This is part three of a three-part series. To catch up, click here to read last week’s post.
Worship should mean something. The songs should mean something, the order should mean something, and our execution should mean something. Worship is sacred: we are entering the presence of God, and as worship leaders, we should respect it as such.
The best way to respect it? Well, we know the Philippians 4:8 drill by now:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
We discussed picking true, biblical songs last week, but it’s also important to keep biblical truth in mind when we pray or ad-lib. When we’re in front of a microphone, not everything that comes across our mind is useful for worship. Sometimes those additional lyrics or the prayer at the end of a worship set can be a great time to speak biblical truth, but it does have to be biblically true. Prayer is a more honest, emotional experience, so sometimes it is better just to speak what’s on your mind, as vulnerability and honesty can really grow a connection with God. But singing whatever pops into your head may not be the most useful thing. Musical worship isn’t just about response: it’s also an opportunity for many who don’t understand the Word of God to hear the truth. Therefore, if we’re not sure we’re speaking truth, it can be detrimental to the atmosphere of worship.
Let us not respond to the worship in a dishonest way in the hopes that our congregation would respond more, and let us not ask the congregation to respond in a dishonest way. It’s really obvious when you’re faking it. Now, as the worship leaders, we should always try to respond to worship as an example. But if you aren’t feeling lifting your hands, or dancing, or clapping, then don’t.
Another thing I’ve seen everywhere is worship leaders asking their congregation to respond in a certain way. “Let’s clap our hands.” “Let’s sing this with our hands lifted up.” “Lift up a shout of praise.” These are all legitimate forms of worship, sure, but they shouldn’t be forced. Rather, if we worship in these ways as the Holy Spirit leads us to, the congregation will follow as the Holy Spirit leads them. Dishonest worship is not worship.
Let’s be fair to the other members of our worship team and to our congregation. We can make sure of this in several ways that I’ll bullet out here:
- Don’t suddenly change plans. If you plan on going into a different part of the song, find a way to communicate that with the team. It may even be helpful to say where you’re going into the microphone, as that would benefit both your team and the congregation. Saying “Sing it’s your breath” before going into the chorus of “Great Are You Lord is a lot more helpful than just going into it and leaving your team lost and your congregation behind. If the Holy Spirit is leading you to a different song not in the set list, it’s okay to go up to your team and inform them during a quiet moment of a set list. If it’s one your team may not do often, it may be helpful just to have them back off while you lead the new song.
- Be aware of who is assigned to lead. If you’ve assigned someone to lead a song, or if you’re a worship leader and someone else has been assigned to lead a song, that person should be fully trusted with it. Do harmony, by all means, but don’t take the song from them.
- Watch the congregation before you decide whether you will continue a song further. If people seem to really be responding, especially to a part of the song, it’s beneficial to play that out and repeat it. If you go into a lull and you can tell it’s time to move on, move on. Don’t force a continuation because you feel like there’s more to get out of a song, and don’t move on just because the song is over in the recording. Remember, the most important thing is your congregation’s worship experience.
Simple enough: as my tagline says, question your intentions. Why are you doing what you’re doing in worship? Like I said above, it’s obvious when someone is faking it. Some people fake it with good intentions, and others fake it to be seen as a really good worship leader. Any thought in your head during musical worship that is not focused on God should be set aside. In the same way, you shouldn’t do anything that distracts your congregation. I understand that everyone has their style of worship, but the Holy Spirit doesn’t lead us as worship leaders to do anything detrimental. If you’re constantly moving around the stage, throwing ad-libs into songs other people are leading or finding ways to show off your vocal range during worship, maybe you need to check yourself. You may not be acting on the purest of intentions.
Know your limits. Music is powerful, and when used to foster an atmosphere of worship, a pleasant sound can make all the difference. So don’t treat your sound technicians like afterthoughts. They are just as much a part of the worship team as you are, if not more. And while they’re really in control of how everything sounds put together, each individual should do their part to make his/her job easier. Keep the volume of your vocals in mind, pick guitar effects that blend well with the song, use pads and synths that are pleasant to the ears, and know your limits as a vocalist. If you can’t reach a note without a crack in your voice, or if you can’t perform certain actions without jumping off pitch, then make note of that. We need to sound our best.
Commendable, Excellent, Worthy of Praise
God calls us to excellent. Therefore, we should be excellent when leading others into His presence. If you’re just skating by from week to week, you’re doing it wrong. Practice your parts, rehearse with your team, find new ways to execute your songs better. If your first experience with a song is walking into weekly rehearsal, you need to find a way to improve. That’s mediocrity. Practice produces excellence, which leads to a lack of mistakes. A lack of mistakes leads to a lack of distractions. A lack of distractions leads to a genuine type of worship in which we can just commune with God, sing of his greatness, reflect on his goodness, and bask in the presence of His Holy Spirit.
Worship should mean something. And as worship leaders, it is our responsibility, not just to make the words we sing mean something, but to help the congregation respond in a way that means something. The less thought we put into our worship, the more glory that God deserves we keep from him. Just something to think about.