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Thursday, June 15, 2006

A Pastor's Plea to Worship Leaders

WorshipleaderJason Janz is a pastor who has put a lot of thought into his postion on worship... take a read...

I was listening to some music from a popular ministry the other day, and the idea for this article came to me. After the completion of one of the songs, the worship leader began what I affectionately term “praise venting.” “Thank you Jesus! Praise you Jesus! Lord, you are wonderful! Majestic!” Forgive me if I don’t have the quotes down correctly, but you get the idea. “Praise venting” has always bothered me. When I hear it, I find myself thinking, I’m glad he’s enraptured. What’s my problem? Would I ever have the guts to do that publicly? Why does that always sound fake? What am I supposed to do while he’s doing that? While pondering praise venting, I have been reading several books on worship that have stirred my heart on the issue of congregational worship. Thus, I’d like to scratch out my musings (or ventings) in this plea to worship leaders.

While I am a pastor, I would like to speak as just an average church member to worship leaders. I have been in church for 33 years, and I have sat under the leadership of more than 10 worship leaders in my home church. Besides that, I have visited more than 100 different churches of all denominations and worship styles. If I calculated the total number of songs I have sung under the leadership of different men (and women) in evangelicalism, the total would be more than 20,000. Suffice it to say, I have experience. Not in leading worship, but in being led.

My presupposition is that I believe it is your job to lead the congregation in worship of Almighty God. (This responsibility does not diminish the role of the senior pastor. He is a worship leader as well.) Colossians 3:16 tells the congregation to sing “with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” In Acts 16:25, Paul and Silas, bound in chains, were God-directed in their worship as they “sang praises unto God.” You are facilitator for that noble time when the people of God gather corporately to bear witness to their love for God.

Let me also admit my weakness. I am a weak worshiper. I am easily distracted. To stay focused on God during the musical part of the worship service is mental sweat for me. I want to share with you some things that would help me as you attempt to fulfill your responsibility. You can greatly help me and many who sit in churches each Sunday.


His advice (you can read in more detail here):

1.  Prepare the service
2.  Avoid hard songs
3.  Bring us to the text
4.  Make us think on the lyrics
5.  Avoid cheap tricks
6.  Don't draw attention unto yourself
7.  Minimize distractions
8.  Recognize the body
9.  Walk with God

There's a lot of good stuff in there to soak up... again, you can read it here; and then feel free to come back here and leave a comment...

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June 15, 2006 in Worship | Permalink

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It sounds like he has a very definite idea of how he wants things in his church. And he should have them. But he should not present them as the way things SHOULD be.

I agree with his main points, but disagree almost completely with his examples.

Our church does worship in a VERY different way than he prescribes, but it is a natural outflow of what makes our people unique.

Posted by: Juan Montoya | Jun 15, 2006 10:29:41 AM

Sounds like a mantra when people are "praise venting". Reminds me of the monks chanting "om" and seems to me a "learned" behaviour rather than one being unique.

I've heard it said a worship leader is like the person who starts everyone with "Happy Birthday to you.... "

If the person breaks into a "new" version of Happy Birthday, inevitably, he/she is the only one singing.

Be the rock star at home in front of the mirror; lead us IN worshiping the True and Living God.

Posted by: BeHim | Jun 15, 2006 11:03:18 AM

Different strokes for different folks.

Posted by: Rich | Jun 15, 2006 11:05:36 AM

Let me begin by saying that I don't believe the poster here is trying to be a critic. I believe he is trying to help.

Definitely a lot to chew on, but it seems to me that there is no suggested alternative.

The article gives food for thought, but again, no details of what a worship leader should do. Maybe the intent is simply to make worship leaders think.

On a more emotional "note,"(pun intended), I think most worship leaders are trying to express worship while leading others. Leading people into the presence of God can be very difficult especially when those whom we lead are like the author of this article.

I'm sorry that there are those who find it difficult to stay focused. Maybe the congregation should share part of the responsibility. The leader leads and the worshiper worships, together if possible.

Just my thoughts.


Posted by: Ed Mooneyhan | Jun 15, 2006 11:16:27 AM

While I agree with several of his main points, once I read the entire article, I felt like he doesn't get modern worship. I will resign the day we get a music minister with "musical training coupled with a degree in theology"! I agree with another post that it's great for his church, but don't suppose that it's the way it should be for others.

Posted by: Chris | Jun 15, 2006 11:28:55 AM

I agree with #1 completely!!

I think it is very selfish to believe that God will not honor and bless our advance preparations. When we have the occasional guest worship leader, I’m always distressed when some of them say, “I‘ll give you the song list just before I start, I want to be open to the Lord’s leading.” A statement like that limits our thinking about what God can do.

I’m on staff as the Director of Video Production at my church. We generally plan our services about 3 weeks in advance; we create a script and usually follow that script very closely.

As a person in production, pre-planning is a way of life. Why should our most important hour in Sunday be just thrown to the wind and hope and pray that God will give us that special insight as we walk to the microphone to lead in worship. What does that say about us? Do we ask that the Lord ignore the 40+ hours spent in the church office talking on the phone, answering e-mail and surfing the Internet instead of planning for Sunday?

The Lord is very capable of giving us the same insight and blessing we need to lead 3 weeks in advance as well as 11:00 a.m. on Sunday.

Now I’m not putting God in a box and saying that once the script is printed, there will be no changes, of course not! We change, add and subtract from our planned service all the time. He is not a last minute God; we shouldn’t be last minute procrastinators.

Remember, God had Noah prepare in advance of the flood and Jesus told us that he was going to prepare a place for us. If the Lord needs advance preparations for eternity, shouldn’t we do the same for our hour on Sunday?


Posted by: Mark Triplett | Jun 15, 2006 11:29:43 AM

While I don't agree with all of the points in the article, I did like some of him comments regarding focusing on lyrics. There are old hymns and modern choruses alike that have lyrics that don't focus your thoughts on God. I was thinking about this last week when our congregation was singing a song with the line 'Continue to love me, with that same love'. This doesn't strike me as worship. It seems like about 20 years or so ago, much of contemporary worship was scripture put to music. I wish more of that were done today. You can continue to change musical styles with current culture, but the unchanging truth of God's Word would always be present. It's also a great way to memorize scripture.

Posted by: jhpw | Jun 15, 2006 12:05:23 PM

Good points, everyone... remember you don't have to agree!

I like pieces like this that give me a different perspective and make me think.

That's the value I recieve out of reading.


For what it's worth...


Posted by: Todd Rhoades | Jun 15, 2006 12:08:36 PM

I find I agree with some things said, but disagree with others.

I have found that many people like the music to be louder so as NOT to hear themselves. This makes it more likely that they will sing. Besides, what is he doing "talking" to someone beside him during the service anyway!

I do, however, feel that the worship leader is leading people corporately, that they should not be the center attraction or distraction, and that we need theologically trained modern worship leaders. Just because we lead with a rock-style band does not mean we can't have good theology. Preparation is also very important.

Everything that goes on during the Sunday service (music, message, offering, etc) is and should be considered worship.

This has elements of Brian McLaren's open letter to worship leaders: http://www.emergentvillage.com/downloads/resources/mclaren/postscript.pdf

Posted by: eric | Jun 15, 2006 12:11:14 PM

Sorry wrote url in the previous post: http://www.emergentvillage.com/downloads/resources/mclaren/openlettertosongwriters.pdf

Posted by: eric | Jun 15, 2006 12:12:25 PM

The author wrote:

We should never try to minimize distractions to a fault, however. In order to minimize distractions, our churches have made some terrible compromises. D.A. Carson says,

'We have become so performance-oriented that it is hard to see how compromised we are. Consider one small example. In many of our churches, prayers in morning services now function, in large measure, as the time to change the set in the sanctuary. The people of the congregation bow their heads and close their eyes, and when they look up a minute later, why, the singers are in place, or the drama group is ready to perform. It is all so smooth. It is also profane…Has the smoothness of the performance become more important than the fear of the Lord?…Have professional competence and smooth showmanship become more valuable than sober reckoning over what it means to focus on Christ crucified?'"

This either/or format that he's espousing to me is just as limiting as saying that vocalists should always stand to the side. I think, like others have posted, that the author is giving us ideas to ponder, but, in the end, is simply promoting what he prefers.

I have zero problem with a smooth, seamless service where set changes happen during a prayer. Yes, that's a transition point. How does making it happen when people are praying somehow negate the value of what it does? Would prayer and then a 30 second set change be more distracting? Yes, it would!

The purpose of pre-planning is to go in with a way to seamlessly present the message without distractions. Yes, punting is always an option when God makes a strong move to do something different, but going in on first down with a punt play doesn't make sense.

My 3 cents (inflated for gas prices!),

- Anthony D. Coppedge

Posted by: Anthony D. Coppedge | Jun 15, 2006 12:41:06 PM

Wow! I am surprised at the number of detractors commenting here! (Yet grateful for the grace exhibited in all of those comments.) Maybe it's because I find myself experiencing some of the same things as Pastor Janz, and therefore having some of the same pleas.

I didn't find him prescribing a certain worship method; I thought his comments could be applied to any "style" of service...except perhaps the admonition to tone down the instrumentation. I agree with that; it's hard to worship when I can't hear myself sing - and I'm singing at the top of my lungs; it's hard to worship when my ears hurt from the decible level, too. As in all things, balance is needed.

I particularly agree with Ed's comment: "The leader leads and the worshiper worships, together if possible." Maybe a follow-up article should be, "A Pastor's Plea to Worshippers." Here are some adaptations from Jason's comments:

1. Prepare your hearts to worship (something my dad drilled into me that I never learned until 10 years after leaving home).
4. Think on the lyrics - even if they're so familiar you could sing them with your eyes closed. (Huh?!?)
6. Don't draw attention to yourself.
7. Minimize distractions. (Corollary to #6.) For God's sake (literally, not profanely), don't carry on a conversation with your neighbor while everyone else is trying to worship!
8. Recognize that you are part of a body - worship together. (This is hard for me.)
9. Walk with God. (Corollary to #1.)

Posted by: Randy Ehle | Jun 15, 2006 1:59:18 PM

hey, my name is Grace Capparelli and I am currently leading worship at Tally Willgis' church. this was an awesome post of what I have read so far (i am still at work, so I am supposed to be working, but i plan on reading it all more at home)anywho, I wanted to know what books you have read on worship. I would love to pick them up.

grace capparelli

Posted by: grace | Jun 15, 2006 3:49:36 PM

Love it. Numbers 6 & 7 really hit home. I have two pet peeves:

1) The person who has to explain why he or she is singing a particular song for about 6 minutes when the song is about 3 minutes long.

2) The person who shows up at the last minute announcing "God told me to do the special music."

These are challenges in smaller churches. A strong worship leader goes keeps 7 and 8 to a minimum.

Planning does not squash the spirit of worship. Practice by any size church's music/worship program enhances worship as the team is better prepared to lead the congregation into worship.

Those that advocate "freedom" to worship require special skills sets and sensitivity to do so. Not every person can pull it off well. I have witnessed some real disasters by those who are not skilled and I have witnessed a move of God. For the average worship leader - follow the pastor's lead, plan, prepare, practice and follow through.

Posted by: Dan Moore | Jun 15, 2006 4:39:05 PM

I'd like to make another comment. I would like to shed some understanding, perhaps, on the comment below.

“Praise venting” has always bothered me. When I hear it, I find myself thinking, I’m glad he’s enraptured. What’s my problem? Would I ever have the guts to do that publicly? Why does that always sound fake? What am I supposed to do while he’s doing that?

First of all I'm not sure I appreciate too much the term "praise venting." I do understand that this form of worship can be distracting to some, but it isn’t venting. It's worship whether we like it or not and it's not our call to determine otherwise. In context, however, I understand the distraction. This does not seem to be a distraction to many charismatics so maybe it's just some are used to a different form.

This form of worship can be very freeing. I think that worship leaders, however, should know their audience and know their purpose. If we expect the entire congregation to follow in worship while we "vent" then we expect too much. If one feels the need to do so maybe some encouragement and instruction would be in order. Most of the time, however, it's a waist of time to try and get people to spontaneously give praise to God.

I think partly it is because we've been trained by tradition how to worship a certain way and partly we fear man more than God. Some would love to offer a form of praise like this, but fear keeps them from doing so.

Okay, now that's venting.



Posted by: Ed Mooneyhan | Jun 15, 2006 5:41:33 PM

Good thoughts, Ed. I agree that "praise venting" is probably more culturally acceptable in a more charismatic setting, so your exhortation to "know your audience" is very appropriate.

There are differences between corporate, personal, and private worship, and these differences lead to some tension (not an entirely bad thing, mind you). Consider these loose definitions: *Private* worship is what I do on my own when I am alone with God. *Personal* worship is what I do on my own, but may be expressed in either a private or public setting, on my own or in a group. *Corporate* worship is what we as a body of believers do together.

I would suggest that some expressions of private worship may not be appropriate in a corporate setting because they could distract others in the body and actually hinder corporate worship. Understanding and "managing" the tensions between private, personal, and corporate worship are a key aspect of a worship leader's role. There may be times when he should try to draw a more expressive (exuberant?) worship out of the body, and other times when he should lead the body into a more reserved (pensive?) expression of worship.

These tensions are heightened in the life of the worship leader himself. He must not only worship, he must also lead the body into worship. And like a tour guide who cannot get too far ahead of the group lest he lose them, so the worship leader must "stay with" his congregation...but a little ahead of them. If he gets too far ahead (or too "enraptured"), he may end up being a worship show himself, with the audience merely watching him worship.

Posted by: Randy Ehle | Jun 15, 2006 7:15:43 PM

I've led worship for 13 years in a Pentecostal church that transitioned from hymns/traditional to extremely contemporary. A couple of thoughts...
1.) I agree 100% with previous posters that the article came across as describing the way things should be, as opposed to the author's preference. Not cool. I say this because of the details in his examples (singers on the side with moderately amplified mics). Come on! Diversity is the name of the game baby! "Different strokes" was a great show.
2.) Let's not overlook the role of the Senior Pastor to cast a clear vision for a church's approach to corporate worship. He's the man who was supposedly given a plan for the house. To the extent that he can lead his people in that vision, the people will get behind the worship leader (might even join in during "praise venting" - wow!).
3.) Christians are spoiled and complicated. No really. We whine just like our ancestors in the Wilderness. "It's too loud." Or "I don't like that song." Or my favorite: "This isn't worship it's a performance." Stop complaining and simplify your life. Use whatever God has decided to provide for you (i.e. your worship dept) to offer your sacrifice of praise. Yeah I said "sacrifice"...as in death...to ourselves (even in the pews)

Posted by: Mark Aarstad | Jun 16, 2006 11:43:59 AM

Great comments on all sides and good reminders of what we are doing and what we should be doing. I'm very careful from the perspective, I used to be the person watching everyone and everything deciding if that was God or it wasn't. God dealt with me on that issue. I'm just very careful now, because I don't want to call something that's not of God and it really is. I'm sure people thought David's form of worship was crazy, but God thought highly of him. Most of us if we had been there would have probably been thinking wrong things about him and what he was doing.
If you are the Pastor in the church that is your responsibility to discern the spirit of things going on. If you go to another church than you fall under that leaderships authority. You have the authority under your church, but not other bodies.
About distractions, if we are truly worshipping in Spirit and Truth, you know the kind God is looking for, we want be distracted from things around us. If we can get the body just to get there hearts clean before they come to church(Not to mention walking in it daily) half the battle would be over when it comes to worship.
Sometimes as a worship leader you are trying to get the body to enter His gates with Thanksgiving and Praise, so this "Praise Venting" can help people get there. True Christianity should be contagious and all the things we do as christians can be contagious, but those things have to be lead by God in order for them to be effective. This "Praise Venting" could be the very thing that releases someone from the bondage they have been in for years.
Great comments and keep up the Good Work, Stay in it!!!

Posted by: Shane | Jun 16, 2006 12:51:10 PM

"praise venting" is a good way to describe this...

although I appreciate the heart behind these types of methods I find them to be based purely on emotions...

i went to see Leeland last week at Crossroads Church in Vancouver, WA.

They are an amazing band...but Leeland, the lead guy, said something that I totally disagreed with...

"It's time to worship...so do whatever God is leading you to do...raise your hands, bow, dance in the aisles, jump around. Do the thing that is most foolish because that is probably what God would want you to do."

worship has nothing to do with being foolish with your gestures it has everything to do with a heart that is surrendered to Jesus.

that being said...I appreciate and encourage passionate worship but let's not confuse passion with phoniness.


Posted by: ryan couch | May 10, 2007 8:08:49 PM

Thank you so much for your concern on "worship leading". Posted here are quite a few concerns that may need attention, and some that have not been addressed. Yes at times it may seem like some "worship leaders" may be off on some "space jam","venting" or whatever term you may want to come up with. Trust me I have been caught in the middle of some long drawn out worship times! What I do want to throw out is the possibility that maybe? Just maybe the worship leader may be having a genuine time of being overwhelmed by God in the presence of a Holy God? You see "worship" is a revelation and response to who God is.
Remember when Jesus talked with the woman at the well? Jesus explained that there is a time coming, and infact had come when the Father will be seeking those who worship Him in Spirit and in truth.
What Jesus was saying here is "enough with the methods"! The Samaritans worshiped on some mountain, the Jews in Jerusalem? These are methods! We can be so concerned with the time and the place that we forget about the who! Programs are great! Please do not get me wrong. I love things to go just as planned and on schedule, but sometimes where two or more are gathered He will show up. And sometimes when we forget about the person next to us or the words on the screen and maybe even the worship leader expressing his love for his Savior, and draw close to our God, He will draw close to us.
You see, we can have a song service or a worship service. The choice is yours.

God bless

Posted by: Paul | Aug 4, 2007 11:16:49 PM

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