Lent Newsletter Excerpt | The Terrifying Act of Leading Worship

Written by Alyssa Berkenpas, Worship Coordinator

I just finished a course titled “Music Leadership for Worship” as part of my year-long certificate through Samford University. The first question posed by the teacher of the course was, “What is the purpose of a worship team?”

It’s an important place to start and yet how many of us have taken the time to consider this before we stand up on Sunday mornings?

My favourite little book that I read to my daughter, Anneke at night ends with the words:

God our Maker knew all along:  

that every heart and every thing  

was born with a song it was made to sing. 

We have been created with this inner desire to worship. It reminds me of a scene in the beginning of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series, when the children witness the creation of the world of Narnia. It happens through Aslan’s song. Creation comes into being through the beauty of a song. Not only does this give the idea that creation is meant to have the beautiful flow that is mirrored in music. But it also instills that idea that in song, we are echoing back the beauty the creator first instilled into creation. We are all born with a song that our lives long to sing.

Colossians 3:16 says that songs enable the word of Christ to dwell in our hearts richly. Singing these Biblical truths together, enables us to reflect on the meaning in a way that doesn’t always happen by simply saying them out loud. When we sing, we stretch the words out, we repeat them, musically we create space between them, and music has a particular ability to affect the heart.

Worship is at the heart of our life in the church. When we say, ‘we are going to church,’ it usually implies we are going to worship, and a very large part of worship is singing. I like what Bob Kauflin says in his book True Worshippers, “Your voice, along with all the other voices in the church, has been redeemed by the Saviour. As we sing, he presents our song to the Father for his glory and our joy.” In song, we join our voices together to sing the essential notes of God’s salvation for us. Words that are drawn up before God the Father himself.

In light of this, you are invited to be an encourager of our leaders. Remember, the worship team fulfills a very important role here: God uses each one of them – their experiences, their personalities, and their talents – to carry out the mission of the church. They are on that stage to be a guide in this mission, to point the congregation in the way of worship, and invite others to the banqueting table. Those who are leading the congregation in worship, then, have the very holy and terrifying place of being representatives of Christ between God and his people. Pray for them. Think of ways you can bless them!

Speaking for myself, it leaves me to think, am I even worthy of such a task? When I’m writing or finding prayers for us to say together on a Sunday morning, do I take it into account that I am placing words on people’s lips? I can’t just flippantly throw in a couple songs into the order but must prayerfully consider what it is we are singing and why. I need your prayers too as I am one of these leaders who longs to guide the church in the wonderful yet terrifying privilege of leading worship. One where the priority is not to have people simply say “I enjoyed that music” but instead, “through that song or prayer I confessed my sin to God” or “through that song I saw a new aspect of God’s holiness and goodness” or “Through that song I was able to join into the eternal heavenly praise around God’s throne.” May God continue lead and guide us as we seek to worship in such a way.

“What the church needs most is not another hymnal, a new sound system, a revised prayer book, or another set of published scripts. What the church needs most are discerning, prayerful, joyous people who treat their work as worship planners and leaders as a holy, pastoral calling.” 

John Witvliet, Reformed Worship Magazine