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What Does a Worship Leader Do? Part 1
By Bob Kauflin
Director of Worship Development, PDI Ministries
June 10, 2002

Worship Matters -- Bob proposes a definition for the role of a worship leader.

PDI Ministries - This year marks a quarter-century that I’ve been leading worship – in one form or another – and how things have changed! Twenty-five years ago the first release from Integrity’s Hosanna Music was almost a decade away, “worship artist” was an unknown concept, and brief Scripture choruses (repeated many, many times) were the hottest thing going. No one could have predicted how worship and music styles would become such a pervasive, and often divisive, issue in the church.
Today, in the midst of this “worship explosion,” we’re better off in many ways. We have an ever-increasing number of contemporary songs that express the truths of our faith in powerful and moving ways. Churches and church leaders are recognizing the importance of worshiping God in every aspect of life. Many people, especially teens and twenty-somethings, are flocking to Christian concerts and buying CDs that point them to worshiping the Savior rather than the singer.

All these changes have heightened the significance of the worship leader. While we used to think that anyone who knew how to play an acoustic guitar (and owned one) could do a great job leading worship, we’ve realized there are a few more questions to consider. What’s the difference between a song leader and a “lead worshiper"? Is the goal actually to “lead” or simply get out of the way and let God do His thing? Does a worship leader need to be a skilled musician?

I do not assume that everyone who reads this column is a worship leader – I know some of you aren’t. However, every Christian can benefit from understanding what our goals ought to be as we gather to exalt and give glory to God in public worship. Who knows – this series may even cause you to think about whether or not you SHOULD be a worship leader!

Churches have taken a wide variety of approaches to the role of the worship leader. Choir directors, accompanists, rock bands, soloists, and organists have all been included in that category. Regardless of the title, those who lead the singing and the worship of God play a prominent role in most Christian gatherings. At every meeting they have significant opportunities to teach, train, and encourage Christians in giving God the glory we were created to give Him.

The New Testament gives us little to go on to establish the specific job description of a worship leader. However, it’s apparent throughout Scripture that singing is important to God, and that it is usually led. Ephesians 4:11-13 tells us that God has given gifts to certain leaders in the church for the maturing and building up of His people. Some of those gifts are pastoring, teaching, prophesying, and evangelizing. In a corporate worship leader we have a leadership role which combines aspects of these and other New Testament gifts in the context of music.

More specifically, I believe the role and goals of a worship leader can be described in this way: An effective worship leader is aided and led by the Holy Spirit, skillfully combines biblical truth with music to magnify the worth of God and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, thereby motivating the gathered church to join him in proclaiming and cherishing the truth about God and seeking to live all of life for the glory of God.

We’ll spend the next few lessons unpacking this definition, and gaining a clearer understanding of God’s purpose for the role of worship leader in the church today.

For His Glory,


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