Worship is not music.
Or, I suppose a more accurate statement is that worship is not limited to music.
And you know this. Romans 12:1-2 makes it clear that worship necessarily involves our entire lives. It is a choice that starts from the inside out, affecting our social lives, our career moves, our finances, our parenting, and our behaviors. (For a bit more on the theology of worship, visit a previous blog of mine here.)
I believe a powerful act of worship in the Bible was when a destitute widow deposited two copper coins—her entire life—into the temple’s offering box (Mark 12:41-44). For this woman, there was no rapturous musical experience involved; in this case, worship looked like a financial gift.
We find in Ephesians 6:7 that to serve our employers “wholeheartedly and with love” (maybe by being on time, prepared, consistently excellent, and bringing a great attitude) is a form of worship to God. For anyone who has a job, then, worship looks like happy submission.
Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (NIV). The Passion Translation puts it this way: “Let every activity of your lives and every word that comes from your lips be drenched with the beauty of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One” (emphasis mine). Wow!
Indeed, the worship of our great God is an all-encompassing, burning devotion—a commitment to honor God, no matter what the activity is. Tithing, healthy parenting, honoring a regular Sabbath… when done with the right heart, these are all ways that we can worship God.
Therefore, even the act of leading worship well can itself be a form of worship to God.
I believe it is imperative that worship leaders interpret their responsibilities as an act of worship to God—even those “in-the-moment” responsibilities. You see, it is a sacred gift to God to lead the musicians well so that others can enjoy the King’s Presence. It’s a beautiful form of worship to cooperate with your lyrics guy, so that your people can confidently sing their hearts out to Jesus. It’s a treasured act of praise to signal early enough to the rest of the band where you’re going, so that your people are not distracted from God by an obtuse transition. These are not mundane chores—this is worship.
Once, one of our tech team (who was scheduled once a month) commented to me, “I wish I could worship along, but I’m so focused on adjusting sound”—but I helped him to realize that his focus on adjusting sound was his very act of worship for that service! Similarly, worship leaders, your act of leading excellently is your act of worship!
Here’s what I’m advocating: a worship leader ought to have both a vertical priority and a horizontal priority. Our vertical priority is to focus on connection with Jesus; our horizontal priority is to lead our precious people into connection with Jesus. And that can look like many things.
Yes, all those in-the-moment responsibilities may well feel like distractions at times (“Are the lyrics going up early enough?” “I need to remind the team we are repeating the chorus here.” “What is my senior pastor mouthing to me from the front row?”), but I challenge you, worship leaders, to view your act of “leading worship” itself as a sacrificial form of beautiful worship.
Carefully shepherd your people, worship leader. Openly love Jesus. Lead with authority. Sing with faith. Prepare well. Plan ahead. For this is part of your spiritual act of worship.