In 2010, I attended a conference at Bayside Church in Roseville, CA for Christian musicians, leaders and techs called the Thriving Musician Summit. The conference is now held in the Seattle area, and has since changed its name to the Christian Musician Summit. I have been to this conference four times now since I first attended in 2010, and of all the many insights I’ve gained by attending, the one thing I’ve learned that has stuck with me the most came in that first year.
I was in a break-out session being taught by one of my favorite worship artists and songwriters, Paul Baloche. He was standing in front of a group of about 200 worship leaders, and as he talked, it felt like we were in a coffee house, and it was just him and me chatting over a cup of coffee. He made everyone feel so comfortable as he broke down the two primary roles that worship leaders carry: the Priestly Role and the Pastoral Role. At a glance, these two roles sound very similar, and to a degree they are, but at their core, they are very different. And, both are vitally important to being the worship leaders God has called us to be.
First, we are to whole-heartedly embrace our Priestly Role. In 1 Chronicles, David assigns Asaph and his associates to give praise to the Lord. These Levites had one role: to make music and sing praises to the Lord. They were not concerned with leading others to worship; they were only concerned with singing praise to God because of who He is and what He had done. Basically, David had just created the first worship team, and their sole purpose was to worship the Lord. Our first and most important role as worship leaders is to be worshipers. How can we genuinely lead others into worship if we are not worshiping the Lord ourselves? Paul Baloche said it like this, “Ideally, worship leading is publicly modeling what we have been doing privately.” Like the Levites, we need to be worshiping God day and night. We need to make time to privately pray, read Scripture, sing songs of praise, and make music to the Lord. Let’s make it a priority to set aside time in which we don’t have to be concerned with anything or anyone—a time in which our singular desire is to delight in the Lord.
The other role we carry as worship leaders is Pastoral. As you have most likely presumed, the Pastoral Role involves how we serve and lead others. Unlike the Levites, who were solely focused on praising God, a pastor is mostly focused on lovingly helping others to worship the Lord. As we step onto the stage to lead the congregation into worship, we should be thinking of ourselves as pastors. This isn’t necessarily “my time” to worship (though that will certainly happen), this is a time in which God has given me the privilege of serving His bride, the church. And, this begins before we ever strap on a guitar or pick up a microphone. It begins before we decide which songs to sing and in which keys. It begins before we pack our gear in our car or starting setting up for rehearsal. Pastors pray for and love the people God has entrusted to their care daily, so that’s exactly what we should be doing—every day!
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39). As worship leaders, we are called to do just that. First, and most importantly, we are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind (Priestly Role). Secondly, we are to love others (Pastoral Role).
So, worship leaders (that includes any member of a worship team, you are all worship leaders), be worshipers. Worship the Lord privately whenever you can—do not neglect your Priestly calling. And secondly, pastor the people of your church. Ask the Lord to change your heart to be more like His.
Love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind, and love others.