What is a wor­ship leader? It’s a ques­tion many of us have neglected to stop and actu­ally think about, yet it’s one that really needs to be answered, so that the posi­tion that’s been cre­ated for the mod­ern church today is actu­ally validated.

-

When we refer to wor­ship in this arti­cle, we’ll be look­ing at the mod­ern posi­tion of “wor­ship leader” being the one who leads singing and prayer in the mod­ern church. There are a whole host of assump­tions that come with this term — that we can only wor­ship when we fol­low the leader, that wor­ship must be led by a musi­cian or even that the wor­ship leader is some­how “dif­fer­ent” or more “in tune” with God.

None of these assump­tions are cor­rect. How­ever, it’s impor­tant to under­stand that the mod­ern church has adopted this title and some of the assump­tions that go with it. Peo­ple can iden­tify with the title “wor­ship leader” because it’s now become part of our church vocab­u­lary, and this posi­tion that the church cre­ated for itself is now very much legitimate.

To begin with, it’s worth unpack­ing why wor­ship (in a musi­cal sense) espe­cially has become so impor­tant in the mod­ern church. We model our singing as a method of wor­ship on a lot of the Old Tes­ta­ment, espe­cially the psalms that urge us to “…Break forth and sing for joy and sing praises” and to “…raise a song, strike the tim­brel”. Eph­esians 5:1920 instructs us to “speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spir­i­tual songs, sing and make melody with your heart to the Lord”.

Zoom for­ward a cou­ple of thou­sands of years and we now have wor­ship lead­ers in most churches whose role it is to lead us in musi­cal wor­ship. Because of this it can some­times feel like wor­ship has become just the sets of songs slot­ted into our Sun­day meet­ings; that music is the only legit­imised form of con­gre­ga­tional worship.

Singing as a form of wor­ship is men­tioned over 400 times in Scrip­ture and there are over 50 direct com­mands to sing God’s praises so clearly singing is a form of wor­ship and one that God appre­ci­ates. But there are so many more exam­ples of wor­ship in the Bible from danc­ing, to pray­ing, to tithing, to trans­form­ing your mind, to evan­ge­lis­ing. Bib­li­cal exam­ples of wor­ship sug­gest wor­ship is less about the act or form, and more about desir­ing to con­nect with our Cre­ator and bring Him praise. When we exam­ine all of this we realise wor­ship should be dis­played in all areas of life, with some of it accom­pa­nied by music.

So if wor­ship stretches far beyond music, what is the real role of a wor­ship leader?

One def­i­n­i­tion of a wor­ship leader could be that a wor­ship leader sim­ply invites oth­ers to join them in what they’re already doing. A wor­ship leader should be liv­ing a life of wor­ship with the Sun­day ser­vice just an out­ward, pub­lic act of wor­ship that oth­ers can also par­tic­i­pate in. If we strip the mean­ing to sim­ply that, then there are sev­eral fac­tors that are entailed in the role of a wor­ship leader.

A wor­ship leader wor­ships in spirit and in truth.

A wor­ship leader should be lead­ing wor­ship with the guid­ance of the Holy Spirit and from a place of authen­tic wor­ship. This doesn’t mean a wor­ship leader is the per­fect Chris­t­ian or their wor­ship is to a higher stan­dard than the con­gre­ga­tion, but that they are com­ing from a place of authen­tic, hon­est wor­ship (not mere lip-​service or a per­for­mance) and rely on the guid­ance and strength of the spirit to lead.

A wor­ship leader pre­pares for wor­ship and brings their best offering.

Wor­ship lead­ing should never become a per­for­mance, but prepa­ra­tion is a key part of wor­ship lead­ing. God expects our best offer­ing (not our sec­ond best or the best some­one else can offer) as an act of wor­ship. Com­ing pre­pared to lead peo­ple is impor­tant, unnec­es­sary dis­trac­tions like sloppy play­ing or not know­ing what song is next takes away from the true pur­pose of cor­po­rate wor­ship; united ado­ra­tion of God.

A wor­ship leader com­bines Bib­li­cal truth and music.

Just like being pre­pared, song selec­tion is really impor­tant. Part of the role of a wor­ship leader is to choose songs that will help the peo­ple they are lead­ing con­nect with God. This involves both the music AND the lyrics. The songs we use to wor­ship should be based on Bib­li­cal truth and should align the­o­log­i­cally with our beliefs, and the music that accom­pa­nies should help cre­ate an atmos­phere that encour­ages wor­ship (in what­ever form).

A wor­ship leader draws atten­tion to God and not themselves.

The role of the wor­ship leader is to help those they are lead­ing con­nect with God, not with them­selves, the bass player or the pretty lights. It’s really impor­tant that all the ele­ments involved in wor­ship lead­ing, from the words and prayers that are said to the out­fits that are worn, allow peo­ple to focus more on their own wor­ship than how cool the wor­ship leader is. Wor­ship is about con­nect­ing with our Cre­ator, hon­our­ing him with our lives and bring­ing glory to his name.

A wor­ship leader encour­ages a lifestyle of worship.

One of the biggest parts of wor­ship lead­ing is encour­ag­ing peo­ple to wor­ship beyond the Sun­day ser­vice. Wor­ship is far big­ger than a few songs once a week, wor­ship should be a part of all we do. The Sun­day ser­vice is one just way we wor­ship (and an impor­tant part) but cor­po­rate wor­ship is an oppor­tu­nity to spur each other on in our own pur­suit of a worship-​filled life. Sun­day wor­ship should encour­age peo­ple to wor­ship in many dif­fer­ent forms and long after the ser­vice has ended!

*

Wor­ship is a huge, com­plex and sub­jec­tive topic. It’s impor­tant that the peo­ple who find them­selves in this posi­tion are ded­i­cated to fur­ther­ing their rela­tion­ship with Jesus, and con­tinue to wor­ship in spirit and in truth.

What is a wor­ship leader? Let us know in the comments!

Related Arti­cles
Leadership

Lead­ing Beyond Deadlines

It’s Fri­day, but Sunday’s comin’! This phrase, ini­tially intended to describe our antic­i­pa­tion at Christ’s tri­umph over the grave on Easter Sun­day, also strikes fear into the heart and mind of every…