2 Ways that Worship Hands Out “Spiritual Shovels”


by Zac Hicks, adapted from his new book The Worship Pastor: A Call to Ministry for Worship Leaders and Teams.

Central to any disciple-making paradigm is the idea that the church’s leaders are called and responsible for equipping the saints for the work of ministry (Eph. 4:12). The worship services you lead are putting tools into the hands of Christians, tools which help them to both love God and love others better (Matt. 22:37–39). As you plan and lead worship services, it’s as if you are handing out spiritual shovels, pickaxes, and rakes, empowering Christians for a week of labor in the fields of discipleship. Worship leaders who understand their disciple-making role know that they are there to equip others in this work.

First, we equip people for ministry to God. It might make us uncomfortable to think that we minister to God, but this is exactly how the Bible describes worship leaders: “At that time the Lord set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the Lord to stand before the Lord to minister to him and to bless in his name, to this day” (Deut. 10:8 (ESV), emphasis mine).

The Bible describes worship as a ministry of response in which we offer ourselves as living sacrifices unto God (Rom. 12:1). When the people gather and are led in worship through singing, praying, hearing, offering, and receiving the Word (in preaching and in Communion and baptism), we are equipping the saints with the tools they need to minister to God in a way that pleases Him.

Our ministry to God also has a formative effect on us. You can think of a disciple as an idolater who has been “factory recalled” by God. Discipleship is God’s reclamation of that misdirected worship—loving other things in place of God. When we lead the flock in worship, we are equipping them as disciples by helping them realign their love toward God.

Second, we equip people for ministry to one another. In addition to the vertical ministry to God, worship has a horizontal ministry to our brothers and sisters. Our singing, for instance, is described in the Bible in both vertical and horizontal terms: “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts” (Col. 3:16). The traditional doxology is a great example of a horizontally oriented worship song. In its verses we summon one another, along with the whole created order, to praise God:

  • Praise God, from whom all blessings flow
  • Praise Him, all creatures here below
  • Praise Him above, ye heavenly hosts
  • Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost

Our singing is a true ministry of the Word to one another. The African American worship tradition is a great example of this. I’ve noticed, both in my own church and in others, that when my African American brothers and sisters are singing they often look at each other, grabbing each other’s shoulders and nearly preaching the songs to one another with nods, smiles, and gestures of affirmation. On one occasion, during a song about suffering and death, I witnessed an elderly woman in our congregation lean onto her aging husband’s shoulder, as if to admonish, “This is for us! Listen to what God has to say here.”

Prayer, too, is a horizontal ministry when we are worshiping as we cry out for each other’s needs and for the needs of the world. Preaching, likewise, is a horizontal ministry from the preacher to the receiving congregation. Giving tithes and offerings is yet another horizontal act where we financially support each other and the worship and work of the church.

In all these ways and more, worship leaders pastor the congregation by facilitating and equipping the saints for this twofold ministry of loving God and loving others. From time to time we must remind our flocks about this active ministry while in the moment of worship. When we do so, we are helping describe for them their own formation as disciples who are being made into the image of Christ.

— Zac Hicks, The Worship Pastor: A Call to Ministry for Worship Leaders and Teams

How To Use This Book

The Worship Pastor will equip you and your worship team to lead worship of greater theological depth and Christian joy.

You will discover and understand the many faceted roles of the worship pastor—from missionary and caregiver, to tour guide and war general. This is “pastoral theology at its very best” writes pastor Glenn Packiam, and songwriters and teachers Steve and Vikki Cook call the book a “must-read for pastors, worship pastors, and even worship team members.”

Dig in to this book and your church’s worship will never be the same.

Buy The Book To Learn More

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