Monthly Archives: November 2008

A Brief Theology of Worship Leadership

This is obviously a work that will stay in progress…

1. What is worship?

In its simplest essence worship takes two forms: ascribing worth and obedience.

As we recognize the echoes of God in life and then start to interact with Him we realize the enormous worth He has. The weight of this understanding of who He is brings the fruit of ascribing worth to Him. We can do this personally in many ways. Because we are image bearers (made in His likeness), we are creative and so we naturally create in our expressions of ascribing worth.

Having made it that far – realizing that God loves us and echoing back our love for Him naturally drives us to a desire to please Him. So we search out His desire for us and attempt to be obedient.

I think it is important to make the distinction between worship (what is happening inside us) and “expressions of worship” which are the outwardly visible acts we perform to express our worship.

God speaks in Isaiah 29:13 “These people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” [1] A worship act that is not coming from the heart is not authentic worship.

2. What does music and creativity have to do with it?

Bono wrote: “Show-business is Shamanism: Music is Worship; whether it’s worship of women or their designer, the world or its destroyer, whether it comes from that ancient place we call soul or simply the spinal cortex, whether the prayers are on fire with a dumb rage or dove-like desire … the smoke goes upwards … to God or something you replace God with … usually yourself.” [2]

People must worship. We ascribe worth all day every day. Music allows us to express worship as a community. N.T Wright said that our worship voices creation’s praise. [3]

Music is a powerful tool and can change people’s life and affect the way they walk it out. It can act to center us back to what we believe is important and keep us grounded in truth or take us far away from it. Thus the songwriter has a big responsibility.

3. How does worship further the Kingdom Story in the world?

Dan Wilt wrote: “… our primary mission is to tell the story of salvation, from original creation, to fall from relationship, to restoration through cross and resurrection, to complete and universal new creation.” [4]

To do this in the Church community we have created cyclic celebrations and rememberances that tell specific stories and remind us of what God has done, what He is doing and what will be. This again points to the gathering as a place of focus and the content of that gathering being very important. We must be intentional in our story telling.

4. How should all of the above affect how we lead worship as worship leaders?

Knowing that we are the point man or woman in the act of storytelling and that our decisions can affect dramatic change in the lives of another’s soul is a huge thought. Nonetheless it is true. Nowhere like in a worship gathering do we have the opportunity to take on the huge challenge of:
a. Reflecting the echoes of the world around us and bringing that echo back around to a facet of who God is.
b. Bringing reminders of the stories of God and inviting others to retell it.
c. Ascribing worth directly to God and creating those liminal spaces [5] (a threshold or door into the heavenly realm) where a worshipper can commune corporately with God.

That is a lot to do in the 20 minutes generally given it in a worship service. To me this means that we must make an impact on our congregation not only of what we are doing, which is huge in itself, but also that they should continue with their expressions throughout the week. We should also make time for specific, non-seeker sensitive (someone seeking God out who may come on a Sunday morning but need the acts of worship explained to them) worship times where the worship can flow and the exchange can be untethered from the rigors of some Sunday morning schedules.

It is more than we can do alone and to do it right boils down to one thing: The act of planning a worship “set” must be an act of worship itself. We must try and create a liminal space of our own to interact with God and hear what He has to say about the time we have allotted us. It is the only way we can lead: by asking our leader for guidance.

[1] “The Blue Note: Can Your Faith Face The Music?” Jan./Feb. Vol. 14 No. 1 2005 Pages 32-35
[2] Isaiah 29:13 The Bible, New International Version
[3] Dan Wilt, What Is Worship? (Houston: Vineyard Music USA, 2006), DVD
[4] Wilt, Dan, “Essentials In Worship Theology”, p.32
[5] Wilt, Dan, “Essentials In Worship Theology”, p.42

For: The Institute Of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen’s University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt.

Re: Dan Wilt’s Article: Reaching Before, Reaching Behind


In Dan Wilt‘s article linked above he speaks of mentoring and being mentored. It is a great and much appreciated article and reiterated several things I feel about mentoring and could probably not say as well as Dan.

Thanks Dan!