3 Troubling Things Worship Leaders Can Avoid

I’m a believer who loves my church and the Church, as in the body of Christ as a whole.

My hope is that by disclosing the above, you will keep an open heart. Please don’t mistake this as a fault-finding thesis from a God-hater or a church criticizer because at the end of the day, I love Jesus. And since loving the Lord means loving those whom He loves—the Word reveals how much He loves His bride, the church (Ephesians 5:25-26)—I commit to loving my fellow Christians, too.

So, please consider my input as a plea from a fellow committed Christian.

Pursuing the welfare of the entire church didn’t originate with me. Paul warned one local church because they didn’t care for every member. He corrected them this way: “You indeed give thanks well, but the other isn’t edified” (1 Corinthians 14:17, NKJV).

God cares about the welfare of the entire congregation. It’s obvious He wants everyone in the church to be edified.

But I’ve noticed how hard it is to accomplish this aim when the worship team performs a certain way. I wonder if other churchgoers might agree with the following troubling things, even if they’ve never vocalized their concerns to the leadership.

“It’s not the worship team’s job to get you into the presence of God.”

I love the particular pastor who uttered the above observation. But I also disagree with him.

Because if the worship team wasn’t there to manifest God’s presence—or usher the congregation into it—then why do we need live music on the stage?

It’s certainly not so that everyone can sing the same song at the same time. YouTube, anyone? That piece of technology that allows us to sing along with pre-recorded music, complete with the lyrics?

No, I lean toward the opposite. The reason we have worship teams is that these men and women are designated to lead the congregation to enter the presence of His Majesty.

But if this is truly the case, then members of the worship team are like modern-day priests. Aaron—Israel’s first priest—and those who followed in his footsteps—approached the Tabernacle with reverence. Moses received detailed instructions for how these first worship leaders (so to speak) had to conduct their service to God, including wearing specific garments, taking certain objects, and so on.

These priests wouldn’t have dared to strut into the Holy of Holies with a breezy nonchalance when their very lives could’ve vanished with one wrong move.

Here, then, is my first request.

Whatever level of reverence you have for the Lord, would you please double it while leading the 21st-century congregation in worship?

This applies to singers who choose to wear inappropriate clothing on stage – imprinting the congregation with unnecessary visuals.

You can be sure that I’m searching my heart to see if I’m just a cranky member of an older generation who frowns on younger generations’ wardrobe preferences. But I don’t think so; the issue isn’t fashion sense but respect for God and the Church.

If our God is the greatest and worthy of our adoration, shouldn’t this attitude be reflected in how we present ourselves, too? Especially for those on worship teams who are the face of the Church for newcomers.

2. Mistaking Service for Performance

The way some churches handle their worship service might make the uninitiated mistake it for a concert. Think about it: A darkened auditorium. No cross in sight. Roaming spotlights. Throw in a few mics, earpieces, and a raised platform, and it’s clear why some in the audience might confuse such an atmosphere as a venue for professionals to get their own glory.

However, the Lord has made it clear that when it comes to His glory, He doesn’t share (Isaiah 42:8, Isaiah 48:11).

So here comes my second ask.

Would you please stop turning a worship service into a performance?

If you made it into the worship team, I’m sure that’s because your musical talent made room for you (Proverbs 18:16). But please use your God-given talent to glorify Him rather than yourself.

This will help the rest of us focus on God as well.

3. Preachy

My last request is simple. Leave the preaching to the pastor, if that’s okay.

Sometimes, worship leaders need to exhort the congregation to sing louder or show more enthusiasm in praising the Lord. I get that. But using excessive words runs the risk of losing the congregation’s focus because, apparently, our average attention span has dwindled to 47 seconds. Or worse, you could be taking members out of the worshipful state they were in.

Perhaps the following will help.

In the Internal Family Systems community (the therapy I offer in my practice), WAIT is a prominent acronym. It stands for Why Am I Talking? We exhort newer IFS therapists to keep this acronym in mind, not to turn them into silent statues in front of their clients, but so they’d measure their words with wisdom.

May I suggest you do the same when exhorting the church during worship? Maybe even consider a related acronym, WAIST, which stands for Why Am I Still Talking?


Recently, another pastor uttered a statement about worship that also caught my attention. “What’s a worship service if we don’t leave it looking more like Jesus?”

I agree. Wholeheartedly.

Which is why I composed this, to begin with. But if my words upset you, I apologize. My desire is to present the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

May we all worship Jesus more intimately.

Photo Credit: Priscilla du Preez/Unsplash 

Audrey Davidheiser, PhD is a California licensed psychologist, certified Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapist, and IFSI-approved clinical consultant. After founding and directing a counseling center for the Los Angeles Dream Center, she now devotes her practice to survivors of trauma—including spiritual abuse. If you need her advice, visit her on and Instagram @DrAudreyD. Disclaimer: her advice column isn’t therapy.

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