Why do we need lead worshipers anyway? This subject ties in very closely to the last post here, which discussed how we serve one another through music.  Using this gift of music, NEPC Music’s mission is to lead the church in worship.  But why does it need to be led?  Where do we see this institution of lead worshipers in scripture?

Leading Worship Is Ministry

The very first song recorded in scripture was sung by Moses, Miriam, and the Israelite people after the Lord had taken them through the Red Sea and then closed it over the Egyptian army.  Now certainly music was already a part of their lives, seeing as the women of Israel happened to have tambourines in tow, but this is the first time we have lyrics to a song recorded in scripture. It is a song of exaltation to God for His salvation, declaring Who He is and what He has just done for His people!  This song, led by Moses, sets a precedent for the ministry of music among God’s people.

In 1 Chronicles we see King David, who we know was a gifted musician himself, utilizing those among the Levites who were gifted in music and then beginning to organize what would now be called a ministry of music.

1 Chronicles 6:31-32

These are the men whom David put in charge of the service of song in the house of the LORD after the ark rested there. They ministered with song before the tabernacle of the tent of meeting until Solomon built the house of the LORD in Jerusalem, and they performed their service according to their order.

In 5 other places the Levites were said to minister to the people through music – 1 Chronicles 16:4, 37; 2 Chronicles 8:14; 23:6; 31:2.

1 Chronicles 16:4

Then he appointed some of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the LORD, to invoke, to thank, and to praise the LORD, the God of Israel.

“The three verbs used in this text, ‘to invoke, to thank, and to praise,’ suggest that the music ministry was a vital part of the worship experience of God’s people….

The purpose of their ministry was to thank and praise the Lord. They announced the Lord’s presence to His assembled people, reassuring them of His favorable disposition toward them.” (The Ministry of Music in the Bible, by Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph. D, Professor of Theology, Andrews University – full article here)

Leading Worship Announces God’s Presence and His Power with Thanksgiving and Praise

Over and over in the Old Testament we see the musicians announcing the Lord’s presence as He moves to reveal Himself in power.

2 Chronicles 5:11-14

And when the priests came out of the Holy Place (for all the priests who were present had consecrated themselves, without regard to their divisions, and all the Levitical singers, Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, their sons and kinsmen, arrayed in fine linen, with cymbals, harps, and lyres, stood east of the altar with 120 priests who were trumpeters; and it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the LORD), and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the LORD, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever,” the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God.

2 Chronicles 20:21-23

And when [Jehoshaphat] had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say,“Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

And when they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. For the men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, devoting them to destruction, and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another.

Leading Worship is Prophetic

One interesting point of ministry through music in the Old Testament comes in

1 Chronicles 25:1

David and the chiefs of the service also set apart for the service the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who prophesied with lyres, with harps, and with cymbals.

“Singing the praises of God is here called prophesying (v. 1-3), not that all those who were employed in this service were honoured with the visions of God, or could foretel things to come…but the psalms they sang were composed by the prophets, and many of them were prophetical; and the edification of the church was intended in it, as well as the glory of God. In Samuel’s time singing the praises of God went by the name of prophesying (1 Sa. 10:5; 19:20)” ~ Matthew Henry Commentary from 1 Chronicles 25.

This correlates with 1 Corinthians 14:3

…the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.

Perhaps this broadens our scope of what the ministry of music should be?  There is an element of the prophetic in what we do.  We are called, set apart, to edify the Body of Christ by ministering truth, encouragement, and comfort through music.

Leading Worship Magnifies the Greatness of God Not Ourselves

In his book Worship Matters, Bob Kauflin says:

“A faithful worship leader magnifies the greatness of God in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit by skillfully combining God’s Word with music, thereby motivating the gathered church to proclaim the gospel, to cherish God’s presence, and to live for God’s glory.”

Before the coming of Christ, the presence of God was manifested in a specific place.  In the cloud of smoke and pillar of fire.  In the ark of the Lord.  In the tabernacle.  The worshipers went ahead of the presence.  The arrival of the presence was not dependent on them, but their job was to declare that He was there.  To say essentially, “Look!  This is our God!”

Now in the new covenant in Christ Jesus, the presence of God is with us – in us – carried by the life of every believer, rather than on the shoulders of the priests.  Once again, our job as worship leaders is not to usher in the presence of God, for He is already here.  Our job is to announce it!  To declare His goodness!  To go before Him calling out thanks and praise to His name!  To prophesy of Who He is and who He says we are in Christ. To lead in singing prayers to Him.  To help the Church see Him and worship Him!  Yes, we want to do this with great skill and in excellence, but this is not performance merely for the enjoyment of others.  This is the ministry of leading worship!  May we who have been gifted and set apart to serve in this ministry continue to grasp the depth of our calling and responsibility to our God and to His people!

Kerri Roberts, Assistant Director of Music

Check out the songs we’ll be singing in Contemporary Worship (11:15am) this week:

NEPC Contemporary Setlist