What’s In A Name: Song Leader

Metta World Peace.

Just this month, an NBA player formerly named Ron Artest legally changed his name to Metta World Peace.

“Metta is going to be the first name and it means like friendship, love and kindness,” Artest told Stephen A. Smith on 710 ESPNLA earlier this month. “World Peace is going to be the last name, so everybody can get ready to buy their World Peace jerseys.”

I was thinking about doing the same thing, but he beat me to it…

I don’t really want to change my name, but my title has changed over the years.  This week at Church Music Today, we will be gazing into the titles of us, music folks:

Song Leader/Music Leader
Worship Leader
Minister of Music

We will be looking at the title itself, what it means and if it applies to who we are and what we do. Today, we will look at the title(s): song leader/music leader.

Of course, you heard about the song leader and preacher who never got along, right?  Whatever title God leads your church to adopt, just don’t end up like this “preacher” and “song leader”:

There was a church where the preacher and the song leader were not getting along. This began to spill over into the worship service. One week the preacher preached on commitment, and how we should dedicate ourselves to service. The song leader then led the song, I Shall Not Be Moved.  The next Sunday, the preacher preached on giving and how we should gladly give to the work of the Lord. The leader then led the song, Jesus Paid It All.  The next Sunday, the preacher preached on gossiping and how we should watch our tongues. The song leader then led the song, I Love To Tell The Story.  The preacher became very disgusted over the situation, and the next Sunday he told the congregation he was considering resigning. The song leader then led the song, Oh, Why Not Tonight.  As it came to pass, the preacher resigned and the next week informed the church that it was Jesus that led him there and it was Jesus that was taking him away. The song leader then led the song, What A Friend We Have In Jesus.

I remember the first wonderful little church I was privileged to serve in and attempt to help lead. I was a fish out of water. No Pastor. No secretary. No youth minister. No custodian. It was me, a congregation of thirty, and a different speaker each Sunday. But, the church had an amazing spirit.

It was their home.

It was where they belonged.

It was also a place with a very young (and somewhat handsome) “song leader” as they called me. Growing up with John Cashion as my minister of music, “song leader” wasn’t a term I was familiar with. But to my church…that’s what I was. I led the songs. It didn’t need to get more technical than that to them.

But, in my eyes (and heart) I was more than a song leader. I was attempting to meagerly bring unity to a congregation with no “leader”. I wasn’t their called Pastor, but within worship I was a constant…who sought the constant guidance of the Holy Spirit.

While there, I helped with VBS, revival, worship (three times a week) and learned about how God uses us in worship. I learned more about people and from people during that short time than they learned from me.

I did more than just lead songs, so what’s the difference between a song leader, worship leader/pastor and a minister of music?

In a recent blog post, Rob Rash said:

“There is a major difference in all three (titles), as each one assumes a slightly different role. I believe it’s important for those of us that are leading the church, whether in worship, preaching, teaching, or in leadership, to have a real clear understanding of our calling.

We need to be doing everything we can to fulfill the calling God has placed on our lives.

If you are a worship pastor, are you shepherding your church? Or are you just leading the songs?

Maybe your the song leader but have a deeper desire to pastor?

Being a worship pastor is more than being a song leader or a worship leader. It’s a calling to more than just music. It’s a calling into the lives of our people.”

“Song Leader” is a title given years ago in small, rural churches that defines what the person did…same as being called “preacher” instead of “pastor” for others.  Back in the day, there weren’t full-time ministers of music…so folks came in, “just” to lead the worship songs.

Times have changed, but terminology hasn’t (in some circles).  In conclusion, I say the term “song leader” only applies to someone paid (or volunteered) to lead songs within a church who has no calling or desire to lead said songs. For if we are appointed/called to lead an aspect of worship, we have Biblical commands in I Peter that we are to uphold in our lives and church and we should not be taken for granted.

Those of us called to lead music within worship are more than just persons who select songs; we are a people who seek the Holy Spirit’s call in what we say and sing in worship. We are charged to sing biblical truths. We are appointed to build up the faith within the power of worship. This is not a task to take lightly.

If we participate in worship leadership, we are more than just song leaders or preachers. We are called servants who are providing pastoral leadership to God’s people through the avenues of music, worship, preaching, and other ministry areas.

The reality of this issue is this: I believe that deep down, God’s people don’t fully understand what it is we do and the title “song leader” came about by what they saw us do the most.

This week, John will bring insight to the title, Minister of Music and Zach will bring insight to the title, Worship Leader.

The bottom line?

Brother, preacher, reverend, doctor, song leader, minister, worship leader, director of music…regardless of the title or what you are called, the most important thing is that you are called


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