Worship Leader Make-Over: Defining the Goal of a Worship Leader

The clock on the wall says it’s 9:55.  People are hurriedly making their way into the sanctuary from classrooms, conversations, the coffee bar, or the parking lot.   If the service has a band,  the musicians are tuning up, and everyone on the team is making sure their songs are in order.  The sound team is running last-minute checks and putting a battery into the one mic that is dying, The video team is making sure everything is ready.   It’s 10:00am and the time has come.  It is time to worship.

What happens next?   All kinds of things.  It depends on your church tradition and background.  It has a LOT to do with the worship leaders themselves and what they think should happen. 

Let me phrase today’s discussion this way:  If you are a worship leader, what is your goal when you lead the congregation in worship?  Where is it you are leading the congregation?  How do you know when you get there?   Put another way:  What is the point of corporate worship?  Why have we gathered in the first place?  What does God expect from us as we gather to worship Him?

I have been to many worship services and have led some myself, where there was no lofty goal guiding the service.    Henry David Thoreau once said

“In the long run men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high.”

 

We only hit what we aim at.  Isn’t that the truth!  As worship leaders, we should be aiming very high when we stand before God’s people to lead them in worshipping Him.   So, my worship leading friend, what are you aiming at when you lead the congregation?  Allow me to share what I believe the scriptures teach us we SHOULD be aiming at when we lead worship.  To understand this, we will briefly look at the three common terms used to describe worship in the Bible.  We will wrap up with a definition.  

1.  The first common word used for worship is προσκυνεω (proskuneo).  Proskuneo carries the idea of bowing down, to honor, to reverence, or to gratefully submit oneself to another.  From this, we conclude that one goal for corporate worship is to gratefully submit our lives to God as our King and ruler over our lives.  

The Second word often used to denote worship in scripture is: λατρεια (Latreia). This word deals with serving, rendering religious service or allegiance.  It is used in Romans 12:1 to describe worship as a life laid down.  Worship then,  is not feally the singing of a song, but a life that is laid down and submitted to the Savior.

 A Third word used for worship is: σεβομαι (sebomai):  this term describes worship mainly as walking in God’s ways and obeying his commands.  Obeying His word, is an act of worship. When we lead others in worship, I think that these three biblical ideas should guide everything we do. 

I have been to worship services where it seemed the goal was to introduce the leaders new song, or to entertain those gathered.  I have been to many “worship” services where the service had nothing to do with these three descriptive terms.  If we are to faithfully lead God’s people to authentically worship Him, we must start by asking what He wants worship to be, not what we want it to be.   Bob Kauflin has captured this idea in his excellent definition of a worship leader in his book Worship Matters.

“A faithful worship leader magnifies the greatness of God in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit by skillfully combining God’s Word with music, thereby motivating the gathered church to proclaim the gospel, to cherish God’s presence, and to live for God’s glory.”

I think this is a very good working goal for any worship leader. When we look at our roles in this light, it leads us to recognize that our task is not to simply lead songs.   We are motivating God’s people to live their lives in whole-hearted devotion to their Savior and King.  We are not trying to get them to sing songs more fervently.  Rather we are encouraging the gathered congregation to submit their lives to the King of Kings.  We are challenging them to lay down their lives for His sake and for His glory.  We are calling them to live a life of obedience that honors Him. 

David Peterson in his excellent book Engaging with God: A Biblical theology of Worshipsays it this way:  Fundamentally…worship in the New Testament means believing the gospel and responding with one’s whole life and being to the person and work of God’s Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit. ( p. 286)

When we lead people to do that, we are truly leading worship!

 See our first article in this series: Worship Leader Make-over: Laying the Foundation.

Listen to Bob Kauflin unpack the above definition of a worship leader here: 

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About Jim

Not For Itching Ears is a blog dedicated to discussing the American Evangelical church. It is a place for people to share their thoughts on a host of issues relating to this subject. Jim is available to speak at weekend services, and retreats at no cost to churches in Florida. Contact us for more information.

Posted on January 22, 2011, in Christianity, Church Leadership, Worship and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. You and I are on the same page. It seems so very rare these days to see the “worship” service as anything but a talent contest. A true worship service is all about the Lord Jesus Christ and lifing Him up!

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  2. I agree with you both.
    It is time that we stopped expecting to be entertainers, and realised who it is we are singing our songs of praise and worship to. It is time we realised the responsibility we have within the church body.
    For me, I have been privileged to be both part of a congregation, and lead the congregation in praise and worship. It is a serious job.
    The worship leader (and team if there is one) have the role of leading the people into the very presence of God.
    To do that, they first must arrive at church prepared – spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically.
    To arrive having just come from fighting with the spouse, arguing with children … is probably just what the enemy wants. For Satan doesn’t want people who mean business and is more than happy with mediocrity. For the worship leader and their team have the role of leading the people and drawing the battle lines against Satan and the kingdom of darkness.
    True worship is lifting Jesus higher – then He will draw all men to Himself.
    More of Christ – and less of me!

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  3. Reading this post bring a questions that I’ve had for a while to mind… Why is there clapping at the end of worship songs? Who is the congregation clapping for? I understand that God very much deserves a round of applause, but I too often get the feeling that the applause is for the performers. I don’t clap. Do you?

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  4. Good stuff. It’s important that as worship leaders we can clearly understand the ultimate assignment given to us. Thanks for the post. Looking forward to reading your posts and sharing my thoughts.

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    • A faithful worship leader magnifies the Greatness of God . Exalting his name together to invite the presense of God’s Word . The more we give to this the true meaning of it all making it about and magnifing the Greatnass of God and our Lord and Savoir Jesus Christ “The Gospel”and direct their eyes towards the Father by leading thru true worship an offer from us to God thru praise because of what Jesus did God showing up to do the rest thru his truth and word. I am so very glad to be a part of this worship team to have been given an opprotunity to do something i love so much for the Glory of someone i love so much more foe saving my life… Bob Kauflin explains it very well.

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  5. Sherry L White

    The Lord showed me in a vision, once that as we worship him there are many battles being fought and won to claim the hearts of his children. We must worship in spirit and in truth of the knowledge of God’s supremacy with the cry of a Bride’s Heart into the intamacy of his very own heart; this is total penetration of his heart. Worship opens our hearts to God’s very Heart! Thanks for letting me share.

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