Because the term “worship leader” means so many different things to so many people, it is always best to see what Scripture has to say about the role of worship and those who lead corporate worship. True worship, whether corporate or individual, has several major components, as described in Romans 12:1-2. First, the motivation to worship is “the mercies of God” which embodies all He has given us, none of which we deserve. Second, the manner of worship is the presentation of our bodies, including our hearts, minds, hands, thoughts, and attitudes to God. Third, our worship involves renewing our minds through the Word of God. To know the truth, to believe the truth, to hold convictions about the truth, and to love the truth will naturally result in true spiritual worship. Fourth, true worship is God-centered, not man-centered. The purpose of worship is not to produce an emotional experience, but to acknowledge God’s singular worthiness to be worshipped. So the first duty and responsibility of those who desire to lead others in worship must be to first understand the nature of worship itself.
Although the New Testament does not name “worship leader” as one of Christ’s gifts for the edification of the church (Ephesians 4:11-12), worship leaders are common in the modern church. If the worship leader is to lead, he must lead by example, and his life, therefore, must exemplify that of the true worshipper. As with all leaders in the body of Christ, his must be first spiritual leadership. He must be the first to bow before God in humility and obedience. Just as the high priest had to sacrifice for his own sins first, so must the worship leader ensure he has scraped away the hardness from his heart and loosened the stiffness of his neck before he can begin to lead others. It is the primary duty of a worship leader, therefore, to be aligned with God’s will and to be humble before the great and awesome God. He must lead in humility and genuine concern for those under his care.
Because worship leader is not a biblical office for the church, his role is somewhat indistinct. Most worship leaders are musicians of some kind, whether vocal or instrumental, and their primary role is to lead the other musicians/singers that are involved in the service. It is the responsibility of the worship leader to ensure that it is not the music, nor the instruments, nor the presentation, nor the voices which are the focus of the worship service. Worship is bowing humbly before God and exalting Jesus Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords. The responsibility of the worship leader is to become less, that Jesus Christ can become more. And when all of this is done, when hearts are humble before Him, His people are ready to receive, and be changed by, the focal point of the worship service—His glorious and living Word.