A close friend in ministry told me about a time that he was—he thought—righteously scolding a group of his lay leaders for their lack of engagement in worship.

After he had finished delivering his harangue, one of the men took him aside, privately and quietly. “Pastor,” he said, “we’re ready to go where you lead us. But you have to go there before we can.” My friend became convicted that he was not actually engaging in worship himself, and his church could tell.

The pastor of the church is a worship leader. Even more than that, the pastor should be a worshipping leader. As the shepherd of my congregation, I am only leading in worship to the extent that I myself am worshipping. Here are five questions pastors and other leaders might consider as we reflect on our own worship and the worship of the church:

How is worship deepening our devotion to God? The deepest goal of worship should be to know God’s heart as we enter His presence. Every act of worship, whether a song, a prayer, the preached Word, the celebration of baptism or the Lord’s Supper, or any other element, should be geared toward hearing and seeing God reveal Himself to us.

How is worship clarifying our discernment of ourselves? When Isaiah encountered the Lord high and lifted up in His temple, his response was: “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5). Worship, which ascribes ultimate worth to God, also reveals our own unworthiness and calls us to repentance and renewed obedience and holiness.

How is worship enhancing our understanding of God’s truth? Because the church’s corporate worship is shaped by the hearing of the Word of God, every opportunity for worship should result in a strengthened understanding of some aspect of biblical truth and ways that truth can transform our lives.

How is worship increasing our love for one another? When I listen to music on my iPhone through my earbuds, I deliberately cater to my own tastes. I never have to hear anything I don’t enjoy. But in corporate worship, we surrender our preferences to one another in love. When we allow worship styles to create division, we reveal a lack of love in the body. When we willingly worship together, irrespective of our stylistic preferences, we both display and increase our love for each other.

How is worship burdening us for the lost? Jesus said the Father is seeking people to worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:23). An essential part of worship is sharing in God’s desire to bring all people to Himself and then inviting them to know and worship the living God.

These reflections from Stephen Rummage on worship leadership are excerpted from Daniel Dickard’s forthcoming book, Church Together: The “Church of We” in the “Age of Me,” to be released in 2022 by Wipf and Stock Publishers.