Posted by Elias Dummer on 1 February 2014

In the quest to find a better definition of worship leader, what better place to start than with a Tim Keller quote. He explains that worship is the “act of ascribing ultimate value to something in a way that energizes and engages your whole person or being.” 

We are worshipping God when we actively redirect our love away from ourselves or our ideologies towards Christ. That includes our emotions, but there’s more as well; our will, our intellect, our actions – our whole selves! We can be worshipping God when we sing, but also when we sit to learn, or shake the hand of a brother, or take communion.  

Christian worship is incarnational (celebrating the fact that God came to earth to redeem us) not transcendent (where we escape this troublesome old world to find God elsewhere).

It is formative (allowing God to change us through our embodied practices) not just informative (where we change ourselves as a result of God’s good ideas). 

Christian worship is embodied and lived out, not just expressed or felt.

The fact is that there is so much more to worship than the emotional response we get to the music. As we gather together God’s presence transforms our lives, our spaces, our minds and hearts and our very selves from toe-to-top. Our meetings and liturgies in their entirety — and our shared mission when we leave — are like Kingdom trenches in a world at war with itself and badly in need of redemption. 

That’s why our ‘worship’ should reflect those same holistic values. The moment we intentionally or unintentionally prescribe a hierarchy of experiences (mind over matter, emotion over mind, actions over either) – we teeter dangerously on popular heresy. 

So let’s be sure to constantly remind ourselves, starting with something as simple as our words, that ‘worship’ occurs in actively embodying our beliefs day-to-day, moment-to-moment, and accordingly describes the entirety of our worship services. 

Worship includes the redemption of our emotions (which music can play a part in), intellect (teaching/word), soul/will (prayer/fellowship) and bodies (eucharist/communion).  

So, let’s call ourselves ‘musical worship leaders’ or just ‘musicians’, but not ‘worship leader’ - the job’s way too big for any one person to take on.  

As we sing together, as we listen and be moved together, let the Holy Spirit be your sheet music. It’s worship after all. 

But also as we sit together, make peace, pray together, sing: It’s worship after all.

Take and eat the body He gave for us, the blood spilt for us. Be reminded that God has given us bodies of our own to give. Its’ worship after all. 

Hear the Word of God, learn, think, digest, respond. It’s worship after all. 

Let our worship be seen, tasted, heard, and lived together and as we go out into the world. If ever we deserve the title of ‘worship leader’ let’s pray that it’s because we actually live this way. 

Not because we play the acoustic guitar. †



As one-fourth of the Juno and Covenant Award winning band The City Harmonic, Elias Dummer has traveled the world to worship alongside Christians from of all walks of life. He is passionate about faith, ideas, music, culture and the Church, writing and songwriting, worship leading, and all the ways they collide.  Though originally from Hamilton (Ontario, Canada) Elias now lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with his wife Meaghan and their four children.  



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