A few months ago a fabulous worship book came out, and I finally had a chance to sit down and read it. Many young (and older) worship leaders aren’t the “reading” type. Big books over 150 pages are intimidating and tiresome. Sometimes they’re discouragingly “deep” without enough practical application. Until this year, it would have been hard for me to recommend a good starting place for a worship leader in this camp. Many books come close, but few hit a home run. I think Stephen Miller’s Worship Leaders, We Are Not Rock Stars does so. It fills a gap. It is a great read, and it is concise and comprehensive for what it’s trying to do, which is to articulate a vision for the vocation of “worship leader” which is more deeply biblical than the paradigm that we often see in modern evangelical worship.
I met Stephen a year ago at the Doxology & Theology Conference in Frisco, TX, and I was blessed by his leadership and pastoral spirit. I couldn’t commend a more genuine model of consistent, faithful worship pastoring in a local church (he serves at The Journey Church in St. Louis).
Why the Book is So Wonderful
Miller encourages worship leaders to view themselves at varying levels as pastors and shepherds who are doing important theological and formational work in local churches (Chapters 4, 5). I love this quote:
By deciding which songs the local church sings, a worship leader is exercising his pastoral responsibility. He must discern the doctrines he is teaching to whomever he is leading and shepherd them into a greater understanding of gospel truth (p. 59).
Miller also recognizes and encourages that the inner life of the worship leader must be marked by gospel-saturation and robust personal worship of God (Chapter 2 & 3). He encourages worship to take a simple liturgical structure based on Isaiah 6, which ends up being (whether consciously or unconsciously) a wonderful, simple distillation of one of my favorite worship books, Bryan Chapell’s Christ-Centered Worship (Chapter 6). And he does all of this in a well-written, very conversational style with a lot of funny stories. My wife and I were cracking up several times as I read large sections to her (just read Chapter 1). The chapters are short, engaging, to-the-point, and they end with great discussion questions good for any group. This would be a great read for any worship leader with his or her team.
There are really only a couple of moments in the book where I cock my head a bit, wishing for a slightly different wording. For example, in the final chapter, Miller says:
I would argue that as powerful and helpful as they are, church services are potentially our smallest expressions of worship. Being a Christian is about so much more than going to a church building on the weekends (p. 119).
I know what he’s saying, and it’s an important emphasis (the emphasis of the chapter, in fact) to remind worship leaders and worshipers that all of life is worship unto God. However, I sometimes hear in such “all of life worship” conversations a downplay of the importance of corporate, gathered worship. I actually believe that corporate worship this the greatest expression of humanity’s worship and the culmination of what it means to be the Church (and therefore a Christian), which I’ve processed here, here, and here. Discussions like these often reveal what has been called an “underdeveloped ecclesiology”–a deficit in understanding who the Church is and what she does in her work and worship. I’m not accusing Miller’s statement of this as much as I am using this as an opportunity to raise the issue, to which I’ve become sensitive, that I frequently find discussed in my evangelical circles. In fact, the rest of Worship Leaders, We Are Not Rock Stars is a treatise on the worship leader in relation to the gathered, corporate worship of the church. So, my concern mostly is that people don’t take Miller’s statement the wrong way, which I’ve heard many do with similar statements around this topic. Miller is definitely making the important point that if we think we’ve checked off our “worship box” for the week when we’ve attended gathered worship on Sunday, we’ve grossly underestimated what the big picture of worship is all about. And that point is needed and important.
Get It For Yourself, Get it For Your Worship Leader
All in all, Worship Leaders, We Are Not Rock Stars will be the book I now recommend to aspiring young worship leaders who want to dip their toes into what it really means to be a worship leader. It gets beyond the fluff of hyper-pragmatism and hyper-spiritualism that most often accompany these types of concise worship leader “manuals.” This is solid stuff. In many ways, I find Worship Leaders, We Are Not Rock Stars biographical of my own theological journey and convictions about my vocation as a worship pastor. Would to God that more and more evangelical worship leaders looked like the type of leader exemplified in the chapters of this book.
And then there’s this absolutely fabulous album, full of moving ballads, face-pounding rock, and (most importantly) compelling lyrics, including some reimagined old hymns.
So…who wants a free book? I’ve got one hard copy to mail and five e-books to email. That’s a total of six possible winners! All you need to do is tweet or post something about Stephen’s book with a link to this post. If you’re on Twitter, please mention both Stephen (@stephenmiller) and myself (@zachicks). If you’re on Facebook, make sure you’re my amigo so you can tag me (find me here).
Here’s an autotweet for your convenience!
All mentions must be in the next 2 days, ending on Wednesday at noon, EST. The winners will be chosen at random and notified by the end of the week. I’ll update this post when the winners have been selected.