An Open Letter to Worship Pastors

Worship leaders, thank you for uniting our hearts and voices each week.
Worship leaders, thank you for uniting our hearts and voices each week. (Lightstock )

This open letter to worship pastors/leaders is on behalf of the 350,000 preachers out there who serve alongside you every weekend. In case you didn't read last week's letter to Discipleship/Ed pastors, these are staff letters of appreciation, not rebuke:

Dear Worship Pastor,

As a former lead pastor, I have served alongside some of the best and worst worship leaders in world history. Sounds like a stretch, unless you met my first one 30 years ago whose affection for hair-gel and disdain for "choruses" was epic. My most recent worship leader, on the other hand, had no hair and could/would play any song or instrument we pitched at him. The one before that is one of my best friends who has been formally mentoring me for several years.

I learned something from each of the worship leaders I served with, which I hope will encourage you today. 

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Your Job Is No Less Important Than Ours

Worship pastors are doing much more than "preparing us for the message." You are leveraging artistic expressions of music, media and other forms of public worship for the benefit of the entire congregation. I wish some people would stop seeing you as an opening act and consider the whole service as one cohesive celebration. People who walk in late or leave early are depriving the Lord of the worship He deserves, distracting the worshippers and insulting you. Worship is the primary reason we are there, so I respect you and your high calling to lead us.

We Are Both Servants, Not Celebrities

Our uniquely visible roles distinguish us somewhat from other staff and leaders in the church. Since we are touching their hearts with our words and worship, it is not uncommon for people to gravitate towards us off stage. The whole worship experience is a concerted effort between us to draw people's attention to our Savior. That church platform is a no-strut zone for both of us, so I'm asking you to keep my ego in check and allow me to do the same with you.

We Need to Walk Together in Unity

It is no secret that preachers and worship leaders are sometimes at odds or, worse, at war. In my opinion, most worship wars are won or lost behind the scenes. For the sake of the church and for the love of God, let's get and stay on the same page. Scripture demands that we walk in unity as brothers and fight for unity as soldiers. Love and forgive each other as Christ has forgiven you (Col. 3:13). Do it privately (Matt. 18:15) and immediately (Matt. 5:24), because there is too much at stake.

What Happens in the Pews Is More Important Than What Happens on the Stage

I love it when a worship team and band have good chemistry and a tight sound, but it is even more important for you to connect with the non-musicians who came there to worship. The Director of LifeWay Worship, Mike Harland, joined LifeWay's CEO, Dr. Thom Rainer, recently on a Rainer on Leadership podcast to discuss reasons that congregational singing is waning.

  • Because we've created an atmosphere that everything about the room says you're here to watch, not worship—like a theater.
  • Because when worship leaders are too artistic, the congregation tends to stop singing and watch.
  • Because people don't know the songs. Keep new songs in rotation long enough for us to learn them since we don't attend rehearsals.

We Should Spend More Time Together

I can look back and see that when I intentionally invested time with my WP off-stage and off-campus, our church benefited greatly on Sundays, as did we personally. Why not help each other improve your songs and sermons in regular planning meetings and annual retreats? This takes time, energy and, most of all, humility—but it is worth it.

Thank you, worship pastors and leaders, for helping your church push past our musical preferences to unite our hearts and voices in worship each week.

Mark Dance is the editor-at-large for pastoral leadership for lifeway.com. For the original article, visit lifeway.com.

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