Saturday, June 05, 2010

Carson on Worship Leaders

The notion of a "worship leader" who leads the "worship" part of the service before the sermon (which, then, is no part of worship!) is so bizarre, from a New Testament perspective, as to be embarrassing. ... I know that "worship leader" is merely a matter of semantics, a currently popular tag, but it is a popular tag that unwittingly skews people's expectations as to what worship is. At very least, it is misleadingly restrictive.

He then follows this up with a footnote:

Perhaps this is the place to reflect on the fact that many contemporary "worship leaders" have training in music but none in Bible, theology, history, or the like. When pressed as to the criteria by which they choose their music, many of these leaders finally admit that their criteria oscillate between personal preference and keeping the congregation reasonably happy--scarcely the most profound criteria in the world. They give little or no thought to covering the great themes of Scripture, or the great events of Scripture, or the range of personal response to God found in the Psalms (as opposed to covering the narrow themes of being upbeat and in the midst of "worship"), or the nature of biblical locutions (in one chorus the congregation manages to sing "holy" thirty-six times, while three are enough for Isaiah and John of the Apocalypse), or the central historical traditions of the church, or anything else of weight. If such leaders operate on their own with little guidance or training or input from senior pastors, the situation commonly degenerates from the painful to the pitiful (From Worship by the Book, p. 47).

I wonder if the seemingly typical service where all the "preliminaries" are led by the "music guy" and the pastor sits stoically in his throne-like seat on the platform until it is his time to preach contributes to the notion that the he is disconnected from and disinterested in the musical worship, or maybe that singing is simply preliminary and the pastor is saving himself for the important stuff. Perhaps there is a better way.

I think there are some good reasons to have the pastor involved in the musical part of the worship, if nothing else through the introduction of songs to explain the theological basis or the role of a particular song at a particular point in the sequence, or the leading of the congregation in reading related passages of Scripture, etc.

Perhaps some variety is in order. There are times when I love to sit back and sing and worship without the burden of leading others. But I do not think I would want to be totally uninvolved.

Over the past few years, I have given this increasing attention, and have formulated some of my own ideas and practices to teach people singing is not just preliminary, and preaching is not something that happens after we worship.

We must better communicate that the music is more than a way to pass time until the important stuff. And we must communicate that the preaching is just as much worship as the singing is.

No comments: