The Not So Obvious Worship Leader: How is an instrumentalist a worship leader?

Early in ministry I often wondered, being solely an instrumentalist and an instrumental music director in our church, how I was a worship leader. What role did I play in leading worship? How good of a spiritual leader was I? I felt woefully un-gifted in some of these areas, yet highly gifted in others that pertained to my job – many that were less visible. Over the years God and others helped me figure out a lot of those questions and I grew to find good balance.

However it was a good friend and mentor that lead me to a realization one day that helped me with one aspect. In helping me critique my abilities, my strengths and weaknesses, etc. he said this in describing me:

“John, you may not be the guy that’s going to get up and give the world’s greatest devotion. And you aren’t the guy who’s going to stand out front and lead the singing. But I’ve watched how you care for your musicians. I’ve seen and experienced first hand the effects of that. I’ve watched how you prepare ahead of time to lead your team and help them be best prepared to win. I’ve watched the care you put into writing good charts for them – going out of your way to make things clear and easy to work with. I’ve watched the time and care you took to communicate well leading up to rehearsals and getting materials out ahead of time. I’ve watched how you lead a rehearsal - how you greet the musicians and make them feel welcome. How you make sure everyone’s taken care of. How you start and end on time. How you show patience. How you don’t belittle those that are having a difficult time and in turn help coach them through. I’ve seen how you encourage your team and show them a can-do spirit. And I’ve seen how you’ve gone out of your way to congratulate them and celebrate afterwards a job well done and with them, give the glory to God. I’ve watched you care for their personal needs and issues. I’ve seen you call them or send emails for no reason other than just to say “hi.” John, these are all ways you LEAD WORSHIP. You may not know it, you may not think of it this way, but these are things that naturally flow out of you, flow from your love for God and His ministry and wanting it to be good. And along with that, it flows from your love for others and how you want to shepherd and care for your teams well. This is all worship to God, John. And this is all part leading worship. You are most certainly a worship leader in your very own way. Don’t forget that! And don’t underestimate what that brings to the table!”

Obviously I was flattered and humbled by my friend’s gracious observations. And I knew, and still know that for each strength I have in those areas, I also have many areas that are weak and need constant improvement and attention. I’d like to say I wasn’t aware of all I did - but to be perfectly honest, for most of it I was. Why? because these things all mattered to me. And I thought about them all the time. I thought about people. Because people matter to God.

In your role, however it pertains to leading worship – whether it’s an upfront position, behind the scenes, on stage, off stage, behind a booth, console, or office desk . . . are you leading worship by leading and caring for those you lead? Are you thinking about it all the time?