Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 4, 1968
NUMBER 47, PAGE 11-12a

The Song Leader's Responsibilities

W. Kenneth McPherson, Sr.

All who have been born again owe a great debt of service to the Lord and his kingdom (Rom. 1:14, 8:12). Leading God's people in singing is one of the ways that we can render this service to the Lord.

Singing is to the Christian what the fly-wheel is to the engine. By the force of its beauty and its spirit and truth it carries the worshipper through times of temptation and discouragement, and it exerts a guiding and controlling influence over the Christians' life. There are trying and perilous times in the church today. In times such as these, singing with understanding can be greatly helpful to us all. When we teach and admonish one another in song, we find a strong and sure staff of support. In the crises of death or the battle of life, when the struggle comes either from within or without, singing unto the Lord will help to strengthen us and help us to feel the happiness of the "peace that passeth all understanding." To me, worshipful singing is a courage clothed in a robe of Godly respect and truth that knows no pretense.

When a man accepts the work of song leading, he must face the responsibilities that he has assumed. The song leader cannot think only of himself. It is wrong for him to think only of his own convenience and his own desires. The leader must contemplate his responsibility to God, to the other men who will be actively leading in the public worship service, and to the congregation as a whole. Let us examine each of these responsibilities in specific.

Responsibility To God

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." (Col. 3:16). "Speaking to yourselves ... singing ... giving thanks always for all things unto God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Eph. 5:19-20). When selecting the songs that you will lead, there are three questions you must ask about these songs. First, will these songs glorify God? There are songs that appear in today's songbooks that should not even be sung in worship. Yet, many leaders do not take the time to study their selections so they can really know what the words say or mean. If God is to be served in a pleasing manner we must "sing with the spirit and with the understanding" (I Cor. 14:15). Second, do my selections succeed in turning men to God, or only in turning them more deeply into themselves? We do not want to inspire men to self-pity or self-preoccupation; we want to inspire them to think about God and praise his name. Third, do the songs that I have selected say anything? You may be surprised to find that one verse or perhaps an entire song has said practically nothing about God. To say nothing, even if one says it beautifully, is still to say nothing. God deserves the fruit of our lips, our hearts, and the sacrifice of our best efforts. If the leader does not carefully study his selections, he may truly fail to say anything and thereby fail his responsibility to God.

Responsibility To The Elders And The Preacher

The song leader will not be directing the whole service of worship alone. The preacher, the elders, and perhaps others will also be involved. We must work with them in this effort. If we could more realistically apprehend the Biblical concept of the church as a family, we would realize the great need for brotherly cooperation. We all know that in a large family the mother needs frequent help in caring for the smaller children. In the Lord's family there is also a need for brotherly help. A better service of worship will be achieved by those who work together in it than by those who work totally independent of each other. Thus, the song leader must feel that it is his duty to work with the other leaders and harmonize his plans with their plans.

Responsibility to the Congregation The song leader must be prepared. In Luke 1:17, it was said of John that "he shall go ... to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." In Luke 17:47, "that servant which knew his Lord's will, and prepared not himself neither did according, shall be beaten with many stripes." A song service that is hastily arranged at the last minute is a service that will not be of the greatest possible benefit to the congregation. The leader's lack of preparation is an injustice to the whole congregation. How some leaders can not prepare themselves to be on time, not show up, and not notify the leaders of the flock of their absence in advance is beyond my comprehension.

As human beings we tend to react to situations that are distasteful to our worship of God by being distracted from worship rather than responding with a heart of worship. If the song leader conducts himself in an unnecessary manner before, during or after the singing, his actions can be detrimental to the brethren. Some leaders distract the congregation from worship by lecturing on technical instructions concerning how they should sing the song in a certain way. Some leaders cause distractions by changing the tempo or pitch of a song. Some leaders use unnecessary body movements that are exaggerated and distasteful. It is important that the leader be seen and heard but not in a conspicuous and unnecessary manner.

The song leader, like all of his brothers and sisters in Christ, is preparing himself for that perfect home in heaven. He leads his fellow saints in singing because he wants to have an active part in his own preparation and in helping others to get ready for that home. But the song leader will be ready for that home in heaven if he disappoints his master. If he manifests a sense of irresponsibility in his work, then his master will be displeased with him. If he fails to do his best, his master will not smile upon him. Brother Song Leader, this is your work. Take this talent you have and use it in the way you can. Use your talent to the glory of God and not as a talent of shame or abomination unto the Lord.