It was Mother’s Day 2017 in Hutto, Texas, when I was asked to serve as a guest worship leader. The small church was pastored by a family friend who had never seen me lead worship. Ironically, I had planned to end the set with “Good Good Father.” As I closed the last chorus of the song, I began to pray,
“Jesus … Father. Thank you for being a good Father.”
If I prayed this in front of a 14th-century Spanish Inquisition, I would have been dragged into a public courtyard and executed for heresy. Thankfully, we live in present-day, non-theocratic countries where heretical views aren’t punishable by death. However, the implications of leading people to worship a false god can lead to the far greater cost of one’s eternity.
As worship leaders, we have the important task of leading God’s people in declaring truths about Him. I want to spend some time outlining why singing to the One and Only Triune God matters on Sunday mornings. Without going into a large theological thesis or breaking down New Testament texts from the Koine Greek, let’s dial in on three vital points:
A prayer any Jew can recite by heart and perhaps a central prayer Jesus prayed with His disciples was the Shema:
“Shema Y’israel Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad” (Deuteronomy 6:4).
In English today, this is translated as, “Hear O Israel! The Lord our God is one!”
For Jews in the context of Old Testament Israel who were influenced by rivaling nation’s false gods, the Shema reminded the heart that there was no other God but Elohim—the God of Heaven and earth, the one who made the covenant with Abraham. The God who fulfilled the prophecies of old in and through the person of Jesus Christ is the one we worship.
As Orthodox Christians, we are a monotheistic people who, in the presence of false idols demanding our attention, offer our worship to the one and only God (Isaiah 45:5). Worship leaders, remind your people that we serve one God in the presence of many idols. Week to week, many souls will come to church having pursued a plethora of other gods. Point them to the Lord who shares His glory with no other (Isaiah 42:8).
An absolute essential doctrine that the church has carefully guarded since the early days of our faith is the deity of Christ. Many have tried to diminish His divine personhood—Arius of Alexandria tried to do it, Sabellius tried to do it, Apollinaris of Laodicea tried to do it, and many more continue to follow after these unorthodox ideas. However, the Word of God—the sword of the Spirit—stands ready, testifying to the truth (Ephesians 6:17).
Failure to recognize the deity of Christ in our songwriting, in our calls to worship, and in our daily encounters with people can lead to an unfortunate demise by means of idol worship. When we lead people to worship a Jesus that is outside the biblical framework, we’re actually leading people to worship a Jesus that doesn’t exist. I firmly believe, as a student of the Bible, that one of the best tricks our Enemy has ever devised is deceiving people into worshiping a false christ. Many have followed the powerless christs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Latter-day Saints, and the Oneness Pentecostal movement, and many more will perish until we’re actively declaring His divinity.
Jesus Himself even warns us of these false christs in Matthew 24:23-24. Worship leaders, our worship should be centered on the true personhood of Jesus. Failure to acknowledge His true personhood will result in shallow worship and powerless ministry. Remind your people of what the Scriptures say about Him.
Jesus is fully God, who is able to forgive us of our sins (Colossians 1:19; 2:9, Hebrews 2:8-10; John 8:56-59; John 1:1, 14; John 20:28; Isaiah 9:6). Jesus is fully man, who is able to sympathize with us and understand our weaknesses (Philippians 2:6-8; Hebrews 2:9, 14-16). Any theology outside of this will result in dire consequences.
God, in His infinite nature, does not limit Himself to our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Embracing the unbiblical reasoning that God cannot possibly exist in three persons denies His omnipresence.
Just as local church elders are charged with guarding the doctrine of the Trinity, so worship leaders must be sentries to the distinct personages of God. It’s so easy to slip and accidentally say something that may be heretical, but we must be constantly aware of our theology. How do we do this? Well, here’s a simple application:
If I’ve just led the song, “Good Good Father,” which is a song about the personhood of the Father, I probably won’t start my prayer by saying, “Jesus, You’re a good Father,” because Jesus isn’t the Father. Furthermore, if I’m singing a song centered around the personhood of Jesus, I can personally address God through the personhood of Jesus.
I can remember the prayers of my youth, specifically thanking the Father for dying on the cross for me, when biblically, the Father didn’t die on the cross, Jesus did!
Lastly, we must be cautious of addressing the Holy Spirit as an “it.” Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as “He” (John 16:13-14). He is a person who can be lied to (Acts 5:3), and He can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30).
Worship leaders, from Sunday to Sunday, we have the opportunity to declare precious truths of God’s character to our people. The people walking into our services have a wide spectrum of theology. It’s our job to point them to the truth of what God says about Himself.