Building and Leading an Effective Worship Team by Monty Kelso
One of the distinctive features of the contemporary worship movement around the world is worship teams. The trend toward teams is found in small and large churches, in both traditional and contemporary settings. Ken Blanchard defines a team this way:
"A team is a group of interdependent people committed to a common purpose who chose to cooperate to achieve exceptional results." Why teams? Teams are a biblical model. In Exodus 18:13-24 we read the advice that Jethro gave to Moses about finding others who could help him fulfill his mission. We cannot do it alone either. Jesus and the 12 disciples gives us another example. Even though he had all strength and power at his command, he still needed the 12 to be a part of His ministry. Unless we can begin to build teams around us, we will burn ourselves out and fall into temptations out of weariness. Too many worship leaders sabotage their own ministries because they hold things too closely to themselves and are not willing to release responsibility into a team environment.
In the early years of my ministry, when we started Coast Hills Community Church from the ground floor, I didn't understand the value of teams. I thought that being a leader meant working hard and being responsible for everything. I didn't understand then that my ultimate goal as a leader is to equip others for ministry, not to be a doer of ministry. But as I studied the scriptures and watched effective leaders, I learned that my role is not at the forefront of ministry, but to identify those who can minister and equip them to be effective leaders. Hebrews 10:24-25 is a favorite passage of mine: "Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near."
Characteristics of Healthy Teams
What do effective teams look like and how do they function? Let's consider some traits of healthy teams.
- A healthy team is looking for mutual results. There are no prima donnas. Everyone is critical to the team's effectiveness. Each team member is a contributor to the end result, and that is to bring honor and glory to God. In doing so,a team experiences synergy, a situation in which the output is greater than the sum of the individual parts. A formation of geese is a good example of synergy. Did you know that geese flying in formation adds 71 percent more flying range than when they fly individually? Geese understand the value of teamwork!
- Healthy teams are committed to a common purpose. They have common views, values and goals. These are the things that hold a team together. A shared focus on a common goal keeps a team in sync and on track. Because it is easy to forget these things in the trenches, leaders must keep the common purpose out in front of the people and help them understand their mission. A vision is what we have eyes to see ourselves becoming.
- Healthy teams feature mutual accountability in which all team members share the responsibility for the end result. That's called interdependency; we all depend on one another and we're all responsible for accomplishing our collective goals. Cooperation is critical; a lack of cooperation will hold a team back. Accountability gets personal and makes us responsible to each other for our lifestyles and spiritual discipline.
- Love and grace prevail in healthy teams. We must remember that we are people in process and far from perfect. The Bible teaches us to prefer one another in love, looking out for the best interests of the other person. It means that we forgive one another when we fail, make mistakes and let each other down. Love and grace prevail in an environment in which we pray for one another.
As we started our worship ministry at Coast Hills Church, we learned there are several important steps in developing healthy teams.
- Communicate a clear picture. "We had to ask ourselves, "What do we want to accomplish?" Many times achieving that vision meant breaking the mold long enough so that people begin to see our worship team is a new thing, rather than an adaptation of an existing group or just another program. Defining a team in this way helped other people see it as something special. In those early days at Coast Hills, it was about spurring one another toward authenticity, purpose and excellence resulting in music that moved the hearts and minds of people.
- Orient new members to the mission and values of the team. We've found that when newcomers came to us they needed help to work through their preconceived ideas. Our biggest challenge was singers and players with previous experience in other churches. We found many lacked dynamic range, stylistic originality and an ability to conform to the team. So our reorientation included helping them develop a more "pop" approach to making music. Our foundation was laid with singers and players who owned the vision and could demonstrate the approach we were looking for. They also had to be willing to coach others and eventually step aside as they developed their capacity.
- Start with interviews before auditions. I give prospective team members a leadership questionnaire that helps me get to know them. In the interview I explain who we are as a worship team, and what requirements they will need to meet to be contributors, such as faith commitment, lifestyle issues and family situation. Prospective team members can then decide for themselves if serving on the team is right for them.
- Hold auditions. In an audition we want to find out if the prospective team member has the capacity to contribute to the team. I want to create the right environment for the audition. Set the person up to succeed, and give them whatever they need to do their best. I plan to include others into the audition for the benefit of their perspective. We start easy and help them feel comfortable, then move toward a more maximized situation. Finally, I make sure I know the person's strengths and limitations. I want to be both encouraging and truthful during the process, so I do not build up false hopes.
- Make decisions without compromise. We try not to lower our standards, particularly in regard to personal issues and lifestyle, but also in regard to musical capacity. But I do try to be affirming in the way I communicate our standards. It is more important to be specific about why someone isn't qualified and what if anything they can do to work on their craft. So whenever we can, we offer suggestions about other areas in the church where they can serve using their gifts.
Leading a Team in Ministry
Once you find a capable team who shares the vision and commitment of leadership, everyone should understand the team's function, the leadership of your church and those on the team. As the team leader, my responsibility is to protect our team members' time and to identify who best serves where. Our team's primary purpose is to provide music for weekend services. Other opportunities may arise for the team to minister, but not all fulfill the team's purpose. Five other essentials to leading and maintaining a strong team are:
- Establish the form that best fulfills the function of your team. When establishing time commitments, this is especially important. Early in my ministry at Coast Hills, we were all young marrieds and singles. We looked forward to hanging out together at rehearsals. Time wasn't an issue. But we're in a different season of life now, and we've made adjustments. So for example, there was once a season when we had three separate vocal teams. Now, with so much time pressure on all of us, we find it better to have a vocal pool and put singers on a rotating schedule in which they rehearse on the weeks they sing. To build community, I schedule events once a month or so to go over new music, discuss major events coming up or just have fun.
- Identify leaders. Part of my responsibility in leading a team is continually developing other leaders who will step up and share the responsibility of leadership. So I need to get to know people well, to understand their character, their spiritual development, their passion, and their talent by spending time with them in small groups. I then begin to groom them and invest in them as leaders. In our ministry I work through "point people" who lead groups like vocalists, instrumentalists, drama teams, and visual arts.
- Keep the big picture clear. To keep our team moving forward, I need to get up in the helicopter and tell the troops on the ground what's ahead. I have to constantly reinforce why our team does what it does and how it serves the church at large. One way I do this is to make sure they see the fruit of their ministry. We share letters and comments we get from people. We also keep them posted on future opportunities and challenges so they begin to see beyond the week-to-week.
- Create venues for community building. Use monthly or bi-monthly gatherings where people can come together, put the task aside and see that they are indeed a team. Our annual weekend retreat is one of the highlights of the year. We also visit other churches and attend training events as a team to collect new ideas and see other teams in action.
- Care for your team. An effective leader focuses on people as well as tasks. I make sure I have time with each team member one-on-one. I want to get to know them beyond what they do, to know who they are as individuals. I send a lot of thank you notes to my team members to let them know I recognize their contributions, and often take them to lunch to get to know them better.
In The End
As time went by in my ministry, I discovered I had to go outside of my comfort zone and begin to take on the role of a team leader. It didn't come naturally to me, but the rewards have been significant. I have had more time to develop my own gifts of producing and teaching, as well as focusing on other important things like spending time with my family. It's still a struggle sometimes, but for the most part I have avoided being trapped by busyness and urgency, and I'm able to stay focused on the vision and mission of our various worship ministry teams. By equipping others to lead, I can accomplish more with less energy and enjoy my work time.
Monty Kelso is Director of Creative Communications at Coast Hills Community Church in Aliso Viejo, California, and has appeared with the Maranatha! Singers and the Maranatha! Praise Band. This article is adapted from a Worship Leaders Workshop presentation.
By Bruce H. Leafblad
God is the first priority of the church. Not people. Not ministry. Not growth. Not success. God and God alone occupies the place of ultimate and absolute priority in the church. However, this biblical ideal does not receive much attention in the highly people-centered, growth-dominated, success-oriented American church of today. From our preaching, our writing, and our lifestyle, it would appear that today's church is preoccupied with other matters.
It may be nothing more than a still, small voice, but many in the church are hearing a clear call to the recovery of God as first priority-over everything and in everything. It was the Apostle Paul who wrote to the Colossians saying that Christ was to have the pre-eminence in everything. The priority of God is not an option in Scripture, nor can it be anything but the very centerpiece of Christian belief and practice in the contemporary church. If the church expects to be all that it is intended to be, God must be first. If the church is to accomplish its great mission in the world, God must be its first priority. If the church is once again to become salt and light in an increasingly darkened and decadent culture, it must recover the priority of God for itself.
Worship and the priority of God
What, then, is the connection between the priority of God and worship? Worship is essentially about the priority of God. It is predicated upon the reality of God's being in the supreme position in relation to everything that exists within the created order. Worship is a personal, human expression of that relationship by which we honor and praise God as supreme. The results of such worship include a greater understanding of who this unique God is and an increased desire to make Him first in all of life. Consider the names and titles by which we address God in our worship. These all explicitly or implicitly reveal a God who is first and ultimate in His being-a God before whom we, together with all of creation, assume a place of humble stature.
As King, He is ultimate, the King of Kings, and we approach Him as loyal, contented subjects. As Lord, He is supreme, the Lord of Lords, and we come into His presence bowing and kneeling. As Master, He is one, and we all honor Him as willing servants. As Father, He is alone, the true Father of us all, and we come to Him as loving children. As Creator, God is the solitary source by whom everything was made, and we come before Him as lowly creatures. As Savior, He is unique, for there is no other savior, and we celebrate Him as the One who alone has rescued us out of our helpless and hopeless condition.
Worship and the Character of God
Not only does our worship express God's superior position in relation to all that He has made, but in our worship we affirm the superiority of God's character set against the backdrop of humanity's universal moral failure. In our worship, we extol those divine virtues and draw upon His wealth of virtue by which our lives are restored to more and more Christ-like reflections of His moral perfection's and by which our weakness of character is replaced by divine strength.
God is holy-we worship Him with awe and reverence. God is love-we worship Him in loving adoration. God is good-we worship Him with a spirit of gratitude. God is all-knowing-we come to Him in our ignorance seeking genuine knowledge. God is all-wise-we come to Him in our foolishness, seeking the wisdom that comes only from Him. God is merciful-we worship Him in contrition and with repentant hearts, seeking His forgiveness. God is compassionate-we come to Him casting our burdens and cares upon Him.
God is everywhere-present-we worship Him at all times and in all places, confident of His personal presence. God is truth-we worship Him, trusting every word He speaks to us to be true, for He cannot lie. God is righteous-we worship Him with deep respect and with a desire to be like Him. God is unchanging-we worship Him with living faith and quiet confidence that He will always be as He has always been.
Much about our worship is centered on God's perfect character and His superlative attributes. Worship is a response to God as He is. Hence, our worship is an acknowledgement of God's exclusive superiority in power, authority, and every positive moral and spiritual quality. This reality, the reality of who God is, constitutes the very heart of worship. Because He is God and no other, we worship Him. Because He is who He is-superior to everything He has made, unlimited in power, unrivaled in excellence, unsurpassed in beauty, unequalled in moral perfection, and unmatched in love and grace and compassion-we worship Him and Him alone, giving Him the priority over everything else. Worship is a personal, faith-filled expression of the priority of God.
The priority of God in our pursuits
Worship rightly understood is not merely a response to God, but it is very much a pursuit of God. Moses was confronted by God, and his response was a desire for more of Him. Near the end of his life, Paul, the apostle who had such a rich relationship with the Lord, prayed that he might know Christ even more fully. To know God is to desire more and more of Him. This seeking is truly normal when one has tasted and seen that the Lord is good.
In worship we continue to pursue God-to pursue a deeper, fuller, and increasingly intimate knowledge of Him. The psalmist Asaph expressed this holy longing in Psalm 73:25 (RSV): "Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides thee." These words of Asaph are an illustration of the priority of God in one's pursuits. Is this what today's church is seeking? Is this the one holy passion of American Christianity? Or has a lust for growth become the new priority of the '90s?
The priority of God in the pursuits of the church must not be surrendered to any rival-friendly or otherwise. Seeking first the kingdom of God will always be a pursuit of God and His reign in our lives, and it must ever remain the first, the primary, and the all-consuming pursuit for those who belong to Christ. The major hunger and thirst in the lives of all believers today will be no different from that of David when he wrote: "O God, thou art my God, I seek thee, my soul thirsts for thee, my flesh faints for thee as in a dry and weary land where no water is" (Psalm 63:1 RSV). Worship is about the priority of God in the church's pursuits
... in our values
The meaning of worship is also understood in terms of personal and corporate values and value systems. Worship is spiritual action by which the church affirms God to be first priority in its values. Inasmuch as we are value-driven beings, this matter of the priority of God in our values is of critical relevance. Whatever or whomever we value most highly gives shape to the rest of our value system. By nature, our value systems are structured from the top down-that is, from the highest to the lowest value. Thus, one's value system is a hierarchy of values that is dominated by the highest value.
By definition, whatever or whomever one values most highly-that is one's god. True worship is that spiritual action in which the God of the Bible is affirmed to be the highest value. In the Scriptures, God is everywhere assumed and affirmed to be the ultimate value beside whom there is none of equal value and beyond whom there is none of greater value. The One who created all things is revealed to be of greater value than all those things that He created Worship, then, is understood to be the personal spiritual action through which believers acknowledge, accept, and affirm that God is the first priority in their own value systems.
In the First Commandment, God requires that we shall have no other gods before or besides Him. No other objects of worship are appropriate to the reality of one true God who alone qualifies for such reverence. The English word worship-actually a shortened form of "worth-ship"-gives additional strength to this aspect of our understanding. By this word, we understand worship to be a "worth-shipping" of God, that is, an acknowledging of the supreme worth of God in and of Himself and within our personal system of values. To worship God is to treasure Him more highly than any other person, thing, cause, or enterprise in all of life. God alone is worthy; therefore, we "worth-ship" Him alone."Worthy art thou, our Lord and God,to receive glory and honor and power ..." Worship is about the priority of God in our values.
... in our affections
In Matthew 6:21 (RSV), Jesus states a principle that is applicable to more than one aspect of life: "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." We take this principle to mean that what one values, one will cherish. A man will pour his heart into that which he values most. A woman will invest her deepest affections in that which she most highly treasures. That is, what we value most we will love most. The biblical scheme of affections consistently positions love at the head of the list.
In the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4,5), in the Great Commandment (Mark 12:29,30), and in Paul's famous discourse (1 Corin-thians 13), we see this uniform perspective on love as the greatest affection. From this biblical material, we derive this simple yet significant piece of theo-logic: If God is first in our values, He will also be first in our affections. This ideal represents the normal Christian life, although one must confess that the church today does not always rise to the biblical standards for normalcy in the Christian experience.
The sum of the matter is this: Worship is about the priority of God in our affections. To worship God aright is to give Him our first, best love. This love properly belongs to God and to no other. To love anyone or anything else more than God is idolatry. Worship is the highest form of love-a love we give exclusively to God. In true worship we declare and express the priority of God in our affections. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." (Mark 12:30 RSV) In true worship, love is the supreme affection, and God is the exclusive object of our greatest love. At its center, this divine-human encounter we call worship is a love affair of the highest and holiest order. We value, we cherish, we praise, we celebrate, we receive the love of God that has rescued and redeemed us and that continues to pursue us day after day; and we respond to that love by declaring and expressing our deepest, our highest, our strongest, our first, best love to the Lover of our souls. This is the "real action" in worship. And this is what worship is really about-the priority of God in our affections.
... in our commitments
If what we value most we come to love most, then what we value and love most is that to which we become most committed. Worship is spiritual action through which we affirm the priority of God in our commitments. In worship, we commit ourselves to God as first priority in our lives. We commit ourselves to Him as to no other. By such action, we come to grips with the truth that we are His, that He owns us, that we belong exclusively to Him by virtue of creation and redemption.
Commitment is that process by which values and affections are translated into concrete and decisive actions. Commitment begins with the attitudes of humility and yieldedness, both of which are expressed in a continual succession of decisions that subsequently precipitate action. It is the incarnational actualization of spiritual realities, in which words become flesh, thoughts become deeds, and values and affections become actions, that characterizes this aspect of worship. Being committed to God is to be first committed to His will, His purposes, His plans for our lives. The Christian lifestyle is one of submission to the will of God; one of continual obedience to His leadership. This is not to be viewed as irksome or burdensome, however; the believer knows that such submission is a path of great joy and true freedom. It is the eager submission that two lovers grant each other in the act of love. Such is worship when it truly expresses the priority of God in our commitments.
The Apostle Paul describes this aspect of worship in terms of "living sacrifices" (Romans 12:1). In this familiar text, he affirms:
- That commitment is a fundamental aspect of worship;
- That God is the only one to whom we must commit ourselves completely;
- That commitment involves sacrifice, that is, dying-dying to self, self-will, self-sovereignty; and
- That commitment is not a single, once-and-for-all action, but rather a lifelong, continuous process of "living dying" and "dying daily," of new commitments and renewed commitments to God and His will for us. In worship we affirm and express the priority of God in our commitments.
- We should all rejoice and praise God for the worship renewal that is taking place in many churches. God is at work restoring the vision of Himself and renewing the worship life of many congregations. There is not a continent on this planet where worship renewal is not now taking place.
- We should remember that renewal is not the same everywhere. In church history, no major renewal has ever come from forms and formats, and so it is today. In some places, little change of externals has taken place, if any, while great changes in spirit, life, vitality, and spiritual energy abound. In other places, many new forms have been added to the traditional heritage of the church, and a blending of old and new is characteristic. In yet other places, a distinctly new set of forms and formats has replaced the former ones. In all such settings, however, the heart of the renewal is, as it has always been, a work of the Holy Spirit of God restoring to the church something the church has lost.
- Alongside the genuine spiritual renewal of worship that has been observed is another movement in American worship that may have little or nothing to do with genuine renewal, although there may be many similar external changes present. This is essentially a "wineskin" movement in which major changes in the wineskins-the externals-of worship are being introduced. This liturgical reconstruction is variously motivated by interests in contemporaneity and relevance to modern society, concerns regarding church growth, or merely an imitation of some "more successful" church that is doing some new things. It is entirely possible to totally redo a congregation's worship service, replacing its basic format, forms, and style with a totally new set, and yet be entirely outside the renewing work of the Spirit.
The Ultimate Objective
The great need of the church today is neither to cling to the old or to create the new forms and formats. Our greatest need today is to recover the priority of God in our worship and in the whole of life. The wineskin issues are totally secondary to the more pressing need for the new wine of the Spirit. The crisis in worship today is not a crisis of form but of spirituality. When worship renewal comes, the congregation pursues God Himself as its ultimate objective. God Himself is treasured above any experience, any feeling or any result of worship. Love to God will be the dominant affection expressed through the various forms of worship. Fresh commitment to God is the common response of the entire worshiping community. Worship becomes an end in itself rather than the means to some other end. Worship will be experienced as a relationship with God being dynamically acted out rather than merely being a function of the church. WL
Bruce H. Leafblad is a professor of church music and worship at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
by Tobin Perry
As you’ll discover as you read through Rick Warren’s, The Purpose Driven Life, worship through music is only a small portion of what true, biblical worship is all about. Worship is the process of surrendering your entire life into God’s hands. Everything you do can – and should -- be an act of worship. God designed us to worship Him with our whole lives, and there are actually spiritual habits that we can build into our lives that help us worship God more deeply?
Here are ten habits than will build worship into your life on a daily basis.
1. Worship through prayer. We often miss this important component of our prayer life. Think about the issues you usually pray about. How much of your prayer life is about you and how much of it is about God? Without a doubt God wants us to be able to share everything that is going on in our life. But he also wants us to get to know Him better. When we affirm who God is through our prayers, we put our prayer life in proper perspective. That’s exactly how Jesus taught us to pray. Look at the Lord’s Prayer in the Gospel of Mathew (6: 9-13); Jesus starts the prayer off by saying “Our Father who is in Heaven, May Your name be honored.” (NLT) Jesus teaches us an important lesson with this prayer. Prayer starts with God. Consider including in your prayers a time of focused attention on who God is.
2. Get in a regular habit of reading the Bible. The Bible says that we worship God in “spirit and in truth.” How can we ever worship God without a clear understanding of who He is? The truth about God is essential to worship. Pay special attention to the book of Psalms. No book in the Bible spends as much time carefully describing who God is.
3. Obey God. Rick Warren mentions in The Purpose Driven Life that we worship God when we obey Him. We all need to build the habit of obedience into our lives. Take practical steps to see that this is a part of your life. Whenever you sense God is speaking to you, make it a regular practice to respond immediately. Don’t let procrastination weigh you down. If you can’t do it immediately, write down whatever God has been putting on your heart, so that you can do it SOON!
4. Tithe. If you want to know what in your life you worship, look at your checkbook register. The Bible teaches us this important lesson: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mathew 6:21 NIV) God wants us to surrender our entire being to Him. One way to show that is by making Him Lord of our pocketbook. If you are already a committed tither, consider raising the percentage you are willing to give.
5. Build deep relationships with other Christians. The Bible teaches that God designed us to live in community with other Christians. We bring God pleasure by getting to know others and being known by them. At Saddleback, the primary way we do this is through small groups.
6. Share your faith. John Piper made many of us re-look at why we share our faith when he wrote a few years ago: “Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” God wants every person on the planet to worship him, not because He is an egomaniac who needs our praise, but because worship is how we are designed by God. He wants the best for us.
Take time this week to share your spiritual journey with someone else. Tell them how you came to faith in Christ. Don’t worry about their response. Relax in the knowledge that you are playing a part in expanding God’s world-wide worship.
7. Serve others. Jesus tells us that “when you did it to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did to me!” (Matt. 25:40 NLT) When we serve one another, Jesus tells us we are really serving Him. If you don’t think you have any gifts that are useful to serve, you are wrong. God made you with talents and gifts that He specifically gave you to serve others.
8. Build into your life the attitude of thankfulness. This requires looking at the world through a different set of eyes. When we look through the lens of thankfulness, we see our lives – and everything in it – as all gifts from God. Develop your own spiritual exercise each morning that demonstrates that you are putting on your lens of thankfulness. Then begin to thank God for all of the good things in your life.
9. Begin turning over to God areas of your life that you have never committed to Him. This is the heart of worship – surrender. God won’t settle for 90 percent of your life; He wants all of it. You might have been a follower of Jesus for years, but you still have areas of your life that you are holding back from Him. What are those areas? Only you know that. Two good places to look are your checkbook and your planner. Look at the areas of your life where you spend the most money and the most time. Do they honor God?
If you are human, you have sin in your life that you need to surrender. Think back over the past month and write down all of the times you remember disobeying clear teaching from God. Then look for patterns. If you find patterns of sin in your life, these are areas of your life you need to surrender to God. Right at the moment, start praying for God to help you overcome that sin. Ask your small group to pray for you.
10. Live a life of purpose. God has a reason for your existence. In fact, He has five: fellowship, discipleship, ministry, evangelism and worship. You please God when you live in step with His purposes. God doesn’t want you to waste your life.
You were designed for God’s pleasure. The purpose of worship is the foundation of the other four purposes. Fellowship without the spirit of worship is just “hanging out.” Discipleship without worship is nothing but a fruitless mental exercise. Ministry without worship is called “spinning your wheels.” Evangelism without worship is a misplaced sales pitch.
Worship isn’t simply one area of your life; it is your life. Start right this moment by surrendering your life to God. Then spend the rest of your life learning to worship Him more fully.
Tobin Perry is the staff writer at Saddleback Church.
©Copyright 2003. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Stephen M. Newman
Steve currently serves as Pastor of Worship and Arts, Pinon Hills Community Church, Farmington, New Mexico
Things They Didn't Teach In College or Seminary
If you are like me, you learned very little in college concerning teaching people to worship the Living God. We learned a lot about music, theory, singing and playing our instruments. I once even had a class on how to play a recorder…. but never a class on how to teach and lead people in worship. My ability to plan a music service was excellent, but I knew very little about how to plan a worship service.
Many colleges are now teaching worship and how to prepare your congregation for worship, and I am grateful for the institutions that offer these much needed courses. I am speaking to those who have not had the pleasure of sitting under great men and women of God who are experienced in leading and teaching worship.
Have you ever woken up on Sunday morning to lead a well-prepared service only to find the people didn't respond the way you thought they would, or that they should have? This happened to me for the first six years of ministry. Each week I would prepare a "great" music service thinking it would help my people to worship better. It didn't. Nothing I attempted seemed to work. What was I doing wrong? Why weren't they participating? All kinds of thoughts would race through my mind trying to find the reason as to why people were not worshiping God. I had to learn some very real lessons that I hope you can use.
First, I had to look inward. Was I worshiping or leading music? What was the perception of what I was doing on the platform? I decided to video myself leading worship one morning. I wanted to see what the people were seeing. You know what? I was leading music. I was doing what I had seen done for years and years. A man standing in front of a congregation leading music. I knew all the motions and patterns to every hymn and had become fairly proficient at it. I found I could keep things together musically and design a service that flowed fairly well. After viewing the tape, I saw why I had failed. I was not worshiping. I was working hard to make sure things went well, that the instrumentalists were together, and that the key changes were just right. How could I worship when there was so much to worry about in a service? My mind was on the technical aspects and not on the Lord. That is partially what makes our position so difficult. We have to make sure everything goes well, and then we allow ourselves to worship if there is time left.
What was the solution? I had to become more proficient at preparing the service in order for the music to become second nature for me, I needed to commit the words to memory, and I had to know the service inside out so that I could spend less time worrying about the service and more time worshiping. When those elements changed, I found my worship became more meaningful. People began to comment about the worship services, and I began to see others attempting to worship and participate more. It was the first major step in helping others worship. I had to first become a worshiper myself.
The next step to helping people worship came from studying. Studying God's word along with great authors who have an understanding of this thing called worship. I needed to become a student of not only music but of worship. In this site you can find titles of various books that will help you to become a better student of worship. Read all you can find on the subject. You may feel that you can't gain anything from a person who comes from a different background than yourself but you will find that each author will have something that you can relate to. You will find information that you can use in your ministry. Become a student of worship and you will better be able to help your people become worshipers.
Second, what was I doing outside of planning the services to help our people better worship? What could I do outside of studying, preparing, learning new music to help teach worship? You know the answer. Prayer. I began to pray for the people. I would pray for each service that God's spirit would move and be evident. I prayed for individuals to begin singing regardless of there singing ability. I prayed for our worship teams and leadership that we would all be used to help lead in worship. God is faithful and I began to notice that the more time I spent in prayer for the services, the better the service went. People began singing out. Others would lift their hands to the Lord. Some would clap, each expressing their worship to the Lord in a manner they felt best suited their personalities. Why do we rely so little of the greatest power we have here on earth. If you commit to pray for worship to happen in your church, it will.
It is important to understand that as your people begin to open up and worship, some will resist. Sadly many will never become visibly active worshipers. Which brings me to a very important point that every worshiper leader needs to understand. Be very careful in judging others in there worship because of their outward appearance. Don't fall into the trap that because a person is not singing, clapping or lifting their hands that they are not worshiping. I used to get very frustrated when I didn't see people participating in our worship times. It looked like they were just standing there with a sour look on their face. I just knew they were not worshiping. After the service they would share with me how moved they were, and what a great worship experience it was for them. Wow! Was I ever wrong. I have learned that how a person participates is not reflective of their worship experience.
We will deal with other issues of teaching worship under the titles listed on our main page. I hope that as you read these bits of helps that you will seek to be the worship leader that God has called you to be. You know as well as I that each church is different, and how you approach this topic will vary from church to church. There will be more to come on this page in the future. I pray that you will consider furthering your education in the area of Worship. There are several Universities that are offering graduate and undergraduate degrees in worship ministries. God be with you as you seek to be all that He would have you be.
Why Won't Your People Express Themselves In Worship
Undoubtedly, this is the question that has frustrated worship leaders and pastors for the past several hundred years. Why do some people jump up and down in worship and some won't even open their mouths to sing? What is the problem? These are supposed to be people who love the Lord. They are supposed to be Christians, right? Who really knows why people act the way they do? The same person who won't move a muscle in church will jump up and down at their favorite sports events cheering on their teams, or kids, with all the emotion of a cheerleader. How are we as worship leaders supposed to lead people and help them get excited about the Lord?
I love reading what David did as they were carrying the ark back to the City of David. Let's look at that passage - “David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets. As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal, daughter of Saul, watched from a window. And, when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart. They brought the ark of the LORD and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the LORD.” (2 Sam 6:14-17) Wow! David danced in the raw before the Lord. What did God say of David? He is a man after my own heart. To have the Lord say that of me would be the greatest joy of my life. I must admit I do not dance before the Lord on a regular basis. It is my desire to give it all to Him, but I have some of the same problems that people in our pews do……… Inhibitions.
That's right! Many of us are so worried about what the person next to us is thinking that we fail to worry about what God thinks. After all, He is the one we are worshiping. Right? What about the Michals of the world? We are concerned about what they say about us. How I wish that everyone would let go and worship the Lord the way they really wanted to. That's what I love about our charismatic brothers and sisters. They are going to worship the Lord the way they want to and don't really care what you think. They are more concerned about what they are giving to the Lord. That's what worship is…..it's giving. It's not about us, or what we receive, but about what God receives. When we worship what does He receive from you and your congregation?
Now, I want to look at another type of people for a moment. My pastor once told me that just as we are all created different and equipped differently to serve, so are we created different in our worship expression. Some of us clap, others sing, some raise their hands, and others dance. God has created us differently in that way. Our uniqueness when blended together is wonderful in worship. We come before Him in ways that please Him and yet we may do it differently. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that if they are not doing it your way then they are not worshiping. I have made that mistake many times only to have God point it out to me once again.
How do we help the ones in the pews express themselves in worship? Start by example. Share with your platform people your heart and desire. We have 20 people on our platform leading worship each week in our band and vocal team. Each one brings with them their own unique worship style to the platform. That in turn is communicated to our people who in turn identify with one of our team members. Help encourage your teams to raise their hands or clap. Use scripture to back up your teachings. Don't push or manipulate, just help along and encourage. It will take time, but eventually they will come around, and the results will be a joy to the Lord and your congregation’s worship experience. Remember, when teaching, it is very important that your senior pastor be on board and be seen as a visible worshiper. Ask him to teach a series on worship or bring in a worship teacher. Sometimes people just need permission to worship. Try different things to help your people become participators and not spectators. Help them along as they grow to be worshipers of the Lord. It is our job to be the worship leader. Are they following?
The Role of the Senior Pastor As Worship Leader
This section is not lengthy for one reason alone. If your senior pastor is not a visible worshiper, it will be much harder for you to lead worship and for your people to follow your lead. I haven't been able to put my finger on it, but it seems that wherever I have served, how far we went in worship was always dependent on the senior pastor. We could only go as far as he went personally and philosophically, and rightly so. Because the senior pastor usually sets the vision for the church, it is up to him to help communicate that to the people. If he wanted to build a new auditorium, he would probably be the one heading the process and promoting it with his voice and pocket book. If he never mentions it from the pulpit, or supports it financially, more than likely it will never get off the ground. The same holds true for the staff. We all have to be for the building project and support it 100%. If we don't, it may never become what it can be for the kingdom of God.
This same principle holds true in worship. If the senior pastor is not a visible worshiper, it will hinder the spirit and attitude of worship. Sure, the song service may not be hindered, but true worship will. It is vitally important that each member of the staff be active visible worshipers, as well. A staff that is divided will not accomplish all that God has for that church. Are your pastors and staff worshipers? If they aren't, you will have a difficult time teaching worship to your people.
If you have a worshiping staff, then I would venture to say that you have a worshiping church. If you pray for the services as much as you spend time planning the music, I venture to say that you are a worshiping church. What do you do when your pastors, and specifically your senior pastor, are not visible worshipers or supporters of worship? Find a new church……… I'm kidding, of course! But, to a degree, there is a measure of truth in that thought. I have found that the only way to know where he stands, and what he feels about worship, is to sit down with him and ask. Let him share his heart with you on worship and his vision for worship in the church. Then, let him hear yours. Share with him your desire to teach your people true worship, and speak to him from your heart about what worship means to you. It's the first question I ask a pastor when I candidate for a position in a new church. If he doesn't have a heart for true worship in his church, then you will have a rough road a head of you. If worship is your calling, then you may want to consider another position. I am so blessed to be in a church where the senior pastor and staff place a high value on worship, it's place in their lives, and in our church as a body. It has been the greatest experience of my life to see this church grow as a worshiping body, as well as individuals push the boundaries to understand what God wants from their worship.
If you are in a situation where things are less than ideal concerning what we have talking about, be patient and pray. Pray for God to move in your church and your pastor, or pray that God lead you to a position where you can teach worship and have the support you need. Be absolutely sure that it is His will that you move, and not your desire to get out. God may have called you to be the one to help transition your church to be a worshiping church for Him. The church needs men and women who will be in for the long haul and be patient teachers. Are you one?
How Do Your People Perceive You?
You have heard the saying, "You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?” I believe this statement holds true to anybody that is in a leadership position. We know what to say and when to say it, but do we really live it? As a worship leader, I have to constantly ask myself, "Do people see me as a worshiper?" “Do they see me as a man of God who truly desires to worship the Lord and be the servant that He has called me to be?” Sadly, there are many in ministry who haven't grasped the concept of servant-hood because they are out for themselves and what they can get out of life and ministry. Jesus came as a servant and should be the model for each of us in the ministry. People can see right through us, and if we truly care about those we have been called to serve, they will see it. If we are using them for our own gain or needs, they will see that to. How do they perceive us?
The same idea carries over to our ability to lead. Do they see you as a worshiper who wants to help them become worshipers? I believe that the heart of a worshiper will come through in any conversation on the topic. Ask your pastor what he believes about worship and what place it has in his life, and you will be able to tell in minutes if he is a true worshiper. If he's not, then are you going to see his worship as sincere? Will he be able to help teach and lead worship? Ask him what he thinks about tithing, and his eyes will light up and he will speak for hours. I am teasing to an extent, but you can see what direction I’m heading. Live the life of a daily worshiper who loves the people, and you will be a better worship leader and teacher. Spend the time it takes to develop relationships with your people because if they trust you, they will follow you. One of the greatest assets of my ministry has been to be in churches whose main focus was not worship, but trusted me and were willing to let me lead and they in turn would follow.
Let them know that you truly care for them, their growth as a Christian and their level of worship, and you will find the secret to teaching and leading worship! Bathe them in prayer and sit back and watch as they grow. Sometimes I am moved more by seeing others grow as worshipers than I am about my own growth. I get most emotional in my own worship when I see people, who in the past would barely sing, expressing themselves in worship. Worship is the greatest pursuit of my life as I seek to die to self and give of myself daily in worship. It was why I was created and my life's mission is to teach as many as I can this to be true worshipers.
What's In Your Teaching Tool belt?
Any good craftsman needs good tools to do his work. In order for him to create a quality project, he will need quality tools to do the best possible job. The same would apply to any field of work. Some of the best teachers I know were ones that could take ordinary lessons and make masterpieces of them. I had a teacher in college who made Music History a great class by making the class come alive through his tool of story telling. Granted, he did tend to exaggerate a bit, but he made the characters in music history come alive! I loved that class and, not surprisingly, I actually did pretty well in it. As a worship leader, or individual, that wishes to help his/her congregation better understand worship, you need to have a number of tools in your belt to accomplish this daunting task. I hope to offer you some valuable tools that will help as you teach and encourage others to become worshipers.
Tool 1 - Your personality and credibility. How do people view you? Do they see you as a genuine worshiper? Do they respect and trust you? How do they see you outside of church, at work, or in business? If people do not have faith in you and believe that what you are teaching is real, you will have a tough time teaching worship. Work on your image and your relationships with people. This is one of the greatest tools I have used.
Tool 2 – Prayer. Prayer is an often overlooked tool that can be your greatest secret weapon . Pray for your people and God will move their hearts. Worship and worship revival is a God thing and nothing we do outside of prayer will amount to much if you haven’t spent time praying for your worship team and leadership. Pray for your people that they will grow and become worshipers, because God hears and will honor your petition. Keep in mind that some will never grow because of their "heart" condition.
Tool 3 - The Worship Team. No matter how hard I try or want to, I can't do everything. I am only one person and can only reach a certain number of people. Because of my personality, I do not relate to everyone. To have a well-rounded worship team, allow those who have leadership gifts to take over some of the load. Let them teach or lead worship from time to time. Give them the opportunity to be involved in planning and leading on the platform through readings or solos. I have people on our team who communicate worship better than I do. They are great teachers of worship through their own worship. Build a team that is unified and well-rounded and you will have a better tool to teach with.
Tool 4 - Outside Support. What is outside support? Bring in someone who shares the same beliefs and vision for worship to help reinforce what you are teaching. I had been trying to share and teach worship for the first year at my present church and was having little luck communicating at the rate I wanted. I brought in a man who specializes in worship and leading worship to give a seminar and preach on Sunday. He communicated everything I wanted to communicate and did it better than I could ever have! He helped us get where I wanted us to go in one weekend after I had worked a year with little progress. He came in and restated what I had been sharing, but in a different manner and approach. It was a great success for our church and people. Use others outside the church to help communicate your passion and vision. I caution you to check them out first and communicate with them your vision and philosophy to make sure you are both on the same page.
Tool 5 - Media materials. Everyone has a venue of communication that appeals best to their style of learning. For some it may be video, a book, audio tapes, and some prefer the Cliff Note version. You need each of these in your tool box. If you can't find it, develop it. Create audio tapes for your people to listen to on their way to work. If you can't find a video that helps teach worship, create one. There is much written material on the market in the form of books and studies. Whatever means works for your people, use it. If we rely solely on one media tool to help our people, we will fall short and miss many in the process. You will find that there are those in your church and on your worship team that have gifts in writing or media that can be of great help as you develop your own materials for your people.
Where Are You and Where Are They?
If you are in a church serving on staff or are a worship team member, then you will have no problem identifying the many different levels of participation in worship. You will have those who jump up and down, those who will sit down, and those that cross their arms and do nothing. Some will be more knowledgeable at worship than you and some less. For the most part, those in leadership will be the ones who have a good understanding of worship and are seen as the leadership in that area of ministry. We are the ones who mainly lead and teach by what we do and how we worship.
For most of us, we tend to fall in the category of being well ahead of our people in our desires and expressions of worship. There are many worship leaders who leave church each week frustrated because worship did not happen for them or their people. They may have had a great song service, but the worship seemed lacking at best. These helps are for those who fall into this category. Blessings to the churches that are right on and are true worshipers, but for those who are struggling, you have some decisions to make. Where are you? Do you know where you are in your personal worship? Do you know where you want to go? Do you know where your people are? It is important to answer these questions before we can address the situation.
I know where I am and where I would like to go in worship. My church is not there yet, and because I am an impatient person in most things, you can see how it would be difficult at times to wait on things and people to jump right in! The fact remains that most people understand very little about worship and the place it has in our lives. I have two choices I can make: I can either stay here and teach them to become worshipers, or I can leave and find a place where they already have a good understanding and help them grow even further. That is a choice we all have to make. It's like every other facet of our Christian walk, we don't become great worshipers overnight. Once you know where your people are, you can better help them move towards being real worshipers. Be patient with them as they grow and continue to gently push them.
True worship is a humble act that causes us to forget self and focus on God. The Bible instructs us to lift our hands to the Lord. If you have never done this, it may feel awkward at first. It may even feel uncomfortable because someone may be watching you. The reality is that God desires it of us and we need to do it. Privately or corporately, we need to be obedient to what He requires of us. In days of old when a King entered the room people would rise; and when you approached the king, you would bow on one knee before him. How much more deserving is the King of Kings and Savior of your soul? Push people out of their comfort zones and into true worship. It will be worth the wait when you see people responding to God in worship. It is an awesome thing.
No matter where your people are at……. they can go further. Never let them get complacent in their worship by continually challenging them to grow and become life worshipers. The two greatest things I have experienced are witnessing people come to Christ and then learning to worship God in a manner that is pleasing to him.
What Are You Doing Outside The Worship Times?
As a Christian I find it very difficult to get all my spiritual food on one Sunday morning service each week. If I relied on one forty-minute message a week to grow and be all that God would have me be, I would more than likely fall far short! There is no way a pastor can help me get there once a week with forty minutes of food. How much truer is this of worship? We don't get the pulpit for forty minutes a week to teach worship. Sometimes we have thirty minutes, and during that time we are supposed to be worshiping as well. We need more venues and times to teach our people worship. What can we do to teach our people worship outside of our weekly services? What resources are available to educate our people? Let's look at a few ways we can offer studies or seminars to help our people grow.
After years of leading and teaching worship in the churches I have served, I decided to do something totally revolutionary. I brought in someone who knew more about worship than I did. What a concept! I am kidding, of course, but it's something that we don't always think about. To be honest, it is a little humbling because we don't want our people thinking that we don't know everything there is to know about worship. I brought in a guy who was right on target with what I was trying to teach our people, and it helped. He came in for a training session with our worship leadership, and then preached to our people on Sunday morning. It was a huge win for the worship ministry. He was able to say everything I had been saying all along, the difference being that he brought a different style to his communication. Our people are now one step further along than before he came.
Secondly, I decided to write a study guide for our people that would help them understand true biblical worship, and also help them become better worshipers. It has been a great tool for those who have gone through it, but not everyone will take the time to complete the study. We are just finishing a CD to go along with our philosophy of worship for our people. It's more than just a worship CD, because it helps communicate what worship is as well. This will be a great tool for us as we continue to seek out new ways to enable others to learn more about worship. We are committed to developing a worship tool from every media venue to aid us in our efforts to teach worship. Is your pastor willing to preach a series on worship? If he is, this can be one of your best tools because if your pastor is behind your vision for worship, the people will follow much quicker and easier. If your pastor is not behind it, you may be in for a very long haul. Be creative in how you teach worship. Use the gifts of your people to help in the efforts of communicating. We have a woman in our church who is a great writer and has developed a devotional for worship. It is an awesome tool to help others learn about worship.
Our hearts desire is that everyone will at least have the opportunity to learn more about worship and become better worshipers. We will continue to seek out new ways to help in this process. It would be most difficult to use only the short time we have each week to help our people along in this wonderful experience of worship. Continue to teach and then watch as they grow. It may be slow, but with God's help and moving, it will come. Pray, pray, pray.
Worship Team - Leaders or Performers?
If you have been in the ministry for a while you know that the Arts Department has a tendency to draw people of all colors and expressions. We are a bit different because, for the most part, our people are on the creative side. We see things in a different light and approach things in different ways. Because we tend to draw in people who have creative backgrounds and talents in the arts, there is a strong tendency for us to want to use our gifts to help fulfill a need within us. We have all come across people who want to get up and "sing for the Lord" in our "worship times.” We also have some very gifted people who serve on the worship team and are a part of our worship services. I would like to challenge you with a thought concerning those we have in places of leadership in our worship ministries.
Questions to look at are……………..
What is their place in the service? What motives do they have for serving? Are they called or awed? If you do not understand or believe that those God calls to a ministry He equips to do that ministry, then you will probably disagree with what will be said from here on out.
I believe with all my heart that God called me to the specific ministry of worship - more specifically - teaching and leading worship. I also believe that God has gifted me to do what He has called me to do. He has equipped me through experience and education, and has given me a certain level of natural talent. He has also given me a great desire to use these gifts in ministry. One thing God has not gifted me to do is preach, even though I would love to be able to! To be able to communicate the gospel in such a way that people would respond to it and lives would be changed, is something that I long to do. You know what? It's not going to happen (at least not at this point in my life). I could force it and I even have the opportunity to do it; but, it would be terrible and believe me when I say that you would get very little out of it if you stayed awake long enough! No matter how much I would love to preach, God has not gifted me in that area. I have no experience or education in the area and it is best for all that I don't do it.
Now, to bring it a bit closer to home. We all have people who want to "sing" or "act" or “play their instruments” in our services. You more than likely have come across people who have a great desire to be a part of the worship team. What is the right thing to do? Let them participate because they have a desire to be a part? Should anyone who has a desire to sing to the Lord or sing a song for the Lord get up and do it in our services? I know that most of us feel that the answer to most of these questions is no. If God has called you to be a part of a specific ministry then He will equip you to do that ministry. We are in a difficult area of ministry because of our highly visibility and immediate gratification. Let's face it, a nursery worker could work for forty years before she/he is recognized for her/his service. We get it every week
To those who have evident gifts in the area of music and the arts, and are called to the ministry of the local church, I believe that we need to use them if they show a heart of community and are serving with the right motives. The church needs good talent and has lacked in this area for years. We have operated under the false notion that if they have a heart to minister through music that they should be able to do it. Not realizing that this has hurt the cause more than helped it. I encourage you to hold tough to this and stand firm in your philosophy to use only those who are clearly gifted to serve in the area of music and the arts.
Let's look a bit further to the specific area of worship. I believe that this ministry requires a step further in its qualification to be a part of. There are many talented people serving on worship teams across our country and the world, and they have incredible gifts in music and the arts as well as the natural instinct to use them in worship. After all, they are gifted in music and called to ministry. But, are they called to worship? Are they worshipers? Do they help lead worship? What "qualifies" someone to be a part of a worship team or a part of a worship ministry?
The ministry of worship and the ministry of music are two different things. For the most part, they are the same in presentation. However, the outcome is what makes them different. Worship and leading worship is a specific gift apart from music. Music is only the tool to help facilitate worship. I require of all our worship people to first be worshipers, and then musicians. You may come back with "but the music will suffer!” I disagree. I still feel that God requires those who lead to be gifted and called. He will gift those He has called to this ministry. It is easy to reason things out by using gifted musicians to lead worship, but the outcome will not be everything that God would have. You will see a difference in your worship participation, because people tend to see through performance as compared to true worship. If your teams are not worshipers, they will stifle the spirit of corporate worship. You may still achieve worship, but it will not be the same. Pray that God will send you gifted worshipers. He will be faithful if you will be patient and faithful to this standard. Let me say also, that we all have different levels of needs and standards. If we all desire and set the standard to have a Maranatha! praise band and vocals, we may be in for a disappointing journey. As the worship leader you have to set a reasonable level of musicianship that is in your congregation. Each church will have a different level, and some will be higher than others. Once you get your team together, I encourage you to strive to improve and grow as worshipers and musicians. Continue to set goals that are attainable and lead your people to be the best with the gifts God has given them.
Let's rap this up. If you desire to have great worship in your churches, then you will need to have the right leadership in place. This is easier said than done, I know, but you will be better off in the long run for it. Don't allow those who clearly have no gifts in the arts to be deceived into thinking they do. Help them discover their true gifts and callings and lead them in that direction. Part of my job is helping people discover their gifts and callings and help place them in ministry. If we will help train our people in the philosophy of serving where their gifts and callings are, then we will have churches that are truly balanced in ministry. We will have healthy churches and great ministries. We will have great worship if our teams are filled with called and gifted worshipers and leaders.
Is Your Team On The Same Page As You?
There are few things more frustrating than having people in a group who are not on the same page as the rest of the group. They feel that they know where the group should be going, and seem to be working against the goal of the leadership and group as a whole. In some cases it is clearly a conflict of vision and a lack of understanding of the role of the worship leader. There are those amongst us who feel they should be the leader and thus a struggle for control or power commences. In other cases it is clearly a lack of communication. As the worship leader, have I clearly communicated the vision and direction of the ministry to my team? Do they understand where we are going in the area of worship and music? Do they have clear direction of the goals for the ministry of worship? Do they know where the church is headed as a whole and how the worship is a part of the vision? Do they know what's expected of them and what they can expect from you?
The first step in leading is to communicate to the people where you wish to lead them. It is difficult for me to follow when I don't know where I am going. Some may be able to follow out of trust or respect for the leader; but, I need to see the vision and agree with it before I get too excited about it. My pastor is very good about casting vision and keeping it before the people. We can get on board easier and be more excited about the process when we clearly see the goals ahead and have a clear plan to get there. Once the vision is cast and the goals put in place, then your team members can decide if they wish to be a part, or if they would rather find another area that best suits their ministry calling and gifting.
I feel that most of the people involved in the worship and arts ministry at my church understand me, as well as the vision I have for the ministry. I believe that they are involved because they like where we are going and have caught and bought into the vision. I am a terrible communicator, but have tried to make it a point to share with the worship team members where we are going and what we plan to do to get there on a regular basis. We put out a newsletter each quarter that restates the high priority focuses for the year and recasts the vision for the ministry. Keeping the vision in front helps keep them focused and hopefully energized about what they are involved in.
If we will work on communicating what we are trying to accomplish, share with the team your heart for ministry and worship, constantly share the vision, and get to know them as friends, there will be little time left for misunderstandings and conflicts about the direction we are heading in ministry and worship. Keep in mind that there will always be people who don't agree with your leadership style or vision. That is when it is the appropriate time to have a heart to heart about whether they need to continue in this particular ministry. Part of being a good leader requires dealing with conflict head on. The ministry will better off for it in the long run and your life will be much happier.
Keep striving to be all that God has called you to be. Don't be afraid to make tough decisions, because there is nothing worse than being in a frustrating situation where you cannot be a leader because of differing opinions and goals. Get the support of the pastor and staff and lead the way God has called you to lead.
It's Not the Art, But the Heart
Recently I read a good book that was originally written in the 1980's. It was titled "Worship - Rediscovering the Missing Jewel.” I thought the book might be a bit outdated because it was written back when the new worship movement was just beginning, but I picked up several jewels that I want to share with you. If you are looking for a good book on worship I recommend this book.
What is the single most important ingredient needed to experience great worship? Some may say listening to great music, an awesome voice, or listening to one of the great classics. The responses would be as many as those responding. Have you ever been in a church where the music was great and yet the worship seemed lacking? What is it that makes for an awesome worship experience? I heard a worship leader once say that music was secondary in worship. He said that he would rather have someone with a heart of worship than someone who was talented in his band or on the vocal team. My response was, NO WAY!! I went to college to study music and do the best I can for the Lord. What's he talking about? I have been in churches where the musicians and vocals were less than tolerable for the ear, and I could not worship with all the distractions of missed notes and off-tune singing. It was a frustrating experience to say the least. Did I miss out because of the art? I recall another instance where I was in a very talented church where the musicians were oozed quality and the music was right on. I found myself leaving that situation impressed but missing out on the worship. The same could be said of every situation in between when we look at it from an art view.
I love the phrase taken from the book mentioned above - "It's not the art, but the heart". How true this is. Some churches are notorious for trying to be super creative in their worship. Always attempting to do different things each week to spice up the services, and utilizing every means available to "wow" the people.
Since true worship is about God and not about us, what is it that He desires? Does He desire a song and dance? He does desire our best, but what is it that He wants more than anything? I believe it's our hearts, our love, our commitment, and our faithfulness to Him. I don't believe that God is impressed with our big programs that we put together for our people. I believe that He is moved by one of His children coming before Him with a broken heart as He pours out his heart in thankfulness for what God has done in his life. I believe God is moved when one of His children sings to the top of his lungs in praise to the only God who is worthy of praise. God is moved by our praise and worship, and not by our fancy programs to impress man.
When the people of our church fail to participate in worship, I believe it's because of two things. One, they don't know what to do because they have very little understanding on this thing called worship. Secondly, their hearts are not ready, or prepared, to experience worship because they have come straight from home where they have been fighting with the kids and their spouse all morning. They run around getting the kids settled in Sunday School and usually arrive late to worship. They sit down and before they can catch their breath the music portion is over and their opportunity to participate is gone. The reality is that some people don't see the importance of worshiping God in our daily lives. They do worship, but they haven't experienced the joy of worshiping the Father yet.
I believe that both of these obstacles need attention. If we will communicate from the pulpit and in writing on a consistent basis to our people, they will begin to grow. If we model it before them each week, those who want to learn will grow. If we will encourage them to express their worship on a daily basis, their corporate experience will be awesome. As leaders we are teachers and need to help people understand what worship is. Remember! This is like any other area of growth for a Christian, it will take time.
Focus on the hearts of the people and a little less on the art, and worship will come. May our worship become what it should be and not what we have made it. Let us move away from wowing our people and help them to learn to wow the Lord with their hearts in worship, and we will see an explosion in worship with God's hand moving like never before. Press on towards the mark that He has called you complete for His Glory!
There Is Hope for Every Church
Finally, there is hope for every church. No matter what the background or makeup of your church body, they can become a worshiping church. We are all on a spiritual journey, but we are all not at the same place in our Christian walk. We don't pray the same, study the Bible the same, or worship the same. The important thing is that we all continue to grow in our walk with the Lord. We need to pray more, read and study more, and share Christ with our lost friends and neighbors more. The most important pursuit we can work on is our relationship with the Father.
I challenge you that, if you are in a church that is not a visible worshiping church, you hang tough and teach them. Too many times we want the easy road. Though some of us are not called to teach, it must be a part of our ministry. You show me a person who has been in a leadership position for a number of years, and I'll show you a person that has impacted those around him. If we keep after the goal of teaching our people to worship through our example and life, they will learn to grow as worshipers.
I have a good friend that I spend a lot of time with. Before I met him he used to come thirty minutes late to every service. He purposely avoided the "music" portion of the worship service. It wasn't that he didn't like the music, but he didn't understand worship. He thought of it as merely a music service. Through conversation, sharing my heart, and allowing him to see what worship is really like, he has become one of the most awesome worshipers in our church. He understands what worship is and has become a true worshiper. What an exciting journey it has been to see him grow to where he is now! There are times now when he will stay for both services just to worship.
This same story could be shared again and again of other individuals who have grown in their understanding of worship and its place in the life of the Christian. Each week it delights me no end to see the number of people who are growing in their worship. What was once a music service has now become a worship service. I am not saying that everyone in the church is a worshiper, but that many have stepped out because of the example and lifestyle of those who lead worship from week to week. God is moving here and wants to move where you are.
To some it may seem as though your church will never get there. You may feel that they will never get to the point where you are or where you would like them to be. That's all right. Worship is a God thing and not a man thing. It's all about God. When He decides to bring a worship revival to your church, it will be in His timing and not yours.
There are some exciting days ahead for the church. Worship is exploding across the country and the world. People are coming to Christ through worship services. Young men and women are hungry for a fresh touch from God. Many are receiving it at college worship revivals. Keep after it and do not get weary, because the Lord has called you to the place you where you are at for a reason. Make sure you are there for the right reasons, and when you leave make sure they are for the right reasons. Worship is a slow learning process, as are a host of other spiritual disciplines. Be careful not to judge the church’s worship temperature with the wrong thermometer. Many worship leaders look to the "model" churches as a guide on how the people are to worship. Don't fall into that trap, but let your people worship God in their own ways and keep from manipulating them into a specific trend. The results will be huge for both you and the church when you become a worshiping church of the living God together.
By: Gordon MacDonald
If the world makes it through another century, it is likely that church historians will look back upon our time and suggest that we were passing through a time of reformation in the pursuit of worship. And this should not surprise us, for in a larger world bent on the sensational and the technological, the human spirit inevitably begins to cry out for a deeper sense of connection with the Source of all life.
And what will be said of this reformation in worship? That this was a time when the content and style of worship music changed. That this was a time when the purpose and method of preaching was altered. That this was a time when worshippers took into account that worship was focused on God and not the advancements of self-interest. And, finally, that this was a time when worship was understood as a pathway for drawing the unchurched in the direction of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The truth is that 21st century people yearn to be exposed to the glory of the everlasting God. They seek an experience of grace in which there is assurance of forgiveness and realignment with Jesus Christ. They desire prayer which is substantial, preaching which calls them to higher levels of thought and activity, and music which enlivens the soul. In worship there is an expectation of a divine encounter in which one will recover freshness of spirit, clarity of truth and guidance, and energizing hope.
When the Christ-follower gathers with the congregation, he/she comes in from a tough world of work, study and even leisure. Some would-be worshippers are likely to bring fatigue, disillusionment, regret, anger, and deep sadness with them. At the same time others will bear the rush of success, accomplishment, and joyful mood. The rest will be somewhere between these two extremes.
The purpose of the church when it worships is to focus on God—not on ourselves whether it be our quest for solutions or sensation—to rehearse what we know about Him, what He has said to us, and what He has done in the past and is doing in the present and (it must be added) promises to do in the future. One might dare to suggest that worship and its eucharistic elements of events such as The Lord’s Supper and Baptism are moments of supreme intimacy when the Bride (the church) celebrates her remarkable union with the Groom (Christ himself). No one should underestimate the power of the words: “where two or three are there together, I (Christ) am in the midst of them…”
After visiting churches in many parts of the world, author Philip Yancey asked, “Why do so few Christians appear to be enjoying themselves in their worship?” The question is worth our attention. For while worship is considered to be a form of work (liturgia=work), it was always intended to be the highest form of work, an exhilarating, renewing form of labor that leaves people filled, not depleted, renewed, not more deeply trapped in dissatisfaction, more internally certain, not confused.
Worship comes in a thousand forms. No one way suits all. We are drawn in our expressions of exaltation and celebration by our cultural backgrounds, our personal structure of temperament, our progress in the spiritual journey. But while we cannot set forth rigid patterns of worship, we can make some statements about what genuine worship should accomplish:
- Worship should draw a sharp contrast between the kingdom of this world and the kingdom of heaven.
- Worship should focus on the living God and His revelation of Himself as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
- Worship should bring to our consciousness the acts and the character of God.
- Worship should call the worshipper to repentance—a confession of sinfulness in contrast to God’s righteousness and a resulting sense of forgiveness and restoration.
- Worship should cause the worshipper to inventory his/her benefits in life and give thanks.
- Worship should provide a chance for one to see his/her work in the perspective of the kingdom and give from the profits of labor.
- Worship should make the worshipper feel prayed for in terms of personal needs.
- Worship should refine the perspective of people so that they see and pray for world events in light of the Kingdom purposes of God.
- Worship should offer encouragement and insight from the preached Word.
- Worship should send people back into the “streets” of the world with a renewed sense of energy, confidence and purpose.
How would one know that a church, over the long haul, is achieving this number one purpose of “magnifying” or worshipping God? Some possible answers. It would be a church whose people have learned the unusual ability to be reverent when God is said to be especially present among his people in the worship event. It would be a church whose people have come to regard the time of worship as the highest point in the week and who have realized that this is an hour that one cannot afford to miss. It would be a church in which people have learned the spiritual art of thankfulness, the humility of sorrowful confession of sin, and the inestimable joy of giving. It would be a church where there is an appreciation of the wise mixture of the new and old forms of adoring God with creed, ancient hymn, liturgical prayer joined together with contemporary song, provocative drama, and solemn silence.
How would one know on any given Sunday that a church had genuinely worshipped? Again, some possible answers. People who seemed tired when they came would leave with the unmistakable sign of excitement on their faces and in their step. People who came with regret about issues and experiences of the past week would leave reminded that they are forgiven and given new starts. People who came greatly burdened with the cares of life would leave feeling confident that they had been prayed for and that God had heard. People who came confused and discouraged about the future would leave with the assurance that God has spoken into them with certainty. People who came feeling lonely and diminished would leave feeling that they were part of a divine family. And people who came excoriating themselves because they were so naïve about faith would leave confident that they had learned something substantial about God that would make a difference in the way they would choose to live life.
Gordon MacDonald is the former Senior Pastor of Grace Chapel in Lexington, MA, and author of numerous books including, Ordering Your Private World.
More Articles …
- A Call for Mentors
- Worship Leadership
- Defining Worship
- How To Lead A Worship Team
- Expressions of Worship
- Learning to Wait
- Definition of a Worship Leader
- Thoughts on Worship Leading
- A Biblical Philosophy of Worship
- Steps To Equip Leaders To Equip A Team - (which reproduces itself)
- 24 x 7 Worship
- Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs
- Foundations for Worship Ministry - Choosing The Right Tools
- Prayer - The Foundation Of Worship Ministry
- Evaluating Songs for Corporate Worship
- Questions for Evaluating Corporate Worship
- Other Worship Articles
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