Many, I know, would scoff at the idea of the sound guy as being a worship leader. Several worship leaders I have known simply cannot envision this concept. They view the role of the sound mixer as being a servant to the band, a minister with the gift of helps - and geeky knowledge of sound.
Thing is, though, worship leading is mostly a black and white job. You (presumably) schedule the musicians, pick the song selection, the song order, manage conflicts and the run the rehearsal, which is the same thing, really.
What does the sound guy do? Well, ehm… he makes things sound good. And if you were to categorize his job description in that manner, yes, you could say, “bah” to him being a worship leader.
On balance then because what the sound guy has to do is get in everyone’s mind and play a psychological game of chess. Think of it this way, why is it that Lord I Lift Your Name On High has become a musical oxbow lake? Why is it no longer at the top of the Top 30 Christian music charts? It’s because that song doesn’t move people anymore. In the same way, sound mixers, the way I was trained and the way I train people, is to mix according to audience reaction. You have to mix in a way that leads people away from the point where the merely listen to music as a consumer and say, “the band sounded good today” or, “the band didn’t sound good today.” And leading them away from that you have to take them to a point where they are able to simply worship.
The sound guy is the make-or-break guy in the entire process. Psychologically, people will tolerate bad video over bad audio. You could have Chris Tomlin as a guest worship leader, but if you don’t have someone who knows how to lead the audience in the subtle art of sonics, he’ll just sound like some middle-aged worship leader that has Dwayne for a middle name. Sure it’ll have all the earmarks of, “ooh that’s Chris Tomlin.” But it won’t move people to worship anything more than the Chris Tomlin Experience.
“If all you do is focus on the tools of ministry (ensuring technical excellence, making sure people don’t think it’s too loud, repairing broken equipment) rather than why the ministry is there in the first place, you become like Martha in Luke 10. What is required is not the servant mentality but a leadership mentality.”
One of the worship leaders I have known was a man named Aaron. He wasn’t very talented, didn’t have a great voice, and let’s face it his musical styling was… different. But what he understood was that in order to be effective he needed someone who knew how to make him sound better than his talent level. He gave me the freedom and authority to do whatever I wanted, not as the sound guy, but he rather informally made me a worship leader. He worked with me to help lead people in worship and he was very successful for it.
You don’t have to have amazing musicians, though you should get good ones, or amazing songs although Lord I Lift Your Name On High is very dated. What you need is a really good sound mixer and to give him the technical and creative authority as a behind-the-scenes worship leader to maximize the effectiveness of your worship time.