Basic Rules For Worship Leaders


These rules are not primarily based on worldly academic disciplines in the titled subject, although it may include them. Rather, they are logically gleaned from the foundational values of the Scriptures. Because of the very purpose for which it is done, that is, the worship and adoration of Almighty God, the true atmosphere inside the walls of the church is not supposed to be the same sphere of operation as that outside them. We greatly err when we confuse one for the other, which today is all too common.


1. The nucleus around which all the other elements revolve that should govern the church worship leader is the ability to impress the congregation of worshippers that they are leaderless in it. That is no simple matter. Like other church musicians, the key word describing it is transparency. That immediately eliminates all other candidates who fill this sensitive position in order to be seen. That very act quickly defeats their first purpose—to lead the congregation into adoring God, not themselves. If this basic rule is violated, regardless of the reason, including ignorance, the desired worship service becomes a distraction service! The question naturally begs, how can God’s glory fill the temple when the people’s eyes are occupied with the talents of the worship leader?


2. The worship leader should not be the pianist or organist, nor the player of any other instrument. He or she must be one or the other, not both at once. Trying to do this very sensitive job before God and the people while occupied with an instrument is self defeating from the start! No musician alive is properly equipped to do both at once. That’s because the instrument requires a physical and mental talent, while the leading of worship toward God is an act consuming the very soul. The leader must stay in close contact with the souls of the worshippers, constantly monitoring their status of worship so as to make quick changes, musical insertions, repeats, other choruses or songs suited to the instant occasion and attitude of the worshippers. The entire objective is the active participation of the whole congregation, as much as possible—everyone—in worshipping their Savior and Lord in attitude and song. Done properly, that job alone will consume the total attention of the worship leader. The pressing truth here is that the people do not worship God because the leader does, but rather because the leader has skillfully brought worshipper and Savior together in proper relationship. Not just any leader is even capable of it, especially anyone seeking opportunity to be seen themselves.

3. The leader’s choice of songs is absolutely crucial to the purpose at hand. Any worship leader so naive as to persist in choosing songs with which only a few in the congregation are familiar, should be replaced. Such a persistence vividly demonstrates a pride in being knowledgeable of such a variety. It tells the people, “See how versatile I am?” Do we see the point? Transparency is flooded with the leader’s own color for the people to observe and admire. Few know the song, so must just sit or stand there gazing blankly at the leader.
 With this point, because of the pressing purpose, the worship service is absolutely not the time or place to introduce new songs and choruses! Rather, the wise, transparent leader must choose songs known to be very familiar with everyone possible, from the eldest to the youngest. Otherwise the entire purpose is quickly defeated the very instant an unfamiliar song begins. Such new songs must be brought from other sources, including choir, soloists, or other group specials and special services from which the parishioners have previously learned.
 If this truth is faithfully adopted, it will prevent another distraction to the worshippers’ attention: The need for songbooks or a projection screen. The screen presents an object for our minds to be occupied and our eyes to follow at a time when our spirits should be led into worship. Of the two, songbooks are better, because the worshipper has a choice, whereas the screen offers none. It is a distraction for everyone. At the most, the screen should only project a page number in the songbook, nothing more. Remember, the whole objective is the unobstructed adoration of God, and nothing else.

4. Please, worship leaders, no talking allowed! That should be left to the pastor or someone occupying a different capacity. The only exception can be short, mid-song, three or four word encouragements to worship the Lord, but that’s all. No long Scripture readings, not even in congregational unison, no personal testimonies, no biographies of the author of the song. None of this. Just sing! That’s because God has so designed humanity that inspirational music of the soul leads one’s spirit to worship our holy Creator. Just talking is something else.

5. The worship leader, under the direct supervision of the pastor, is logically responsible to see that all phases of the service leading up to the pastor’s message for the people, must lend itself to building a corporate mentality of awe and respect toward God. Utterly vital to this is all the music occurring as the service progresses, including all background music, the offertory, and the musical specials. Such a ministry of worship cannot be built on deafening drums, screaming guitars, or staccato pounding on a piano. Done properly, the leader will know ahead of time who will play, who will sing, when and what they will do, including the lyrics.
 Vital to all of the worship service is the organ. That instrument was not invented on a whim, but came into existence for the soul of humanity. If the soft strains of an organ fails to touch human spirits, then those spirits are calloused before God, conditioned so by foreign pseudo-sounds to the image of God in us. In fact, throughout the service the organ should be key to the intent of worship. The offertory and communion should be given solely to the organ with no other instruments playing. The altar call should feature the organ with, perhaps, the piano playing softly in the background. Today there is no excuse for a church to be without an organ. The modern keyboard can produce sounds of every type of organ and piano there is, one at a time or both at once. The beauty of this convenience is that a single pianist or organist can play both. And this while occupying only a fraction of the space required for full size instruments. Of the two instruments, the organ is most key for achieving the desired end of creating an atmosphere of worship. 

 Finally, and to put this into perspective, we would be remiss if we failed to make the following observations:
 While misapplied music, obscure lyrics, and mere talking is like wielding a small hammer that cracks a cherished heirloom, today’s Rock and Roll is a sledgehammer that shatters the proper worship of God! That music does not arise from man’s spirit made in the image of God, but from his flesh nature. Those of us old enough to remember it’s satanic origin are aware that it was so named for the rocking rhythm of a certain act, and rolling together in the ecstasy of it. That is exactly why the older generations of Christians say there is no such thing as Christian Rock and Roll music. Watered down Christian lyrics can never change the origin of the music.
 What a pity that despite the extraordinary talents and genius of today’s youth, they have adopted the world’s trashy music instead of inventing a style that honor’s God, start to finish. But they have not, and that’s why many of today’s churches comprising large bodies of youth are dissolving the traditional worship service into little more than rock concerts and displays of personal talents. Such practices will most certainly come to no good. We should be reminded that the Laodicean church of Revelation 3:20 presents the sad picture of the Lord Jesus knocking on their door to get in again, for their sinful indulgence had caused Him to leave their church.
 SUMMARY: Next to the pastor’s message to his people, the worship leader is most vital to what doing church is all about. If he or she fails to prepare the hearts and minds of the people to hear what God has to say to them through His minister, much of it will fall to the floor for lack of lodging. Of course, mega-churches can be built on entertainment and star-quality personality, but big hair, mascara, slouchy clothes, tattoos, and nose rings never healed cancer, nor saved a soul from the flames of hell. On the other hand, all it takes to win the world for Christ is a mere few full of the power of Almighty God. The soul is the fuel tank, and worship is the service station. There’s no such thing as a better idea—never was, never will be.      DA this!

2 Responses so far

  1. 1

    find a domain said,

    October 24, 2011 @ 5:42 am

    I find this a little odd. I lead worship and people tell me I do it well. Also I really feel called by God to this ministry. I play the guitar, sing modern as well as traditional worship music. I do not consider the songs of Matt Redman, Brian Deorkson, Robin Mark etc. etc. to be watered down Christian lyrics. I have heard complaints written centuries ago about the evils of the church organ. Please try and understand that like Thomas Cranmer who put the prayers into contemporary (for him) language and the decision to print the Bible in english (and any other language) the idea is to reach people with the good news of Jesus Christ in ways they will recognise and understand.
    New songs can be learnt by a congregation (just not to many at a time).
    I think the author of this piece simply doesn’t like certain styles of music. This is no reason to state that they are wrong.
    There may not be a better idea but there are different ones. Different does not equal wrong.

  2. 2

    find a domain said,

    November 1, 2011 @ 5:15 pm

    Chris, thank you for your honest comments.

    I’m sure we all have likes and dislikes in music. You say I dislike certain styles of music, but it is obvious that organ music is something you could live without. Thomas Cranmer and others were wrong to deny God’s people of instrumental music in worship services, which is not born of evil, but is rooted in the human soul’s perpetual reach toward the blessings of Heaven. Little David was the “sweet singer of Israel” to the soft strains of his harp, not the thunder of drums, screaming guitars, and wild yells of musicians. The great Mozart called the organ “The king of instruments,” and Wikipedia observes of the organ, “Due to its ability to simultaneously provide a musical foundation below the vocal register, support in the vocal register, and increased brightness above the vocal register, the organ is ideally suited to accompany human voices, whether a congregation, a choir or a cantor or soloist.” Besides, contrary to what many think, a major survey shows that by far the most popular instruments of worship in 90% of the churches is still the piano and organ! All others fall short, but the lowest are the guitar, the bass, and the drums!

    Your comment leads me to think you did not carefully read my article. You are a worship leader, and yet you take issue with basic fundamentals of it that have been its cardinal marks for many centuries! I am not familiar with the musicians you named, but I am familiar with most of those who wrote the songs that have blessed God’s people for all of those same centuries. Yes, there are different ideas, as you say, and maybe they are not wrong, but why would you risk the souls of hungry people with a flash in the pan when you cannot do better than what has perpetually worked for more than a thousand years? Do you really believe you can outdo what God already has going? Please think about that.

    You say of your worship leadership, “People say I do it well.” That’s good. But I caution you: Do they say that because your talent for it has their eyes on yourself more than the Lord? As I point out in my article, the worship leader’s goal should be transparency. There is a difference between worship and praise. Who is being worshiped and who is being praised, is the question.

    I also caution you on your view of reaching people with the Gospel “In ways they will recognize and understand,” meaning, as a worship leader, the kind of music you choose with which to do it. But I warn you: That is not your job! Yours is to get the people in a worshiping state of mind, soul, and spirit toward God, then step out of the way and let the minister “Reach the people with the Gospel in ways they will recognize and understand.” That, Chris, goes far beyond the goal and calling of a worship leader. Yours is to rivet their attention on the Lord, fade out of the way, and let the minister take advantage of their awe of God. Being a nobody in the lineup skins pride alive, and that’s why being a worship leader is no piece of cake. There is nothing new about the Gospel itself. It is still the same old story of lost humanity, a suffering Savior to rescue them, a Heaven to win, a Hell to shun, the future coming of Christ, and Judgment day. If that were not true, all Scripture would go out of date with the birth of every new generation who thinks they can do it better. They can’t. That’s why even in the Apostle John’s day, the churches were admonished to go back and do their first works over again. If your worship leadership then hands your accomplishment into the hands of a minister who does not agree with that cardinal truth, perhaps you are spinning your wheels.

    Finally, you say you “Feel called by God to this ministry.” That is a very worthy calling, and greatly needed. I advise you to educate yourself in it’s traditional usage, and be humble and willing before God to make the changes he asks of you, even if it means giving up your guitar for the purpose of leading worship. I am an accomplished guitarist myself, and I know what that means. My article was not the result of an odd whim, so please read it with fresh eyes, and use it to humbly lead your people into a state of worshiping God with complete abandon. After all, that is exactly what we will all be doing in Heaven, or else we won’t be there.

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