• Ryan Smith

Fire That Worship Rockstar

Updated: May 15, 2019

Years ago I was in a Christian rock band that toured the country playing at all kinds of churches and festivals and opening for all the A-list Christian bands of that day- Newsboys, Audio Adrenaline, Sonicflood, The OC Supertones (anyone else suddenly have the desire to break out your old CD collection and get your “Jesus Freak” on?). Anyway, at each concert it was the same drill. We’d jump around on stage and rock people’s faces off and get the crowd hyped up on Jesus music and if all went well there might even be a Christian mosh pit! After the “show” we’d go to our merch table where we’d autograph T-shirts, CD’s, sweaty arms, you name it, and get our picture taken with people after we’d rocked their faces off in the name of Jesus. After a few years of this, I began to ask some hard questions like “Why am I doing this again? Is this really about God or about me? Are people really drawing near to God at these shows?” And the really hard question “How is this any different than the worldly concerts out there?” During this time I began to be drawn more toward worship music and worship leading and then God opened a door for me to be a worship leader at a local church. I said “Yes” and stepped away from touring and became a worship leader. But truth be told, I had to learn how to become a worship leader. It wasn’t long before I realized that leading worship was completely different from what I’d been doing before. Where before I was there to get people’s eyes on me, now I was there to get their eyes on the Lord. Where before I was on stage to impress people with my singing, now I was there so that everyone could marvel at God. Everything was totally upside-down. I learned early on and am still learning about the importance of leaving that wanna-be rockstar in 2002 and from there on out I aspired to lead worship with a servant mindset.

This crucial concept is lost on many worship leaders in this celebrity culture that we live in. I know this because it was lost on me when I first started leading worship. Having a servant mindset when we lead worship is not easy but it will change the way your church engages during worship if you can grow in it. What do I mean by having a servant mindset as a worship leader?

Having a servant mindset in worship leading is three-fold:

Serve God

First of all, you are serving God as you lead worship. Ask yourself “Am I doing this for my glory or for God’s glory?” If we are honest, a part of our prideful flesh wants some of the glory. We want people to appreciate and recognize when we kill those vocals or nail that guitar riff that took us all week to learn. And it doesn’t help that we are on a stage with a literal spotlight on us. But to have a servant mindset in our worship leading means to do everything we possibly can to bring God the most amount of praise and glory. Sometimes that means doing more and sometimes that means doing less. Sometimes we need to say something wise and profound in between songs to help people focus on God, and sometimes we need to say less or nothing at all and just let the Holy Spirit speak to people’s hearts (by the way, He is really good at His job). The highest compliment we can receive as worship leaders is not “Wow your piano playing was awesome!” No the best thing we could hear from someone is “Thank you for leading worship is such a way that I was able to worship God this morning.” Sometimes I think we should be called “Worship Ushers” because we are there to usher people to God in worship.

Serve Your Church

Secondly, we are there to serve the congregation. When your aim is to serve your church in worship leading then you’ll ask questions like “What will best help people to focus on God and participate in praising Him?” This seems pretty small and simple but it has a huge impact if this is your starting point in planning and leading the time of praise and worship. Choosing songs with a servant mindset means you won’t just pick songs that you like, but you’ll choose songs that will help OTHERS focus on God and participate in praising Him. If you want people to just sit and listen to you then choose a song list of all new songs that nobody knows and that are difficult for them to sing unless they grew up in choir. Personally, my goal in worship leading is maximum participation in the worship service, I want everyone to praise Jesus. Granted, I can’t see their hearts so that will be between them and God as to whether they are truly worshiping Him from a sincere place, but I want to see maximum participation meaning that people are praising God with biblical expressions of praise like singing, shouting, lifting hands, bowing, etc. If people are not following me in praising God then I’m probably not leading well. A true leader takes responsibility for the people they are leading, and a true servant serves them. I’ve heard some newer worship leaders chastise and even yell at their congregations for not singing but those worship leaders didn’t realize that they were singing in such a way that it made it impossible for people to sing-along. I’m an experienced singer and I couldn’t even follow their dazzling trills! A servant doesn’t scold the people they are trying to serve, instead they ask the question “How can I help you today?” A worship leader with a servant mindset will have a heart to humbly help people praise God. They won’t take sides between the younger and older generation, but they will aim for maximum participation from all ages in the way they lead. This includes serving the teacher for that service. Find out ahead of time what topic is on the speaker's heart and pray about how you could align the time of praise with the topic of teaching. Having a servant mindset will be a litmus test in what songs you choose, what key you sing them in, what band you choose, how loud you play, how soft you play, what you say in between songs, how you lead the songs, etc. Just start there with this mindset and it will change everything about the way you lead worship and your church’s participation during the worship service will grow exponentially.

Serve Your Team

Thirdly, we are there to serve the worship team (and that includes the media team.) This is something that many worship leaders don’t think about. Yes, you are there to lead the team, but Jesus-style leadership means you are there to serve the team as well. You can serve your team by being considerate of their schedule and scheduling them for worship several weeks in advance so they can plan ahead, and you can serve them by sending them the song list early in the week so they can practice. And for Pete's sake don't play songs in the key of Bb (both your bass player and piano player will hate you for it). At rehearsal/soundcheck, you can serve the worship team by communicating the song form and worship service direction clearly AND listening to their ideas and input respectfully. You can serve them by helping them get a monitor mix that they feel comfortable with. You can serve your team by making time to pray for them beforehand or afterward in case they are going through something difficult. You can serve them by making time for them individually during the week to buy them lunch or coffee and tell them how much you appreciate them. And you can serve the media team by treating them like they are a part of the worship team because they are! They’re just playing different instruments but you’re all working toward the same goal for the worship service, to help your church praise Jesus.

There is much more to say on these topics in the future but for now just pray that God would continue to give you a servant mindset and ask Him to speak to you about how to specifically grow in that mindset in the way you lead worship. I promise you it will change everything. I’ll leave you with this: There is no such thing as a self-serving servant and, all titles aside, worship leaders are only worship leaders if they are truly there to lead others to a place of worshiping God. Fire that worship rockstar, and be more like a worship usher.

Thanks for reading! Please share your comments or questions below, this is an open dialogue! And feel free to share this with any worship leaders or worship teams that you know who would be encouraged!

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