As a worship leader of five years now, I am constantly addressing and studying what the Bible says that worship is. I don’t think I’ll ever stop thinking about it. Worship has such an overwhelming presence in the Scriptures that we would be remiss to never study it. From the first pages of Genesis to the last ones in Revelation, the topic of our worship of God is demanded to be heeded.
This topic is so vast and so worthy of the most intense scrutiny and deep exposition, but it is my goal to put forth some condensed truths about what the Bible says about worship that should force us to slow down when we use the word.
I am primarily speaking to those out there who are called “Worship Leaders” in your local Church. Those who pick up the guitar each Sunday and lead the band; Those who don the bench and address the keys and lead the choir; Those who stand solo with a song book, singing a capella; Those who would take the responsibility to handle the music in God’s Church for God’s people.
In this post, I hope to address this: As worship leaders, we need to step back and remember what a worshiper actually is.
This is important since we are claiming to be one and we intend to lead other worshipers in song, specifically, when songs do not sum up worship.
When God calls us out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9), He calls us from a state of sinful, disobedient worship to that of right worship – the worship of Himself. The Apostle Peter makes clear, as do all of the Apostles, that we have been sovereignly chosen by God to worship Him and to be obedient to Him as Lord. He says that we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession…”
The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:11 that “you were sanctified,” which means to be set apart from profane things and dedicated to God. He is speaking of God’s sovereign election and the act of regeneration by the Holy Spirit that cleanses us from all unrighteousness by the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: “You were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”
To be more succinct, we are either a child of God, or a child of the Devil.
The Apostle John does not mince words when he says, “make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil” (1 Jn. 3:7-8). He’s not talking about a small cult; he’s talking about whoever doesn't live for God. As an aside, this perspective should spur our passion for evangelism.
God, speaking to the Israelites, says, “Beware that your hearts are not deceived, and that you do not turn away and serve other gods and worship them” (Deut. 11:16).
The correlation here is something that should be very clear: we are either saved by the grace of God, or we are not; we are either obedient to God, or we are not; we are either practicing righteousness, or we are practicing sin (as a lifestyle); we are either worshipers of God, or we are worshipers of the Devil – all that is wrong and false.
We either live to serve (Hebrew: abad) and worship (Hebrew: shachah – prostrate, bow down) God, or we are living to serve and worship another god, or even ourselves.
As Jesus said himself, quoting Deuteronomy 6:13, “You shall worship (Greek: proskuneo – prostrate, bow down) the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve (Greek: latreuo). Latreuo is often translated as “worship” in the New Testament.
God makes clear in Deut. 30:20a what it means to flesh out the service and worship of Him: “By loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him.”
The English word worship comes from the Anglo-Saxon word worth-ship, predating 900AD. It is a word that denotes the condition or character of worthiness. For someone to worship something or someone else is for them to ascribe a high degree of worth, or value. The word worship is most often understood in the context of religious adoration, veneration, reverence, or regard.
For us to worship the God of Heaven and Earth means we are condescending ourselves to hold God in the highest regard, in true humility, considering Him as being the pinnacle of all worth in our life and in existence itself. It is also a word that connotes submission to a lord. It is homage, which means deference, fidelity to, loyalty to, or obeisance – a French word, meaning to obey.
Understanding all of this makes it is easier to see that a Christian, one who is sovereignly called by God, is defined as a worshiper of God.
The Apostle Paul said to the Roman church, “Let not sin reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness” (6:12-13).
He goes on to explain this in verse 16: “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?”
Then, making the distinction even more clear, he says: “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (17-18).
The language of worship is in here. One who is an obedient, reverent servant, or slave, of someone else is a worshipper of that person. “Worship” is not a holy term in itself. It just describes the relationship of the humble with their lord. For the Christian, we recognize our depravity, then experience God’s sovereign grace, and submit ourselves in reverence and awe to the Lord of lords who saved us.
A Christian is a regenerated soul.
A regenerated soul is a God-worshiping soul.
A Christian is a worshiper of God.
When we step onto the platform to lead worshipers in music, that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re not creating worship. We’re not leading the only worship they will see or hear that week. They bring their acts of worship with them, having already been converted to worshipers when their faith in Christ was established by the grace of God.
As “Worship Leaders” we must step back and remember what a worshiper is. This will decrease the temptation for us to try and create a vibe or mood with lights and synth sounds that we think will somehow help people worship. It doesn’t work that way.
We are only providing the music and the melody for the worshipers to give to God what they already have – a heart changed by Him.