The Differences between a Worship Leader, Psalmist & Minstrel Part 2

Pre-Note – Please Read: This three-part series has easily been the most popular post on my blog getting upwards to 50 search hits WEEKLY… If you’ve found this post through a search or any other way, I want to encourage you to watch the following 4 minute video and consider ordering my new book The Potential of God’s Presence. There is 100x more info in this book than I could ever share in a blog post… Bless you on your journey to discover more about worship leading, the minstrel, psalmist and more… (added November 1, 2011)

It’s been a few weeks since part one, sorry that I’ve been caught up in other things. I was excited that someone commented today on Part 1, asking for Part 2… so here we go.

I started with Psalmist because I believe that all of us are called, in one way or another, to be Psalmists unto the Lord. ALL OF US have a sound and a song to release back to the Lord as praise. Not all of us are going to be called by the Lord, however, to lead others in expressions of worship in a public setting. This is what I want to talk about in this segment… The Worship Leader. By no means are these blog posts meant to be all-inclusive. I have much more on my heart concerning all of this than I will share in this post.

Let me first say that it’s important that you know from which perspective I am approaching this dialogue on The Worship Leader. Your definition may be different than mine, so let me define the context of my definition before I proceed. I am talking about The Worship Leader that most church folk would define as Worship Leader, the person that leads the songs before the sermon on Sunday Morning, Wednesday night or even at small groups. I also call them Song Leaders, because essentially that is what they are doing, leading others in the singing of pre-written songs with lyrics displayed on a screen or in a book.

You need to know that I’m not here to speak anything negative about The Worship Leader, but in the context the modern westernized church culture, I believe the the Worship Leader, for the most part, is only operating in PART of what God really desires them to operate. I want to share this as an encouragement, but some may not see it that way. To tell someone that they are only operating in part of what their potential is can either be received by the recipient as a put down or encouragement to embrace a fuller operation of their gifts and calling. That said, I believe that most any person that functions as a Worship Leader can also learn to function as a Minstrel. In many churches today they are not.

For the most part, The Worship Leader puts together a list of songs to be sung for a worship service. Most of the time, the Worship Leader is singing songs that others have written, due to the fact that it’s easier to lead people in what they have already known and become familiar with.

Here is why I think a Worship Leader, as most define one, is different from the Psalmist and the Minstrel. Most of what the Worship Leader does is lead others in singing revelations that other people had. Songs are essentially revelations that God gave someone that they put to music. Now it’s even become an industry in our nation, and that is part of why I believe that people are losing their personal expression.

I don’t want you to think that I think it is wrong to lead songs in this way and have people repeat them. I do think it is wrong when people lean solely on the Worship Leader and the pre-written songs to define for them who God is and how they will encounter His nature and character. If we lose our personal discovery because we rely on others to discover for us, we are missing something that God was us to discover in a personal way.

I even had one person comment on Part 1 of this post, and mentioned that Worship Leaders sometimes even function as entertainers! I really thought about what she said, and I understand where she is coming from. I really, really don’t think that any worship leader gets up on stage and really intends to try to entertain people. If they are, then we can all agree that they are missing the whole point of what worship is. But what I think happens is that people are so used to having other people generate excitement and revelation for them when it comes to God, that the Worship Leader has to encourage people to the point where it may look as if they are cheer leading the people. Of course, the goal is to get people to the point where they forget that a leader is even there because they get so caught up in who God is.

The function of the Worship Leader in the church leading others in third-hand musical revelations is a valid form of worship, but it is not THE WAY TO DO IT. When any style or format becomes THE WAY, then we begin to miss out on the fullness of what God has and desire for us and from us.

I could go on and on, but to sum this up: As most define it, a Worship Leader is the person who leads songs other people wrote. Sometimes he/she might have even written one of the songs they sang. They encourage people to sing word written on a screen or from a book. This is a valid function in a church. It does lead people to God, God does enjoy this worship, and people do come into greater depths of understanding of God in this environment.

So why do I point out what everyone already knows as I define what a Worship Leader is? So that I can point out what it is NOT! And what the Worship Leader is not doing is they are not creating what I call neutral atmosphere. They are not creating time for the Selah. They are not flowing into the function of the Minstrel or atmosphere creator. The Selah is the pause in the midst of the song in which we actually silence ourselves for a period of time long enough to actually let the revelation of what we have been singing actually sink in and become part of us…

I will continue in Part 3… Hey, what we have is good. I just believe that there is a listening side to worship that we, as the church, are not tapping into. We need to release the anointing and function of the Minstrel in our churches once again…

Talk to you soon… Jason



18 Responses to “The Differences between a Worship Leader, Psalmist & Minstrel Part 2”

  1. Jason….thanks for ALL your inspiring words….can not wait for part 3 ….God bless.

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  4. Jason just one taught I am a P&W leader at our church I’ve been doing this for about 10 years. I think P&W worship is entertaining I love singing songs to God, there’s nothing I’d rather be doing and I want the congregation to feel the same way. So in a sense I am a form of entertainer aren’t I?

    • Here are some more thought on this…

      The Purpose Of Music Is For Recreation, Not Entertainment

      I believe that people often times end up usually receiving what they anticipate or expect. If you expect nothing you will probably end up with nothing. If somebody expects to be entertained, they will probably be entertained. One of the things that the Lord desires to do in atmospheres of music created by Minstrels is to bring refreshing, rejuvenation and recreation. Because our society is so entertainment based, it’s important that we shift out of our entertainment mentalities in order to approach God in these musical atmospheres with the proper expectations. I can fully intend to create an atmosphere for someone to enter into the recreative presence of God, but if they have not prepared their expectations toward this, they may miss what the Lord wants to speak. Entertainment is a form of maintenance, and God is not a maintainer but a re-newer and re-creator.

      The increasing reality of the global culture is that we are an entertainment based society. I believe that many are increasingly engaging in various venues of entertainment as a form of escapism from their particular realities. Our entertainers end up becoming the maintainers of this escape from reality. The problem is that entertainment can never, and was never meant to, truly satisfy the desire each of us has for peace, joy and contentment. Only Jesus Christ can truly do this.

      As human beings, we are not meant to escape from reality, but rather to engage in the greater reality of the power and presence of God and His Kingdom. Entertainment can often times give us a false sense of refreshing, but as soon as the entertainment is over, this feeling goes with it. This causes people to continually seek after entertainment to maintain a false sense of peace, joy or renewal.

      The origin of the word entertain comes from the French word entretenir, based on Latin inter ‘among’ + tenere ‘to hold.’ It means to maintain in a certain condition. When you look deeper into what it means to entertain, you find that an entertainer is one who maintains or provides others maintenance with their gift of entertainment.

      Something that I have noticed about entertainment is that the pleasures of entertainment are so fleeting. There have been times when my wife and I have planned months in advance to see a show. We marked it on our schedule and looked forward to it with anticipation. This past Christmas we went to an Orchestra performance in Dallas. It was a great show, but like all forms of entertainment, it came to an end. I felt very warm and nostalgic during the performance, but those feelings were short lived as we ran out into the cold night air towards our car for the drive home.

      The musicians played for us, the singers sang for us and we were entertained. We expected to be entertained and so we were. We expected to sit in a beautiful theatre and have others bring warm, nostalgic feelings and memories to us through the singing and playing of timeless Christmas classics. We didn’t have to do anything but sit, relax and enjoy. That is the point of entertainment. You pay someone to perform and make you happy so you can enjoy escaping the real world for a sliver of time. The sad part is, reality is waiting for you at the exit door. Monday morning calls from a distance, and you try to ignore it’s voice for as long as you can through each weekend.

      Many musicians throughout history and up to our present day have often used their gifts given by God for entertainment rather than recreation. David was a minstrel that operated in a a spirit of recreation. Saul was recreated and tuned into the vibe of God. Entertainers tune people into the vibe of their charismatic personalities. This vibe ceases to be with us once we leave that entertainers presence. But what if we would begin to rely and depend upon the recreation that can continually take place in the unlimited, omnipresence of the Lord?

      Johann Sebastian Bach once said “Music’s only purpose should be for the glory of God and the recreation of the human spirit.” Bach, highly regarded as one of the world’s all-time greatest composers, knew something about music that many people have forgotten. Not only is music’s purpose for the glorification of God, but also for the recreation of the human spirit. In other words, music was literally given to us by God as a tool for the re-creation of our spirits.

      Recreation is defined as mental or spiritual consolation. It derives from the french word recreare, to renew or create again. It’s activity that refreshes and recreates, activity that renews your health and spirits by enjoyment and relaxation.

      A major difference I noticed between entertainment and recreation is that entertainment requires no participation on behalf of the entertained, whereas the one who recreates is required to actively become a part of his/her own recreation. A catch phrase that that has become popular within charismatic circles in the past fifteen to twenty years is “Soaking.” There are people that like to get in a room and lie on the floor as musicians play and sing over them. Soaking can become entertainment when we begin to rely upon the music or musician to take us to places of peace or rest instead of the presence of the Lord. I was leading a night of worship once and people just started showing up with their pillows and sleeping bags and proceeded to camp out on the floor. I thought it was cool, but looking back on it, I wonder how many of those campers left with what God had for them that night. Music, in itself, has the power to relax us and induce peace and joy in our lives. The problem is, when the music stops, so does the the peace and joy. That is why it is important, in the midst of the atmosphere, to press into the presence of Jesus to receive what he has for you. When you get what God has for you, that which He gives will be that which sustains you. The music is not what sustains us, it is what helps us come into the presence of The Sustainer. It’s not as much an issue of the intent of the musician, rather it’s the expectation of the person lying on the floor with their sleeping bag. Recreation requires that we enter into the presence of the Lord to hear what he is saying in order that we may hear His word and act upon it. I’ve personally known people that have gone to these “soaking meetings” for years and they are still dealing with issues in their lives in the same way they were years ago. They have made these soaking times a form of escapism instead of a place in which they can get a download from God that will transform them.

      The word of God says. “They that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength”. It’s important that people understand the concept of what God means by waiting. The waiting that is mentioned here is an active waiting. Instead of visualizing the eagle sitting around in it’s nest waiting, the visual is a picture of the eagle on the edge of it’s nest waiting for the winds. Eagles that sit in their nest miss the winds when they blow. People that sit in their seats miss the winds of the Spirit when they blow. It’s such a simple concept, but there are so many people that simply need to learn how to wait correctly. We need to become people that wait with anticipation. We need to be proactive in searching for what God is doing and speaking in our midst.

      One thing that I have talked to my wife about is the frustration that artists face when those that are the recipients of your art totally miss what you tried to convey through your art form. She may release an anointed dance under the unction of the Holy Spirit in order to release the revelation from God that she is feeling in the moment. Then, after the meeting, someone might come up to her and say, “That was a really neat dance.” You can tell that they missed what God was trying to convey because they looked at her dance through the lens of entertainment.

      As recipients of the art of the Minstrels, whether they be dancers, musicians or artists, people need to ask God for an anointing to perceive and receive what God is trying to convey through them. I tell people that they need to search for the meaning of the art rather than just receive it at face value, as entertainment. I can actually tell what my wife is dancing about when I watch her and receive from the Lord that which she is trying to convey through her art form. I also can hear things in music that God is saying when I hear an anointed Minstrel play on their instrument. The problem is that people are so used to just sitting back to be entertained that they don’t realize the responsibility they have to search for what God is trying to say through the sound, movement or art.

      If we really want to hear the Lord and be recreated in His presence, we need to be willing to be proactive in our waiting. We need to come before the Lord anticipating that an answer awaits us from the Father.

  5. P. Childress Says:

    Hi Jason,

    I read your blogs (Pt 1-3) on the differences between the leader, psalmist, and minstrel. While I get your point and you did say this was not THE answer I did want to bring out something as I am a worship leader. It is a shame that your definition “one who leads others to sing revelations that other people had” defines any worship leader. Maybe this is the case in your circles, but I would have loved a more balanced discussion that culminated with a Biblical definition of a worship/song leader.

    In my role as a worship leader, I have written most of the songs we sing at our ministry (along with other singers on the team), and we sing prophetically (spontaneous inspiration of the Spirit) during worship. Nevertheless, even when I choose songs from the revelation of others, I don’t choose what’s popular, I choose what the Spirit is leading me to choose for worship (for whatever season our ministry is in), whether it is popular or not.

    If the song is a revelation from God, why should it is limited to the congregation it was born to? Why does sharing a message in song across the nation become a “lesser” expression in worship (Not God’s best/Third part/not THE way)? I know you didn’t say rehearsed songs have no value, but your presentation, on this, did lessen the value, whether you intended to or not. It is one thing to bring to the forefront that God has fresh expressions that we ignore for the convenience of something already done, but I believer there is a way to do that without treating the rehearsed as second best.

    I am surrounded by other worship leaders (from other churches) who are not “entertainers” who stand as a prophetic voice, whatever the type of song (new/rehearsed), and your western definition doesn’t come close to describing us.

    In my definition a worship leader is one who is intimate with God and hears from Him in order to stand in His behalf as a helper, encourager, and messenger, in the role of a Psalmist and or Minstrel (not a song chooser). Again, I know you are referencing a western mind-set, that does exist, but there is another group of “worship leaders” that your blog doesn’t even acknowledge. Maybe those who had earlier comments are in the environments you described, but I just wanted to say a Worship Leader is a valid and important part of worship for the very reason you mentioned, which is to become focused on God and not people.

    There is so much more to this subject (as you well know), but even in what you have submitted, it seems limited to your environment, which is opposite of your purpose, I’m sure.

    • I’m glad you realize, along with myself, that my views and opinions are just that… I’m sorry if my view points offended you… and this blog post is from earlier this year… I am tweaking my views along this path that I am walking on just like everyone else… Comments like yours help shape and tweak my views and how I present them. I never write anything expecting everyone to agree with what I say 100%, I usually don’t agree 100% with what others say either…

      My biggest point is that God does desire us to help others to release the now, new sounds that come directly from our hearts… I AGREE WITH YOU THAT THERE IS A WAY TO TWEAK WHAT I HAVE SAID TO MAKE IT SOUND LESS LIKE I AM SPEAKING NEGATIVELY ABOUT SECOND HAND REVELATION. The reality is that there are many people that rely so heavily on what others have had revealed to them that they never take time nor do they really know how to pursue the Lord first hand… My desire is to stir leaders to create environments where people can have first hand discoveries and also for people as individuals to be taught to realize there is more available in God’s presence than just singing a list of songs…

      I am writing a book right now to share a lot more in this subject… It’s not an easy thing to convey… I have been revamping and revamping it in order to avoid the very thing this blog post did to you… I know that it will never get to the point where every person that reads it agrees… But hey, this has stirred you to think more and me as well…

      I WILL LOOK FOR this tone you are talking about in the book that I am one day to release, and adjust accordingly… You are not the first person God has sent along to make me think twice about the WAY I AM SAYING THINGS… I think there are wrong ways to say correct things…

      While I am open to tweaking in the book, I will let this blog post stand as it represents where I was at the time of it’s writing in my journey and in my thoughts…

      I am always open to comments and not just the ones that agree with me…

      I truly thank you for your comments


  6. hi I was fortunate to discover your website in yahoo
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  7. joy Hearts Says:

    Thanks so much for this information, it’s really helped….little wonder the bible said my people are perished for kack of knowledge

  8. I love that ur sharing ur knowledge and I am learning from that thank u can’t wait for part 3

  9. Reblogged this on lookuponme and commented:
    When any style or format becomes THE WAY, then we begin to miss out on the fullness of what God has and desire for us and from us.

  10. Eowyn Blodwyn Arianwen Says:

    Yes, silence is so essential to moving into the presence of King Jesus.

  11. Reblogged this on Life and Sound and commented:
    I saw this beautiful post and thought to share it…

  12. It’s a nice post. Enlightening!

  13. Cindy Morrow Says:

    You NAILED IT! People have become totally dependant upon someone else to create an atmosphere of worship. What a shame! GOD desires that EVERYONE engage themselves in creating atmosphere’s of worship to Him. This is why He gave us gifts, talents, and skills, AND Prophets and Apostles to exhort, discipline, encourage and equip us. THIS, creativity, is THAT PART of us that IS IN HIS IMAGE. We, his BRIDE, are MEANT to CREATE , WITH HIM!

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