As I begin preparing again for my role as “worship leader” this week, I’m struck again by how much I don’t like that terminology—“worship leader”. This term seems to suggest that the preaching/teaching of the Word is not “worship”. We come to church and for the first 30 minutes or so (or much longer, depending on what church you go to) we “worship” and then…the sermon. I’m not going to begin a series on what I think worship is (I’ve already got two series’ started that I don’t post to as often as I’d like!); I’m just venting over this popular term that’s used to describe what I do two or three Sundays a month.
I really don’t have an alternative term to use at the moment. And even though I’m sure that what I do at our church may differ dramatically with what other “worship leaders” do at other churches (different styles, different emphasis, etc.), the use of the term in question still conveys a sense of (at least) two different things going on within any given church service. We certainly come to church to worship our God and Savior, but it almost seems as if when the “worship leader” is finished “leading the worship” and sits down…well…now we’re finished “worshipping”. But of course, we stay a little longer (sometimes a lot longer :-) because we’re still supposed to listen to what the preacher has to say.
I’m sure we don’t always consciously think this way, but I’ve seen it too often (not at my church, of course :-) where people seem to get a “rush” when “worshipping” through the music and then just “settle in”, so-to-speak, with a board expression on their face and in their body language as the preacher does his thing. But, on the other hand, I’ve also noticed times when people seem to just “grin and bear” with the “first part” of the service (usually the music, of course) in order to get to the good stuff of the second part of the service (usually the preaching). Sometimes I wonder if people understand that it is all worship. If our very lives are to be “worship”, then certainly everything we do in a church service is “worship”.
I can’t count the number of churches I’ve attended in the past where, no matter what time the service is scheduled to begin, people are walking in sometimes as much as 15 minutes late! Do they not like the “worship” part of the service? Or, on the other hand, people will be at church on time and participate in the “worship” and then just “tune out” in various ways when the “worship” is over and the preaching begins. Do they not like the “sermon” part of the service?
I think if we were to consciously start thinking about the whole service as “worship”, then we may begin to take each “part” of the service seriously and with the same eager anticipation. I don’t know how much the term “worship leader” contributes to this mind-set, but words and terms convey “ideas” and it is very easy for…well…umm…let me put it this way: it’s very easy for “not right” ideas to seep into our thinking and sometimes very difficult to recognize and then remove them. I’ve never thought about how I used to “worship” before I became a “worship leader”; but looking back I can see where I’ve created the artificial distinction within my own mind between the “worship” part of the service and the “sermon” part of the service. It can be a subtle distinction within a mind, but it can easily lead to a despising of the Word. When I see 45 minute long “worship” services and a 25 minute “sermon” tacked on at the end, well…you get my drift.
“Worship leader” is a term that I don’t like using for myself. But is there an alternative?
Ok…I’m finished “venting”. Time to prepare for “worship”! :-)