What inspired you to write Worship Essentials?
Over the course of the last two years, I’ve spent a ton of time talking to pastors about worship. This is largely due to the presence Dr. Rainer has given me on his podcast “Rainer on Leadership” regarding all things about worship. In these conversations, I have found common threads to what many pastors face in leading worship ministries in their churches. This book is written from a pastor’s point of view and for pastors and church leaders with the hope that it will call out those values in healthy worship ministries that transcend music styles.
How would you define, in a sentence or two, the role of a worship leader in a congregation?
It is a “shepherding” role. Instead of performing music to be received by attenders, worship leaders prompt the response of God’s people. Congregations shouldn’t go to worship to watch something; they go to do something. Instead of worship being a time we go to get, it becomes a place we go to give.
What are some common mistakes you see in the culture of worship at local churches?
Here are a few: leading who we “wished was there” instead of who is there, emphasizing the platform over the pew, allowing technology to frustrate the worship instead of serve it, not placing enough emphasis on theology and testimony, moving on to new songs too quickly.
One of the struggles many churches face is the relationship between senior pastor and worship leader. How can those two leaders get and stay on the same page?
A great deal of energy needs to be spent building the trust relationship between these two leaders. Worship ministry is shared by these two leaders. When they have a shared focus, shared preparation, shared execution and shared evaluation, the church will greatly benefit. It takes trust, and trust takes time and intentionality. It should be a goal of every pastor and worship leader to build this trust.
Why is worship—particularly singing—so important to the life of a church?
Music is one of the most powerful discipleship tools we have. Think about it; we teach our children the alphabet with a melody. Why? Because of the powerful link between music and memory. Our friends and family don’t quote sermons on their deathbeds—they sing songs.
Music matters because it carries emotion, something that should be present in worship. Imagine your favorite movie scene without the music score. Falls flat, doesn’t it? Music reflects creativity, one of the attributes that God gave to His creation.
We learn theology as we sing, express emotion in our worship, and shape our prayers. And, when we sing to and for each other, we inspire the same outcomes in others. Music is an essential part of every disciple’s growth. That’s why the command to sing is the most common command in all of the Bible. Singing is not just for singers. It’s for believers because it blesses our Savior and equips our spirit.
Congregations that don’t sing are less than He intends them to be.
In the history of the church, there are many trends in style for worship music. What do you seen God teaching the church through this?
At least this: here is no one way it should be done. The superscriptions of the Psalms present something that is interesting to think about. Several ancient manuscripts give us the tune names for some of the Psalms. In God’s sovereignty He preserved the text for us to this very day. Why didn’t He preserve the tunes? He certainly could have.
Perhaps He intended for each generation to find their own melodies. I’d like to think that is at least part of the answer.
There seems to be a tension between using older hymns versus contemporary upbeat music. How would you guide a worship leader in how to use each?
The ability of the leader to articulate why they do what they do is paramount. They have to lead relationally well, earn the trust of the people they lead, and consistently describe the “why?” of the music they choose. Care more about the people than the songs. Start where people are, earn their trust to lead them from there. And, most of all, make engagement one of the most important values to pursue. Styles will and should come and go. Don’t marry a style. Marry the people and use the very best style to lead them well.
How do you hope readers grow as a result of reading this book?
My biggest hope is that this book will get a conversation going for churches leaders where they can agree on what it is they are trying to accomplish in worship ministry. The book is not prescriptive in terms of music approach. It calls out values that should be present no matter what music is used. It is my prayer that naming these values and giving specific examples of what they look like in a church context will help church leaders avoid the unnecessary distractions of “worship wars” and focus on what really matters in this vital part of discipleship.