Leading Worship

As I head down this road please understand I am not attacking anyone.  Many of you who read this have made these statements either to me or in my presence. I hope to clarify words and intents. Please know I have the utmost respect for you, your ministry, and your calling.

Several years ago Andy Park  wrote an excellent book called “To Know You More“. It’s written to worship leaders not to the congregation. In it he makes the Biblical case for the title “Worship Leader”. I strongly recommend you get a copy if you feel called to the office of worship leader.

I first heard Jack Hayford use the term “Lead Worshiper” in his book “Worship the Pattern of Things in Heaven” now I’m hearing the term “Lead Follower”. It’s not that I have a particular problem with any of these terms. I just want to make sure were not missing the point when we use them.

Recently I came across an article on HigherPraise.com with this paragraph at the beginning:

As worship leaders (each member is a worship leader, not just the lead singer), you need to remember that leading worship is NOT trying to get people to sing, It is WORSHIPING GOD yourselves, SO THAT others will FOLLOW your LEAD!! !! Instead of concentrating on worship leading, focus on being a lead worshiper.

There’s that term again,

I don’t totally disagree with this statement however it leaves out some critical elements of standing on the platform in the position of leader.

Eddie Espinosa writer of amazing songs like “Change my Heart Oh God”, and “Most of all”, said:

Worship leading is not worshiping God while others watch. I liken this to eating in front of hungry people.

Leading worship begins well before we stand on the platform on Sunday It begins in our ongoing prayer life and individual worship times. We must be asking God what He wants to say to His people. Taking into consideration everything God is speaking to us to evaluate if it’s for us, for the team, or for the congregation. All in submission to the leadership of the Church or event.

When we stand on the platform we must have already received direction from the Holy Spirit and given Him every opportunity to change what we think we heard. The reason we stand on that platform should be because we have been affirmed in our calling and gifting by Elders and been delegated authority over that part of the service.

Walking in that authority we must then engage those God has entrusted to us and lead them to where we have already been with the creativity God has given us. I agree our job is not to “get people to sing”. It is also not to “Worship God myself so that others will follow my lead”. We must lead them gently, humbly, and confidently, as many as will come, into the secret place.

Leading worship always begins where the people are. If you miss where they are spiritually you will miss them entirely. Very few people will run to catch up once you’ve begun. Getting a large group of people to walk aimlessly down the street is much different than leading a marching band. Leading is not directing from the front or being a cheerleader. It does however require actively meeting the people where they are and taking them with you.

If we merely show up and worship through the 20 or so minutes given to us we may have, but most likely have not, “lead worship”.

would love your thoughts on this.

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Posted by Gary

Gary Trobee is a certified coach and a seasoned leader with over 20 years’ experience mentoring, coaching, and encouraging leaders and their teams.


  • At 2010.03.25 14:04, chuck said:

    excellent thoughts. worship leading has to be one of the most hardest and easiest things in the world. if you're connected and prepared and listening to God, it should be a no brainer to just move how the Spirit leads.

    but there's the physical side of technical/sound issues, band, singers, everyone in the congregation is at different places and different expectations, remembering transitions, remembering lyrics and chords, worship, a bit of presentation/performance – but not too much… the list goes on and on.

    worship leading, lead worshiping, lead following, follow leading…they all have some truth to them but create different pictures of what the "position" is. i still think worship leader is the best "term" – maybe worship captain or commander. you're the one God and senior leadership has chosen to hear the directives and take this group in that direction.

    • At 2010.03.25 14:54, Jeff Harrison said:

      Gary, I am so glad you posted this. You mentioned that you had spoke about this on the retreat, and I was hoping that you would post about it. Just last week, my team and I had an awesome experience. We had an all congregation meeting in between services in the sanctuary, where we usually sound check and rehearse before the service. Time was really tight, and we had to go in, set up, sound check for about 5 minutes and be done so the meeting could start. It was very stressful. But really what was happening was we had to let go of the control and put it in God's hands. We couldn't do what we usually did, and we had to let God take care of the rest. The music and presence of God was so strong. I was so worried about it, I woke up at 4:30 am that morning and couldn't go back to sleep. I was running on fumes when the service started. But I could feel God working through me. I encouraged my team on Monday that I saw a lot of faith working in that service. We prepared our hands and our hearts before that service, but it was ultimately God who was doing the work in peoples hearts.

      • At 2010.03.25 14:58, Aaron Atwood said:

        Gary I see your point. I also wonder though if we've "exalted" some worship leaders to the point that worship has become an entirely congregational event rather than a personal experience because of the "lights, camera, action" mentality of some modern churches. I think there must be a distinction between the Church worshipping together and a personal worshiop experience.

        • At 2010.03.25 15:54, Gary said:

          Great comments all,

          There is so much going on during a worship service and preparation is huge. Once we've prepared then we can let it go and trust God to meet His people.

          Aaron I agree. when there is a lack of understanding theologically and practically we can fall into manipulation really miss the point. As worship leaders we must meet the congregation where they are draw them in allow space for personal worship in the context of a corporate gathering. We also must have a lifestyle of personal worship, which is another post coming soon.

          Is that what you meant Aaron?