15 Questions (and maybe some answers), Part 7 of 15

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If you missed parts 1-6, you can find them here.

Question #7: Why would a church hire an outside worship leader, one that is not part of the church’s culture, and one that is not connected to the people of that church?

You may have noticed that most of the questions I have posed here don’t really have a right or wrong answer. They are intended to get you thinking outside of your box or comfort zone. But for me this one is a bit different. To me there’s only one answer here, unless of course I’m thinking only inside my box.The answer is a church should never hire an outside worship leader that’s not part of the culture, family and fabric of that particular church. Never.

I fully recognize that worship is not about the church or the people in it. It’s about giving God the praise, glory and honor He deserves and desires. But it’s not about the band or singer worshiping, it’s about the entire church/congregation doing so.  And in order for that to happen, the band/singer needs to understand the culture, history and vibe of that church. The worship leader needs to know the people in the church. Not for a week or a month but long enough for a bond and trust to develop that allows the congregation to really reach a deep place of worship. A hired gun worship leader (or worse yet, band) will probably never earn the true trust of some in the church family.

I’m not a big fan of the term “authentic worship.” Who am I to judge what authentic is? But in non-literal terms I think that phrase can be translated to: “Worship and praise music led by someone I know and trust.”  I want to know the person leading worship in “my” church has prayed over the worship set and musicians. I want to trust that the worship leader leading my church family knows the names of the people he or she is leading. I want to believe the worship leader is solid in his or her walk with the Lord and that the set was not contrived or configured to evoke or set a mood. I need to know that whatever happened during the worship time was organic and Holy Spirit led, not created by a formula from the latest “How To Lead Worship” book. I want to trust that the worship leader is on the same page theologically with the church leadership and staff.

I also understand that people attend worship services, harp and bowl services and other praise/worship events all the time, led by people the attendees don’t even know. And deep, honest worship happens in those settings. That’s very different than your typical Sunday morning. If you are attending a worship event, you are committing to a worship experience that is different than the traditional Sunday morning worship time. You know going in that you are going to “enter in” and whoever is leading is not even a factor. Corporate worship in those settings is very different than family corporate worship.

Sundays with your church family are different. They are more intimate. They are more personal.

My last point. A church that is running ads looking for a worship leader or worse, posting on Craigslist, is a church that has not raised up leaders from within. And that scares me. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen worship leader ads for mega churches. Really? A church of 1000-plus doesn’t have anyone worth investing into? For more than 20 years I was a part of a church of 200-400, depending on the season. There was never a time when we didn’t have a minimum three people that could step into a worship leader role with a week’s notice. I’d rather sit under a leader with average musical ability that I know than a hired gun rock star that I don’t. Wouldn’t you?

Nothing says “We have no plan” like having to advertise for a worship leader. Nothing says “No one here was worth investing in” the way having to place an ad for a worship leader does.

Is that the message we want to give our church families?


John Amodea has more than 35 years of experience in the music industry. His more recent music experience…

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