I hear the term all the time, but it still makes me scratch my head in puzzlement.

Of course, those who use the term “Worship Leader” are referring to the person who directs the music during a church service.

But is such a term accurate? Is it biblical?

(I wanted to add, “Or is it propagating heretical notions about the proper role of music and the meaning of “worship” in the life of believers”? But I won’t. Just feels overly snarky.)

I’ve already argued that it’s imprecise to call the singing portion of a church service “worship.” So maybe there’s a better term than “Worship Leader” for the person who facilitates that portion of the service.

Maybe Scripture can provide a better term. Let’s scan the most musical pages of the Bible, the Psalms.

Psalm 4 labels this person the “choirmaster,” or “Chief Musician,” or “director of music.” Psalm 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 31, 36, 39, 40, 41, 42, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48 … oh, and most of the rest of the Psalms … identify the person leading the music with this same term.

Searching through various translations of the Bible, I see that the term “Worship Leader” never once appears in Scripture. Only terms like “chief musician” and “director of music.”

A tangential problem I have with the term “Worship Leader,” besides its being unsubstantiated by Scripture, is who is associated by it. Why is the person behind the music stand a “Worship Leader,” while the person behind the pulpit a mere preacher? Aren’t both contributing to the worship service? Aren’t both inviting us to engage the Lord?

Yes, we all love music. It usually resonates with us with more emotionally than preaching, or other elements in a worship service. Music feels more spiritual. It feels more worshipful. But that’s no reason to equate “music” with “worship.” And that’s no reason to reserve the term “worship leader” for the person holding the guitar.

Ted Slater
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