Q: Is Worship Leading a Spiritual Gift?
A: There are several different sections in the Bible that often get lumped together under the heading of “spiritual gifts”: typically Romans 12, 1 Cor. 12 & 14, and Ephesians 4. I’d encourage you to read through those sections real quick and see what you find–is worship leading there?
It won’t take long until you realize that, no, worship leading is not a spiritual gift–it’s not even mentioned in those sections. What’s more: worship leading is not even mentioned in the entire New Testament!
The New Testament has a few verses about singing, lots of verses about worship, and lots more about leadership. But the New Testament has precisely zero verses that mention worship leadership as we understand it today. With worship leading being such a prominent role in many of today’s churches, what are we to make of this?
Historically, there was never such a thing as a hired worship leader. If you want to go back to the Old Testament Levites who played music in the temple, please remember those were musicians who happened to be Levites (read: priests). What qualified them to be priests had everything to do with their lineage, character, and competency–their musicianship was auxiliary.
Today, we are at a fascinating new point in church history that has never existed before: We place people in leadership positions simply because of their musicianship, with tacit disregard to matters of character and pastoral competency.
This has never happened before.
We are the first generation in the history of the Church to assume that just because someone can lead us musically, they ought also to lead us spiritually. That would have been unheard-of in the early church, as it was for the first two millenia. But it all started changing at the end of the 20th Century when several leaders who were extremely (spiritually) gifted as Apostles and Prophets also happened to be decent musicians. They would lead apostolically and prophetically (strongly and powerfully) with mediocre, simple music, and this got the ball rolling in the 1960’s and 70’s. Within a few decades, we have come to completely conflate the two roles.
It’s a dangerous move, because worship leaders are now hired for their musical proficiency, and subsequently fired for their pastoral / character deficiency.
The greatest gift you can give to your community is the person you’re becoming. That has a lot more to do with you fanning into flame the actual spiritual gifts God has given you than over-inflating the spiritual significance of the musical gifts He’s also given you.