THE REBOOT BLOG | May 13, 2021

For Youth Leading Worship for the Church

Summer Series 2021 #1

By Mark W. Stamm
Professor of Christian Worship and Chapel Elder, Perkins/SMU

In a series of blog posts, I’ll discuss leading worship, and specifically, your role in that important work.  You may do so as young persons and not merely on Youth Sundays and other youth services, but more so because you’re part of the Body of Christ.  First Corinthians chapter 12 provides a good biblical model, but for background look to First Corinthians chapter 11.  There the Apostle Paul took them to task because they had seriously messed up—in their zeal to receive the Body of Christ on the table, they had forgotten the Body of Christ seated around the table.  That is, they had forgotten that they were the Body of Christ together, the church.

In First Corinthians 12, Paul reminds the church at Corinth (the gathered believers) that spiritual gifts and leadership roles are distributed among the baptized (that’s you)—that we’re all in this work together.  Then he names some of the roles known to that first century gathering:  “apostles, prophets, teachers … forms of assistance, forms of leadership” and even “various kinds of tongues” (I Cor. 12: 28).  I suppose that was a lot to keep track of, but there was a basic unity.  According to this passage, all of these varied roles and gifts rest on the foundation of the one baptism that we all share:  “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (I Cor. 12: 12-13).

So then, what does this first-century discussion have to do with worship, and particularly, with the work of leading it today?  Quite a lot, actually.  I invite you to notice two key principles.  First, if I were to ask the question, “Whose worship is it?” then based upon this scripture passage the answer must be “It belongs to all of us.” My assertion here does not contradict the fact that some roles within the assembly are assigned to particular persons, and so, for example, in most of our churches, pastors preside at the Lord’s Supper and also do the bulk of the preaching.  Musicians lead the rest of us in congregational song and that in a variety of styles.  But that leaves much else to be done.  Notice a second, related emphasis in I Corinthians 12 and subsequent chapters--all leadership roles in the church are called to serve the whole worshiping assembly, yet not only for our own growth, important as that may be, but also that we may embody the Good News of Jesus Christ in the world.

Follow the logic.  At the end of chapter 12 and into chapter 13, Paul points toward the way of love that should inhabit all that we do as Christians:  “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (I Corinthians 13:1).  Later on, in chapter 14, he urges his readers, “Let all things be done for building up” (I Cor. 14:26), that is, that all of us grow in love and knowledge, and again, to the end that we make a positive impact on the world around us.  So then, there is one Body of Christ with leadership roles distributed according to spiritual gifts and callings, always for the benefit of the entire worshiping assembly and the community and world beyond it.  It’s altogether likely that you have a role to fill, and discovering that can be very exciting.  But, always remember that it’s to be exercised in love and towards the building up others.

In subsequent posts, I’ll discuss some of the ways that you can lead right now, or with some instruction, in the near future:  reading scripture, leading prayers and other acts of worship, distributing communion to fellow congregants, and even the practice of the extended communion table, that is, carrying communion elements to church members who want to join with us, but for various reasons are unable to do so.