One. The lead singer holds the bulb, and the world revolves around him.
Recently, I was talking to someone new to the Christian faith. Which is also to say that he is new to the evangelical Christian subculture. He knew that I was a worship and arts pastor, and so our conversation eventually drifted to the weekend services at his church. In the conversation, he said something that jolted me momentarily. He referred to the person leading worship at his church as the “lead singer for the band.”
At first I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. After all, he was a new Christ follower, and without a Christian background to give you a frame of reference, the obvious equivalent phrase to “worship leader” is “lead singer. ”
But that got me thinking. What was his experience of his church service? Was he experiencing worship? That is, was he being led to an encounter with the Living Triune God, and responding to that encounter in a transcendent way? And if so, what was the role of the “worship leader” in the actual “leading” of worship?
My friend was experiencing some really good music in his services. And the truth of the matter is, music and all the arts are transcendent by nature. The arts take us someplace, spiritually as well as emotionally. Art is, as Jeremy Begbie asserts, “capable of affording genuine knowledge of reality beyond the confines of human self-consciousness.” Just go to a rock concert and watch. People are being ushered somewhere. The question is, to where are they being moved?
In my experience, I’ve been a lead singer for a number of bands. I know what the role entails, and what is expected of it. And I don’t see anything wrong with being one. But I shudder to think that some people might experience me as a “lead singer” when my role and calling and obligation in church is to be a “worship leader,” to serve my congregation and lead them to encounter and glorify God.
A. W. Tozer tells a story that goes like this: Jesus fulfilled scripture when he rode a young donkey into Jerusalem (John 12:12-16). The great crowds came to meet him, taking palm branches and spreading them out before him, praising his name, shouting “Hosanna! Hosanna!” The donkey, looking around at the crowd, then thought to himself, “Wow! I must really be great!”
In the grand scheme of things, I have to remember that as a worship leader, I’m just the donkey. And there’s a big difference between a donkey and a jackass.
More about this in my next blog. Please feel free to comment.