I felt prompted to share some thoughts regarding the ministry of the worship leader. Almost every Christian church has one, though they have varying titles. Some are called Song Leaders, while others could be referred to as Worship Pastors, Music and Arts Pastors, Psalmist, or maybe one I haven’t heard of. I’ll use the term “worship leader” though, for the purpose of this blog.
I’ve been a Christian for 37 years. I’ve been a worship leader for about 30 years. I’ve led songs for 37 years. What? Why the difference in years? Because leading songs and leading worship are two different things, the same way singing and worshiping are two different things.
Remember when King David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem? It took him two tries before he was able to “secure” the Presence of God. The first attempt (read 2 Samuel 6) was very festive to begin with, but resulted in fatality. They attempted to carry the Presence of God using the latest vehicles, gadgets, most people in the choir, service scheduled to the minute second, everyone wearing the best robes Israel had ever seen, and the instruments were second to none. But even with all they had going for them, they didn’t follow God’s instructions. They didn’t find out what He wanted. They presumed to know, presumed to believe that God would “show up” just because they did. Wrong.
David was a man after God’s own heart, according to Acts 13:22. He desired to not only sing to the Lord, or about the Lord, but he desired to worship the Lord. To me, the difference between singing and worship is this: singing to or about God is simply using my physical and mental faculties to express something. Worship comes from my heart, the deepest part of my being. I may use my mind and thoughts to help express what my heart wants to say, but worship comes from the heart.
Remember that Jesus said, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”? He also said, “God is Spirit. They who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.” Again, Paul wrote in Romans, “if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” In other words, a person cannot worship with only their mind and voice, just like one can’t become a Christian because they repeat the “sinners” prayer. It’s a matter of the heart.
Worship is a matter of the heart.
David took a little time and rethought the matter. Somehow it dawned on him that God must have some thought on the subject. David discovered he had been wrong. So he assembled the procession again. This time he would lead the worship procession in spirit and truth. His whole being, spirit, mind, and body, became involved in “leading worship”; making a place of honor for the Lord. The priests, the “worship team” if you will, accepted the responsibility for carrying the Ark of the Covenant. David was in front of the procession worshiping with all his might. Not everyone liked what David was doing, but God did. David led worship by worshiping.
Remember, worship is a matter of the heart.
I’ve listened to and seen a lot of different worship leaders over the last 37 years. God used several to show me and teach me how to worship and lead others in worship. I’m not saying I’ve learned it all, not by any means. I just know what I know. And, I’ve heard some say that leading worship has changed, and it’s totally different than it used to be. I disagree. Leading worship has not changed. Leading songs, has. Songs have changed, instruments have changed, all the outward stuff is different, more hi-tech, etc.
But worship is a matter of the heart.
It was that way when Abraham walked up the mountainside with Isaac to “go and worship”(Gen.22). It was a matter of the heart when David sat on the hillside, watching over his sheep, singing, “the Lord is my Light, and my Salvation…”
Worship has ALWAYS been a matter of the heart.
So, if you are going to be a worship leader, take a tip or two from David. HE worshiped, He led as HE worshiped. You cannot drive people to worship. You can’t beat them into worship. Worship isn’t submission to the worship leader, it’s submission to GOD. You can’t pick just the right songs to get people to move a certain way, because worship can’t be coerced or manipulated.
As David did, you have to worship if you are going to lead worship. Even if the guitar is out of tune, the projector burns out, the microphone is crackling, you have to worship.
Worship is a matter of the heart, not the sound system. If necessary, throw away the stuff so you can worship!
If you are the only one worshiping, great! Don’t stop and scold the congregation! Be kind of like the doorman in a fancy restaurant. Every time he opens the door for a customer, the fragrant aroma of the restaurant invades the parking lot. So, as a worship leader, worship; hold the door open and allow the fragrance of God draw the whole congregation in.
When you minister out of your heart, a heart full of worship to your God, it will affect others. Because…
Worship is a matter of the heart.