Here’s the next part of my proposed definition of a worship leader. An effective corporate worship leader is aided and led by the Holy Spirit.
Every leader of congregational worship will acknowledge that biblical worship is impossible apart from the activity of the Holy Spirit. This is at least part of what Jesus meant when he told the Samaritan woman in John 4 that the Father seeks worshipers who worship Him in spirit and truth. Paul also tells us in Philippians 3:3, “For we are the real circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” (See also Eph. 2:18, Eph. 5:18-21, and 1 Cor. 12:3, and 2 Cor. 3:18)
But what does it mean for a worship leader to be aided and led by the Holy Spirit? Charismatics and non-charismatics (or continuationists and cessationists) might disagree on the specifics. At the very least it means that we worship the Holy Spirit as God, the third Person of the Trinity. But it also means that as we gather to worship God, the Holy Spirit fulfills His normal roles of illuminating, helping, strengthening, comforting, leading, making us aware of God’s presence, and revealing Christ and Him crucified.
Practically, I think that means at least three things.
First we need to ask God to help us by His Spirit as we lead others to worship Him. It’s easy for me to trust that my experience, background, musical skill, preparation, or planning will enable people to worship God rightly. If I feel prepared, I’m confident; if I don’t feel prepared, I’m anxious. But no amount of preparation can replace humble dependence on God’s Spirit to do what only He can do – bring light to darkened hearts and minds. God reminds us in 2 Cor. 3:18:
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
In other words, music doesn’t transform us; God’s Spirit working through His Word does. God is honored when we humbly ask His Spirit to work in our hearts as we meet to exalt Him. That’s not to say that God isn’t already present by His Spirit when we gather. We’re just asking Him to make us more deeply aware of both His presence and His activity in our lives.
Second, having asked the Holy Spirit to work in our midst, we need to expect His involvement. That involves listening for His direction, even if our plan is “air-tight.” Certainly, we should be listening for the Spirit as we plan for a meeting. I think this is an area we often overlook – prayer during planning. But does the Holy Spirit stop speaking to us when we meet? That’s not the impression we get from the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 12-14. Despite their excessive esteem of the “spectacular” gifts of the Spirit, Paul never tells the Corinthians to stop expecting the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s presence in various ways during a meeting. Neither should we.
What might the Holy Spirit “say” to us? We might feel led to emphasize a certain line from a song or repeat a verse that draws attention to a relevant theme. The Spirit might bring to mind a particular need or a reason to celebrate. He might direct us to a Scripture we hadn’t previously thought of including. There doesn’t have to be anything mystical or “spooky” about the Holy Spirit leading us in times of corporate praise.
Finally, biblical worship means that we respond to what we sense the Spirit is saying or doing. If we have asked for God’s active presence, and are listening for the Spirit’s leading, it should be evident through our faith-filled obedience that He really is working in our midst. That means that we might spontaneously pray for those parents who have a rebellious older child. That’s exactly what we did in one of our meetings this past Sunday at Covenant Life. Whatever we believe about the availability of the gift of prophecy today, 1 Corinthians 14 implies that we should expect the Spirit to speak to us through spontaneous expressions of encouragement, admonition, and instruction when we gather. How that looks will depend on your theological position, the size of your church, the maturity of your people, and a number of other factors. But certainly, a leader who is committed to honoring God will seek to follow the Spirit’s leading in times of corporate worship.
Of course, the end of being led and aided by the Spirit is to bring honor to the Lamb who was slain. But before we go to that part of the definition, I’ll share some thoughts on using music and the Word. Tomorrow.