

      Baggeeboy, thanks for commenting. I think you just restated what I wrote in my post. By “average” I’m referring to what most of us who lead congregational song are: not uber-talented or gifted, not possessing the latest cutting edge equipment and technology, with people who are often unresponsive. I agree that the rock culture has had an unhelpful influence on the church. A concert and a church gathering are two completely different activities with two different sets of people that have two different goals.

  8. baggeeboy July 11, 2013 at 9:05 AM #

    Thanks Bob.

    I agree. It’s the subconscious rating system of good, bad or average worship that is the problem. Worship with an old upright and croaky singers is placed in low regard compared to the flawless performance of a well rehearsed band with waxed hair and fashion glasses. We judge with our senses too much. The worship ‘gig’ and church gatherings are separate categories, never to be compared.

    Thanks for your article and response.

  9. Bethany July 11, 2013 at 9:27 AM #

    Bob,

    Thank you so much!! I have been struggling the last few months. We have been blessed with some really amazing technology. But it can be a curse at the same time. We are ever pushing and pushing to be and do more. I have to constantly remind myself and my team that we are here to be in the presence of God. We are not performing for God. Your words were a great encouragement, reminder and inspiration to remain at the feet of Jesus!

  10. Mattson July 11, 2013 at 2:08 PM #

    Bob,

    I am an average worship leader :) Thanks Bro. Will keep this in minc :)

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