“Worship Leader” Is Still a Good Title

Of late, the term worship leader has come upon hard times. ‘Seems that titles like “lead worshiper” or “worship facilitator” or even “song leader” are more in vogue. I appreciate the careful thought and articulation of my colleagues who want to better define what we do each week when we stand in front of other believers — as well as non-believers — and sing to/with them.

While I like and often use many of these newer titles myself, I still most often use the simple name, “worship leader.” I feel it describes my role within the church (and the role for the praise team singers and band members as well, by the way). Below are a few reasons for this thinking:

  1. The term, worship leader, actually means “Leader of Worship.” Worship, as we know, is more than singing or attending a service. It is bringing honor and glory to God in everything we do in our lives. In this regard, we are compelled — yea, commanded — to set the example for our fellow brothers and sisters. When others see us during the week, they should see the same joy and passion for the Lord in us that we demonstrate on stage each weekend at church. We should be leaders of worship in this truest sense.
  2. In the Old Testament, God used individuals to lead during times of public praise. We have a God-given responsibility to be leaders. For all the merit it seems to have, the idea of standing off stage and out of sight so there is no visible leader (or leaders) during the praise time is not generally in the best interest of the congregation. This may be a tremendous approach as a creative tool for teaching on occasion. But on a week-to-week basis, people need to be led by anointed and prepared worshipers up front.
  3. I heard an old preacher say that as real leaders we’ve got to say to people, “Come on,” not “Go on.” Every time we stand to sing or play, our attitude should be as David’s: “O magnify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.” We are doing more than leading songs. We are doing more than simply facilitating worship opportunities — although both those jobs are needed and included. We have a great responsibility to encourage those in the congregation to come along with us as we choose to worship God together from our hearts.
  4. So what of the term, “lead worshiper”? I believe this fresher title may actually help some better grasp our role and responsibilities. That is why in my writings I use it often. However, unless one carefully compares the two terms and takes time to mull over them (which is commendable, though not common I think), their slightly different implications will not be realized or appreciated. For the most part, I believe it is basically symantics. I believe “worship leader” is easier to understand and easier to communicate.
  5. I don’t agree that people will assume the only time they can worship is when we “worship leaders” are in front of them leading. For people to make that assumption, it will take more than a mere title given to us. I propose that is because we have not properly taught them how they too can and should be worship leaders who inspire and influence those around them.

~Dwayne Moore


  • Al Hilgendorf

    I agree that the title of “Worship Leader” best communicates our position and responsibility simply because that’s the term everyone is used to – it’s probably not going away. Whether it is the most accurate description or not,though, depends on our definition of the word “worship”. If worship is “to feel in the heart” as A.W. Tozer has said, then we may never know if we are “leading worship”. I’ve defined it this way: Praise comes out of the mouth, worship comes out of the heart. If you agree with that definition, then we are really “Praise Leaders” because praise is tangible while we never really know who may be worshiping. Of course, this may, again, be semantics, and we’ll all still use the term “Worship Leader” because that is what we hope to be.

  • Dwayne Moore

    Well said, Al! Yes, I agree that praise is outward, demonstrative and obvious. In fact, there are 8 ways we can praise God and they all have to do with our bodies! I also agree that worship begins in and comes from the heart. Therefore we cannot at any given time know for sure whether those around us are indeed worshiping. Thus, technically we are, as you said, “praise leaders” when we stand in front of others to sing and/or play.

    However, I would like to challenge our thinking a bit here. I believe we are not setting the bar high enough for ourselves if we settle for only being “praise leaders.”

    Here’s why: We can praise on the outside without having a worshiping heart. For example, “the heavens declare the glory of God,” Psalm 19:1 tells us — yet the stars and sun and moon don’t have a soul or spirit to truly worship God. Jesus said the rocks will cry out if we don’t praise him — yet rocks can only praise on the outside; they certainly cannot worship from their heartless centers! But, while praise can happen without having a worshiping heart, a worshiping heart will eventually and consistently bubble out praise.

    If I am only a praise leader, then my primary responsibility is to adequately encourage others to follow me in praising God — through singing, clapping, kneeling, raising hands, etc. Furthermore, as a praise leader, I only have to fulfill my responsibility when I am standing in front of a congregation of people.

    On the other hand, if I see myself as a worship leader, my primary responsibility goes much deeper and is far more extensive. I am asking people to follow my example of worship. And worship — as you pointed out — involves everything we do and think and are every moment. I am literally asking people to watch my life, not just on stage on Sundays, but every day. If they “fruit inspect” long enough, they will sense whether my heart is pure and my praise to God (therefore) is real.

  • Al Hilgendorf

    Good thoughts. I don’t think I would like to be called a “Praise Leader” anyway 🙂

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