Network: North America

If you’ve ever stood in front of a congregation with a microphone and/or a guitar (or your choice instrument), looked into the eyes of your church members and attempted to lead songs to Jesus, you need to hear this. If you’ve ever flubbed a chord or forgotten a lyric or jumped into Verse 3 instead of the Bridge, you need to hear this (again, again…and again).

Before you’re a worship leader, you’ve been led to worship rightly.

Before you ever consider stepping back onto the platform or stage or whatever you call it in your context, if you’re in Christ, recognize and remember that you have a Worship Leader.

  • God is a perfect Triune worshipper, always rightly ascribing worth to Himself as the most worthy and glorious object of worship.
  • We’re created in His image as worshippers, made to worship Him.
  • Sin distorted mankind’s worship; now we’re constantly worshipping but our worship is often misdirected.
  • We need the grace of God in Jesus Christ by the power of the Spirit to rightly reorient our loves back to its rightful aim—God Himself.

Jesus is your perfect Worship Leader. Hebrews 2:12 encapsulates, in a single verse, how Christ Jesus is the fullness of God’s revelation to the world, telling of God’s Name to us, His brothers. Then, Jesus turns and leads our song, back to the Father. What a beautiful picture of the God-Man’s worship leadership, rightly redirecting our worship back to the LORD.

“I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
Hebrews 2:12 (ESV)

Lead from your identity in Christ.

Before you’re a musician…before you’re a worship leader…before you’re a pastor…your identity is in Christ! If you see yourself primarily as a musician, your focus and energy will be on practicing your instrument and preparing music, lead sheets, tracks, etc. in order to entertain or give your people a good experience (isn’t that what do musicians do?)?

I’m not saying to not do those things, but if you see yourself PRIMARILY as a musician, then all your preparation will be with a musician’s mindset and you’ll slip into a performance mentality.

If, however, your identity is primarily that of a Christian—and all the implications of that identity as a Christian—you are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved; sons and daughters of a perfect Father; Jesus is your brother; the Holy Spirit, your Helper. Only then you will know that you have much work to do, but nothing to prove.

If you see yourself primarily as a disciple of Jesus (one who has been led to worship rightly by the grace of God), then what you do in your preparation and (dare I say) performance, your posture toward others will be primarily about discipleship.

You’ll want to live out what it means to be a disciple of Jesus—living out the Great Commission, knowing that you are fueled by the grace of God, toiling with His energy, His strength—to go and make disciples.
We get to join in God’s mission—to spread the gospel to the world—and it starts in our own hearts. The primary instrument in discipleship (growth in Christ—both personally and for your public ministry) is the gospel—the Word of Christ.

Lead with the gospel.

The same gospel that saved you, also sustains you and your congregation. What’s so freeing about this is that we’re not relying on ourselves, but on God.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay,
to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”
2 Corinthians 4:7 (ESV)

If we orient all our practices around this “God—man—Christ—response” good news and create a culture around this gospel, we and our people will be shaped by this story.

Gospel-shaped practices in a gospel-saturated culture form gospel-shaped people.

To be as practical as possible, let me offer some suggestions to making it all about the gospel. (Don’t read these are requirements; read them as helpful suggestions.)

Gospel-shaped practices

  • Choose gospel-centered songs.
    • Songs that explicitly highlight the character and actions of God
    • Songs that recognize and confess our sin, acknowledging our need for a Savior
    • Songs that remind us of our assurance in Christ
    • Songs that express thankfulness for the work of God’s grace in our lives
    • Songs that motivate us in our mission to spread the gospel, starting with our neighbors and extending to the nations
  • Structure your gatherings around the gospel. Around this flow from God’s greatness to our sin to the saving work of Jesus to our response as His people.
  • Saturate your gatherings with Scripture, because it’s all telling God’s redemptive story and it all points to Jesus.
  • Pray constantly with your team—before, during, after, in between—recognize and model your absolute dependence on the grace of God for all you do.
  • Take the Lord’s Supper with your team—no other practice, other than baptism, embodies the gospel more succinctly and clearly than Communion.

Gospel-saturated culture

  • Give grace—people will be late; people will miss notes and cues; people will fail to meet your expectations. Consider the grace God gives to you and extend it to others.
  • Be patient—discipleship is a long-game; sanctification is a life-long process; (Read 1 Timothy 1:15-16). Consider how patient God has been with you and extend that patience to others.
  • Forgiveness— if you’re in ministry for any length of time, people will hurt you, sometimes deeply. You’ll invest time, energy, and prayer in people who may turn on you for petty reasons; that stings. Colossians 3:13 says “As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

Orient your practices around the gospel and strive to promote a gospel-saturated culture, (mix with some time) and you have a recipe, by the willing and grace of God, for a gospel-shaped people.

Before the next time you stand in front of your congregation, remember these 3 things:

  1. Before you’re a worship leader, you’ve been led to worship rightly
  2. Lead from your identity in Christ
  3. Lead with the gospel

Matt presented this material at Engage 2017, Acts 29 US West’s annual conference. You can read posts from other speakers at Engage on our blog

Matt Butler
Written by: Matt Butler on October 23, 2017

Matt is the Pastor of Worship & Liturgy at Grace Point Church in North Las Vegas, NV. He also leads the Las Vegas Worship Cohort and serves in the Air Force Reserves. He loves connecting people’s hearts and minds to Jesus by leading and writing gospel-centered music. He and his wife of 11 years, Danielle, have 4 amazing children.