In the last decade, worship ministries (especially youth worship ministries) have begun to grow into something big, flashy, and extravagant – making it very attractive to today’s churched and, in some cases, un-churched youth. What you’ll find at plenty of churches with a large youth ministry is a full band, loud music, fancy lights, and a set list consisting of the newest songs from the ‘cool’ or ‘relevant’ artists like Bethel and Young & Free.
You may be thinking that I’m about to say that this is not good, but that’s not my position at all. I think good presentation is great, and should be implemented (in every church’s own unique way) as often as it can be. However, I think that we, the church, have become so focused on how we present the Gospel that we’ve forgotten to actually present the Gospel in a cohesive and comprehensive way. The Gospel should never be a means to the end of presentation, in fact, it should be quite the opposite. But this new, largely misplaced focus on anything other than the Gospel in the church (and outside of the church) is a problem that needs to be addressed immediately.
Now that we know what the problem is, the question arises: “how do we fix it?” The answer is quite simple: We should teach the Gospel through the music, and not just rely on the pastor’s message to do so. The two should compliment each other, existing in a symbiotic relationship with one another.
Our job as worship leaders is to be intentional with the songs we lead our people with. We need to make sure that the lyrics line up with what God has to say about Himself in His word. Sure, the tune matters too, but the content matters more. Good doctrine and theology in every song you lead with is vital. If you are not conveying the gospel message through the music you lead your youth with in worship, to quote Aaron Keyes, you’re “not leading worship; [you’re] just leading songs.” Remember, the worship leader’s job is not to entertain, it’s to lead the congregation in worship that is true to who God is. So don’t just pick songs, pick the right songs. With that being said, let’s talk about the first part of this series. He is the beginning of all things, and in this context, the beginning part of the gospel message we should be teaching. Let’s talk about God.
We worship A:
• God who is creator of all things. Colossians 1:16 says that “by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him” (ESV). That verse is a direct reference to Jesus, and all things were created through Him.
• Flawless, holy God. Psalm 18:30 says “This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.” (ESV).
• God “who is and who was and who is to come.” (Revelation 1:8).
• God who is within Himself a community: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He has existed as this for all of eternity past and will exist as such into eternity future, never changing. Jesus mentions all three members of what we call the Trinity in Matthew 28:19. He said to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (ESV). We see more evidence for the Trinity in Genesis 1:26 when God says “let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (emphasis added). There is no doubt that there is more to God’s being than we can understand. What we do know for sure is that we worship one God whom exists as three persons in an eternal community. This is why it can be said that “God is love”, as 1 John 4:8 says. Because, before we were, He was; and where He is, He will be a community of harmony and love. He didn’t have to create us to, Himself, experience love; He’s always had it, because He, within Himself, is love.
• God who created us to worship Him. Just read the Psalms. Psalm 150:6 says “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!”
If we can recognize that there is a problem when presentation takes precedence over the gospel and, in response, have established that good doctrine and theology in the songs we choose to lead our youth in worship with is vital. We’ve also covered the basic truths of who our God is, and who He is in relation to the gospel message in order to better equip ourselves to prioritize the gospel in our ministry: God has created all things, is eternal, is triune, and has created us to worship Him. Now all we need to do as worship leaders is act on this. Now that we’ve established all of these truths about God and who He is, what do we as worship leaders do about it? The answer is actually pretty simple. We worship, and lead our student ministry in worship that is true to who God is. We don’t plan our set lists based off of what’s trendy; we plan our set lists based off of what’s true. We worship God for who He is.