If your church’s worship is stagnant, and it seems like your congregation is full of spectators, then transitioning those who are responsible for leading your times of corporate worship from “spiritual performers” to “worship leaders” will make a tremendous difference. In the first two installments of this series, I relayed some eye-opening experiences about this topic. In the next few weeks, I want to discuss how your church can experience a radical transformation by making this adjustment from spiritual performers to worship leaders. We will look at choirs, soloists, vocal teams, instrumentalists, the pastor, and other worship leaders.

In churches of all styles, I see people tasked as “worship leaders” that see themselves more as “spiritual performers.” They seek to produce an excellent event we call “worship.” Everything is prepared with excellence and precision. The congregation sees themselves as spectators, taking in a great show, applauding the performers after every great number. One of the biggest tells of this is that the congregation is not actively engaged in worship. The congregation generally does not participate well in congregational singing (more here). This has become epidemic in contemporary and traditional churches alike. Part of the radical transformation is a total change of mindset.

Dave Williamson describes the paradigm shift so well in this excellent book, God’s Singers. While he is describing differences in traditional vs. worship-leading choirs, it is equally effective in looking at the radical transformation needed for all musician worship leaders.

Spiritual Performers Worship Leaders
Sings horizontally to the people Sings vertically to the Lord
Practical role: Spiritual Entertainers Practical role: Lead Worshippers
Performs for Jesus Worships Jesus
Celebrates the gift (music) Celebrates the Giver
Hopes to hear, “You sang great Hopes to hear, “God is great
Has a minor impact Has a major impact
Engenders emotion for the moment Engenders significance for eternity



Williamson does a great job of unpacking this chart in detail in his book. I highly recommend it.

Beyond the Paradigm Shift

There are many changes that can be made to radically change the way singers are perceived by the congregation, helping make the move from spiritual performers to worship leaders.

Recently, I was attending a worship service that was the catalyst for this blog series. In the service, an excellent soloist sang a moving song that had tremendous potential to communicate a powerful testimony.

The soloist stood in the choir loft, behind a music stand, behind a grand piano, behind a choir railing, behind pulpit furniture (chairs, enormous pulpit, etc.) and read from her music as she sang. There was little to no emotional connection with the congregation. A radical transformation would occur if the soloist were to memorize the music, stand on the stage to the side of the pulpit with no barriers between her and the congregation and sing the song while connecting powerfully with the congregation. The same song and soloist would have made a much more tremendous impact in that service. Worship leaders strive to remove the physical barriers that hinder their role.

Worship leaders need to remove the physical barriers Click To Tweet

Similarly, the choir needs to strive for barrier removal. One of the greatest barriers a choir has is the folder. Once the choir memorizes the music and begins to worship the Lord as they sing, the worship becomes contagious to the congregation. They begin to draw the congregation into worship rather than communicating that they should sit and listen to the great performance by the choir.

Dave Williamson exhorts the benefits of a choir memorizing their music:

  • The choir sings better, and more freely.
  • The picket fence (folder barrier) is removed, allowing the congregation to feel closer to the choir as its worship leader.
  • Group Of School Children Singing In Choir TogetherThe choir’s hands are freed up to be used in biblical postures of worship.
  • The choir’s faces are drawn upward, every countenance now visible.
  • The choir senses one another’s presence and is much more able to join hearts as well as voices in the act of leading worship.
  • The choir feels closer to the congregation, and is able to more effectively lead them in worship.
  • Most importantly, the choir is free to concentrate its whole being on the act of worshipping God, which is the first and most necessary step in the process of leading others to worship Him.
Worship-leading choirs need to sing from memory Click To Tweet

The same comments I have made here about the choir and soloists also apply to vocal teams–remove the barriers between the singers and the congregation.

Evaluate your singing worship leaders. Are they creating a spectator environment in your church, or are they helping the people really worship?