The functions of a worship leader within a local church extend beyond music. Worship leaders are called to shepherd their congregation.
Acts 20:28 reads,
“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”Acts 20:28
Worship leaders shepherd through teaching, protecting, encouraging, correcting, and loving the flock.
However, music is a vital part of a worship leader’s responsibility. The congregation experiences teaching, protection, encouragement, correction, and love through the songs we choose for our corporate worship services.
Therefore, what considerations are necessary for worship song selection?
If our song choices do not primarily and intentionally glorify God, then singing is a waste of breath. The Apostle Paul writes,
“…whatever you do, do all things for the glory of God”.(1 Corinthians 10:31)
One might choose a song because it is catchy, trendy, easy to learn, etc. However, if the song does not honor God on His own terms, it is worthless.
Can you think of worship songs that lacked substance or taught ideologies contrary to truth? As shepherds, we must make wise decisions when honoring God.
If worship songs praise God for who He is and what He has done, recognizing our need for Him, then the church will be edified and encouraged.
Holy Spirit Directed
No matter what your denominational affiliation, our music selection must be Holy Spirit led and directed. The Holy Spirit knows the songs that are needed to encourage our congregations, and He can protect us from poor song selections that do not honor God.
Making decisions void of prayer is a dangerous practice. The Lord desires to give wisdom…all we must do is ask.(James 1:5).
I have been guilty of choosing songs apart from intentional prayer and Holy Spirit guidance. Thankfully, God uses even my foolishness, but how much more powerful it is to allow Him to direct and bless our song choices!
The choices we make should not be taken for granted. Again, it is for God’s glory!
Effective worship songs should be sung by all members of the congregation. Special music, featuring a soloist, ensemble, or choir, can be God-honoring and encouraging, but most church music must be participatory.
Singing together unifies God’s people in purpose (glorifying God). As we choose God-honoring songs, the congregation is singing Scriptural truths that bring glory to God.
To encourage participation in singing, worship leaders incorporate songs that are understandable, familiar, and not overly complex. It’s important to challenge our church goers, but also important to realize a lack of comfortability will prevent many from singing.
This isn’t always the case sadly. I’ve seen men refuse to sing because it’s not “manly,” which is a dishonoring response to God. Instances like these require prayer and teaching/correction from the Word of God.
The congregation benefits when a worship leader selects understandable songs. However, if some of the terminology is unfamiliar, then it is helpful to teach the meaning to the congregation.
Familiarity goes a long way in encouraging our congregations to sing. Do not be afraid to incorporate older songs into the setlist, and thoroughly teach new songs when introduced to the church.
When introducing a new song, I repeat it for three weeks to help the church members learn. I also do not introduce any other new songs during the three-week period.
No hard and fast rules exist for introducing a new song, but the worship leader needs to use wisdom and strategy in the process.
Also, songs that are overly complex will not encourage corporate singing. If a song is in an uncomfortable key or includes a hard to follow melody, the people will stare at the worship leader rather than embarrass themselves through singing.
Remember, singing should express unity within the church. Unity is essential in glorifying God; therefore, congregational participation is important.
We understand that a worship leader’s role is not limited to music, but music is a key component. Choosing worship songs for any other reason than to glorify God is fruitless.
Our calling is a serious responsibility, and we should treat it as such. Prayerful and intentional song selection is a powerful factor in faithfully shepherding God’s people (1 Peter 5:1-4).
Dr. Randall Downs is the Worship Arts Director at Grand Canyon University and the Worship Pastor of CrossLife Church in Anthem, AZ.