What’s in a name: Worship Leader

(Pictured above:  Tim Harvey, Minister of Music & Education at Bethlehem Baptist in Cunningham, KY.  One of the things I respect most about Tim is that (while an incredibly gifted musician and worship leader), he is a minister and theologian first and foremost in his ministry.).  

Yesterday, Dennis began our new 3 – part series on the most prevailing “ministry titles” in modern church music.  Today, I am going to be talking about what I see as the most widely used title in church music today:  Worship Leader.  The reason I say it is the most widely used is not based on a poll of church musicians.  Rather, because of the prevailing modern worship culture and the variety of titles that are so closely related (i.e. Worship Pastor, Pastor of Worship Arts, Pastor of Creative Arts, Lead Worshiper, etc).  My official title is Minister of Music & Education, however I am commonly referred to as “Worship Leader” by the congregation or even “Worship Pastor” by the staff.

Although I believe we should be more than simply a “Song Leader,” I personally believe that “Worship Leader” could be the least helpful title in the series.  Here are a couple reasons among many…

1.  “Worship Leader” lends itself to the idea that WE have the ability to lead people into God’s presence.  As if we were some sort of mediator or tour guide into the throne room of God?   We must remember the words of Paul in 1 Timothy 2:5…

 5For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 

We must continually point people to Jesus,  but we also must realize that we personally don’t hold the keys to God’s throne room.  God is HOLY and we are sinners and the only way to enter His presence is by the blood of Jesus.  Jesus is our ultimate Worship Leader.

2.  The term “Worship Leader” can reinforce a compartmentalized view of worship.  It causes people to think that we worship when we are singing and the other parts are not worship.  In reality, giving our tithes and offerings is equally an expression of worship as singing is.  I’ve even struggled with this in how I prepare a bulletin.  For a while we had sections called Worship through Song, Worship through tithes and offerings, Worship through the Word, etc.  We must teach our congregations that even how they interact with people while they are driving or in the line at the supermarket is an act of worship.  If we want to teach our people these things then we should communicate things in a way that will reinforce the right things.

The term “Worship Leader” is not in the Bible and I believe we have greatly exaggerated it’s importance.  Let me clarify what I mean.  I feel it is important for the church to have ministers of the Gospel that are skilled to lead through music.  The key is that they are first of all, MINISTERS OF THE GOSPEL.  A lot of churches today are more concerned with having someone who is skilled musically and can provide good music, rather that someone who is first and foremost a minister.  In the days of Luther, Watts, and others – music and worship had a much more pastoral / theological emphasis.  We would do good to recover some of that.

Like it or not, the term “Worship Leader” is here to stay.  So what is a faithful worship leader?  I believe Bob Kauflin has one of the best descriptions I have ever seen on page 55 of his book, Worship Matters:  Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God.

“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 don’t know about you…but I have a lot to be working on!


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