Who in the world is God’s favorite worship leader?
Now, there is a question for you. You may ask: Whatever prompted you to ask such a question? Isn’t that inquiry inappropriate? Well, maybe it is. It depends, I think, on what is meant by it. Let me address the question by first telling you why I even ask it.
I was perusing a popular magazine recently looking at the advertisements and reading some of the articles. My eyes fell on a page that presented the three top worship leaders, a kind of “vote in,” I presume, on who gets the highest ratings. I wasn’t terribly surprised to see that the top contenders were Chris Tomlin, David Crowder and Darlene Zschech. These three people are very gifted worship leaders and, as far as I know, good models of people who not only sing the faith but live it. I don’t have a problem with these three people and their ministries. But, I do have a problem with voting for the greatest.
There are some human reasons for this. For one, I feel sorry for the three leaders. Popularity is such a fleeting thing. Was there a time when David Crowder was first, or maybe, Darlene Zschech was first and now they are not in the first spot? And then, who will come along and unseat Chris Tomlin for first place? Or, worse yet, who of you reading this article longs to be first? Who is now saying, “Someday I’ll be there,” or “When will I be dis- covered?” or “What do I have to do to get to the top?” It is a normal human temptation to be “first,” so I am not completely beating you up. Being “first” can be easily rationalized as, “I want to be used by God,” or “I want my ministry to spread widely” or “It’s not about me, it’s about Jesus.” Ambition in God’s work is not a complete “No, No.” You can be ambitious for the right reasons, so I am not suggesting you shouldn’t work hard and pray with intention for your ministry to spread.
Asking the question, “Who’s the greatest?” should be a way of saying, “Let’s keep worship leadership in a proper biblical perspective.”
The greatest worship leader in all of heaven and earth is a man who shares our humanity. Like us He was gestated in the womb of a woman, was born of her, was nourished by a loving family. He worked as a common carpenter, ate with a bunch of sinners, lived in community with friends, reached out to the poor, the needy, the sick and downtrodden, yelled at the religious leaders of the day, was thoroughly rejected by the religious and political leaders who nailed Him to a cross, forced a crown of thorns on His head, jeered Him with a sign “King of the Jews,” thrust a spear into His side, and laid Him in a tomb in hopes of never hearing from Him again.
Little did they know that, in their cruel treatment, He bore the sins of the world. This man would rise up from His grave of death, overcome death with life and then ascend to heaven and stand before the throne of God to inter- cede for the world. There, as the eternal liturgist, He continually reminds the Father of what He did to recover the world for God’s own glory by the power of the Spirit.
So, let’s keep in mind who the greatest worship leader is. His name is Jesus (Hebrews 7:11-10:39). When Chris, David, Darlene—or you, or any- one else—leads worship, they simply lead us to Jesus by the Spirit, so that whatever praise leaves the lips of you, and those whom you lead, is done in the name of Jesus. For it is His service of God that is alone the true worship of God. No other name will do.
Lead a devotion with your team about the only true worship leader, Jesus Christ, exploring the ambitions of God’s worship.
Read Hebrews 10:11-25 together at your next team devotional.
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Dr. Robert E. Webber founded the Institute for Worship Studies in 1998 and was its first president. He died on April 27, 2007, at his home in Michigan. In January 2007, the Board of Trustees unanimously voted to change the name of IWS to the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies in honor of the vision, accomplishments and contributions of Bob Webber. Dr. Webber was born in Congo of missionary parents and was raised in the Philadelphia area. He earned a Th.D. from Concordia Theological Seminary. From 1968 to 2000 he served as a Professor of Theology at Wheaton College and was named Professor Emeritus upon his retirement in 2000. He was appointed William R. and Geraldine D. Myers Professor of Ministry and Director of the M.A. in Worship and Spirituality at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in the fall of 2000.