After more than 20 years in the music “business,” and having half of those years spent in Christian vocational ministry, I have been able to talk to numerous worship leaders/pastors/directors and there seems to be a consistency in areas where we all struggle. Now this is no where near an all-inclusive list, but it is some of the most common areas that many worship pastors in churches struggle.
When compiling this list and writing this post, I have thought of three particular audiences:
1. To the worship “pastor/leader”–do not be discouraged by this list! Let it serve as a means of growth. In a moment of transparency, I too have struggled in all of these areas at times in my ministry.
2. To the church staff & lead pastors–do not use this list as a means to discipline your associate, rather use it as a tool to disciple your colleague–to encourage them–to build them up in the faith.
3. To the Church–let this be a reminder to be in prayer for your worship ministry. Let it be a reflective instrument where open dialogue can occur, and encouragement can be gained. Also, know that your worship “leader/pastor” is not against you in any way–you are all on the same team–Team Jesus!
1. The Balance(ing) Act
One of the hardest things for any vocational minister is balance (especially balance between “job” and family). In one sense there is an overwhelming pressure to “succeed” at the craft, the skills, the planning, and the leading of worship because you think that it is so important–worship of the Lord is the primary purpose of man. However, I encourage you to be graciously and lovingly reminded that God himself ordained the family before he ordained the church and His chosen people. Be sure you are giving the things of utmost priority the most attention and have no apologies about putting your family before your work. (I would even go further to say that all Christians can be reminded of this truth in light of our ever-changing culture that says, “work, work, work and earn as much as you can.”)
I have not met a worship pastor that has not had these thoughts: “Am I good enough?” “What about the mistakes of my past?” “I don’t think I should be doing this because I am no better than anyone in my congregation.” “Will I lead correctly?” “I am not as good as_______________________.”
My friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, do not let the enemy have a foothold into your thoughts! If you are truly called by God to a place of ministry then He will go before you and provide a means for you to lead successfully (look no further than the story of Moses). Be reminded today of 1 John 1:4–GOD IS GREATER!
3. The “Dis”-couragement
Roughly half of the worship leaders you may know have been so discouraged on a Monday this past year that they truly wanted to pack it all up and quit. It is difficult to receive some of the “anonymous” critiques of church members: the post it note on their car window, the hand written note left under their office door, the unsigned letter mailed to the church, the blasts on social media, and the list goes on. Worship minister–your identity is not in the church, or your job, or the comments of others [1 Peter 2:9]. As for you, Mr. or Ms. Annonymous–STOP IT! [Romans 15:7; 1 Corinthians 12:27]
4. Expectation vs. Reality
With the rise of social media, digital media, and streaming services of music, news, and video– worship leaders are feeling a new pressure that has never been experienced by any other generation of pastors in the Church. . .the pressure to be like others. Who doesn’t love hearing songs led by Chris Tomlin, Meredith Andrews, Kari Jobe, Matt Redman, Elevation Worship, Bethel Worship and Vertical Worship? But, know this worship pastor–YOU DO YOU! God has given you a calling, a vision, a gift, and you DO NOT have to duplicate anyone else when you lead…God has designed you for the purpose and places he has established for you. DO NOT COMPARE–IT’S NOT FAIR–LEAD THROUGH PRAYER.
5. Knowing Your Audience
When we are leading others in the worship of our Savior, our Redeemer, The Lord Most High, Jesus Christ it is of paramount importance that we as worship leaders put our tastes, wants, desires, and preference to the side. We must bathe everything we plan, rehearse and lead in prayer. Too many times I have heard other worship leaders speaking at a conference instructing others to “allow the Spirit to lead” in your worship services…”give the Spirit freedom to move”…”don’t worry about when it is going to happen, just allow the Spirit to control your worship services.” (I will keep this brief–if the Holy Spirit is full of knowledge, counsel, wisdom, and understanding [Isaiah 11:1-2] then The Holy Spirit can guide you in planning a worship service and rehearsing a worship…so, let the Spirit Lead–not just in a service. And if the Spirit is leading, then you will always, always, always know your audience. As Rory Noland so directly points out in his book, The Heart of The Artist, we can only serve an audience of One, and that One is Jesus. Nothing else matters. This is harsh reality–because as humans we too often seek the approval of men [John 12:43]–yet, in our best of times and worst of times we should be seeking only the approval of the Father [Galatians 1:10].He is who we need to strive to please!