Maybe 50-60 years ago, one’s definition of a “worship leader” would have been drastically different from the 21st century understanding. With that change comes both challenges and even dangers. One is that worship want to become rock stars. Probably a majority of teenage guys have had the “dream” of being a rock star too, who wouldn’t want tons of money, countless fans, and have a ridiculous amount of fun while working? But what hath rock stars to do with the Church?
Stephen Miller has had his fair share of experience in reconciling the rock star attitude with worship leading, so I would consider his insights worthy of credibility. In fact, he is very honest with his own failures and struggles as well. He states, “the rock star worship syndrome I experienced early on is not so much a musical style or way of dressing, but is an attitude and mentality that hides itself in various ways, some more obvious than others” (pg. 15). Despite the temptations that exist for the modern-day worship leader, Miller is convinced that a worship leader can live, serve, and lead to the glory of God, and I think so too.
One of the great strengths of Worship Leaders, We Are Not Rock Stars (and Miller’s philosophy of ministry in general) is that unlike many discussions and writings on contemporary Christian music and worship leadership, there is actual care and discernment for what a worship leader is responsible for. Too often, do we hear statements like this: music style is neutral, just play what engages the culture. Or worse, we arrange music for certain aspects of the service that are nothing less than techniques for manipulation. What is quite refreshing in Miller’s book is that he doesn’t simply asks questions, but that he asks the right questions. Questions that bring God into the equation. Questions that cause worship leaders to wrestle with the Bible and allow it to change us. Questions that will probably even irritate worship leaders who have become entangled in the rock star syndrome mentality. Worship Leaders, We Are Not Rock Stars will not be the most comprehensive study on worship leading, but it will be a helpful resource to edify the Body of Christ.
One matter that is worth noting is how Miller appropriately addressed the nature of a worship leader. Of course, the title of “worship leader” is not in the Bible, but there are many parts of the Body of Christ that are needed, supplying music is a valid, biblical need. What appeared to me, though, is that almost all of what defines a worship leader could be said of any Christian. Perhaps that’s the point Miller is making though. In fact, he closes with these words: “Let’s stop trying so hard to be rock stars. Let’s be Christians.” My only point for bringing this up is that I wonder whether or not it is a good idea for one person to be elected the “worship leader”? Certainly, the point could be made about the danger of a “Senior” or “Lead” Pastor (I personally hold to a plurality of eldership view), but nevertheless, churches don’t need to follow the lead of pop bands who boast of a “lead singer” as the face of the band. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a singular “worship leader,” but is it best for the Body? And, more importantly, is it most conformable to the Scriptures?
I have led people in worship through song many times. I’m not an expert, but by God’s grace, I am not a rock star. I’m a Christian, and for that I am very thankful. I don’t need anything more than that, I already have everything in Christ. Worship leaders: we are not rock stars. But that’s okay.