An Open Letter to Worship Leaders

I’ll admit, I’m probably the last guy who should be writing to worship leaders. So, full disclosure, I’ve never led a worship team. I’m a mediocre singer at best. You’re not going to get a list of the top 10 ways to get get your congregation to engage in singing from me.

But, as a person who loves the church, let me share with you the burden of my heart.

Your position, whether you are a paid worship leader who has albums available to stream or you are just a person brave enough to sing loudly in your house church, is important. Paul tells us in Colossians that part of the way we let the word of Christ dwell in us richly is to “[s]ing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts,” (Colossians 3:16). We need the whole body of Christ to sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs so that God’s message can dwell in us deeply. You are important to helping us do that.

Now, here’s my admonition:

The days ahead for the church are going to be difficult. I’ll let you interpret what I mean by that, but let’s just say for now that I don’t foresee the job of the church becoming easier and I don’t foresee the church’s position in society becoming more revered. I actually see the church becoming less revered and our job becoming more difficult. Paul says “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution,” (2 Timothy 3:12) and I believe that will become more and more real in the days ahead.

Because of that, worship leaders, we will need you–yes you–to lead us in songs that prepare us for that season. What sort of songs prepare our hearts for that type of event? In my head, there are two emphases that will be important. We need to sing songs that tell of the greatness, glory, and beauty of Jesus and we need songs that emphasize the importance of faithfulness to Jesus in the midst of hard times.

Why songs that emphasize the greatness, glory, and beauty of Jesus? Well, we need to constantly remember that Jesus is the pearl of great price. No one lays down their life for things that aren’t of great value. It’s important for us remember over and over again what Jesus did and why he is worth our lives, whether that means a life lived for him in hardship or a life lost for him to physical persecution. Singing songs about the worth of Jesus doesn’t make him more worthy, it just causes us to remind ourselves that he is as great and glorious as we thought he was at first. If Jesus is more valuable than anything else we have, then laying our lives down for him is an easy thing.

What about songs that emphasize faithfulness to Jesus in the midst of hard times? I think its obvious why such songs are important. However, in our Western culture where very little physical persecution has happened, the theme isn’t often sung about and so we think about it less. In cultures where persecution is more prevalent, this isn’t the case. In fact, Paul quotes an early hymn when writing to Timothy in order to encourage him to be more faithful:

“If we die with him,
    we will also live with him.
 If we endure hardship,
    we will reign with him.
If we deny him,
    he will deny us.
 If we are unfaithful,
    he remains faithful,
    for he cannot deny who he is.”

-2 Timothy 2:11-13

These were words that the early church used to sing to encourage each other to be faithful. We need to recover this ancient practice for ourselves today. Singing these types of songs won’t in and of themselves make us more faithful. There are plenty of people who sing songs about things they will never do. But as we sing them, we meditate on the importance of faithfulness in our walk with Christ and that will help us in the days ahead.

I never like writing without actionable advice, so before we close, let me list some songs that I find helpful in these two areas. You may not like their style, so I’m not saying you have to sing these songs, but these are examples of songs that make much of Jesus or stress the importance of faithfulness in times of trouble.

Songs About the Greatness of Jesus

Christ is Risen by Matt Maher

When You Walk Into The Room by Bryan and Katie Torwalt

Jesus You’re Beautiful by Jon Thurlow

Songs About Faithfulness in the Midst of Trouble

Psalm 46 by Shane and Shane

Fully in Love by John Thurlow

Even Unto Death by Audrey Assad

The days ahead are going to be tough. My hope is you can become a part of strengthening the body of Christ for the days ahead. If we all do our part, we’ll all stand a little stronger and shine a little brighter when hard things come.

Photo Credit: Hands on the Keyboard by Puk Khantho

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About traviskolder

Travis Kolder is a follower of Jesus, a husband, a father of five, an organic church planter, and a writer. He lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he serves as part of the Cedar Rapids House Church Network.

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