Change is a word that most churches cringe at its mention. In all other areas of life, people endure change, and it is usually embraced, because most societies believe in order to become better and more productive, change must take place. Email is a great example of this. A person can quickly contact anyone around the world through email, and this has not always been the case, so there had to be a change from using paper, pens, and stamps to using a computer, keyboard, and the internet to communicate with people. Most people today have embraced this change. The end result has not changed, however. Communication is still essential and the focus; however, the means to the end has changed.
Today many worship leaders of established churches find themselves stuck between change and their congregation, or as the old saying goes, “stuck between a rock and hard place.” Change is inevitable in the church. As the culture changes, the way we seek to reach the culture must change, too. It is essential to remember, however, that while methods and approach change within the church, the end is always the same. As the Body of Christ, we seek to glorify God in all we do by worshiping Him for who He is. Through our worship of Him and understanding what He has done in our lives, we seek to reach a lost and dying world for the sake of the Gospel and to make disciples of Jesus. This is our end, and it must never change! However, how we accomplish this beautiful mission has to look different today than it did even ten years ago.
As worship leaders, we stand before the church every Sunday, seeking to lead God’s people before His throne of grace in worship of Him, and to be honest, this task today seems to be quite daunting as styles and preferences of people are all over the map. However, if we seek to have a church made up of multiple generations and ethnicities, we must change the way we approach worship—musically, technologically, stylistically, etc. The idea of leading through this change is daunting, but I believe that change can take place within the church for the glory of God, and there are three essential ideas that must be in the minds of all worship leaders as we seek to lead God’s people through change:
1) You must constantly be in prayer.
If we are truly seeking to glorify God, we must truly seek and discern God’s will. Change for the sake of change is absolutely pointless. Creating change in order to better lead God’s people to glorify Him and to better advance the Kingdom of God is essential. Too often, worship leaders are most guilty of wanting to be on the cutting edge of what is taking place today, and trying to live on the edge because it is “cool” or self-gratifying is absolutely pointless and ultimately is idolatry, because the newest trend ultimately begins to rule and reign your ministry and life. Paul admonishes the church in Ephesus to pray for all of the saints, and if we as worship leaders are praying for all of the saints, our heart’s desire will be to see that we do everything in our power to make worship accessible to each one of them (Ephesians 6:18). It is only through prayer that change is truly realized and understood to be needed.
2) You must be pastoral.
Too often, worship leaders are not pastoral. Many worship leaders see themselves as musicians, and while this is true, if you do not understand that your worship leading is pastoral, along with musical, then you may need to step back and reevaluate your position and earnestly pray and discern if you should be leading God’s people corporately in worship. Too many worship leaders do not consider people when change is taking place, and too often, too much changes too fast. Too many times there is no explanation to people as to why change is taking place. There is no biblical evidence or reasoning to encourage people to embrace the change for the glory of God and for the sake of the Gospel. It is essential for a worship leader to lead pastorally through change, understanding that forcing change is not leadership at all. Leadership is taking people with you on a journey, and if you want to accomplish this task, it must be done pastorally.
3) You must have patience.
You must pray. You must lead pastorally. But, if you give up because change is not happening quickly enough to satisfy you, then you have left people in mid journey, and too often this means that people become lost, because they are not sure whether to turn around or keep going forward. Most times, they become stuck where they have been left, not knowing what to do next. Most leaders want everything now; however, if we are truly seeking to lead God’s people, we must read through the Scriptures and see a constant picture of leaders having patience with God’s people. Most of all, we read about a God who exudes perfect patience with a sinful people. Change cannot be expected to happen overnight, and many times, people will fight you on the journey. Look at Moses’ journey with the Israelites. They were lead out of bondage into freedom by God; however, there were times they desired to return to bondage, but Moses continually encouraged the Israelites to trust God. As leaders of God’s people, we must be patient and constantly encouraging God’s people to trust Him.
Change is hard, but it is necessary if we are going to continue to lead God’s people to worship Him until Christ’s imminent return. Worship leaders face constant change as there are new songs and ideas being produced daily about worship. The cutting edge is not where we, as worship leaders, should desire to be. We should desire to be God-glorifying, Christ-exemplifying, Holy Spirit-led leaders who lead prayerfully, pastorally, and patiently, knowing and believing that God’s ways are always the best.
Landon Reynolds is a Christ-follower, husband, father, and pastor. Currently, Landon is an associate pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Florence, SC, where he oversees music and worship. He holds degrees from Anderson University, SC, and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Currently, Landon is pursuing a Doctor of Ministry from Anderson University, SC. Find his blog at calvarycaresworship.com.