6 Ways to Use Scripture While Leading Worship

Old book

By Gary Durbin

About 10 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 (not NWLC), 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 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 have 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. I’ve used everything from a Blackberry, iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad to read scripture, and guess what? It’s still powerful, because its still God’s Word. 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. Here’s an example:

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 (@garydurbin) is the worship arts director at Orchard Church in Denver, Colorado. He is also a blogger and a songwriter with a passion to serve the church. He and his wife, Jennifer, have two children and have been married since 1999. Visit his blog here.

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    6 comments on “6 Ways to Use Scripture While Leading Worship

    1. Thanks for the word on the Word. And then let scripture speak for itself without comment, and without introduction. There is nothing better than reading the word, hearing the word and singing the word.

    2. Good comments. This is something I know to be true, but it is a much-needed reminder, especially the intentionality behind using Scripture. I don’t have any intentional use of Scripture planned for this week, but God has used you to motivate me to include it in some way.

    3. I love the idea of using Scripture during instrumentals. I believe it helps people who are not musicians stay engaged. I’ll put in on the screen for reading/reflection while the music is going. Since I lead from a piano or keys, on more energetic songs, I may start the band and have a vocalist read it or have them read something inside the song during a turn-around or instrumental break.

    4. I am definitely in agreement IF you are reading scripture in conjunction with something that is related to the service itself and not just to stick with the format of the worship service. I was all too accustomed to the latter being raised in a semi-formal Presbyterian church. We had an Old Testament scripture reading and a New Testament scripture reading every Sunday. It did not pertain to anything specific. It was just there.

      Of course though, it is not completely irrelevant if this is how you choose to use scripture in your service. For some attending, this might be the only time they hear scripture their entire week. However, I choose to use scripture as it pertains to the songs we are singing. For example, this week we will be singing the song Glory by Danny Daniels and prior to singing this song I want to explain the different uses of the word glory in the Bible so I will have verses from Psalms, Luke and Galatians illustrating the different points of view.

      If you use scripture reading in your service, please make sure there is a purpose and not that you are fulfilling a worship service formula much like new songwriters feel they need to always have a bridge in a song because that is what they said in their Songwriting 101 handbook. Some songs do not need a bridge and some worship services do not need a formal scripture reading time. In the 30-40 minutes that your pastor speaks every Sunday, if he is not using any scripture during his message, then maybe that is where the problem lies.

    5. Pingback: Incorporating Scripture Into Worship | Worship Links

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