I had a student ask me a great question. The question was essentially this: how is a worship leader different than someone who just plays song after song (basically a worship disc jockey)?
Insightful question, as I am afraid many worship leaders today are glorified worship DJ’s. The job of a disk jockey is to play songs, and if we aren’t careful, we can reduce the job of the worship leader to someone who just does song after song with some running commentary. Usually we also give a weather report to boot.
I never been a DJ, so I decided to see what they do to find any similarities between worship leaders and DJs. I googled “How to be a disk jockey” and came up with this site that had 16 tips on “How to be a DJ”. Some similarities between being a DJ and worship leader that I thought were interesting:
1. Decide whether you want to be a crowd pleaser or a music specialist. This could be a whole blog post : )
2. Know what you need (equipment).
3. Start with the basics
4. Augment your performance with software (loops or iWorship anyone?)
5. Be economical.
6. Learn to mix beats
7. Learn the intros and outros.
8. Learn about all genres of music.
9. Find a gig.
10. Know the crowd.
11. Be professional.
12. Develop a good balance of banter and playing. Your crowd will want you to talk to them a little bit, but not too much.
So what is the difference between a worship leader and a disk jockey? I came up with a list of 7.
1. Good worship leaders should be leading people into the presence of God. To do this, they must be intentional and purposeful. Much has been made of “taking people to the throne”, so I won’t belabor the point.
2. Good worship leaders place worship elements intentionally. It is not enough to have a play list, and just press “shuffle” and push play. While some disk jockeys may be intentional about the order and flow of their songs, worship leaders must constantly seek to use flow as not to distract (musically or textually), to reinforce thematic worship (if desired), and to help people be focused on Christ.
3. Good worship leaders realize that music is only a means to an end. It goes beyond enjoyment to fulfill what I believe are the three roles of music: evangelism, praise and worship, and teaching and admonishing.
4. Good worship leaders seek to exalt Christ rather than themselves. It seems that “successful” radio personalities are created by people who depend on their cleverness, persona, or ability to speak well. They are successful when they call attention to themselves so that they are remembered, especially when it comes to ratings. Worship leaders by contrast should focus attention on God, not themselves. In a recent Skype interview, Darlene Zschech reminded her viewers “We are not made to receive glory, but to give it”.
5. Good worship leaders are careful with what they say and how that say it. They choose their words carefully. This is much of the “leading” part of worship leading. Bob Kauflin has a great series of blog posts on this issue.
6. Good worship leaders make use of more than music. Prayer and scripture are essential elements of worship. Don’t neglect them. Jesus doesn’t say that his house will be a house of worship, but a house of prayer. Public reading of scripture is also vital. How much are we saying when we could be reading scripture.
7. Good worship leaders expect a response. DJs can have passive listeners and be successful. The worship leader is not leading worship if people are not worshiping.
So be a worship leader, not just a worship disk jockey? Anything that I missed? Any comments?