A lump was forming in my throat. My eyes were wide. I had thought about this moment so many times. Was it really here?
I was subtly aware there was more to leading worship than hitting the right notes, singing the right words and not making an absolute fool of myself. I was subtly aware that there was something more. A bigger reason. Another purpose for why I was on that stage. I was subtly aware, but I wasn't sure what that reason was. And honestly, I don't think I cared.
I was 13 years old and had spent the last year of my life endlessly practicing guitar in my bedroom, a year on the sidelines of my midwest country church youth band, waiting for my number to be called.
So what was it? That seed germinating in my heart. Was there more than just avoiding embarrassment? More than playing a few nice songs and trying not to distract anyone?
What was my role as a worship leader? What was I trying to accomplish? Maybe you've wondered too.
Why We're Here
I believe Psalm 34:3 provides the perfect description of the role of a worship leader.
"Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His Name together!"
A telescope uses a series of lenses aligned in such a way that, when you look through them, objects far off in the distance can be seen clearly. Do you remember the last time you looked into a clear, night sky? Massive heavenly bodies appeared as small, blurry dots of light.
Now if you had a powerful telescope nearby, these same blurry dots would suddenly fill the entire scope of your vision. Their surface and color and edges would become radiant and vivid and magnificent. Their intricacy and beauty and detail would be overwhelming.
Imagine our songs and prayers and scripture readings are lenses in a telescope. Suddenly what was once distant and shrouded by clouds becomes the all-consuming vision of majesty it really is.
How is it that the Eternal, Almighty One, the creator of the universe, the sustainer of all life, can fade into the blurred spots of our peripheral vision?
It would seem unthinkable if it weren't yours and my daily reality. Somehow our worries, busyness, obligations, sin, hobbies and leisure take center stage.
What can a worship leader do about all this? I like to say it this way.
The role of the worship leader is to bring the wonder of God into large, vivid focus before the hearts and minds of our church.
. We celebrate His character.
. We describe His attributes.
. We tell of His wondrous works.
. We marvel at His creation.
. We rejoice in His plan for redemption.
We magnify! We magnify the Lord by proclaiming His greatness, by exalting His Name, by giving Him honor. We magnify the Lord by showing forth something of His excellence.
Anyone who encounters the living God does not leave the same. When we are exposed to the glory of God, we are amazed by His power, astonished by His greatness, in awe of His love.
That's Not Your Job
I keep discovering, more and more, incredible gifts God chooses to give us as we worship Him together. The believer is encouraged and edified. The unbeliever sees that God is among us. Our suffering Savior brings comfort to our heart. He brings joy through His presence. We are filled afresh with His Spirit. We receive His strength to be a voice of love and truth in our world.
The disconnect occurs when we, as worship leaders, try to MAKE these things happen. That's not our job.
Some of you see yourself as a worship mediator. There is a room full of people and a God in heaven. Your job is to act as the middle man connecting one with the other. You feel a weight and pressure to make this happen. You feel the disappointment when it doesn't. This is a burden no human can carry.
"For there is one God, and there is one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all" (1 Timothy 2:5-6a).
How do we "enter the holy places" (Hebrews 10:19)? How do we "draw near to the throne of grace" (Hebrews 4:16)? It is only by the blood of Jesus. Only through our great high priest.
So take a step back. Breathe a sigh of relief. Release the reins. Your role is to magnify, not mediate.
I didn't pass out. My voice didn't crack. People even joined me in singing on that first day I lead worship. But I'm so thankful that since that time, I've discovered what it means to lead worship with a true purpose. I've come to know what part I have to play in this powerful kingdom work.
We cannot make anyone worship God. But we can make much of who God is.