A couple of years ago while searching for something to listen to on the radio, I stumbled upon an interview between the morning host of a local Christian radio station and a former contestant on NBC’s show, The Voice. The contestant, who also happens to be a worship leader, was sharing a story about the night his team was invited to the home of their coach and Grammy award winning superstar, Christina Aguilera. He recalled that when it was his turn to share his story and how he had grown up singing and worship leading at church, Christina asked him what it was like to be a worship leader. The immediate thought that came to his mind was one that I suppose any of us would have in the same situation: “How do you explain being a worship leader to a music superstar?” For that matter, how do we explain being a worship leader to anyone?
I believe we can all agree that being a worship leader requires a certain level of skills and talent, typically in music. But is that all that is needed? Surely not! Having the skill set to be a contestant on The Voice is certainly nice, but it takes something more to be able to lead the people of God in worship and lead them well. How would you explain this to a music superstar…or to the regular worship attendee at your church? Here are a few additional qualifications – or alternate job titles – for a worship leader that can help us explain this important role better.
- Worship Facilitator: As Wesleyan Christians, we believe that God is not only present in our worship, but extremely active as well. One helpful way I’ve heard this explained is to picture corporate worship as participating in the ongoing “song and dance” between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Therefore, a worship leader is the one who facilitates the church’s connection to the ongoing “song and dance” of the Trinity. Like a skilled tour guide, a worship leader points to the story of the God of our salvation and allows worshipers to respond as they see it for themselves.
- Prophetic Speaker: Worship leading requires the grace to speak clearly, confidently, and prophetically. From the opening call to worship, to every word of prompting and encouragement throughout a worship service, the worship leader becomes a clear voice by which the Holy Spirit can call people to gather together for worship, to awake from spiritual slumber, to rise up from the darkness of sin and worry, and to turn their eyes and their hearts back to Jesus.
- Humble Listener: A worship leader must be intentional about making time and space to listen to God regularly, and to engage in conversation with the Holy Spirit regarding the world as it currently is and how it really should be. Listening to the stories of the community is also important. By doing so, a worship leader becomes more attuned to the unique melodies and prayers that the people need to have on their lips in worship.
Worship leaders have a very important role in the life our church communities that extends far beyond musical abilities alone. So pray for your worship leader today. Pray that they would continue to grow in the ways God wants them to, and pray that God would continue to raise up men and women with the unique gifts and graces that help us to pray and sing the songs of heavenly hope that we need to sing.
(And now you have a cheat sheet if you meet Christina Aguilera!)