So How Important are Worship Leaders? And What Should They Actually be Doing?

Featuring Bob Kauflin Posted on March 28, 2010


These questions aren't as easy to answer as we might think. 

First, it's hard to find a clear worship leader role in the Bible, especially inthe New Testament. That alone should give us pause.

We can glean some important principles from Old Testament Levites suchas Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and others who led in song at the tabernacleand temple (1 Chronicles 16:1–7, 37–42; 25:1–8). But we can't transfer everything they did then to what we do now. They foreshadowed the perfectpriest, Jesus Christ, who fulfilled everything their ministry pointed to (Hebrews9:23–28). They worshiped God at a physical temple, while we worship him through the perfect temple of Jesus Christ and are ourselves a temple forGod's presence (John 4:23–24; Matthew 12:6; Ephesians 2:21). They werespecifically appointed by God to lead the nation of Israel, while now the entirechurch is “a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9).

The Psalms tell us volumes about what corporate worship should say but aren't as clear on how it's led, other than saying it involves instruments. And some people question whether that still applies.

Second, the most important worship leader is Jesus. He reveals God to usand through his perfect sacrifice provided the only way into the Father's presence (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 10:19–22).

We can't do what only Jesus does. But in a culture infatuated with musical experience and expression, worship leaders can be erroneously expected tolead us into God's presence, usher in the presence of God, or in some waymake God show up. People can start to think of us as “musical high priests”who bring God near through sheer musical skill, or as it's often called, anointing.

Third, the term worship leader can be misunderstood. It can communicate that the only time we worship God is when a musician is leading us. Or that worship is the same as singing. Or that God commands us to have worship leaders. 

None of those statements is true. Anyone who encourages others to praise God can be referred to as a “worship leader.” Worship can involve music, but it can happen without it as well. And while aspects of the worshipleader's role may be inferred from Scripture, there are no requirements tohave one. A pastor or a team of people can serve together to accomplishthese goals just as well as, if not better than, a single person. 


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