Posted by Lex Buckley on 1 April 2013

Do you ever look around you and wonder where all the female worship leaders are? I don’t know about you, but I predominantly see men leading worship. In many cases this is because women have not been encouraged to step into any church leadership roles. But amidst this reality, one thing that excites me more than anything is that through all the arguments for and against women in roles of leadership, we see in the Bible that God does use women to lead His people in worship!

The book of Exodus tells us about the life of Miriam. We don’t know too much about Miriam, but we do know she was a prophetess, and was one of the leaders of Israel alongside her brother Aaron (they both led under the authority of Moses). She was also a worshiper. In Exodus 15:20, after God had parted the Red Sea and the Israelites had escaped the Egyptians, it says ‘Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron's sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing. Miriam sang to them: "Sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea."
The word ‘sing’ in Hebrew used here is shiru which is a masculine, plural command. This means that Miriam is addressing men and women in verse 20. The natural reading of the Hebrew is that Miriam leads a group of women who become her backing vocalists (so to speak) as she leads the whole community in worship. Some might question that she actually led them in worship because it says ‘she sang to them’. But throughout the Psalms we see the psalmists write songs like this, encouraging others to worship God (Psalm 30:4, Psalm 33: 1-3). The psalmists wrote songs to God, about God, and to the Israelites encouraging them to worship God, just as many worship songs do today.
Miriam’s response to what God had done was to worship Him and then encourage the people of Israel to worship Him with her. At the end of the day, a worship leader is a passionate worshiper who through their voice and instrument encourages others to worship God as they seek to worship Him themselves. And this is what Miriam did. She was a worshiper that God used to lead His people in worship for His glory.

So now that we know that God does use women to lead worship, the question is whether He is calling you to lead. Here are some general questions you might want to ask yourself to begin the process of finding your answer.

Are you a passionate worshiper?
The most obvious and important question is: do you love to worship God? More than anything a worship leader must be a worshiper. Someone who is just as passionate about pouring out their praise to God when they are on their own as they are when they are at church. As Mike Pilavachi, leader of Soul Survivor Ministries in the UK always says, “You can’t lead people somewhere you haven’t been yourself.” Our first passion must always be to worship God, and it’s only out of our passion to worship Him that He will call us to lead others.
Do you have the practical skills required to lead worship?
Another important factor is skill. Can you sing in tune? Are you musical? You don’t have to have an incredible voice to lead worship, but if you can’t sing in tune, leading sung worship might not be your gifting! Not everyone who starts out leading worship has a fantastic voice or is an incredible musician (not all worship leaders lead on an instrument), but if you’re called to lead worship, usually those in leadership over you will see your potential and it will be clear to them that you are someone to invest in.

Have others confirmed that you are called to lead worship?
If you are called to lead worship, usually those around you will be in agreement. But if leading worship is something that you’re passionate about and you have not been encouraged to step out in it yet, ask your pastor, ask your friends, ask those around you who will be honest with you. Make sure you aren’t just asking your mother though! Mine thinks I should try out for Australian Idol, and although I am so grateful that she totally believes in me, I know full well that I am not gifted enough to do well in a competition like that! You’ve got to trust that if you are called to lead worship and it’s the right time for you to step out, those around you will encourage you to do so.

Are you being given opportunities to lead worship?
If you are called to lead worship, opportunities will arise for you to do so. I never had to try and push doors open myself – God opened them in his timing. Firstly, I began singing backing vocals at church. Then I led worship in my small group for a season. I then began co-leading at church, and after six months of co-leading I finally began leading on my own. I know it might seem more appealing to just start leading up front at church straight away, but the journey that God took me on totally prepared me for what was ahead. Leading a band, trying to remember the lyrics, melody and chords for the songs, and the band arrangements is pretty tough sometimes, especially while trying to listen to the Holy Spirit and follow where He is leading. I would not have been ready to lead on my own at church if I had been thrown into it without all those years of worshipping on my own and leading in small groups. So value every opportunity given to you, because every opportunity enables you to learn and grow!

You may not be able to fully answer all these questions yet, but if you feel passionate about leading worship, keep worshipping God. Keep growing in the practical aspects of leading worship and trust that He will give you confirmation and will open the doors for you to lead if that is something He has created you to do.

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