9 Marks of a Healthy Worship Leader

Alex Duke lists nine must-haves for anyone leading a congregation:

My local church is in search of a worship leader. To that end, our senior pastor cobbled together a group of 12 members for a Worship Leader Search Committee. Despite my musical ineptitude, I was among those asked to serve.

I suppose I’m equal parts grateful and terrified. After all, the title “worship leader” is nowhere in the New Testament. This fact tempts even the most levelheaded toward the subjective and superficial, where already drawn lines and white-knuckled commitments merely evidence what we’ve previously seen, known, or been comfortable with.

That’s me, too, by the way. I like hymns, the old stuff saints long dead have been singing since before my last name existed. And I prefer what some would call melancholic confessionals over what I’d call relentlessly upbeat hallelujah choruses. This is a real difference because we both are on to something: the church’s need and the individual Christian’s right to sing to God with a certain emotional polyvalence.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I wanted to pass along a few thoughts I’ve developed as I’ve prayed through what my church is undertaking in the coming weeks, and what your church may be going through right now. I’ve unoriginally titled them “9 Marks of a Healthy Worship Leader.”

I’m convinced these nine things are must-haves for anyone leading a congregation in song week after week after week. Far from exhaustive, they are a set of traits, postures, and characteristics I believe are informed by Scripture and ought to transcend culture and denomination.

1. Your worship leader should be a biblically qualified elder.

This is important. Even if he won’t be called an elder (Titus 1:5-9; 1 Tim. 3:1-7), the congregation will likely recognize him as such. And it’s important to remember the qualifications for an elder/pastor/shepherd include being “apt to teach.” This is what worship leaders do, and their aptness to teach (or lack thereof) is evident every week via song.

2. Your worship leader should be musically capable.

This is obvious, I know. Perhaps a more specific and helpful exhortation would be that he should select songs within his skill set. You really love that new contemporary riff on that old, stodgy hymn? Yeah, me too, but it’s hard to sing along when I can’t decipher the words or melody as easily as I can the oh-boy-gotta-catch-up look in the drummer’s and rhythm guitarist’s eyes.

Also, it’s unwise to let this qualification steer the ship; in fact, it should be subservient to almost everything else. A godly and mediocre musician will serve our churches far better in the long run than a sublime talent who reads his chord charts more than his Bible.

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