Maybe you are like me, and you’ve come home from church completely worn out before. There is nothing wrong with working hard to serve with excellence. But I’ve recently been asking myself if exhaustion can be a sign that we are trying to lead worship in our own power. When I looked at the book of Hebrews, I realized that Most churches don’t realize who the actual worship leader is.
It seems like it’s all too easy for our churches to fall into the trap of leading worship from our perspective. In this human-centered approach church leaders strive (keyword there) to build up attendance and plan and perform services to the desired outcome. However, in the book of Hebrews biblical worship is depicted quite differently.
Here we see that, while the work of human beings cannot satisfy the desires of God, Jesus as high priest has done so once and for all by one sacrifice. This is an approach for God-centered worship where…
- God gathers
- Jesus acts in the role of priest
- The Holy Spirit testifies the truth and fosters our relationship with God (more on this below)
Here’s what should stand out to church leaders. Notice how, in Hebrews, the high priest (or worship leader for our purposes) is Jesus… NOT US!
We stand but he sits (Heb. 10:11-12)
Between Jesus and human worship-leaders, the difference in posture is significant. The priests in Jerusalem would have to stand while performing their duties. This is a posture showing the continual nature of their work. It’s also something that we can’t do forever. You might be proud of your work ethic, but you have to sleep some time. Apply this to the job of a pastor or worship leader on Sunday morning. The text says “day after day…” implying the ongoing and repetitive nature of human effort and how the work alone does never yields transformation. We simply don’t have enough gas in the tank to keep offering these worship services over and over. This is why we always see human-centered worship peter out eventually.
And we’re not just inefficient, but at times we’re not even pointed the right direction. For years, we have had inner struggles in the church, that many Christians have called the worship wars. This is humans fighting over preference and has certainly led to hurt feelings, burn out and even people leaving churches.
Humans will wear out. But notice that Jesus rather than stands, actually sits at the right hand of the father. This signals that the work of leading worship, a work of bringing humans and God together, is actually already finished. Only one sacrifice, Jesus’ sacrifice, forever covers sins.
What work? (Heb. 8:6)
Hebrews describes the work that Jesus does as ministry. Which is from the greek, leitourgia. Interestingly enough this is where we get the word “liturgy” and it can refer to any public work or service. The repeated liturgies of human priests are not sufficient but Jesus, as worship leader, has a different effect. Hebrews 8:6 compares the two, calling the work obtained by Christ as more perfect, thus completing what humans cannot. Work and worship are inter-connected. But it’s not about the forms of worship, or how talented us humans might or might not be. Instead it’s about who has completed the work. We, as worship leaders are not the power driving worship. We get to be something better… we get to be participants.
In The Spirit (Heb. 10:15-18)
Now let’s bring all this back to what the Holy Spirit does. In Hebrews, the Spirit testifies that the community of God is forgiven of sin, which is the issue making our work insufficient in the first place. It reminds us of what Paul says in Romans 8. The Holy Spirit declares our adoption into God’s family (Rom. 8:15-16), and even communicates between us and God beyond what our words can say (Rom. 8:26-27). This is a relational kind of work and once, again things that human worship leaders could never do. Jesus does public liturgy, covering sins and bringing us into the love of God through the Spirit.
We as worship leaders, need to always remind ourselves that Jesus is the real worship leader. Let us take note of how the Bible puts Jesus in the place of priest and let him guide the roles of worship leader, liturgist, speaker or anyone else up front. And let us rediscover God-centered worship as Christ himself has revealed to us, for the building up of God’s community.