And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. . . (Ephesians 2:6)
“…the gathering is unique not as an encounter with God (it is that, though God’s presence is a constantly available comfort and help to the Christian); rather it’s unique because it is an encounter with the people of God, filled with the Spirit of God, spurring one another along in the mission of God. Christ in me meets Christ in you.” (Mike Cosper, Rhythms of Grace)
Lately I’ve been chatting with fellow musical Christians on “LinkedIn” – particularly on the question of worship, the difference between the titles ‘song leader’ and ‘worship leader’ (click here to read that discussion) and if there is any way to reconcile our different opinions. In some ways I feel I’ve been told that my preference for calling those who lead the singing in church ‘song leaders’ is way too blinkered, because singer do so much more than just lead the singing. In the view of many, it seems, song leaders are actually leading people into God’s presence through the experience of corporate worship. Now this may just be semantics, and perhaps all they mean is that we feel closer to God as we draw near to Him together in praise. But if not then such ‘Worship leaders’ have the responsibility of making a way of access between sinful man and God. To me, that is a huge claim, a responsibility we could never have. In fact, it sounds like something that JESUS has already accomplished.
Now should I sit quietly and take this as being a denominational difference, or difference in opinion, which doesn’t really matter? Or is this view actually misleading, with no grounding in the New Testament texts or the practice of the early church? Does this view of corporate worship actually detract from what Christ has already done? Does it hark back to the Old Testament ‘temple worship’ model which is now fulfilled in Christ?
From what I understand in God’s word, the idea that our corporate worship is a worship experience – where we tentatively approach God and hope that he will inject his spirit and power into us through this experience – has very much been surpassed in Christ! This is how the Old Testament people (who did not experience the Holy Spirit in an ongoing, everyday, ‘I will never leave you’ kind of way) approached God in the temple. They came with some measure of uncertainty and a great measure of unworthiness.
But for us as Christ followers, living this side of the cross, the power that raised Jesus from the dead is living in us! He is living in us! We are always in Him, always in His presence. (Check this review of One Forever: The transforming power of being in Christ.) We are in the very throne room of heaven right now, even while our daily lives here continue. You could even say that we Christians are always in church, because we are always ‘in Christ’. There is such great certainty and confidence here. Our unworthiness has been dealt with and wrapped up in Christ.
“We do not go to church to worship, but, already at worship, we join our brothers and sisters in continuing those actions that should have been going on – privately, [as families], or even corporately – all week long.” (Harold Best, Music through the eyes of Faith, p.147)
Jesus is our great High Priest, the way to the Father which the Father provided. He is our one true worship leader, who leads us into a life of worshipping our loving Heavenly Father at the very moment we are saved.
Of course it is great to gather together as God’s people, to remind one another of the reality that we serve a great and wonderful God. As we sing we fulfill the way God designed for us to be building each other up in the Lord, speaking the ‘Word of Christ’ into each other’s lives. But we don’t need to see corporate worship as a tenuous time, when hopefully the music is good and powerful enough to lead people into His presence. My friends, we are already there! We are always in His presence!
“Paul says to the church at Corinth, ‘Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?’ He later tells them that their bodies are the temple of God. This is the astounding reality of New Testament religion: we as Christians are the house of worship.” (David Platt, Radical Together, 2011)
Here are a few other verses from God’s Word to consider – to remind us that our worship of the Almighty God is an ongoing and daily activity, which is also expressed corporately when we gather together.
“In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:21-22)
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (Romans 12:1)
Thanks for reading my rant – an important one! If you want to think more on these things check out the following:
Thanks for this! “We Christians are always’ in ‘church’ because we are always ‘in Christ'”, and the Best quote, are highlights for me in this helpful post.
I enjoyed reading this. I know Christ lives in me but it’s nice to be reminded of it at times. God Bless!
Thanks for reading!
Nice! thanks for pointing out that while it may feel like semantics when it comes to thinking about what happens when we gather, it’s crucial that we get it right. Jesus is the one true worship leader – he is the one whose perfect worship in the offering of his body as a sacrifice has not only made it possible now for us to approach God, but he has in fact built us into the living temple of God. Hebrews 10:19-22
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by the NEW and LIVING way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is , through his flesh, and since we have a great priest (read ‘worship leader’ in the OT!) over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurace of faith…”
Thanks for your comments Web!
Out of curiousity, which denomination(s) would you associate with the term “worship leader” and which would you associate with “song leader”?
Not sure that the divide is by denomination…..can be something that just develops in the particular congregation over time by preference of pastor/leadership. In Australia I have found many baptist and ‘Pentecostal’ churches use worship leader….but it depends.
Interesting. I think I agree that the term is used particularly. However, in my part of the world, Churches of Christ generally use the term “song leader” because of the nature of worship in that particular denomination. Since they do not use instruments in worship, there is a “song leader” who leads congregational singing. This person is also in charge of choosing the songs for worship and other sorts of planning.
Interesting….sometimes I think the singing would go much better without instruments 🙂 Would love to hear how your congregation sounds when praising God together!
One of these days I’ll post a video 🙂 For the record, I’m a Baptist. (masquerading as a Presbyterian at the moment)
Blessings!! Thanks for reading
Great insights. I do miss the simpler days when we didn’t need much practice as a worship team because we spent plenty of time worshiping together when there was no scheduled church service. When it was time for the whole congregation we just kind of picked a few songs and did it again! Blessings and thanks for this conversation!
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Yes our Sunday night service music (long ago) was often by request, by song number. How astounding.