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Hey Worship Leader, Don't Waste Your Words

You have a unique gig, worship leader. You have the “enviable” position of getting as much face time on the platform every week as the lead pastor. You don’t have to brag, but the associate pastor, administrative assistant, and children’s coordinator certainly don’t have the opportunity to address the congregation as much as you do, O favored one. Next to preaching, your gig is the most vocal and visible ministry in the church.

Just to be clear, there’s an incredibly good argument circulated among lead pastors that you should be spending the majority of your time singing and playing on Sundays, since that’s the primary role of a worship leader. But you have another role in between singing songs, strumming chords or plunking keys, and it happens to involve speaking words. And by speaking words I mean more than just saying hello, asking people how they’re doing, calling out the song titles, and telling everyone to sit down and stand. What I’m really saying is this: you have words to speak, so I encourage you not to waste even one letter of them.

You have something to say

Whether you believe it or not, you really do have something to say. Worship is singing the words of God back to God, so there’s a lot that can be said about those words you are leading others to sing to God. But regardless of the type of liturgical style you practice at your church, you will most likely have the opportunity to say something true and beautiful about the Lord you’re singing to in between the songs. Take that as seriously as the pastor takes his sermons, because words matter, regardless of how few are spoken, and maybe even more so because so few are spoken.

You need to say something

Worship leaders can easily fall into the trap of high school cheerleaders at a pep rally, waving their pom-poms and shouting out phrases like “Let’s sing!” “Join with me!” “Raise your voice!” or “Let me see your hands!” To qualify, these types of vocal transitions aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but they can’t be the only thing. Although your lead pastor would heartily agree that your job on Sundays is to sing, not sermonize, most would encourage you to plan your vocal transitions as carefully as you plan your musical ones.

Every time you open your mouth, say something about God, and do it within the context of the song and the sermon text. That last part means you need to have good communication with your lead pastor so that there is continuity between the music and the message. So take an interest, ask him questions, be intentional, and show your pastor that you believe the words he’s going to preach are vital for the words you’re going to speak and sing.

You should aim for something rich

What an opportunity you have as a worship leader to speak words of adoration and conviction, expressing the love of God through Christ and the glory we glimpse as we seek his face in song. With so much richness at your disposal, avoid the kind of trite and shallow repetition that so many worship leaders so easily fall into. Think deeply about the words of the songs you’re singing. Read through the text your pastor is preaching and exposit some of the truths it’s conveying. If you’re a worship leader who gets tongue-tied when it comes time to speak, write out your thoughts, rehearse them, and pray that God would equip and grow you in this area of weakness so that others might see your progress. You are not just a musician. You’re an ambassador of the gospel who happens to be armed with a voice and an instrument meant to be used to call God’s people to participate in the proclamation of God’s grace and truth.

Do nothing less than that.

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Ronnie Martin is lead pastor of Substance Church (EFCA) and author of Stop Your Complaining and The Bridezilla of Christ (July 2017). You can follow him on Twitter @ronniejmartin.