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Monday, June 10, 2013

"Worship Leaders, We Are Not Rock Stars" (Stephen Miller)

TITLE: Worship Leaders, We Are Not Rock Stars
AUTHOR: Stephen Miller
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2013, (128 pages).

Worship leaders are not to direct attention to themselves. Neither are they rock stars who attract adoration and praise to selves. They are to be worship leaders directing, returning, encouraging, persuading, reflecting, or anything that will bring about focus and attention to God. In a book that seems to be addressed to anyone who call themselves "worship leader," Miller makes a strong case for one to learn to deny self, to take up the cross, and to lead all to hunger more after the glory of God. After describing the sad state of "rock star worship syndrome" that draws attention away from God to the person on stage, he highlights eight attributes of what worship leaders are.

  1. They are Worshipers: I agree totally with this. Worship leaders are first and foremost worshipers. If they are not, how can they even lead people into worship? It is like leading your country to a major sports competition with a captain who does not know anything about the sport. Miller also reminds us that worship leaders before they can lead well in public, need to have a credible private devotional life too.
  2. They are Redeemed and Adopted: We serve as true servants of God when we realize our spiritual state first. Knowing we are sinners and culpable of many bad acts is not enough. We need to be reminded again that we are redeemed people and adopted as children of God. Worshiping God is not just about denying ourselves. It is also about accepting the love of God for us, to let our response be turned into worship.
  3. They are Pastors and Deacons: There is no "worship leader" title in the New Testament. Thus, the author goes to some length to argue that worship leaders ought to be considered within the same category as "pastors and deacons" because of their tightly-integrated ministry with pastors and teachers, and servants of God. 
  4. They are Theologians: Good music is good not when it sounds or gives an emotional appeal. They are good only when grounded on Truth. In fact, worship leaders teach theology directly through the words of the songs. 
  5. They are Storytellers (Liturgists): The chosen songs, the flow, the order, the way they are sung, all reflect a narrative also referred to as liturgy. It needs to be thoughtful and worshipful. It needs to help the congregation pace together as a community. The Bible is an amazing resource to help us to do just that. Five liturgical movements are described (Call to Worship / Adoration-Praise-Thanksgiving / Confession-Repentance / Assurance / Sending-Commitment). 
  6. They are Evangelists: The author emphasises the fact that 'evangelists' are people who advocate for Christ. When they are leading people to worship, they are leading people to worship Christ. They are not to be ashamed but to be bold. Proclaim the good news and the gospel in worship.
  7. They are Artists: The author reminds us that childlikeness and creativity remain key staple in the worship service. We need to remain creative, not copycats. Our worship stems from an awe of God, that our service needs to be designed so that we can be more in awe of God. 
  8. They are Christians: This is probably the most common denominator of us as called people of God to worship God together as a Christian community. It is not about how we sing or how many songs or what kind of things we do during the worship service. We sing, we serve out of a common identity in Christ.

I like this book for the sheer fact that instead of letting the book become a giant bash-up of any "rock star" syndromes, it is filled with these eight affirmations of what and who worship leaders truly are. Right from the start, it is very tempting for any author to go on a witch-hunt and crucify the negatives. Thankfully, Miller stops at chapter 1, after making a personal plea against anyone intending to become a "rock star" themselves, whether knowingly or unknowingly. Filled with many quotable phrases, I find myself highlighting wise quips page after page. Here are a few gems.

  • "It is the job of worship leaders to raise the affections of the people we lead to the highest possible height with the truth of the worthiness of God in our songs."
  • "We may go for the emotional jugular and completely fail to exalt the character, holiness, and majesty of God. The music becomes self-serving."
  • "Are we raising the affection of our hearers with the truth or simply the thrill of the song?"
  • "Worship has an all-of-life-ness about it that can’t be relegated to just singing."
  • "No identity that you can create is better than the one that God has given you in Christ."
  • "The songs we sing teach us theology. For better or worse, as worship leaders, the songs we choose to sing with our churches will inevitably shape the way they view God and interact with him. Songs that are rich with gospel truth and weighty in God-centered, Christ-honoring content will shape worshipers who understand and adore God, while deficient, flimsy, man-centered songs will produce a lack of understanding of who God actually is that leads to deficient, flimsy, man-centered worship. If we are to worship God, we must know who He really is."
  • ...
Each chapter ends with some discussion questions for readers to take the opportunity to talk about the chapter within a small group environment. Best used for worship teams, it can stimulate active discussion and more importantly, direct every worship leader toward a deeper love for God and a more intentional leading of people into worshiping God. Miller makes some very good insights into the human psyche, something like the nature of the human being to constantly look for something better, bigger, more beautiful, so that we can "ascribe glory" to it. If worship leaders can help turn this innate desire into seeking God, the congregation will be well-led in worship. We need to stop making worship services some kind of emotional thrill or a man-centered spiritual inspirational. Instead, we need to start letting the worship service be another opportunity to be led in awe toward the presence of an Awesome God. The music, the ambience, the worship leader, are all different "cheer leaders" to help the congregation to do just that: Entering into the presence of the Holy One and worshiping God in Spirit and in Truth.

As a worship Pastor, Miller is in touch with the worship leading world, and makes many good observations of the current Church culture of a kind of worship that is dangerously close to spiritual entertainment instead of worship. This book functions as a good corrective to any such idea. At the same time, it is also a book to equip anyone interested in things worship, music, and Church liturgy. Highly recommended for all involved in the worship service of any Christian community.

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Moody Publishers and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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