Category Archives: Worship Leading

The Rock Star Worship Leader

When first given the opportunity to lead worship, I confess to being starry eyed at the thought. In the last couple of decades Worship leaders have become confusingly similar to the rock star* fraternity (although there’s nothing wrong with Rock Stars who are being Rock Stars to the glory of God). I was young when I started out, I loved music and from where I was stood it looked like this was the pinnacle. In fact at times it looked so high that my thoughts often swung in the other direction; God couldn’t possibly have called me to such a high and privileged role? I imagine that this confusion will get worse as there’s a generation of kids who will be leaders in our churches in the next two decades who have been weaned on the stage-focused hype-fest of X-Factor.

Whilst worship leaders certainly play their part in the confusion (you know- the diva behaviour, the strutting, the weird affectations) I think we (the catholic with-a-small-“c” Church) often load the role of Worship Leaders with unnecessary cultural baggage and certainly I felt the weight of this mantle on my shoulders. Worship Leading in particular is an odd shaped area of service (and service is a helpful word in this context!) as it is loaded with high importance in our Churches whilst not being a specifically defined role in the Bible. Now I’m learning to  see it in terms of biblical leadership.

Some leadership has specific qualification in scripture (1 Tim. 3:1-13 and Tit. 1:5-9), but if Christ has called me to do something, he can certainly equip me (Heb 13:20-21).  Similarly, feelings of inadequacy are defeated by His sufficiency.  The crux of what I’m learning is that every call from God is a high call. I used to think that worship leading was not as holy as being a missionary or that working for the church trumped being an accountant. But that missed the point; whatever it is that God has called you and me to do specifically is a very high calling indeed (Phil 3:12, Eph 2:10). This has become all the more apparent whilst I’m on a break from worship leading.

So worship leaders read Romans 12:3 and be humble! Churches be thankful for people in all areas of service, and to the guys who don’t get any plaudits but pack up after the meeting at my church, thank you.

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Structuring a worship team: are you with the band?

[Portrait of Oscar Moore, Nat King Cole, and Wesley Prince, New York, N.Y., ca. July 1946] (LOC)

[Portrait of Oscar Moore, Nat King Cole, and Wesley Prince, New York, N.Y., ca. July 1946] (LOC)

I’ve been involved in “church music” for over a decade, and I’ve seen a few different approaches to structuring worship teams. I stumbled across an interview with Pastor Joel at Mars Hill the other day and it led me to think about why I have always preferred a distinct worship band as opposed to a more nebulous team:

Bobby Gilles: Kenosis is one of several Mars Hill worship bands. For people unfamiliar with the difference between these bands and the typical worship team format of many contemporary churches, can you explain? Why do you have a name like “Kenosis” rather than “Mars Hill Ballard worship team” for instance?

Joel Brown: Essentially since the beginning of Mars Hill, we have run our worship teams on a more band-focused model. Initially this wasn’t an intentional decision. When you take a bunch of recently converted local musicians and ask them to lead the music, they just do what they know, and what they knew was how to play in a band and write songs about what they were experiencing.

While it’s not the only way we structure things today at Mars Hill, we do see a lot of benefits to leading this way. If your musicians are experienced, arrangements have the potential to be more dialed in and uniquely tailored to a specific church or location. Though the word is overly used today, this can sometimes help music to have a more missional intentionality. The band then is ministering to a specific people at a specific time and place rather than strictly playing covers of music that someone else created somewhere else for someone else.

We use band names to bring distinction to who we’re talking about. In some ways it can look like it’s meant to draw attention to the ‘artist’ and off of Jesus or the songs to Him, but it’s honestly more of a practical thing than anything else.

As Joel intimates, It’s a structure that people can easily relate to whether as musicians or listeners. I love that there is a sharp clarity to it (I’m in the band) without losing the ability to collaborate with other musicians. Most of all though working as a band enables a strong musical understanding to be built as a focused team. Every practice builds on the foundation of the one before- creating a repertoire, defining a “sound” and learning to arrange music together. This creates trust musically and gives the band space to participate in more ways than just playing an instrument: space to create, sing, dance, pray, enjoy, commune (with God and fellow man) and in each of these things worship our creator.

The bit that has always grabbed me as with the interviewer is that the Mars Hill bands are named like, you know, “real bands”. It’s perhaps the least important point, and yet it makes a tremendous difference to how people perceive what we do. I dread people asking me what my band is called because my band has no name; it’s name is simply an entry on a church rota: “Ben’s Band”. If anyone has any suggestions, please feel free to suggest them and I will put them to the band!

The rest of that excellent Joel Brown interview by Bobby Gilles can be found here: http://mysonginthenight.com/2012/02/13/mars-hill-pastorkenosis-leader-joel-brown-on-worship-writing-hymns/

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