Recognizing that worship leaders, like all Christians, are commissioned by Christ with the task of making disciples in all we do, here are my ten commandments for disciple-making as a worship leader:
1. Thou shalt have no other worship gods before me
The first of God’s Ten Commandments makes it clear that worship is all about God and not about us. Neither is it about style or format. If we put anything on the worship throne in place of God, he calls it idolatry. Lead your church to bring him their all, every time, in every service. Anything else is self-worship.
2. Thou shalt never take your people where you have not been
Be a worshiper every day yourself. Fall deeply in love with God. Worship means showing in every action and attitude the ultimate worth of God. Showing his worth must be our aim 24/7, not just an hour on Sunday.
When you crave God’s presence every moment of every day, he will show you amazing things and take you to amazing places. A worship leader must personally live full circle in worship, discipleship and mission every day. To disciple others, I must first be a disciple.
3. Thou shalt focus worship on God
Point to God in everything you say and do in worship. Worship is the ignition key for growing disciples on mission. Lead your church to sing to him, not just about him. Use Scripture in spoken intros or testify to God’s power—not yesterday’s sports event, someone’s birthday, or any other distraction. Maintain a dramatic flow that moves people through the redemption story:
God reveals his glory then we respond in repentance, trust, and obedience. Don’t interrupt the focus on almighty God. Move the announcements to before or after the service and narrow your focus to three main announcements. Better yet, substitute an announcement crawl before the service and drop the spoken announcements completely.
4. Thou shalt call forth the called and gifted
Every member of your team should have a calling from God to be a worshiper and a worship leader expressed in daily discipleship. Don’t sacrifice the team for that one who is absent from rehearsal or often arrives late. To be a true disciple of Jesus is to be compelled by the Holy Spirit to give him our very best at all times. The root word of discipline is disciple!
Just as important as calling, every team member must be God-gifted with artistic talent. Excellence in our artistic craft is our worthy sacrifice to God. Building an effective team of musicians, artists, tech, and support is like working a puzzle. Forcing a piece into the wrong place will ruin the whole picture.
5. Honor thy authority structure
God has placed those in authority over us to work his will in our lives. Usually our authority is the senior pastor, but our authority could be another person or team designated by the church. Regardless of who fills this role—or their background, leadership style, and personal tastes—God is calling you to be subject to that person’s authority. Communicate, cooperate, be teachable, and open with this leader as he/she works to lead you and your team. Serve this person in return. God has given you the rare privilege to both disciple and be discipled by your authority figure.
6. Love thy team as thyself
Jesus told his followers that the first shall be last, the greatest will be the least. We are most like Christ when we are sharing grace with someone who doesn’t deserve it. Be graceful as you hold your team accountable. Always communicate personal issues face to face.
Follow an intentional process to disciple your worship team into deeper devotion to God. Jesus showed us that we must do this in the context of relationship. You cannot make withdrawals from someone’s “account” until you have invested in that person. Involve your team, too, in worship planning and feedback to capitalize on their creativity. (For a FREE guidebook to start Discipleship TRIOS with your team e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.)
7. Honor the heart languages of thy church
We would all like to have one service full of spiritually mature believers who could truly worship in any style. But that won’t happen until heaven. In this life, we are wired by God to relate and communicate in languages. Styles arise from the variety of artistic languages used within cultures.
Heart language is our most meaningful tool from God to connect people with him. The more effectively we connect Christians with God, the more effectively we can move them to discipleship and mission. An effective worship leader researches and discovers the heart languages (music, drama, visual art, artistic expression, language, etc.) that best connect their church with God.
It doesn’t have to be just contemporary and traditional music. Gospel, country, pop, urban, jazz, world, adult contemporary, sacred, classical, bluegrass—they are all styles that can be used to connect your church with God. Teach to a visual generation using props. Also use video, drama, creative movement, puppetry, mime, dance, visual art, pottery, and all the other artistic forms God gave to honor him.
Don’t close your eyes—literally or figuratively. Be sure to watch your congregation during worship to see if your worship style is actively connecting them to God. Get feedback from others and evaluate constantly: Is our worship helping make disciples by enabling our people to fall deeply in love with God?
8. Thou shalt not perform
True worship is participation, not performance. If the congregation is no more than spectators, true worship is not happening.
Provide participation for as many as possible, not just the platform leaders. Involve choirs, Scripture readers, prayer leaders, guided prayer, testimonies, creative arts groups, ushers, greeters, etc. of all ages and ethnicities. Choose keys for congregational song that are singable by the average person. Staying within the range of Bb below middle C to high Eb will work as a rule of thumb. Adapt the key of radio songs for congregational use by this guideline.
Remember, Jesus’ formula for worship is simple: “If I be lifted up, I will draw all to me.” (John 12:32) The world can see an entertaining performance anywhere, but we offer eternal life in Christ. Ultimately, Christ and him crucified is the only thing we have to offer the world. Make it all about him and get out of the way.
9. Thou shalt eliminate distractions
Plan and rehearse well to avoid sound system problems, sudden lighting changes, sound system feedback, awkward song transitions, etc. Pay attention to the details. Video the worship service and evaluate as a team your onstage motions, facial expression, entrances and exits, attention during prayers, etc. Your right to personal expression is subject to God’s calling to connect and lead his people to him. Be careful to match your personal onstage fashion and style to the style of the majority of the congregation. Paul wrote: “I have become all things to all men, so that by all possible means I might save some.”
10. Go ye therefore
Worship should ignite the church to discipleship and mission. Where does the Bible teach that we will win the world by getting people into church? It doesn’t. God’s plan to win the world is to get the church into the world. Worship must always ignite the church to discipleship and missions.
If we hoard our God-given giftedness inside the church, we ignore God’s call to join him on mission to redeem the world. And we become little more than a club. Organize and empower your worship ministry to go into your community on a regular basis to build witnessing relationships. Take your worship ministry outside the church with weekly music camps and activities in apartment buildings, parks, mobile home communities, local public schools, community theaters, and neighborhood subdivisions. GO… make disciples.