We’ve almost reached the place where I talk about what a corporate worship leader is actually supposed to be doing. But not quite. There’s one more thing I want to say about the tools we use to lead congregational worship.
An effective worship leader “skillfully combines biblical truth with music.”
Skillfully. Skill has been defined as the “the ability to do something well.” With all the benefits of the mass outpouring of worship songs in the past decade, there have been some down sides. One is the belief that a sincere heart, a guitar, and a knowledge of three chords qualifies someone to lead worship in a church. Fortunately, more and more churches are realizing that it takes skill to put music and biblical truth together in such a way that people actually worship God rather than the leader, the music, themselves, or other idols. That skill may come from natural gifting, training, or experience; but it’s an important part of what a worship leader does. Combines biblical truth with music.
Leading God’s people in corporate worship isn’t just about truth and it isn’t simply about music. It’s about both. If I had to choose one, obviously, I’d take truth. But God, for some reason, mentions singing over 400 times in his word, including 50 direct commands to sing His praise. He makes it pretty obvious what He wants us to do in Ps. 47:6: Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! Worship involves all of life, to be sure. We can worship God when we evangelize, care for our children, serve a neighbor, or obey the traffic laws. But God wants at least some of praise to be musical. Have you ever wondered why? I have. And I’ve realized that if I use music in corporate praise without understanding God’s purpose for it, I’ll be prone to misuse it. Even worse, God won’t be glorified by sincere, but misguided, attempts.
So, let me start by suggesting what music doesn’t do when we meet to exalt God. It doesn’t reveal God’s presence or bring us closer to God. Only the Holy Spirit and the finished work of our Savior can do that. Harold Best writes: “Christian musicians must be particularly cautious. They can create the impression that God is more present when music is being made than when it is not; that worship is more possible with music than without it; and that God might possibly depend on its presence before appearing.” (Music Through the Eyes of Faith, p. 153) Music doesn’t sanctify or morally change us. Again, that is the work of God’s Spirit working through His word. Music doesn’t preach propositional truth to us, and has no power to save us. Apart from lyrics or a surrounding context, music is a “truth-less” form of communication. By that I mean that while music affects us in many ways (which I’ll address later), it can never accurately articulate realities like substitutionary atonement or the relationship of the Father and the Son on its own.
Next week, I’ll talk about how I think God intends for music to function as we lead people to praise Him. Thanks for reading.