I am approaching the end of a season in life. By the grace of God, I have spent the past two years in a developmental role, maturing in theology, character and skill as a worship resident at The Austin Stone Community Church.
Being one of the youngest members of our team, I have spent most of my time during the residency listening to and learning from older, wiser mentors who have modeled to me what a healthy worship leader should look like.
As a young worship leader who will be stepping into a role serving a church plant post-residency, and as a man striving to embody these traits himself, I want to share three of the most important characteristics of a healthy worship leader that I believe pastors should be looking for.
1. Character over competency
Church planters, I urge you to select your worship leader primarily on the basis of character. I believe the noblest aspiration a worship leader can have is not to have the best voice or become the best guitarist, but to become an elder.
The Bible is clear about the qualifications God values, and it shows He desires character in His shepherds above skill. In fact, between 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, Scripture lists only one skill elders must have, the ability to teach.
If God places that high of a value on the character of leaders in the church, then I believe worship leaders should, too. It is of the utmost importance for the health of our congregations.
2. Excellence over perfectionism
Although the character of a worship leader is imperative, your worship leader should also be excellent at his craft. Biblical excellence is giving your best for the glory of God by working from grace.
However, if one is not careful, it is easy to mistake excellence with perfectionism.
Perfectionism is giving your best for the glory of yourself by working to earn God’s favor. Perfectionism breeds an environment of fear and pressure. It causes us to be afraid to fail at things because we link our worth and identity to our performance. But that is the opposite of the gospel, friends!
Because Christ has saved us through His perfect work, we don’t have to be perfect. He already was perfect, so we don’t have to be!
A worship leader who has his identity grounded in what Christ has done will strive for excellence in worship with confidence because he knows that Jesus delights in him as a son. That worship pastor will want to honor Christ with the gifts God has given him!
We strive to be the best we can be at our craft because the Lord (and His bride) deserve our best at whatever we do (Colossians 3:23).
3. Servanthood over stardom
As a creative, I understand the temptation that the stage brings—to try and grab glory for yourself instead of directing it to Jesus. One of the best ways that a healthy worship leader will fight that temptation is by serving the church.
He will look to the example of the Savior, who “did nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility counted others more significant than himself” (Philippians 2:3).
He will be the one wanting to lead the setup and teardown teams. He will be the one initiating conversations about Sunday liturgy with you. He will be the one that is doing the jobs that no one else wants to do. Why? Because that is what Jesus did. He came to serve, and so the worship pastor should want to, too!
Serving the church in whatever way needed not only brings glory to the King, but it also will bring the worship leader (and church planter) the most joy.
Set the bar high, pastors
I believe we can all agree that the bride of Christ deserves the best shepherds we can be. Look for the worship leader who becomes more excited about eldership than becoming the best musician. Seek the worship leader who values excellence because of his identity, not for his identity. Search for the humble servant who lays down his life for Jesus’s bride, not the one who exploits her. I believe that type of worship leader is the worship leader that our churches deserve.
Published May 22, 2017