Are You A DJ Or A Worship Leader?


I’ve been in church my entire life. I’ve had many different perspectives and experiences in all kinds of churches and settings. At an early age I knew that God was calling me to be a church leader, and more specifically, a worship leader. An important part of being a worship leader is heading up the song selection for weekly worship services. Click here to read a previous post on my song selection philosophy.

In this post, I want to compare song selection from two different perspectives: a DJ and a Worship Leader.


A DJ, or “disc jockey, is a person who selects and plays songs for an audience. Their job is to pick songs that the majority of their audience will want and approve of. A DJ is a very influential position. They can control the mood of a car, household, restaurant, wedding reception, school dance, etc.

Worship Leader

A worship leader is a person who selects and plays songs for worshipers. Their job is to pick songs that their crowd needs to sing and that God approves of. A worship leader is also a very influential position. The songs that they pick can ready hearts, inspire lives and teach specific doctrines.

Here’s the conflict….as worship leaders, do we give people what they want or what they need?

In other words, are you a DJ or a worship leader?

If you’re a worship leader in a church, you have probably received your fair share of song requests. Thanks to email and social media, it’s even easier to submit requests. I personally don’t have any problem listening to requests. I’ve truly learned the value of listening to people. I’ve even picked up a few songs along the way. The problem comes with the pressure to play requested songs. As a worship leader, its so vital that we don’t become DJ’s when it comes to taking requests and selecting songs.

A good DJ is going to pick songs that their audience wants, not what he or she thinks they need to hear. Why? Because it’s all about numbers and ratings. If they don’t, they’ll hurt their station or business.

A good Worship Leader is going to pick songs that their church needs, not what the church wants. Again, this doesn’t mean that the worship leader should stop listening to requests, but they have to be responsible and Spirit-led as they select songs for the church.

Because, if we as worship leaders pick songs based on what people want, we will eventually find ourselves leading people trained in self-centeredness instead of righteousness.

 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” II Timothy 3:16 nkjv

As worship leaders, we need to feel that responsibility. Song selection is vital because it plays into discipleship of the church. Yikes!

“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:24 nkjv

To break it down and simplify it, we need to be mindful of two areas as we lead worship and pick songs.

1. Doctrinal

Like it or not, most church people walk away from church remembering songs as much or more than sermons. It’s easier to remember songs, because of the power of music. That’s how we all know our ABC’s. That’s where the responsibility of song selection becomes heavy. As a worship leader, I have to remember that the lyrics of the songs that we sing regularly in church, plays a part in teaching doctrine. There’s been a lot of people with unbiblical beliefs because of some unbiblical songs they grew up singing in church. That’s why it’s so important for worship leaders to be in God’s Word consistently. Check out Joshua 1:8. The first book I read on worship leading started by telling me that worship leaders need to strive to be theologians. The more worship leaders study God’s Word, the more Biblically and doctrinally sound worship sets will be, which will only help in the discipleship of our churches and will also lead to us saying no to some popular songs on Christian radio.

2. Spiritual

“no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.” I Corinthians 12:3 nkjv

Without the Spirit, we can’t worship. Being that the Holy Spirit is the true worship leader, we as worship leaders need to be in tune with Him, needless to say. If we’re not careful, our worship services can become very unspiritual. We can pick songs that are new, popular or that we like, and the church will be happy and might even like us more. But what’s the cost? The cost is that people are in control instead of the Holy Spirit. When that happens, say good-bye to the spiritual part of church. We need to sing songs that we need to sing in church…not what we want to sing. The church needs to be Spirit-led and Spirit-filled. It needs to be Spiritual. We, as people, get in trouble when we live life by our wants and not our needs. Worship leaders need to be Spirit-led, not only during the service, but also before the service as we prepare our heart and pick the songs.

So worship leaders…….Are you a DJ or a worship leader? Do you give people what they want or what they need in church? More than ever, our churches need to sing songs that are doctrinally sound and Spirit-led. We need God. We need to grow in our faith. What we want is second at best.

Gary Durbin is the Worship Arts Director at The Orchard Church in Denver, Colorado. Originally published at – Republished with permission.