Thoughts on leading worship…

July 27, 2007

This is an older blog from my personal site that I thought some on this list might find relevant…

A few thoughts that have been brewing for a number of months, and have been regularly confirmed by other long-time, local worship leaders…

1. People who absolutely love to worship God make great worshipers, and stinky worship leaders. That’s right. I said it. Just because you love to worship God doesn’t mean anyone else – especially folks who’ve just had a crappy day, week, month, year, or life, who’d really like to raise fist at God at the moment – will want to follow you there…in fact, more often than not, it means they won’t. So, it’ll be a wonderful show. That’s not to say worship leaders shouldn’t love God, and desire to worship Him – however, they will often need to set aside their own fulfillment of that desire – at least during the “worship service” – for the sake of those he/she is leading. The one occasional exception to this relates to intimacy – very intimate environments, especially when you know the person leading true heart, sometimes allow for deep worship no matter what. I remember that, at one time, I was that person (on occasion, I still am) – my first time leading in Brunswick (this is on CD, too) I began a church service with the deepest, most passionate, songs I know – the ones that just connected with my heart – I dove straight into deep waters. I was close to God, read up on the Word, and had been in a loooong quiet time before the service. I had a great time worshiping God – which was, in many ways, quite selfish of me – I was not there to simply worship, but to lead others in worship – and they’re a different thing. I had worshiped, and been built up already in the quiet of my own room – I was up there now for the rest of God’s people. It was a sad evening. It might as well have been a concert – me worshiping God, and the sheep all left far behind to simply watch.

2. Physical gestures of excitement are often more useful as a way of GETTING YOURSELF into worship, rather than as acts of worship in and of themselves. Again, I can only use myself as an example, but when my hands are raises, and I look PUMPED, usually I’m just TRYING to force my heart into a God-ward position. When I’m quiet, introverted, and introspective, you can assume I am very aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence and am absolutely in the deepest of worship. I have been in hyper-charismatic church services where everyones emotions were high, and hands were lifted, and voices were raised, and it was more about the emotional buzz than about God. I’ve been in other church services where the worship leader sang barely on key, from a hymnal, backed with only a piano – singing a song I hardly knew, none-the-less, and my heart was so moved by the Spirit that I dropped to one knee, and my heart was heavy with the Joy of the Lord (yes – a heavy joy) for a week following…and I wanted to share the Gospel with any and all that I knew and extended grace until I fell asleep at night from the moment I awoke.

3. That’s part of number 2 – you know you’ve really worshiped when you leave changed – not with a spiritual buzz – but with a graceful, merciful, joyful (even deep joy) heart…when the fruit of the Spirit flow forth…you’ve seen God…

3.5 As a part of that, being changed is much more dependent upon hearing God speak through His word than by singing…which, of course, is also worship…

4. And lastly, a technical tip for fellow worship leader: get a GREAT drummer. It’s so hard to LEAD worship when you have to carry the rhythm of a song – when the drums, guitars, vocalist – everything – is all on you. It’s very easy to get distracted by the technical aspects, which draws eyes away from the horizontal and vertical aspects of worship. Basically, if you can manage, have a good band. In my experience, vocals aren’t nearly as important as musicianship – most of the folks in the audience can’t really sing well anyway, but when the rhythm gets wacky, it’s distracting to everyone. That’s not to say that someone who’s absolutely tone-deaf (and few are) should be your lead vocalist, though!

5. Don’t write stupid lists like this one. Pray, and read the Word, instead. Oh, and having to do with EVERYTHING – not just worship – use none-of-the-above, nor anything you find in the Scripture that you feel convicted of, as another law to judge people by. We suck, and tend to make everything into laws – ways of finding other’s faults. The Bible wasn’t written to help you find other’s faults…it was written to help you see your own, and deal with those before God. Mercy mercy mercy…

“But for the grace of God, there goes I”



2 Responses to “Thoughts on leading worship…”

  1. A. said

    Your post gave me some things to think about from another perspective, which I love. Great!

    I agree about the physical gestures, though I do think that they can open the eyes of others who are reluctant to go with their own hearts if they feel like they want to, for example, raise their hands, but might be concerned about what others think, & thus seeing someone else do it might allow them to release that fear. Of course, all in all, that fear means nothing–do for God, worship God, don’t care about what others think (yet do be considerate of them).

    I agree also about the drummer/tempo tips as well. I hate it when the energy of worship is slowed down (& though it hasn’t been stopped, it can sure feel that way sometimes!) because of the tempo not being maintained, & a drummer plays the most crucial & influential part in this. No one else has that kind of control with more ease (because as you said, it isn’t easy when the worship leader, playing an instrument &/or singing has to try to keep the tempo maintained–it just doesn’t really happen without the drummer doing his or her job as well!)

    I’m glad to have found your worship blog. I will be back to read more, for sure. 🙂

  2. Patrice Curtiss said

    I agree that the energy and sensitivity a good drummer brings to the mix is SO very important. When our drummer is out of town, I sometimes use the drum box in my piano to carry the rhythm on the fast praise songs. I can get by with maracas and a hand drum on the slow worship songs. But it is so true that technical stuff can be so inhibiting then.

    Regarding the worship leader’s obligation to bring the congregation along with him/her–I agree and disagree. It’s important to reach a varied congregation with a variety of music so no one feels left out completely. But, if the leader isn’t sensing the heart of God, the whole thing can become “performance” rather than worship. If the leader is sensitive to God, the whole thing will work because the Lord’s heart is always wanting to draw His people closer and closer.

    The more I lead worship (have been doing it for 20 years), the more I realize there is no formula. Every encounter with God is precious–sometimes emotional, sometimes tender, sometimes full of war against the darkness, sometimes “soaking,” and sometimes joyful or convicting or simply “connected.” Whatever it is, it must be genuine. Showmanship will leave believers feeling dry because the focus is off. There is no substitute for the Spirit of the Living God!

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