To Worship or To Lead – Is That the Question?

I’m hoping to follow a similar format each week for this blog. On Mondays I’ll be sharing a devotional, from Scripture or some other source, that will focus on our hearts. If you lead a music team these might be great to share with your group. Tuesday through Thursday I’ll be typically focusing on some theme, although I also plan to do book/article/CD/song/website reviews as well. Of course, since it’s my blog, I might do something totally different. (I’m sure this is helping you.) On Fridays, I’ll take time to respond to a question I’ve received either through e-mail on on the blog comments.

This first question is from Phil.

“I attended an excellent workshop on leading worship at a convention recently and the speaker said something that sort of shook my boat. He said that as a leader you may have to “sacrifice” – if you will – your own worship to facilitate the worship of others. That is to say, to better lead a congregation or a group of people in worship, it is sometimes better to concentrate on the more technical aspects of musicality and reading the people’s reactions than to concentrate on God and worship Him in your own heart at that moment. I’m 20 years old and as I lead the worship for 20 or so high school kids every Friday – if I’m not worshiping in my heart I feel like a fraud! I don’t know if this reaction is justified. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.”

Thanks for being concerned about your heart, Phil, and for asking the question. As I understand it, this is your question: Can I effectively lead people in worship, give musical cues, play the right chords, and still worship God myself? Absolutely!

However, leading requires skill. God is into skill. He tells us the Levites who led the singing at the tabernacle were those “who were skillful.” (1 Chron. 25:7) Chenaniah led the singing because “he understood it.” The NIV translates that phrase, “he was skillful at it.” Psalm 33:3 echoes that sentiment: “Play skillfully on the strings.” God isn’t against artistic and technical skill – they’re His gifts (check out Ex. 28:3, 36:1-2).

A lack of musical or leadership skill may cause me to be consumed with the more “technical” aspects of leading. If that’s the case, those I lead aren’t going to be served very well, nor will they be inspired by my furrowed brow, nor will they be able to worship God in a focused, undistracted way. If that’s the case, I probably shouldn’t be leading.

But let’s assume I have sufficient skill. Do I have to “sacrifice my worship” of God in order to facilitate the worship of others? No. The only thing I have to sacrifice is my narrow understanding of what “worship” is.

Worship isn’t just about what’s happening between me and God – it concerns US and God. As I help people extol God’s greatness through song, I’m contributing to giving God praise. As I lead others, I’m happy when I give a well-timed verbal cue, notice how people are responding, or communicate with the band, because I’m doing those things to help people see and celebrate the supreme worth of God. If that’s NOT why I’m doing those things, I wasn’t worshiping God to begin with.

Effective leadership and worshiping God are two sides of the same coin. They were never meant to be opposed to each other. And of course, the more skillful I am in practical areas, the easier it will be for me to engage with the words we’re singing. The point is, I want to do everything to magnify the worth of God in Jesus Christ. As God tells us through Peter:

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Pet. 4:10-11 ESV)

Hope that’s helpful, Phil. Have a great weekend remembering that our greatest problem – the wrath of God against our sin – has been dealt with through the atoning sacrifice of our matchless Savior, Jesus Christ.

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3 Responses to To Worship or To Lead – Is That the Question?

  1. geoffrey r. kirkland November 18, 2005 at 10:12 AM #

    Bob, Thanks for this blog. What a great reminder for us as worship leaders that we are first, to play skillfully and to do all that we do to the glory of God (Col. 3:17,23), but at the same time we are called to lead others in worship, to lead the band, to lead the congregation, etc. There is no dichotomy between the two. These are not divorced from each other. What a great encouragement and reminder to me as I lead this Sunday at church. Thanks Bob! Lord Bless you.

  2. Phil November 20, 2005 at 2:57 PM #

    Bob, thanks for answering my question! I see exactly what you mean, that the skillful musical aspect is indeed part of the worship and not opposed to it – unless I’m playing skillfully for my own glory. Your blog continues to be insightful and helpful, thanks again!
    In Christ,

  3. Marisa B. Johnston November 23, 2005 at 9:57 AM #

    Thank you for that insight! In being part of the music team at my church, I’ve wondered that very thing. It makes so much sense that our skillful offering in leadership is worship. Whatever you do, do it heartily as unto the Lord, right? May God bless you.

  4. boyet October 1, 2007 at 8:09 AM #

    Hi Bob,
    I just wanna let you know that I’ve been blessed by the information you posted in your blogs. They are very helpful to me as a worship leader. Thank you very much.

    By the way, I would like to suggest if you could please use a bigger font next time. I found it very hard to read some time. Thanks

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