Not quite a year ago now, my friend, and fellow Worship Pastor, Gary Durbin, contacted me to ask if I might read the book he was working on and make an honest assessment. Since that time, I’ve read it an additional three times, recommended it to more folks than I can remember, and referred back to it as I do my best to train and equip the worshippers and worship leaders under my care.

More Than A Worship Leader is the revelation of a pastor’s heart to call us beyond merely functioning as musicians to serving and caring for the people God has placed us alongside and in front of each week. He calls us to see music as the vehicle by which we are called to lead people into a deeper relationship with Jesus, to foster relationships that grow others, and to help people encounter Jesus in the gathered community.

Gary accomplishes this by categorizing the leader’s life into three categories; Off Stage, On Stage and Up-Staged.

Off Stage examines the private life of the worship leader. I’ve found this section, which looks at our motive, our calling, and our disposition, to be of particular value when talking with young leaders in a mentoring relationship. In those early days of our calling it’s easy to think only in terms of how much fun it would be to make music all the time, and while our motive for doing it in the church stems from a love for Jesus, we don’t have a framework for understanding the demands of pastoral leadership. Nor do we understand how this aspect of our leadership is the foundational element of our role. Gary does a great job of drilling down into these issues to address how we become equipped to lead others by leading ourselves or more accurately allowing ourselves to be led well.

With On Stage, Gary tackles the arena we most often associate with worship leadership – the life we live on stage. Even here, while he calls us to excellence in every way, the foundational understanding that this is about leading people into deep relationship with Jesus bleeds out of every page. From our tendency to believe our own hype to song selection, transitions and authenticity, Gary looks at all of it through the lens of shepherding first. The call for excellence is no less clear, but the shift in focus gives us pause to ensure that it’s Jesus whose image we’re concerned about; not our own.

Up-Staged is about the future. How are we, as shepherds, training those who will take our place? We’re all interim worship leaders. Someone will, at some point, take our place. How well will they be equipped when that time comes? Will our legacy be that of leaving behind us leaders who can craft a great production or will we leave behind us leaders with a passion for Jesus and for his church? I hope, and I believe Gary concurs, both. However, if we have to choose one, lets build leaders who are passionate about building followers of Jesus.
More Than A Worship Leader reminds us that we accomplish that goal by first being passionate followers of Jesus and secondly calling those God has placed in our care into a deep and intimate relationship with the One we sing about. It is both a call to and a tool for equipping us to move beyond simply being worship leaders to being worship pastors.

Todd Stanley is the Worship Pastor of Summit Church in Indiana, Pennsylvania.