Biblical Irony: The Secret to Effective Use of the Scriptures in Worship
What is the secret to the effective use of the Bible in worship? It’s simple. When it comes to the Bible, don’t focus on using it effectively in worship.
Oh, I’m not saying that the Bible shouldn’t be used as the basis of and the core content of our worship. And I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t use the Bible when we plan and lead worship. But I am saying that if we treat Scripture primarily as a tool for worship leading or a source of inspired lyrics, then we will actually compromise its power as a tool for worship leading.
I know this from personal experience. I have spent more than 20 years of my life leading worship as a preacher, liturgist, prayer leader, and wannabe musician. I have always turned to Scripture to guide me. But, as a worship leader, and especially as a professional worship leader, I know how easy it is to turn the living Word of God into a tool that I control in order to be effective in my job. I know what it’s like to think I am the master of Scripture rather than regarding it as the dynamic Word of my Master.
I’m at risk of turning the Bible into merely a functional tool when, in the midst of my devotions, all I can think about is how a certain text will preach or how it can be the basis of a music set. I know I’ve lost touch with the living Word when I stop reading and reflecting upon it in order to know God better, but continue using it mainly because my work requires it.
Psalm 1 invites us into a different kind of encounter with Scripture, one that will indeed help us to be excellent worship leaders, though this is not the point, but rather a by-product of the transforming nature of God’s Word. The psalm begins by saying we will be blessed if our delight is in the law of the Lord (1:2). The text does not explain the cause of our pleasure. But the language of this verse suggests that Scripture isn’t just a useful device, but rather something we desire, something that gives us joy. We delight in God’s Word because it leads us into a deeper relationship with God.
The psalmist continues by saying that the blessed person meditates on God’s law day and night. This does not refer to endless Bible studies, but rather to letting God’s Word fill our minds and hearts. We don’t pull out the Bible only when we need to plan a worship service or write a sermon. Rather, the Word becomes like the air we breathe, that which sustains, enlivens, empowers, and is always with us.
Rooted in Love
According to Psalm 1, the person who delights in and meditates upon God’s truth “is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season… Whatever he does prospers” (1:3). If we use the Bible well, will our worship leading be successful? Yes, but notice what is involved here. Fruitfulness and prosperity come as a result of the long, slow process of letting our roots grow deeply into God’s Word. The psalmist is not talking about a new technique to pump up our worship leading acumen. Rather, he envisions a lifetime of ever-deepening connection to Scripture and through Scripture to God. No shortcuts or quick fixes here.
So, if you want to use Scripture effectively in worship—and I think this is a laudable goal—let me encourage you not to focus on the goal. Rather, focus on the God who speaks through his Word. Don’t think of the Bible primarily as a leadership manual so much as a guide to a loving relationship with our holy, majestic, glorious God. As you desire God’s Word because it helps you know God better, you will meditate upon it regularly, and when this happens, all you do will be blessed, yes, even your worship leadership.
Gracious God, even as I seek to use Scripture in my leadership, may I never regard your Word simply as a tool. Instead, may I delight in it, meditating upon it day and night. May my roots grow deeply into your truth, so that I might know you more intimately and authentically, and so that you might bless all that I do.
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The Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a pastor, author, leader, speaker, blogger, and consultant for Christian organizations. Currently, Mark is the Executive Director of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California. In this role, he provides visionary, strategic, and tactical leadership for the Center, which seeks to serve leaders so they might flourish in life and leadership. In addition to serving leaders directly, the De Pree Center helps churches so they might encourage, teach, mentor, form, and support marketplace leaders. Part of Mark’s work for the Center involves serving leaders and churches by writing Life for Leaders, a daily, digital devotional that is emailed to over 5300 subscribers each morning.