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A Biblical Worship Leader Encourages Understanding

Ben Ditzel

God prioritizes understanding and being built up in our gatherings.

Have you ever read these passages before and thought about them in this light? ‘Yet even lifeless things, either flute or harp, in producing a sound, if they do not produce a distinction in the tones, how will it be known what is played on the flute or on the harp? For if the trumpet produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle?’ (1 Corinthians 14:7 - 14:8) and,

‘So also you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church.’ (1 Corinthians 14:12)

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It is very important to take our rehearsal time seriously, understanding that we are practicing speaking clear, concise, and articulate words of truth, expressed through clear melody, to the people of God. Travelling to other areas of the world, I have seen what others have also related: In the church of God, everyone sings! Too often, we, in American culture, find that the church’s general consensus is that singing is optional. But travel to Madagascar, Russia, Ukraine, or even France and Great Britain and you will find the entire congregation of God singing out with love and joy to the Lord, even amidst trials such as we have never seen in our lives. A host of reasonings can account for this American apathy: ‘I don’t have a good singing voice.’ ‘I don’t like this modern / old music.’ ‘The band can sing much better and no one can hear me anyway.’ ‘I worship better when I listen.’ ‘God doesn’t need my worship, right?’ None of these are valid reasons to refrain from singing when amid the people of God.

As the worship team, one of our responsibilities is to encourage the body of Christ to join together in song! A fundamental basis of increasing our congregation’s participation is engaging their hearts. Instead of going through the tired motions that have come to mean so little to them, we are to stir their minds with the truth! No, we aren’t to attempt a feigned engagement through flashy lights, smoke, tricks, excessive guitar riffs, or ear-popping drum solos! Nor are we trying to confuse our congregation by singing music that contains multiple words or concepts that are simply unfamiliar to our brothers and sisters. We are seeking to reach the ears and minds of the church with words and phrases that immediately resonate, teach, guide, convict, and restore. Just as a song’s edification value is worthless when it consists primarily of a 5-minute drum solo and 3 minutes of repetitive or ambiguous phrases like ‘Sing a little louder’ or ‘I raise a hallelujah’, so is a song that leaves most of the congregation behind, feeling ignorant, and think, perhaps, that ‘church is just for the folks with college degrees’ or ‘I’m not smart enough to worship with these “holier than thou” people’.


If a song choice contains advanced vocabulary such as ‘interposed, constrained, or Ebenezer’, step back a moment to consider your motivations for singing these words in the song. Are we seeking to sound elite or are we truly desiring to minister to our brothers and sisters’ hearts and impact their minds for the week ahead? Don’t hold onto the archaic words that will leave the church in the dust simple for ‘tradition’s sake’. This doesn’t mean we should throw out these excellent hymns of truth! But we should try to find versions of the song that employ understandable synonyms in these challenging parts. Alternatively, take a moment to explain the difficult words before singing the hymn. The pendulum of song selection in this light can swing too far either way.

Don’t just choose a song solely because:

  • its popular on the radio or even within your church circle

  • you understand and love the ancient poetry it employs.

  • it contains a great chorus or bridge you want to try out.

  • you have an emotional or nostalgic attachment to it.

  • it pops up as #1 on the CCLI Song Select theme you chose.

Remember, a good shepherd of the body sincerely desires the flock to fully understand the words they sing as they sing them.

‘But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, that is Christ’ Ephesians 4:15

The same can be said for continuity and correlation. ‘Our services aren’t a collection of random events, but a retelling of the story of God and what he has done in Christ to redeem us.’ – Bob Kauflin.

We want to bring the entire service together instead of creating a disjointed atmosphere. When we offer spoken transitions, use them to tie in the sermon topic or explain how the song we are about to sing should be understood and carried with us.

Remember: God spoke first, and His words outlast ours! Don’t read Scriptures casually or quickly in these transitions. Read with reverence. Remember, you are speaking the words of our Lord to a hungry people who are often listening for ways to apply the Word and the music to their lives. Speak to them! One person said it this way: ‘Seek to make Scripture the point of what you’re saying rather than the springboard.

Rather than making a list of the new songs that sound like they’d be fun to try, a wise worship leader starts planning with God’s Word.

Paul Washer gives worship leaders this poignant reminder: God takes His worship very seriously. Leading worship is never something to be taken lightly or with a wrong spirit. Remember, God killed 2 worship leaders in Leviticus 10:2! ‘And fire came out from the presence of Yahweh and consumed them, and they died before Yahweh.’

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