Leading Worship with Scripture

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Years ago I started my first job as a worship leader in a church. I was 24, green and eager to grow. I went to my first music conference shortly after, and it wasn’t that great. It was pretty old school and very irrelevant to the vision God had given me regarding worship ministry. But just like most things in life, you can always learn something. As bad as the conference was, I walked away learning something that has been very vital to my ministry. I attended one of the workshops they offered, and the teacher said something that stuck with me. He said that the most impacting thing we could give our crowd every week, during the music, was scripture. He challenged us to make sure we used scripture, somehow, someway, during every worship set we lead. I took that advice, and it has become a huge part of my worship set every week since that conference.

A few years ago, I was introduced to another idea that also has been a big part of my philosophy. It’s the idea of planning the times when I use scripture during each worship set ahead of time. For me, it’s felt right to plan out one moment during the set where I’ll stop, share my heart with the church, and that’s usually where I’ll read or quote a scripture. I’ve watched worship leaders that have either talked too much or not talked enough. Learning the balance of that can make a big difference in the impact. I definitely don’t recommend talking after every single song. That can be major over-kill. Anyways, I’ve found that planning those times before I lead worship to be a very positive thing. Being Spirit-led doesn’t exclusively mean spontaneous. Some of the most Spirit-led things that I’ve experienced in worship services, I had prayerfully prepared ahead of time.

All that being said, I thought I’d share a few ways I’ve learned to use scripture while leading worship…

I love to hold the Bible and read it. There’s nothing like it. It’s the best visual you can have in church, while giving them the best thing they’ll ever hear.

The Word of God is not restricted to pages bound together. The Word of God is much bigger than that. We live in a day and age of technology. It’s not going away. There’s times when I’ve used my iPad to read scripture, and guess what? It’s still powerful, because its still God’s Word. Most of the time that I’ve used a device, it’s been because its last minute and convenient. I definitely embrace the use of technology.

Psalm 119:11 tells us to hide God’s Word in our hearts. Scripture memory is a very important discipline in the life of a follower of Christ…not to mention, worship leaders. There have been times where it was more appropriate to quote the scripture from memory, instead of taking the time to hold a Bible and read it. Taking the time to memorize scripture ahead of time is something I’ve never regretted.

One thing I’ve taught my churches is to worship God while reading scripture together, just like we would while singing a song together. I’ve had them raise their hands as we’ve said scripture out loud. There’s nothing like worshiping God with His own Words.

This is a very old method in liturgy and its still relevant today. One example of this is when I do the song “Forever” by Chris Tomlin. I love to start that song with Psalm 136. As the worship leader, I’ll read the first part of each verse and have the crowd say “His love endures forever.” Its an awesome way to start that song.

This is a very creative way to use scripture. Sometimes, it’s been more appropriate and powerful to put scripture on the screen and not say it out loud. Just let the crowd read it quietly. I usually do this during an instrumental at some point during a song.

There is truly nothing more powerful than God’s Word. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, and it’s certainly more powerful than the latest greatest worship song, or anything we could say, for that matter. I have seen the Holy Spirit move through a crowd and move people to worship with a song, but it’s never been more powerful as when scripture is used with it.

Gary Durbin has been leading worship for more than 20 years and has been in full time local church ministry for over 15 years. Check out his book More Than a Worship Leader on Amazon.

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