At least two extremes exists when describing the role of the worship leader. Today, we ask for rockstar-monks to lead us in worship. I have heard an influential leader say repeatedly at conferences, “Your role is more important than mine as the preacher.” Really? This made me feel important at the moment, but reality says something else. As a worship leader we prepare people to hear the word, lead them in prayers, but how is that more important than leading and forming a congregation spiritually through preaching? As a worship leader, my role is surely significant as I serve the whole congregation and have a part in the spiritual formation, but not a superior part. I am simply just a part. And, to put that on me or any worship leader is to raise this role to monk status.
Did you know that the role “worship leader” is not even biblical? You will not find it next to pastor, preacher, evangelist in the Bible. It is more biblical to be called “musician” than “worship leader” and so I must protest all the hoopla. We seem to want a rockstar-monk person to be our worship leader–an extremely humble, super-spiritual people magnet. In reality, the calling might often be prophet, musician, and servant. The rockstar-monk is born.
I must draw attention to the fact that being a musician is a high calling. The discipline, skill, and leadership all contribute to the congregation in significant ways. Yes, theology is expressed. Yes, people are prepared to meet Jesus. However, to place the onus on the worship leader to “bring people into God’s presence” is to over-amplify reality. Congregants should be held responsible to grow mature enough to own their listening and meeting with God together. The worship leader’s music simply assists in this process. We set the table, but surely are not the meal. Christ is the meal.