Worship Leader v Biblical Preacher

Worship Leader v Biblical Preacher

An informative and biblical essay by Bob Kauflin on this topic can be found here.

He quotes Gordon MacDonald, “For many young people choosing a church, worship leaders have become a more important factor than preachers. Mediocre preaching may be tolerated, but an inept worship leader can sink things fast.”

Don Carson disputes the whole notion of a ‘worship leader’ as generally understood in most evangelical churches today (in the UK at least). According to Carson, “I would abolish forever the notion of a ‘worship leader’. If you want to have a ’song leader’ who leads part of the worship, just as the preacher leads part of the worship, that’s fine. But to call the person a ‘worship leader’ takes away the idea that by preaching, teaching, listening to and devouring the word of God, and applying it to our lives, we are somehow not worshipping God.”

I am inclined to agree with Carson, although I suspect it is in large part to do with the fact that I don’t have a musical bone in my body! In my experience churches (and plants) tend to develop the attributes and biases of their pastor (however hard they try not to impose them). So, if a man is a great music lover it is a side of the church he will give great effort to, likewise preaching, teaching and evangelism etc. I am not saying that it is right but it does tend to happen.

I do think that there is an over emphasis on ‘worship pastors’ in our culture. I remember being at Bible College with a man who felt that God had called him to be ‘a worship leader in Brazil’ and I remember thinking (having worked there with street gangs): ‘Yeh right. That’s exactly what Brazil needs right now.’

The jury is out for me on this issue. If I had the money to pay for a salary I don’t think I would use it on a worship pastor. Maybe a Community Development Worker or even a Cyber pastor (not really) and possibly a Projects Manager. Much more helpful and beneficial to us as a community.

Anyway, read the article and see what you think.


    John Brand

    Thanks Mez, for your usual nsightful and forthright comments. Do you know the difference between a worship group leader and a terrorist? You can negotiate with a terrorist. I have tried negotiating with a worship group leader and there was blood on the carpet, as they say.

    Steve Utley

    That joke was a lot funnier when it was an ‘organist and a terrorist’! How times have changed! In the last church where I was a leader, the ‘worship leader was on the church leadership team for the sole reason that the lead pastor had read a book by John Wimber that suggested that if you could keep a tight reign on the worship leader, you can control the worship team. (I am equally uncomfortable with the terms.)

    One of my main concerns is that people get appointed on musical ability and not spiritual maturity or Biblical literacy. In my experience the role has been a fast-track route to giving questionable people a public platform and dare I say, status within the body. This is particularly prevelant in churches that are desparate for good musicians, but modern methods offer more prestige than good ol’ Brenda hammering out a few chords on the old Joanna.

    My other objection is that as churches grow, so do the worship groups. I was struggling to get people to sign up to help in the children’s ministry, but there were 13 musicians and singers in the platform and that was only one of 2 teams. Volume also seems to grow. I am now left wondering some Sundays how we can not here 300+ people singing over the ‘band’. I am a musician and I love old hymnology as well as many of the good new songs, but I don’t want to go to a rock concert every Sunday morning.

    I’ll be your Cyber-Pastor as long as I get to wear the silver suit and ride in the TARDIS.

    Steve Utley

    I have one further point and I was going to make it in an earlier related post and it is around the song-leader role. I noticed that you said you had some men that led for you which is fab. Coming from a complementarian position I think that this is one are where gifted and appropriate women can serve and even excel in the church. I think teaching and eldership should be male. Deacons I think depends on the role. For instance, I think I would personally consider your lady who works with other women in a deaconess role . . . but I’m up for debating that one. But I see no Biblical prohibitive reason why women can’t lead the singing.

    I think sung praise and worship can be a missing jewel and should be included properly (which is of course ‘My way’) in congral meetings.


      Thanks mate. We hold to a complementarian position here in NCC. There are a couple of responses to this. Firstly, a lack of women willing and/or up to the job. I can’t even get them to come up and read the scriptures. I got a lady to do it once and then cheekily asked her to introduce the next song. After the service I told her that all she needed was to pray and ‘Bob’s your uncle’, she was leading. She didn’t fancy it. The other response for us as a leadership is that the jury is still out on what it means to lead worship. Many see it as more than introducing and singing a few songs, and some only see it as that. I am more inclined to think of it as a ‘teaching position’ given the need to introduce, explain and lead the body in heartfelt and intelligent worship according to biblical principles. Therefore, because as an eldership we we feel we need to do more biblical thinking on the issue, we allow only males to lead the whole service at the moment. Of course, women still participate in the music and the singing and, from time to time, the reading of the Word. However, it is a non issue here at the moment and we have no intentions of creating an issue that has not yet arisen. We are too busy teaching, learning and fighting on other fronts!

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