DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.
The modern church is an interesting paradox. We’ve become cooler, more flashy, and more attractive so that those who were bored and uninterested by the cultural trappings of church would come back. But this has created tension because while we want people to come to church to look upwards toward God, they’re now so enamored with the man on the stage that they begin to think that the worship leader is who they’re coming for (or the preaching pastor, but that’s another matter). Stephen Miller looks for a solution to this “rock star syndrome” in his new book Worship Leaders, We are not Rock Stars (Moody Press, 2013).
The temptation to seek our own fame and fortune is nothing new (see Jesus’ temptation narrative in Matthew 4:1-11), but in our sinful, broken world it certainly is what we are prone to do. In the opening pages, Miller shares his own relatable story of how he was searching for record deals and touring opportunities with his band when he was struck with the selfishness of it all: the original desire of using his gifts to serve the church had been usurped by a new desire to use the church to serve himself. In a frank, “been there, done that” tone, Miller helps worship leaders walk from such a place to remembering who we really are.
He outlines 8 ideas of what it means to be a worship leader that make up the bulk of the book. We are:
- Redeemed and Adopted
- Pastors and Deacons
- Storytellers (Liturgists)
It’s a good reminder, and Miller writes clearly and succinctly (the whole book weighs in at just over 120 pages!). Through each chapter, Miller strives to reorient our gaze from ourselves back to God, who after all is the one we’re worshiping. He intentionally writes in the positive, recognizing that much of what has already been written about the current state of music in the church is very negative and not very helpful in forming a better worship leader. In other words, if the worship leader isn’t leading well, what should he be doing instead? The content of the book is Miller’s answer to that question.
The book is well-written and concise, theologically accurate, and does a fantastic job of laying a basic foundation for who a worship leader is and what his/her job looks like. While there are many other excellent books on the topic that give much more thorough outlines of leading worship (perhaps Worship by the Book edited by DA Carson comes to mind, or more recently Rhythms of Grace by Mike Cosper), the strength of this book is its brevity. It would be a great resource for a young musician with talent and passion to develop a theological foundation for what he/she does.