What Does a Worship Leader Do? Pt. 2

I’ve gone back and forth over whether I should use “worship leader” in the title of this series. Among other things, using the term can communicate that:

1) the only time we worship God in a meeting is when we’re following the “worship leader” up front

2) congregational worship must be led by a musician

3) worship leaders have some special access into God’s presence that the congregation doesn’t have

4) this is a role that God has commended in His Word.

I don’t believe any of the above statements are true. Anyone who seeks to encourage others to give praise and honor to God can be referred to broadly as a “worship leader.” While in Scripture praising God often involves music, it can happen without it as well. Worship leaders enter God’s presence the same way that every other saved sinner does – through the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Finally, as I mentioned yesterday, while aspects of the worship leader role can be deduced from Scripture, there are no requirements that we have one. So why am I doing this series on worship leaders? Many churches have been caught up in or influenced by the “worship phenomenon” of recent decades. People under thirty (and I’m not one of them by a long shot) have no memory of a time when churches didn’t have worship leaders. Whenever a church position or title has no specific biblical warrant (children’s ministry teachers, ushers, youth ministers, sound technicians, for example), it’s wise to develop a biblical understanding of it, and make sure that it’s fulfilling God’s purpose for leadership in the church, especially if it’s as widely popular as the term “worship leader.” Actually, I think a church can get along fine without a “worship leader.” On the other hand, when seen as a pastoral/teaching role, I think it can have great benefit for a church.

As far as using the term “worship leader” in the title – While I prefer terms like “music pastor” or “congregational worship leader,” I decided to use the term “worship leader” simply because most people can identify with it. I’m aware that some have voiced strong feelings against using the title. Don Carson shared this in an interview with Tony Payne, although I heard him say something similar in a class I once took from him. “I would abolish forever the notion of a ‘worship leader’. If you want to have a ‘song leader’ who leads part of the worship, just as the preacher leads part of the worship, that’s fine. But to call the person a ‘worship leader’ takes away the idea that by preaching, teaching, listening to and devouring the word of God, and applying it to our lives, we are somehow not worshipping God.” Whatever name you choose to give it, I hope this series will give you a biblical lens to look at this role through. Well, I almost got to the definition. Definitely tomorrow…

Read Part 3 of What Does a Worship Leader Do?

For more on this topic, download the following free message from the Sovereign Grace site:
Will the Real Worship Leader Please Stand Up? by Bob Kauflin

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11 Responses to What Does a Worship Leader Do? Pt. 2

  1. Jeremy January 27, 2006 at 2:12 PM #

    Bob,

    Thanks so much for going through this. I just arrived back from a personal retreat where I sought to be refocused by the Lord in the area of worship by reading some of Peterson’s Engaging with God. It was helpful, and now reading your blog encourages me even more of how to view my role in our local church. Thanks so much for drawing out the biblical standards and categories for the one who leads the singing, and what he is to do in his role. What you are doing is edifying!!!

    ~J

  2. Tony February 11, 2006 at 6:37 PM #

    I’ve always been partial to “chief musician”. It is biblically acknowledged.

  3. Jesse van der Meulen February 22, 2007 at 2:35 PM #

    I’ve heard of some use the term “lead worshipper” as an alternative to “worship leader”. I think it’s a helpful term, and one I try to use in my ministry.

  4. Brandi Davis December 7, 2007 at 1:22 PM #

    I really think that the title of “worship leader” should be rethought. When I was on a plane with my guitar coming back from leading worship a person asked me what I do. I quickly responded with “I’m a worship leader.” He looked at me puzzled because he had no idea what that was. I then furthur explain that I lead people in singing as an act of worship to the Lord. I also mentioned the term church and then he understood. People who are not Chrisitans do not know what Christian worship means, so saying that someone is a “worship leader” means absolutely nothing to them. Also, in a cross-cultural setting, they perceive worship differently than Americans do. I”m only 22 so I don’t know what it is like to go to church without a worship leader, so therefore, my mindset has been trained to have someone leading praise songs for their job. It has become such a routine, that it becomes irrelevant to our corporate worship needs as Chrisitans. In order to be relevant, we need to find and apply different aspects of worship in a corporate setting. In doing this, I know that our worship will become more genuine and heartfelt rather than rehearsed.

  5. Jessica Halim May 22, 2008 at 7:17 AM #

    Hemm i guess it might be hard to change people’s perception about the term ‘worship leader’ esp. in our contemporary musical world, cultural issue too, maybe? Here in Australia, esp. among Sydney evangelicals, the term ‘songleader’ is used & well-known already. (but maybe not among some other denominations).

    And as someone mentioned before, ‘worship’ in different culture means different things. As I come from Chinese/Asian background, worship in my home country means bowing down or giving foods to some statues (or idols), or burning incense to worship ancestors in the hope of getting some blessings in return. Might sounds strange to you, but that’s how it is…

    Anyway thanks Bob for showing us back to what the Bible says about worship-leading, it might be harder to explain biblical worship in the midst of contemporary world, but hey the Bible and Christianity is all about counter-cultural, isn’t it? =)

  6. ROSA FERNANDEZ February 16, 2009 at 9:55 AM #

    MY FAVORE BIBLICAL EXEMPLE OF A WORSHIP LEADER IS DAVID. I SUPOSE THAT THE SCHOOL OF PROPHET OF SAMUEL HAVE MANY TOO!!

  7. Robin Rice September 25, 2009 at 1:28 AM #

    I was thrust into a worship leader position. I started out singing on our church praise team. Then a few years later the worship leader we had was having some issues and the pastor but him on a subbatical for a few weeks. I was asked to step in and take his place for that time period. I said I would try. Then when the time was up the worship leader did not want to be one anymore. So there I was asked to be the worship leader. What else could I do there was no one else. So I said yes..that was three years ago. I love singing and worshipping my God. But being a leader is a whole new game. I have no music training of any kind. I can’t read notes or teach parts. I just tell my praise team to sing from their heart to God and he will do the rest. Everyone says they have liked the praise and worship time better than ever before. I have to say it is totally God. But I want to be better and a leader. If you can give me advise or something that would be wonderful.

    Thank you…Robin Rice

  8. Deacon Robert Freeman March 9, 2012 at 9:44 PM #

    Today as I was reading about being a worship leader and the protocal on the worship leader, I had a different idea on the duties as a worship leader. I do know that ushering the spirit of the Lord through song was one. I am not a singer and I don’t have a melodious voice, but every Sunday I’m up singing as one of the praise team members. So this Sunday, March 11, 2012 my pastor has as me to be a worship leader, and I’m still confused on what to do. Is there any advice you can give me.

    Thanks,
    Deacon Robert Freeman

    • Bob Kauflin March 10, 2012 at 3:38 PM #

      Robert, thanks for writing. I think if you read this series of posts on What Does a Worship Leader Do, you’ll better understand what I believe God has told us about this role in Scripture. Also, I’d recommend my book, Worship Matters, as a kind of guide for that task. Thanks for being willing to serve your church with your gifts!

  9. Tranette July 12, 2012 at 3:54 AM #

    I honestly feel “worship leader” is okay. I would have to agree with what Brandi Davis said about what non believers may think when we tell them we are a worship leader, they might just be a little confused but I feel as long we describe to them what an worship leader is then they will know.

  10. Opeyemi Johnjo April 17, 2015 at 6:37 AM #

    Nice comments.

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