The Truth About What It Means to Be a Worship Leader

There is a difference between leading worship and performing.
There is a difference between leading worship and performing. (Facebook )

Leading worship. It's a term we throw around a lot.

We idolize the uber-talented ones. It's a key position in churches across the globe. But do you know what's interesting? It's not in the Bible. God never calls or commands people to lead in worship. That terminology is simply never used.

Sure, there is plenty of music in the Bible. We know we are to make a joyful noise and praise the Lord with loud, clashing cymbals. But there are no commands to lead worship. Why is this? Is this just a human construct that we have completely off base?

I don't think so, entirely. We just need to clarify what it means to "lead." What does it mean to lead people in worship? What is the role of a worship leader? We hear a lot of catch phrases surrounding this:

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"Wow, you really led us to the throne room today!"

"You ushered us into the presence of God."

"The presence of God is so strong on him(her)."

"Your anointing shifted the atmosphere."

If I'm honest, some of these statements make me queasy. Why? Because we're placing too much stock in the worship leader person than the person of Christ.

Have we become too dependent on worship leaders and not dependent enough on Christ?

Consider Hebrews 10:19-23:

"Therefore, brothers, we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way that He has opened for us through the veil, that is to say, His flesh, and since we have a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse them from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us firmly hold the profession of our faith without wavering, for He who promised is faithful."

Have you ever lost something that was literally right under your nose? I've searched near and far for my phone only to realize I was talking on it. I've spent hours looking for my keys only to discover they were in my pocket.

In the truest sense, a worship leader doesn't lead people to God. We simply draw attention to His nearness ... to His presence. We don't lead our churches into the presence of God. That is a miracle reserved for Jesus Christ.

But what do we do, then, you may ask? We highlight Jesus. We trumpet what He has done. We shine a spotlight on His finished work. Nothing more, nothing less.

If I can give you one piece of advice, worship leader, it won't be about what you're using to run your loops and clicks or what songs you're singing or what new creative elements you're implementing. It would be this:

"How well do you know Jesus? How familiar are you with the finished work of the cross?"

This is the essence of worship leading. The best worship leaders are immersed in Jesus. They seek to know what He's like. They want to know what He is saying. They want to move his heart. They move closer and closer.

The Difference Between Worship Leading & Performing

Worship leading. It's an interesting activity and vocation. We're on stage performing with many of the same creative elements as a Coldplay concert in Madison Square Garden. If you put on a concert and perform music for a living, you deserve to be lauded, recognized, and "praised" for your performance. It's your life's work and it deserves attention. It blesses people.

But if you're a worship leader, it's not about that at all. People should leave your services with a stronger theological backbone. They should have strength to persevere under trial. They should have their faith strengthened in the promises of God. If all they're talking about is you and how talented you are, you're not drawing attention to the right thing.

Of course, compliments will come. Anyone who is on stage will receive them. But you must know your role at the core of your being.

If you want to be a rock star, don't lead worship. If you want to have a career in music, worship leading isn't the path. If you want to perform, the local church isn't your fan club. There are plenty of other noble, beautiful musical vocations to choose from.

Lead worship if you have a burning passion for people to experience God. Lead worship if you love the local church. Lead worship if you care about people knowing and responding to the presence of God.

That's what we're supposed to be doing. We're not in this for fame or recognition. Highlight Jesus.

David Santistevan is a worship pastor at Allison Park Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. See this original article at davidsantistevan.com.

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