Music has always been important for us as we engage with God. In 1 Chronicles as God was giving the instructions for the order of the temple he assigned musicians and not just any musicians, but those from the tribe of Levi who were priestly as well as skilled and trained. 1 Chronicles 25:6-7 says, “All these men were under the supervision of their father for the music of the temple of the LORD, with cymbals, lyres and harps, for the ministry at the house of God. Asaph, Jeduthun and Heman were under the supervision of the king. Along with their relatives—all of them trained and skilled in music for the LORD—they numbered 288.” God created music to be incredibly important in how we worship him. He gave us an entire book of songs included in the scriptures and continued to echo the importance of music in the church through Paul under the new covenant in Christ. Paul said in Colossians 3:16, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”
Worshipping God through music is an extremely important and biblically mandated function of the church and so it comes as no surprise the large amount of attention that comes to church worship teams. Though I fully believe that relationships and responsibilities are what keep people at a church more often than not it’s the music or preaching that attracts people in the first place. Music has been given a prominent role in our churches today possibly more than ever and that places a lot of responsibility in the hands of today’s worship pastors and worship leaders. There is a great responsibility to provide environments for worship that are biblically founded, spiritually dynamic, and excellent in artistry. Obviously, worship pastors cannot do this alone so with these great demands to do more than just sing a few songs comes the necessity to build and maintain great teams.
I believe that there are key things that we must keep at the forefront of our worship teams to ensure that we answer the call that God has placed on us to create worship environments within the church and help to build a proper theology of worship among our congregation. Worship in the assembly of the church has two main purposes; to glorify God and to edify the church. We must make sure that our teams accomplish these things and continue to improve in the way that we execute them. Our desire should be to grow in our ability to engage with God and help the church to do the same. If we can create teams that are laser focused on the Gospel of Christ, promote genuine community within our teams, and encourage excellence in artistry I believe we will build teams that will provide the environments for worship that God has called us to create as worship pastors.
As we desire to create and maintain great worship teams the first thing we must learn to do as leaders is to keep our worship team spiritually focused. We must remember that worship that is found acceptable in the eyes of God is worship that comes through sacrifice of Christ. Hebrews 12:28-29 says, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” The writer of Hebrews commands us to worship God acceptably and that means through the sacrifice of Christ. The blood of Christ is what makes our worship acceptable to God and therefore, we must keep our teams laser focused on the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross. As I have had the opportunity to counsel and consult with other worship pastors across the country the majority of the issues they face in building their worship teams are issues relating to losing focus. Their teams have made something else the focus of their worship other than Christ. We as worship teams violate scripture when we make excellence or relevancy or anything else the recipient of our worship. The goal of our worship teams is to glorify God and serve the church.
Keeping our teams focused on the Gospel of Christ builds the fruit of the Holy Spirit into our ministry teams and creates Christ-like character. It’s been said that you become what you behold. If we are beholding Christ and he is our focus we as individuals and as a team will become more like him. It’s when we behold something else that it causes our worship teams to morph into something that we never intended. For example, when we behold excellence you end up with a team that is focused on being good instead of worshipping God acceptably. Excellence is important as we will discuss, but it can never be central. Only the Gospel of Christ can be the center of what we do as a worship team and as Christians. We as leaders are responsible for helping create and maintain the focus of our teams and that means our personal lives, our personal worship, and our attitudes preach a message of what is central and our lives must preach to our teams the laser focused centrality of the Cross of Christ.
Secondly, to create great teams we must promote genuine community. We must control the atmosphere of our teams by making it a place that people feel challenged, encouraged, and welcome. At Northstar, my home church, we have seen God work countless times in the lives of those on our team simply through the biblical community they experience while they are serving. We have 5 services each Sunday and throughout the day we spend a lot of time in our green room as a team. We pray, we eat, we talk, we laugh and all of this makes serving on the team incredibly enjoyable. I have unfortunately witnessed the polar opposite of this as well. A little more than a year ago we noticed that the morale of our team was really down and we realized that when we were back stage everyone was on their computers or phones and weren’t engaging each other at all. So we made the decision to begin buying everyone breakfast and we as leaders would make a conscious effort to encourage conversation and community. It completely revived our team. We saw the teaching and admonishing that Paul spoke of in Colossians 3:16 right before our eyes. As we were leading the church even our own team was finding encouragement in Biblical community. Friendships were being built, commonality being found, and people growing in their relationship with Christ as we served the church together in creating worship environments. Our team is no longer a team, it is a family. That is the kind of dynamic that attracts people to serve and radiates the joy that we should have in serving God together. It is imperative that we create an atmosphere of genuine community among our teams.
Lastly, to answer the call that God has placed on our teams it takes excellence in artistry. Remember earlier when we mentioned that the musicians in 1 Chronicles were “skilled and trained”. Also, in Psalm 33:3 it says to “play skillfully before the Lord.” I am not talking about perfection, but I do believe that we must create teams that give their very best week in and week out. In Matthew 25 Jesus tells a parable often referred to as the Parable of the Talents. It’s the story of a master who gives 5 talents to one servant, 2 to another, and 1 to another. When the master returns the servant with 5 talents had doubled his money as had the servant with 2 talents. Unfortunately, the servant with 1 talent buried his and did nothing with it. The master called this servant “wicked and lazy”. I believe that our artistic talents require the same responsibility and investment. We must seek to give everything as we serve God and continue to better the talent that he has given us. I believe that God gave us talents that we are to nurture and improve through hard work and dedication. We want our teams to give their very best to God and to consistently increase what our very best can be. We don’t do this to “wow” congregants. We do this because God deserves the very best from us and we want to make as much of him as we possibly can. Excellence in artistry glorifies God, but it also has a wonderful bi-product. It gives you tremendous influence with those who don’t believe. It’s been said that if your art is good enough people will tolerate your faith. I believe that’s true. Our excellent artistry is a great vehicle for us as individuals and as a team getting to share with those who are lost how much our faith in Christ means to us. Many of our worship team members play in bar bands and touring bands and we encourage that. They take our ministry values of humility, integrity, and excellence and apply them to their other bands and share them with others as they play. People are always surprised in the artistic invest that the church has made into them and it’s led to dozens of musicians coming to know Christ.
We have a call as worship pastors and leaders to create teams to provide our churches with opportunities to worship God through music and it takes being laser focused on the Gospel, promoting genuine community, and encouraging excellent artistry. These things are the bedrocks of strong teams. Strong teams are protection for our churches because they ensure that our worship environments will always be Biblically founded, spiritually dynamic, and excellent in artistry and those are the things that God has asked us to do, to worship him acceptably, powerfully, and skillfully as a team. Great teams are the fruit of great leaders who trust in a great God and great teams are what we have been called to build for the glory of God and the good of the church.