Much debate exists as to who should be choosing songs for worship in a church service. I notice that pastors will often tell each other that they must choose all the songs in the morning service, and in fairness this is born out of a long history of the praise and worship leader stubbornly doing his own thing and not being teachable or correctable. By the same token, I have seen many a senior pastor get up at the end of worship and kill the Spirit of worship (shock, horror: yes, pastors are not always right!).
The first point to make is that WORSHIP IS NOT A SUPPORT ACT FOR THE MAIN EVENT, the teaching. Some people and indeed some pastors view it as just that. It is a “preliminary”, padding out the service while the late comers, who don’t like the style of music, arrive just in time to hear the Word of the Lord preached. Others think it helps us to “get the wriggles” out of us, ready for the preaching.
At the other end of things, many worship teams make worship into a marathon designed to exhaust you on your feet until you collapse in the seat ready to listen.
I believe that both of these views demean a gift God has given us to draw near to Him. Let me explain what I believe worship should do in a service:
1. Open our hearts,
Turning our eyes away from the cares of the day and towards the Lord.
2. Fellowship with Him, intimately, and lose ourselves in worship to the Lord.
3. Prepare our hearts for the message to be preached. Worship and music can spearhead the gospel, and make our hearts more responsive to the Lord. It should settle our hearts and make us ready to reach out to God.
4. Provide corporate unity as we worship. Joining together with others in worship is a special experience which binds our hearts together in joy and fellowship.
Having been the worship leader for a major Evangelist, I know the power music has to unite, and also to divide. I also know that, as Bill gets up to preach, I can make it easy and flowing, or extremely difficult for him to bring the message, based on how I have behaved in the worship time.
As a praise and worship leader, you provide the same service for your Pastor. You are not the support act, and you are not the fill in. Yours is the awesome responsibility of preparing the hearts of the people to receive the Word of God, and you can make life easy or very hard for your Pastor.
So, if the morning goes well in worship, feel a sense of accomplishment. If it goes badly, be the first to apologize to the Pastor and accept responsibility. Then, do your level best to get it right the next time.
The success of a worship time can depend to a great degree on choosing songs for worship that facilitate worship, so the next area we will examine is how to choose the appropriate songs.
The big question is who should be choosing songs for worship? In my completely unbiased musician’s opinion, they should do it together, where the worship leader should choose the songs, but the pastor should have final say as to what is in and what is out. This is important because, ultimately, the responsibility for the service rests with him. However, the worship leader is the guy who should know how the songs will flow together, and he should be constantly making sure that the service is heading where the pastor wants it to go.
A Matter of Trust
The ideal situation is a trust that develops between the senior pastor and the worship leader. The worship leaders must, repeat MUST, be 100% subject to the pastor, because as we serve one another we serve the Lord (Mk 10:45). He has to ask the pastor what he wants, where he wants the service to go, what he is preaching on and, if the pastor senses a change in what God is doing, he is absolutely free to stand up and take over.
Pastors, your praise and worship leaders are like other leaders in the church. You cannot do everything, all the time (remember Moses). You need to train them to minister according to what the Lord wants in your church; otherwise you will have trouble on your hands. I have seen quite a few churches blown apart by unhappy music teams rebelling against an overbearing pastor. NONE OF THIS GLORIFIES GOD!
The ultimate situation is similar to the one that exist between Bill Newman and myself. After many years of ministering together, I kind of know what he is thinking, and he knows what I am thinking. Thus, with a minimum amount of consultation together, I tend to select exactly the songs that fit with his message for the day. Leaders, it is awesome when you reach this situation consistently, for you will see that the Lord really anoints such unity!