An Open Letter to Worship Leaders

April 20, 2011 — 4 Comments

Concert excitement, evident in the raised hands of youth.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images (#91870899). Photographer: Gail Shotlander


Dear Worship Leader,

Here’s something to remember this week: It’s not about you.

That’s what I thought as I walked onto the stage last week at my church.

I was thinking that because of what happened two weeks prior: After I had finished performing a certain song in the first service there was thunderous applause. The band was great. I was in full voice. The music and the visuals we used came together to create and amazing moment in the service.

We performed the same song in our second service. The band was even better. I was as strong or stronger vocally. It was another amazing moment.

And when the music was done… crickets. Nothing.

When I walked off stage I was reminded of a conference I attended a few years ago. A young band was invited to lead worship. The conference was comprised primarily of worship leaders and artist. The worship times at this conference were amazing. Everyone could sing – and they did: loud, strong, and in multiple parts. It’s pretty cool.

This band-that-shall-remain-nameless had it made.

The worship time was cooking right along until the young front man for the band made the mistake that I was in danger of making last Sunday. As we started to sing a song, he stopped the music and said something to the effect of:

“Wait a minute. The song says, ‘Raise your hands.’ If we’re going to be authentic this morning then we need to do what the song says. Let’s start again and this time let’s really raise our hands.”

I remember thinking a couple of things. The first was, “If this is all about being authentic, how are you going to raise your hands while you’re playing the guitar – or does that not apply to you?” But that was just me being a grumpy old man.

The second thing I remember thinking was, “What right do you have to judge what is going on in our hearts by what we do with our hands?”

And that, my friends is the rub.

As a worship leader, the thing I want most of all if for people to respond to God. I want their hearts to experience the heart of God.

And I can’t see that. I can’t judge in a few minutes on stage whether that’s happening or not.

I love it when people clap and raise their hands. I love it when they sing loud and proud. But that doesn’t mean they are connecting with God.

In some of your churches this Sunday people may raise their hands. In others they may not. In some they may sing really loudly. In others… not so much. In some churches they may clap like crazy after a great song. In others they may hear the same song performed in the same way by the same people and sit quietly. And all of these things might even happen in the same church in different services.

The point is this: you can’t use any of that to measure if a person is connecting with God.

So stop getting worked up about it.

Be faithful.

Be prepared.

Do what God has called you to do with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Leave the rest to God.

Pat Callahan

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I'm a picker. I'm a grinner. I'm a lover. And I'm a sinner. I make my music in the sun.

4 responses to An Open Letter to Worship Leaders

  1. I'm sorry – I do not believe you purchased this image from Getty Images. It is licensed solely through them. I am the photographer. If you have not purchased this image, you are in copyright infringement, and must take the image down immediately.

    • You're right – I didn't purchase it from Getty images. I believe I found it via a Google image search. If you would point me to your portfolio on Getty Images, I would be happy to purchase the image. Unfortunately, you did not provide me with any pertinent information about yourself in your copyright infringement claim. Again, I would be happy to take care of this issue when you provide me with more information.


  2. Getty Sale of the Image: <a href="; rel="nofollow"&gt <a href="http://;…” target=”_blank”>;

    My original: <a href="; rel="nofollow"&gt <a href="http://;” target=”_blank”>;

    Google images now attributes the image to your site, an auto-generation when a photo is posted rather than properly attached to a site from purchase of file. The link MUST be broken so that it reverts back to my flickr site (only done through proper purchase and upload of the image onto your site). On my flickr site (which would be evident from google images if the image is clicked on), it clearly states the copyright restriction of no use without permission.

  3. Thanks, Gail, for your prompt response and for providing me with the information on your fantastic photo. I have purchased the image from Getty and replaced the one that was on my site previously with the one I purchased from Getty Images. Additionally, I have added links to the image and your portfolio on Getty Images.

    I apologize for my mistake and hope I have rectified to to your satisfaction. I have definitely learned a lesson about grabbing stuff from Google willy-nilly and will be more careful in the future about the files I use. You are a gifted artist and again, I apologize for my mistake.

    Have a great day.

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