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Worship Leading

Posted on: September 18, 2007

I guess it must be around a year and a half since I first led worship, it was at Park Road Baptist Church in Peterborough and I didn’t really know what to do, I had mental pictures of Matt Redman or Tim Hughes in action, and didn’t think I matched up to that. Here I am a year and a half on and still I don’t think I’m much of a Tim Hughes, however I think I am beginning to grasp what it means to lead worship but at the same time wrestling with various things. This is a blog on worship leading.

Firstly leading worship can mean very different things from church to church, some it means having a set of songs, deciding when to repeat chorus’, build up again etc, in others it might just mean playing a set of songs given to you, I daresay that in others it might not even mean singing!

The Audience Of One
I’ve been to churches and witness idolatry. By this I mean a church where the band appears to be performing, where they stage-dive, leap around and generally look like muppets, and it seems to come across like the congregation are an audience, on the other side of the spectrum I’ve been to churches where the band are a bunch of miserable old people (or just miserable people), not a smile to be seen for miles, often they look like they are in pain.

The fact remains that when we lead worship, play in a band or are even just in a congregation our worship should be aimed at one person and that is Jesus. We should play like Jesus is stood in front of us, sing like he is in front of us, we should be worshipping with all we’ve got and I admit that sometimes that can look like performing but I think we often forget the power of the words we’re singing, when we sing ‘Jesus, my everything, be my everything’ for example do we actually think what it means to sing that, do we actually realise that by Jesus being our everything we are dying to ourselves, accepting that we may go through suffering because of it?

There’s a fine line between giving it everything for Jesus and getting caught up in performing and I don’t know where that line is, I guess it depends on how the congregation see the band, for example when a band is the background on the screen which the words are displayed doesn’t that distract from Jesus? I personally find it difficult when that happens not to try and suss out the make of guitar the leader is using, or what the fills are that the drummer does are. I find myself focusing on the band by mistake.

So the first key to worship leading is remembering that there is an audience of one and that is Jesus, so no matter how much the congregation do or don’t get ‘into the worship’ you are still worshipping Jesus.

Leading The Songs

Of course it’s easy if you’re busy singing along to the audience of one to forget that you are meant to be leading, after all the purpose of a worship leader is to lead a congregation in worship so whilst it’s important to make sure you are worshipping through it I think it’s important to remember that you need to listen to God’s spirit and where he wants to lead a song, it might turn out that the 10 chorus repeats and 2 breakdowns you had planned aren’t where God is leading the worship. Being open to God’s spirit and where it is leading you as a worship leader is important.

To upset or to not upset?
People in churches get upset easily, whether it’s because their pew was touched by someone else or whether they didn’t know any of the songs. In fact it’s one of the most ridiculous things about churches, we have a group of people who claim to have found new life in Jesus Christ yet instead of celebrating that, instead of looking at the words to the new song and embracing the power of them and echoing them to God through singing they grumble. Jesus Christ is good news, we should go to church to celebrate good news! Even if we’ve had a rubbish week we should still go to church to celebrate Jesus Christ, the songs I relate the most to are the ones that cry out to God in times of trouble, a while ago I wrote some lyrics that never found music but part of them was ‘I want the bad times, and the dark times, Just so I have to put my trust in you, I want the sad times and the broken times, then my heart will cry out to you‘. I sincerely believe that it’s in the dark times when we cling onto God that we develop the most in our faith, it’s easy to worship a God when everything is good but when things get crap how easy is it to say to God ‘you are good’. It takes faith to cry out to God in times of trouble singing ‘you are good’

But back to my point, how open should we be to the congregations needs when we lead worship? I think the answer to that is ‘fairly’, personally I find it difficult to worship to an organ, however I am aware that others don’t and that others find a band difficult to worship to, trying to find a balance is a good idea, afterall in Romans Paul talks about trying to not make others fall and although someone finding it difficult to worship isn’t exactly a fall it makes them find things that much more difficult.

My long rambling blog hasn’t gone into very new territory, it has got me thinking more about lament (lament = crappyness) and how perhaps we should have more of it, but I hope my ponderings on worship leading help your thinking, obviously there’s a lot more I could write but this blog is already huge, perhaps I’ll start a series on worship leading…maybe!