How do you know when you’re called to lead worship?
The particular way God calls us to service is unique for each person. Everyone’s story is going to be different.
Some are raised in musical or ministry-oriented families and may seem groomed for it from a young age. Others may appear to stumble into it accidentally.
My call to worship ministry was a long evolutionary process, combined with a few “suddenly’s”—inciting incidents when there was a bold shift in the trajectory of my life.
Basically I was a late bloomer. In my mid-thirties, the Lord gave me an anointing, a “download” really, for writing and leading worship. You can read that story on my “About” page at robstill.com/about.
On many occasions I’ve engaged in conversations with trusted mentors about this notion of calling. So in this article are seven thoughts for answering the question – How do you know when you’re called to lead worship?
If you are called to lead worship, you will have:
When you feel called to lead worship, there will be a stirring in your heart, an unction. You will have a zeal or earnestness for worship ministry – playing, singing, writing or otherwise serving.
You want to be in the game.
This catalyzed for me when Kent Henry was as a guest worship leader/speaker at our church. It was an eye-opening experience. I saw someone modeling a direction I was sensing. In that season I did not fully understand nor could I have articulated what God was stirring in me. But seeing how Kent led worship awakened something in me.
For the young worship leader in our story, she sensed that “wow” revelatory moment at the SOZO International Worship Conference. For you, maybe you’ll be inspired by your local church music minister, or a music teacher, or an event like Passion or Jesus Culture.
Desire is released. A dream gets birthed.
Most dreams would benefit from a healthy reality check early in the process.
If you really want to lead worship, you have to have an aptitude for it. Leading worship by definition is leading a group of people musically in public. Music as public performance requires a proficient level of talent or gifting.
A perspective on this can be learned from the American Idol auditions. Some of those contestants are delusional. They think they have more talent than they truly have. Then they get angry or upset when told the truth – “you’re not that good” or “you’re not right for this show.”
If you get rejected at one level, that does not necessarily mean you do not have any ability. More likely it’s just not your time yet, or you may be better fitted for another context like a home group or children or choir. You may not be ready for prime time at Our Cool Church.
Sometimes you need more time for your gifts to develop. Sometimes God needs to work on your character or your skills, or maybe both, to match your calling.
So be genuinely honest with yourself. Do you have the basic musical skills required to lead worship? Can you sing and play in tune, on time and with a pleasant tone?
Your skills can be improved to an acceptable level with enough work. My music and vocal skills are basically average, but that is good enough for most contexts.
You don’t have to be a world-class musician, most worship leaders are not. You do, however, have to be good enough for the context you are called to.
If others can do it, you can too.
3. A Vision.
If you feel called to worship leadership, you’re going to have a vision for the way things should be. You see what others seem to be missing, you see what others seem to be blind to or ignore.
In fact, your “vision” may often cause you to feel frustrated. The gap between “the way things ought to be” and “the way things really are” will sometimes irritate (and hopefully motivate) you. This was certainly true for me back-in-the-day.
Nowadays, the vision I have would fit any context really – to become a wholehearted worshiping community. What that looks like and how we get there is going to be different and context specific. But that is the target, the goal.
Without vision, people perish. (Proverbs 28:18)
If you are called to lead worship, others will affirm and encourage the gifts and calling in you. This could come from those close to you like family and trusted friends. But it should especially come from leaders and from the people you are trying to lead.
If people are following your leadership, you’re probably doing something right. If they’re not following you, there’s a reason. Figure out why and adjust your approach.
Confirmation may happen unexpectedly and from unexpected sources.
I had an early experience leading youth worship. The youth pastor talked to me afterwards. “Rob, I could really sense the Shekinah glory tonight” He had to explain to me what that was, as I had no idea (it’s the manifest presence of God).
The point is, there was an affirmation from a leader in authority about the calling I was sensing. Sometimes, just one encouraging word from the right person can profoundly shape your destiny.
5. Joy and Peace.
You enjoy leading worship, it gives you joy. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, delighting in the Lord is a very good thing. (Psalm 37:4)
You also have peace of mind. You sense that you are in the right place at the right time, doing what you’re supposed to be doing. In fact, if you were to forsake the call, you would feel miserable. You would not be happy and would not feel the pleasure of the Lord.
When you feel called, somewhere inside you just know that you know. To not pursue the call would feel like disobedience.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
There is a need for what you have to offer.
Doors open. Doors may also close, but then other doors may open.
This has certainly been true in my story. In fact, more than once I felt “called” to lead worship in a particular context and the door slammed shut on that aspiration.
This left me more than a little confused and disappointed. But in His timing, which thankfully is always just right, God put me in service in areas I never imagined possible.
Bloom where planted.
Leading worship lights your jets. You love it. Nothing else feels as awesome. It is fulfilling.
And you’re willing to pay the price – to be available, to study to show yourself as one approved, to improve your skills and knowledge. You’re willing to go low and serve in humble assignments.
If you’re called to lead worship, you’ll have a passion for it. Passion and faithfulness will see you through the valleys and difficulties. There will be many. Comes with the territory.
I pray these ideas will help you discern the pathway and destiny the Lord has for your life, especially in regards to the calling for leading worship. I encourage you to fast and pray, seek wise counsel, and be willing to say “yes” to God – however He leads you. The Lord be with you! ~ Rob Still
Rob Still, MWS is Director of Music and Worship in the Nashville, TN area at First United Methodist Church, Hendersonville. He has taught Practical Theology of Worship and Songwriting on the mission field in over 20 nations. He is an award-winning composer, producer and author of the devotional book “Resurrection Power: 50 Days That Rocked The World”. Free discipleship resources for worship ministries are available at RobStill.com