Leading Worship and Biblical Counseling

If you lead worship, you may not think of yourself as a biblical counselor. Maybe that should change.

Last month I had the joy of leading the singing at the CCEF conference. While I was there David Powlison asked if we could chat about the relationship between singing congregationally and biblical counseling.

There are a number of ways those two activities don’t seem connected. We sing with a group, while biblical counseling usually involves 2-4 people. You don’t normally counsel people with music. You just talk about issues. Counseling is interactive, while in corporate worship the communication is generally from the leader to the congregation.

But the more I’ve thought about what I do when I lead songs of worship, the more I’ve realized my goals are similar to a biblical counselor. I’m pastoring people through songs. As a counselor might do, I’m seeking to inform minds, affect emotions, and influence wills in a Christ-exalting direction. I’m just using music and the Word to do it.

All this has a lot to do with what songs we choose at Christmas. We want to sing songs that give people real hope in a real Savior.

Here are two clips from our conversation that spell out more of the connections. As I listen to this, I can’t help feeling I should have just let David do all the talking.

First Video Quotes:
“A worship leader should never say, “Sing it like you mean it.” We should always mean it.”
“People walk in every Sunday with the problem that everything in their lives has become bigger than God.”
“The worship leader links heart-stirring music with biblical truth…to let the Word of Christ dwell in people richly.”
“Pay attention to the syntax of hymns. Some are about God, drawing our hearts toward Him. Others are unto God, giving our faith direct expression to God.”
“Counseling needs to do more than analysis and problem-solving; it needs to evoke the thing it seeks to create.”
“Biblical counseling is worship, and repentance, and faith, and hearing and loving and needing God…”

Second Video Quotes:
“In both counseling and worship we can rely on technique and forget that all we have is Christ.”
“Leading worship is a pastoral function before it’s a musical one.”
“Way more often than we imagine, people need reminding, not informing.”
“The world in which we counsel is the same world in which we worship & pray.”
“The word ‘technique’ is actually offensive in ministry.”


9 Responses to Leading Worship and Biblical Counseling

  1. bondChristian December 10, 2009 at 3:10 AM #

    Yes, as a worship leader, it is my job to lead in counseling because, like you said, counseling is worship. Everything we do should be worship to God, and we should never leave anything to “other people” just because it’s not part of the job description. As worship leaders, it’s easy to fall into that trap because usually we’re just associated with music, not necessarily doctrine or advice. Such an important reminder.

    Which reminds me of this: “Way more often than we imagine, people need reminding, not informing.” That is a top three point I’ve been reminding myself and others over the past year. God’s really turned me around in this area. Before, I’d been all about information instead of just being a reminder, an encourager.

    -Marshall Jones Jr.

  2. Trent Broussard December 10, 2009 at 10:42 AM #

    Thanks for the post .

  3. west December 10, 2009 at 4:52 PM #

    I was beginning to hear crickets around here. Thanks for posting again, Bob.

    • Bob Kauflin December 10, 2009 at 5:24 PM #


      Yeah, this hasn’t been my most productive blogging season. Hoping to change that. And thanks for your encouragement.

  4. Nate Fancher December 10, 2009 at 10:23 PM #

    “Worship leading is a pastoral function first…” Excellent!

  5. Mike Ruel December 11, 2009 at 10:06 AM #

    “Way more often than we imagine, people need reminding, not informing.”

    a great reminder not to put too much of OURSELVES in our exhortations, remind them of the truth.

    John 17:17 – Sanctify them by the truth – your Word is truth!

    Thank you!

  6. Nadia Ibrahim December 11, 2009 at 8:46 PM #

    Thanks for the reminder…. Thanks for leading us so effectively at the conference (and on so many Sunday mornings). I’m grateful for your pastoral care.

  7. Ben Hickenlooper December 11, 2009 at 9:10 PM #

    I like the idea of Biblical counseling and worship leading being similar. I agree that the worship leader must function as a pastor. I was reading Henry Brandt ( a Biblical Counselor) this week. He says that the counseling process is greatly helped by gently showing people their sin and helping them get forgiven and cleansed (1 Jn 1.9). I belong to a Spirit-filled Conservative Baptist Church and we don’t have a time of confession in every service. It seemed to me that it could really help my Biblical counseling-Worship leading if I had a time of confession in the service. It could be a song or a prayer or both. The whole service could be an Is. 6 series of events and confession could be the “woe is me” part. I think God would like this.

  8. Bob Myers January 14, 2010 at 2:49 PM #

    Tonight, as senior pastor I am meeting with our team of worship leaders to encourage them in their important task. We are going to watch the first video of Bob Kauflin’s conversation with Dave Powlison to clarify the task of worship leader.

    I have made sure all of our worship leaders have your outstanding book, and I encourage them to regularly use this website. A second purpose of our meeting is to encourage them to read and to study Bob’s book.

    Thank you for the great resources, they are uniquely valuable and have certainly helped form my Biblical convictions about worship and also helped me equip others.

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