A word to worship leaders

A word to worship leaders: Reflections on Revelation 14:6, 7

How can pastors, elders, music leaders, and choir directors lead corporate worship more thoughtfully and proficiently? The answer lies in Revelation 14:6, 7.

Alain Coralie, MTh, MDiv, serves as executive secretary, EastCentral Africa Division of Seventh-day Adventists, Nairobi, Kenya.

How can pastors, elders, music leaders, and choir directors lead corporate worship more thoughtfully and proficiently? The answer lies in Revelation 14:6, 7.

From their start, Seventh-day Adventists have identified themselves with the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14, particularly as they relate to mission and evangelism. 2 Yet, Revelation 14 also contains a guiding vision on how we should approach the subject of worship. Verses 6 and 7, in particular, capture a clear and compelling vision of what it means to worship God. “Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people—saying with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.’” 3

Those who lead worship are called to know the gospel, be culturally sensitive, and fear God as they glorify and worship Him. This simple outline can help those who are in charge of leading out in corporate worship to better understand, plan, and carry out their liturgical duty. Let us briefly examine each point.

Worship leaders are called to know the gospel

Despite its strong symbolism, our text contains an important element that cannot be overlooked: one cannot separate the preaching of the gospel (v. 6) from the call to authentic worship (v. 7). To know the gospel is to know God and to know God is to worship Him. Considered from another angle, it can be said that the ultimate purpose for proclaiming the gospel is that nations truly worship God. Consequently, we should understand that worship leaders need to clearly grasp the fact that all true worship centers on the person and work of Jesus Christ. Although Trinitarian in nature, Christian worship remains Christ-inspired, Christ-shaped, Christ-centered, and Christ-focused.

The Cross is central to worship. True worship flows from Christ’s work on the cross. No celebration exists without Calvary, no glory without Golgotha, no blessings without the blood. Through His death on the cross and resurrection from the grave, Christ has brought salvation to humanity and made true worship possible. Authentic Christian worship is hence the celebration of a redeemed people. Any worship time or church service that does not tell the gospel story through word, song, and any other expression is simply not Christian worship.

It is therefore important that worship leaders familiarize themselves with the gospel message and see how it is closely related to worship. This knowledge of the gospel cannot be purely intellectual; it also needs to be experiential. For us as worship leaders, the everlasting gospel must be the air we breathe, the heart of our piety, the nourishment of our reflection, and the fountainhead of our praise. The Cross needs to be the vantage point from which we plan and offer our worship. Our strength as worship leaders must not rest on our talents or skills but on the power of the gospel bursting in and through us. To know God through Christ by immersing ourselves in the riches of the gospel must therefore be our top priority.

Worship leaders are called to be culturally sensitive

Verse 6 describes the angel carrying the eternal gospel in the midst of heaven and proclaiming it in a loud voice to “every nation, tribe, tongue, and people.” This indicates that both the proclamation of the gospel and the call to true worship cannot be done in a vacuum. Worship needs to be culturally sensitive to be an authentic response to the gospel. Every worship service expresses a certain culture. Our worship, whether traditional or contemporary, did not come straight from heaven. Worship expressions reflect theological perspectives and cultural influences. Our background and milieu influence the way we worship. To fight over whether to sing the songs of Isaac Watts or Chris Tomlin sometimes has more to do with style than substance. And yet a crucial and critical dimension of the gospel proclamation and worship is cultural adaptation. Thoroughly undergirded by Bible principles, our worship needs also to be contextualized. In other words, our regional and ethnic background, our cultural context and socioeconomic milieu inform the way we worship because they all encompass and influence who we are.

Hence, leading out in public worship requires both theological robustness and cultural sensitivity. In an increasingly complex and diverse world, worship leaders must hold firm to biblical principles while remaining open to diversity in practice. In so doing, they should never forget that the principle of attraction in worship must be Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:1), not ingenious ceremonies or entertaining rituals. Only through His sacrifice can we draw near to God (Heb. 10:19–22). This means that no matter our worship styles, our focus needs to remain the transforming power of the Cross. When God is mag¬nified, the people are edified. When Jesus is lifted up, He will draw people to Himself (John 12:32).

Worship leaders are called to “fear God”

“Fear God” are the first words proclaimed by the angel. The biblical notion of “fear” (phobeo ) should not be understood as “to be afraid” but “to respect, to revere.”4 It is essentially a matter of faithfulness and obedience as we walk in God’s ways and keep His commandments.5Interestingly, this notion of fearing God can be very odd in an age that evokes a lack of gravitas. There can often be a shortage of a sense of weight, glory, or awe in church ser¬vices. This is not a new phenomenon.

Ellen White wrote more than a century ago, “It is too true that reverence for the house of God has become almost extinct. Sacred things and places are not discerned; the holy and exalted are not appreciated. . . . We have abundant reason to maintain a fervent, devoted spirit in the worship of God. . . . But an enemy has been at work to destroy our faith in the sacredness of Christian worship.”6

Worship leaders need to remind themselves constantly of “the sacred¬ness of Christian worship” and approach their ministry with godly fear and humility, praying that God will use them as they lead worship. They will refuse to succumb to the cultural pressure to trivialize worship. They will set an example of reverential awe and joyful wonder as they lead worship. Sermons should never degenerate into platitudes. Talks ought not fall into the trap of irrelevance, and singing must never become a show for people. True worship should always be a self¬less offering to God. Conversely, good worship leaders will also refuse to be so rigid in traditions just for the sake of keeping them. Rather, their fear of God will manifest itself in dignity and a sense of wonder.

Worship leaders are called to glorify God

At the core of any true worship ministry is the desire to see people glorify God. Worship leaders must themselves be passionate about God’s glory. They must have no other agenda than to lift up the name of Jesus Christ. Here, in Revelation 14:7, the angel summons the nations to fear God and glorify Him at a time when “the hour of His judgment has come.” Interestingly, the book of Revelation shows a close link between the manifestation of God’s character in judgments and His glorification in worship. In Revelation 15:3, 4, the redeemed sing and declare:

“‘Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your judgments have been manifested.’”

Through the judgment, God reveals who He is and what He has done. This revelation of God’s character leads the saints of God to worship Him. Put differently, giving glory to God means acknowledging, displaying, and magnifying the unparalleled radiance and beauty of God’s character, for, in essence, God’s glory is His character on display.

How are we to give glory to God as worship leaders, then? By making Him most precious to our souls. This involves contemplating His infinite nature and marvelous deeds as well as responding to His glorious name. Our reflection on who God is and what He has done inspires our response to Him in worship.

Yet, magnifying God’s greatness implies putting self aside. God cannot be glorified where self reigns. This could be one of the greatest challenges that worship leaders face. Have you ever gone through your sermon notes while waiting to preach because you felt that what preceded the sermon was unimportant, that they were just preliminaries? Have you ever conducted song service while being more preoccupied with your stage presence and musical abilities than God’s glory?

When self is at the center, it becomes impossible to glorify God. This is why, as worship leaders, we need to constantly remind ourselves that worship is not about us but about God. The Creator is the One who is worthy of honor and praise. We need to understand that worship is not primarily about our preaching, leading, voice, or skills. Worship is about God. Worship is not a performance; it is an act of service. Our responsibility as worship leaders is to make sure that God is glorified in our lives and among His people. This is our imperative duty.

Worship leaders are called to worship God

The angel in Revelation 14:6, 7, in an echo to the Ten Commandments (Exod. 20:1–11), summons people to worship God for three reasons:

a. Because He is Creator (“Worship Him who made the heavens and earth . . .”)

b. Because He is Redeemer (“the everlasting gospel”)

c. Because He is Judge (“the hour of His judgment has come”)

The doctrines of Creation, Redemption, and eschatology are closely intertwined here. This means that God cannot be Savior and Judge unless He is Creator. We need to always keep in mind this exalted vision of God.

Is it possible for a worship leader to lead worship and yet not worship, to sing and not really sing, to pray and not really pray? What happens when leading worship becomes so mechanical and routine that we go into liturgical autopilot? Yet, we know that in order to lead others in worship, worship leaders must themselves be full-fledged worshipers.

The problem is that sometimes we fail to bring before God’s people a vision of the majesty and glory of God. Imagine a worship service that is unplanned—announcements take too long, the platform party is never ready—where the congregation acts like spectators, prayers are long and dry, the singing is lethargic, and the sermon empty and boring. In short, worship services become an anesthetic valley-of-Gilboa experience. Do you think people leave such services with a sense of God’s greatness? They might, in fact, leave with the impression that worship is irrelevant and that God makes no difference at all.

Worship must be led with the vision of an exalted God who is worthy of all praise and honor. As worship leaders, we need to be worshipers 24/7. Worship is about the whole life lived in adoration before God. It is as much about what we do during the week as it is about what we do on Sabbath morning. In God’s economy, religious services do not take precedence over worshipful hearts, for God is more interested in our hearts than in our offerings; He takes more delight in our dedicated lives than our finely-tuned and timely, choreographed worship services. In essence, Christian worship is more relational than cultic. For that reason, unless we cultivate a deep relationship with God, true worship cannot take place.


Leading worship is a high calling, and only through God’s grace can it be done most effectively. God, through His Word, gives us clear principles and guidelines. Reflecting upon Revelation 14:6, 7, we see what could be a guiding vision for Adventist worship leaders. As worship leaders, we have to make worship our priority. As worship leaders, we should not only cultivate the art of worship; we should also cultivate a heart for worship. Only then can we boldly venture in helping members become better worshipers. Only then can we offer to God the worship that He deserves. May God grant us the eyes to behold His magnificence and the privilege of helping His people worship Him.


1. This article is adapted from the author’s plenary session presentation at the 2015 Andrews University Music & Worship Conference.

2. See for instance, P. Gerard Damsteegt, Foundations of the Seventh-day Adventist Message and Mission (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1977).

3. All Scripture in this article is quoted from the New King James Version of the Bible.

4. David Aune, Revelation 6–16 , Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 52B (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998), 827.

5. See David Peterson, Engaging With God: A Biblical Theology of Worship (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992), 72.

6 Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church , vol. 5 (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1948) 495, 496.

Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

comments powered by Disqus

Alain Coralie, MTh, MDiv, serves as executive secretary, EastCentral Africa Division of Seventh-day Adventists, Nairobi, Kenya.

April 2016

Download PDF
Ministry Cover

More Articles In This Issue

An appeal for a new era of preaching and worship

How much significance should preaching have in the complete picture of worship? Consider seven points on the matter.

Day of worship patterns in the book of Acts

Explore the book of Acts to learn about what day the early Christians held Sabbath worship.

Worshiping . . . with children?

Consider various ways to involve children in our worship experiences.

The wonder of worship 1

A veteran worship leader unpacks the seven modes of praise in worship

Sabbath: A school for worship

What are some key components we should put in place to foster meaningful Sabbath worship?

Total commitment to your marriage

Inspirational thoughts from our continuing revival and reformation series.

The Divided Mind of the Black Church: Theology, Piety, and Public Witness

A book review on the division within the Black church in the United States of America

View All Issue Contents

Digital delivery

If you're a print subscriber, we'll complement your print copy of Ministry with an electronic version.

Sign up
Advertisement - SermonView - Medium Rect (300x250)

Recent issues

See All

Latest Videos

See All
Advertisement - AdventTours Wide Skyscraper (160x600)