By Forrest Martin (Campus Minister & Worship Leader for Every Nation Seattle)
True or false: as a worship leader, you lead people into the presence of God.
I’ve said it on many occasions about myself, other worship leaders, and musicians serving our church family. I’ve believed it for a long time, but does that make it true?
The issue here is that, though it might make me feel significant, this statement disagrees with what God has declared about Himself in Scripture. I’ll bring up three ways that the Bible disproves the idea of leading others into God’s presence, each more personal than the last.
First, God is everywhere all the time, or, omnipresent. We agree with David when he says:
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
Psalm 139:7-8 (ESV)
How can we say that we are leading people into God’s presence if His absence is nowhere to be found? Well, we can do this by believing that we can exit God’s presence.
Secondly, the God that we’re talking about is the one that said that He would never leave or forsake His people (Deuteronomy 31:6). God chooses to be with us; He does not take promises lightly. How can we say that we are leading people into God’s presence if He has already made the powerful choice to never leave them? Well, we can say this by believing that God allows us to leave His presence — instead of faithfully keeping His word.
Lastly, how can a person be “led into God’s presence” if they are in fact, indwelt by the Spirit? If God has chosen to make his dwelling place within the hearts of believers (Ezekiel 36:27, 1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19), who are we to act as if we can enter and exit His presence as we choose? God makes the sovereign choice to make us His temple. How can we say that we are leading people into the wonderful presence of God if the Holy Spirit abides within them? Well, we can say this by believing that God is not living in what He has declared to be His temple.
Instead, as followers of Jesus, we should choose to believe and speak truth.
I am not leading anyone into God’s presence; Jesus is the one and only mediator between humanity and the Father. He is The Way (John 14:6). As those serving the church through a ministry of worship, let’s not assume a role that is not ours to assume, especially considering the paired burden that we cannot realistically bear. Let’s not shrink God into a god that we can be with and without whenever we please.
If my goal is to bring people before the throne, I will fail miserably. If my goal is to realize and remind others that God is here right now, and encourage people to respond with me in awe to this ridiculously glorious fact, I can rest assured that God will do His part in stirring up our affections for Him.
So, worship leader, ushering the congregation into the Presence of God is His job, not ours. When we stay in our rightful place and use language that puts Jesus in His rightful place, we win in worship, and the church is all the better for it.