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…
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