|worship pastor | worship leader | lead worshiper|

Posted on October 24, 2008 by


What is the difference?

It would appear to just be a difference of title, but there is much more behind what these different positions entail and how people fit into them. As I talk about these things I am referring to the defined positions which are different than roles. The role of worship leader (as someone who intentionally uses their abilities and opportunities to lead people in responding correctly to God) applies to everyone involved in the ministry.

(I use he because it’s easier in my head, since I am male but I believe that the first two roles can be either gender, and we should be cultivating more women worship leaders in our churches. but that’s another post)

Lead Worshiper|

A lead worshiper is bit of a new concept to some and it has been used to describe those that are passionate worshipers but don’t intentionally lead others into communion with God. The truth of the matter is that there are a number of people out there who believe that they are worship leaders but in fact they function as lead worshipers. One of the ways that you can tell is their eyes. Lead worshipers are actually more concerned with how they worship personally instead of serving the congregation they are with. This comes out in shut eyes, an inward focus, or a lack of intentionality in their focus. It is not always wrong to close your eyes when you are leading worship, but if it is your modus operandi then it is an issue. Another thing is the way they lead vocally. This is a very subjective point, but they need to be leading in such a way that encourages corporate involvement. This includes not using mellismatic sections, when they get all soulful and add little runs in the middle of a phrase, or changing the melody. When the leader suddenly changes from singing the written and known melody to something else that fits with the band but is not the melody it makes the congregation stop singing because 1. they don’t know what the new melody is and 2. the part they know now sounds wrong. And the final thing I will mention, although there are more things, is the issue of spoken words. There is a time and place within a worship set to speak, to read scripture and to pray, and it takes a discerning spirit to be able to tell where those places are. The issue lead worshipers have is that when something pops in their head they say it, or they pray between songs in a way that breaks up the flow of worship and distracts the people. Or sometimes a verse will pop into their head and they find it and read it and don’t explain how it fits with the focus of worship that day. Sometimes they will give mini sermons, which can feel misplaced and misdirected.  All in all these people are probably very talented and passionate but they are not worship leaders and to put them in that position is to dissillusion them and to do a disservice to your congregation.

Side note: There is a time and place for the role of a lead worshiper, and I would say that a concert venue is a better place for this, because it is a place where people are expected to fully engage, but to enjoy the experience and the skills of those performing. There is even something to be said for those that can switch roles. David Crowder, for example, can lead worship powerfully and also put on a great worship concert.

Worship Leader|

A worship leader is someone who has the gift of leadership and is called by God to lead His people in response to Him.

A worship leader takes a lot of things into consideration. First off they plan and put a lot of energy into crafting a service, because they see it as a sacrifice to God and we should give our best to Him. They also help instruct and guide the congregation. They realize that what they do affects the minds, thoughts, and moods of the congregation and they structure what they do to lead the people to what they will be taught that day. They also lead the music team– they know where the songs are going and how to get there, they understand the structure, key, and singability of the songs, they understand dynamics and tempo and what is appropriate for when and where, and they facilitate the musicians in achieving these appropriate goals. They also know how to lead worship physically. By this I mean both what they do individually to facilitate corporate worship and what they do to model correct physical responses during worship. What they do individually is important in that they are not distracting, or attracting attention to themselves. The way they stand, where they put themselves on the stage, how they set up the stage, and what they look at (and when) are all things to take into consideration. How they model correct responses is important because they are the ones who are expected to be the most free in how they worship. The congregation will generally not surpass their worship leader in the amount of physical freedom they express during worship. Also important with this is the preaching pastor. A lot more of the tone of worship is set by him and how he responds during the music. (this is assuming that he is in the congregation during worship, although I know that some do not function this way, in which case it is even more important that the worship leader and the worship leaders are modeling well) By appropriate responses I am referring to raising hands, kneeling, sitting, standing, dancing, laying prostrate and all other biblical responses to God, but the most important part is the appropriate part. It’s generally not good to contradict the text of a song with the position of your body.

Overall the general position of a worship leader is servant. They do and think through things as a servant to God and to the people in their congregation. It’s less about worshiping than it is about leading others to worship.

Worship Pastor|

I don’t have as much to say about this position because I have not held it yet, but I’ve seen it done well and I’ve seen it done poorly.

The worship pastor is fairly rare, and is truly a pastoral role. They must have the mind of a worship leader and more. They stand as a pastor to a group of people that minister to the church. They are more concerned with worship being led than they are with leading worship themselves. They search out worship leaders to develop and grow, and they give them the opportunity to try and fail. They facilitate not only the musicians but the technicians, and are concerned with all aspects of the department. They can delegate well and they work well with the other elders in the church to create a cohesive church environment.

Bus as far as these definitions go, worship pastors need to look at the lead worshipers and train them up to be worship leaders, and they need to encourage and build up the worship leaders to be what God has called them to be.

Worship Jesus

God bless

Posted in: Praxis, Theology