More Than Just A Worship Leader


Thanks to Gary Durbin for today’s challenging thoughts. Originally published at – Republished with permission. 

The first time I heard the song The Heart of Worship by Matt Redman, the only thing I was thinking was, “What a great song for church!”

That was over 10 years ago.

Now, when I hear that song, I think about much more than music. The lyric, “I’ll bring You more than a song” rings so true in my heart now, more than ever.

In fact, that sentiment was the reason for the song being written in the first place. Matt’s church was really enamored with the music, so much that they were forgetting about God. The band, the sounds and new songs were becoming the focal point instead of God. So, they took a break from it all, examined their hearts and rediscovered what it’s all about – loving God.

It’s a pretty accurate picture of what has happened to me as a leader in the church.

A Worship Leader

For the sake of time and lack of semantic arguments, I want to define “worship leader” as the person who leads the church in worship with songs every week.

As a worship leader, music was definitely my entry point into the full-time vocational world of church and ministry. I could sing, play guitar and play the piano. I even directed choir for the first few years. Music was the reason I was hired, but music has become less of the reason I serve the church. Sure, I may not get paid without my musical abilities, but if I woke up tomorrow without them, I would still serve and minister in the local church.

I’ve experienced a gradual transformation over the last several years.

I still have a huge passion for music. I’m a song writer and a creative. I would literally go insane without a creative outlet.

The transformation I’ve gone through is a result of spiritual growth and depth.

I’ve gone from looking at myself as more than just a worship leader. I look at myself as a church leader.

Now, I still consider myself a worship leader. That’s my passion and my strength. It’s what comes the easiest to me. It’s natural for me to stand in front of crowds every week and lead them to praise God in song. It’s truly second nature and it’s probably my biggest contribution right now.

The difference is, at one time it pretty much entirely defined my focus, but not anymore.

Now, being a worship leader is just part (a big part) of being a church leader.

I used to stand in front of congregations and judge our church on how much enthusiasm they had in a worship service.

Now, I measure our church in a more balanced way. It’s more than enthusiasm and energy. It’s more than a worship service. It’s definitely more than a song.

More than a Song

Now, I’m more and more concerned with actual worship.

As a church leader, my heart is stirred to see God’s people grow from the inside out. I want to see the worship service become a time that’s less dependent on me and more and more fueled by God.

I want to see our people not only sing the songs, but live the songs.

In fact, I want to see everyone come in with anticipation and expectation of an amazing experience together in the presence of God.

I want to see an overflow of worship in song.

I want to see believers look at the world through more of God’s eyes and less of their own.

I wish that Christians would read their Bibles on their own more.

I desire to see our attendees turn into followers of Jesus, by giving their lives to serve and disciple others, instead of being fanatics of Christian culture.

And you know what? It starts with me. I have to lead the way. I can’t just be totally consumed with the creative arts. I need to grasp the big picture. I have to look beyond the church service to see God’s truer idea of worship.

I’ve become more than just a worship leader. I’ve become a church leader.

What that means to me is something my Dad told me years ago. He’s been a church leader all of my life. He told me that ministry was becoming more and more about people for him. I remember hearing that, but not totally grasping it. Now I get it.

Do I really care about people?

When I walk out on a stage, am I loving people or performing for them?

Jesus made it pretty simple for us, didn’t he? He said the greatest commandment was to love God and love others. If I’m a worship leader and I’m not doing that, then what the heeeeck am I doing?

If you’re a worship leader, your coolness factor is going to run out one day.

One day, you’re going to wake up and realize that there’s worship leaders that are better and more talented than you. In fact, they may take your spot.

Wouldn’t it be cool to voluntarily give them your spot? Wouldn’t it be amazing to be totally at peace with all that?

The only way that happens is if we, as worship leaders, grow into maturity and become more than just worship leaders. We have to look at ourselves more and more like church leaders.

More Than A Title

That doesn’t mean that we need to aspire for a “better title”. That’s stupid. Show me someone that is more concerned with their title and status and I’ll show you someone that thinks about themselves more than others. That’s not being a church leader. That’s pride and ego. God’s not cool with that, especially in His church.

A church leader is simply someone that isn’t afraid to lead the way in being a follower of Jesus. A church leader will love God, love people and inspire others to do the same. A church leader will encourage, challenge and disciple. They will lead the way in the cause of Christ, whether it be on a stage, behind the stage or in the homes of people. The church is God’s main and most effective way to build His Kingdom and some of us are called to be leaders in that, which should be completely humbling.

I want to really challenge and encourage worship leaders to ask themselves how they can be more than just a worship leader. Ask yourself how you can love people on the stage and off the stage. Make sure you are discipling others. Jesus calls all of us to do that in Matthew 28:18-20. If intentional discipleship isn’t in your church or pastor’s DNA, disciple others anyway. It doesn’t have to be a ministry on your website. Don’t settle for just being in front of people. Be in the lives of people. Lead a small group. Be in a small group. Serve the community together.

The result will be a much more meaningful experience in your church services. The more you do off the stage, the more impact you will have on the stage.

It’s so much more than just a song, and you can be more than just a worship leader.


Gary Durbin is the Worship Arts Director at The Orchard Church in Denver, Colorado. See Gary’s review of New Life Worship’s Strong God here.