Somewhere along the line, we started referring to music ministry as “worship ministry.” In a related manner, the music portion of a service is now often called “the worship service,” and the person who leads this music portion is now often called “the worship leader.”
At the risk of being viewed as a pedant, I believe we should evaluate our nomenclature. In some contexts, these terms may actually be accurate. So, I’m not in favor of abandoning them (more on this later). But I do believe that when these terms are used interchangeably, we are imparting to our congregations an unbiblical view of worship.
Defining Biblical Worship
Music is very much a part of biblical worship, but worship is not music alone. So, what does biblical worship look like? And specifically, what does the worship of the assembled church on the Lord’s Day look like (of course, we understand that worship takes place during all times of our life)? Is there something specific that God expects of New Covenant believers when they gather on the first day of the week? I believe there is.
In the New Testament text, Lord’s Day gatherings of New Covenant believers are characterized by the following:
- The Ordinances – Acts 2:38-42, Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 11:17-34
- Preaching and teaching – Acts 2:42, 2 Timothy 4:1-5, Romans 10:13-17, 1 Corinthians 2:1-8, Ephesians 4:11-14
- Reading Scripture – Acts 13:15 (as was the Old Covenant practice as seen in Nehemiah 8:1-3 and Luke 4:16-21), 1 Timothy 4:13, 1 Thessalonians 5:27, Colossians 4:16.
Click here for help with planning a scriptural call to worship.
- Praying – Acts 2:42, 1 Timothy 2:2, 8; Acts 12:11-17; 1 Corinthians 14:14-15
- Singing – Ephesians 5:18-19, Colossians 3:16, Acts 16:23-24, 1 Corinthians 14:12-15.
Check out this article about selecting congregational music.
- Giving – 1 Corinthians 16:2, 2 Corinthians 9:6-14, Acts 4:32-35
While there are other things that might take place on the Lord’s Day—caring for widows, helping the poor, community meals—the above-listed elements are the things we see regularly practiced by and commanded of New Covenant believers when they gather.
A Revolution in Worship Ministry
According to this biblical view of worship, the worship service includes not just singing, but also preaching, teaching, praying, reading Scripture, giving, and the ordinances. A sound worship ministry doesn’t view music as the greatest of these church practices; rather, the church values all these elements as equally profitable for the local church. The worship leader(s) should be the one(s) who oversees all of the church’s worship. In some churches, this would be the senior pastor, and in other churches, this would be a number of pastors. This is biblical worship ministry.
I love music. Since the age of seventeen, I have led Sunday music at the four churches where I have been a member.
But I also love leading the gathered church in true, biblical worship and challenging believers to dig deeper into the Scriptures. I hope that we can together come to an understanding of what God expects from us as worshipers.
I admit this is a pet peeve topic. Please know that I have done my very best to be helpful with words that are “gracious, seasoned with salt.” If you have input, I would love to hear from you on this topic!