It’s hard to keep up sometimes with the deluge of new music & books, so sometimes one gets overlooked. In this case, it was my loss. Worship Pastor/Artist Stephen Miller has penned a helpful little gem with Worship Leaders, we are not Rockstars – one that will be added to my “must read” list for all beginner worship leaders, & a suggested read for anyone in worship ministry in general. Two added bonuses: it’s a speedy read, & the price is RIGHT!
As a baby believer in college, a local campus ministry realized I was 1.) a Christian & 2.) a musician, so I was given a prominent roll on the worship team. Don’t bother that I had only arguably been a Christian (that’s a long story in itself for another blog) for a few months, & had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what worship WAS (“You want me to spice up these awful songs with a few friends in front of 400 college kids, 65% of which are girls? I’M IN!” the young college me responded wholeheartedly), I was encouraging fellow students to sing along, while – quite literally – going to FISTS with others on the team in the hallway before and after our set. It was a mess. I wanted to be the next Bono, or Sting – if you gave me a platform, I’d take it. But I wasn’t a “worship leader”, at least not in any Godly sense. How I wished this book had existed back then.
Stephen had me from the outset by quoting Jonathan Edwards in the intro: “I should think myself in the way of my duty to raise the affections of my hearers as high as possibly I can, provided that they are affected with nothing but truth, and with affections that are not disagreeable to the nature of what they are affected with” (Jonathan Edwards, via Stephen Miller)
Edwards, a key players in the Great Awakening, had great wisdom about “affections”, or rather, the things people feel strongly about. He noted that some people who responded with great emotion to God’s call then fell away, while others stayed the course. Though some were skeptical of preaching that elevated emotions, Jonathan recognized that if God is GREAT, is it our job the help them respond to God’s truth whole heartedly. And the same is true for worship leading. However, we have to remember that – in the end – the emphasis is on God, not on what we feel. Stephen explains, “We may go for the emotional jugular & completely fail to exalt the character, holiness, & majesty of God.” We worship leaders LOVE an emotional response, but too often it’s not because we love seeing others respond to God – instead, that response becomes about US and our WORSHIP LEADER – pride takes over, & being front & center in the spotlight week in & week can eat us alive if we’re not on guard. He adds, “…fame & glory are well-trained assassins, & they have slain many who have pursued them for themselves.“
The treatment for we worship leaders? Stephen reminds us who we ARE. Three sections of the book struck me most personally, but that doesn’t mean the other chapters aren’t equally packed with insights – you’ll just have to BUY the book & read those for yourself.
In chapter two Stephen reminds us that we are ALL worshipers – that’s it’s built into our very DNA; “We are always worshiping something or someone. We were made for it & we are exceedingly efficient at it. Our hearts are constantly on the lookout for the biggest, best, most bountiful, & most beautiful so that we can ascribe glory to it.” Hearing such words reminds me of the time I got to see Paul McCartney in concert just a few years back. Sure, I’m an old-school Beatles fan (I mean, my Dad raise me to love “Abbey Road”), & as a child of the 80’s I was aware of Paul’s solo work, but nothing – and I do mean NOTHING – could’ve prepared for what was about to happen. After a 45 min classical composition & ballet, which Sir McCartney had composed, of course, he walked out on stage with his trademark bass guitar. “Hello, I’m Paul McCartney“, he said, unassumingly. Then he opened his mouth to sing; “You say ‘yes’ – I say ‘no’…“. I didn’t make it any further until I was a slobbering mess: I was overwhelmed by the shriek of a 13 year old school girl… from within my throat! And I was crying! And jumping up and down, flailing my arms like a maniac. I was a surprised as anyone, but I was absolutely overwhelmed with excitement, & I overflowed in WORSHIP. Everything that I did that night said, “Sir Paul McCartney is an incredible songwriter, musician, vocalist, & all around human being, & in this moment I LOVE HIM with all that I am!” Unquestionably, that was worship. It’s what we do – it’s who we are.
As worshipers, we worship a whole MESS of things that don’t make very good gods, too; “…nowadays we don’t bow down before men or birds or cows. We just work sixty hours a week so we can make a lot of money to buy a lot of stuff we don’t need in order to impress a lot of people we don’t even like that much.” Though money has never been an idol of mine, I have a whole slew of my own idols that I’m tempted to elevate above God, the worst of which is MYSELF. The battle is real.
Chapter five, refreshingly, calls out Worship Leaders to be GOOD THEOLOGIANS. Because we already are theologians – the only question is whether or not we do it well – whether what we choose to write and/or sing is TRUE. Stephen explains, “The songs we sing teach us theology. For better or worse, as worship leaders, the songs we sing with our churches will inevitably shape the way they view God & interact with Him.“
And closing, he reminds Worship Leader that before anything else, we need to remember that we are Christians; “Being a Christian is about so much more than going to a church building on the weekends. Everywhere we go, we are living representatives of the living God… It all belongs to Him. It’s all by Him, through Him, & to Him. And who He is demands our worship in every area of our lives.“
This wasn’t a review copy – I picked it up with my own money, & I wasn’t disappointed. It an incredibly helpful summary of what it really means to be a worship leader. I plan on picking up a few extras to assign to younger worship leaders that I’m mentoring, as a follow-up to Matt Redman’s excellent The Unquenchable Worshipper. That’s just to say, this is very worthwhile reading – recommended.
Have you read it? What are your thoughts? And, so I don’t overlook another gem, what have you been reading recently that you think I should put my eyes on?