Over the past 12 months or so I have seen quite a lot of discussion over two popular worship songs and their content. I’m not writing this post to add to that specific discussion, as many people with far more wisdom than myself have weighed in on the subject, I’m writing this because within that discussion I feel that I’ve seen an alarming number of responses that read something like this:
“So what? Why does it matter if the songwriter said ______? It doesn’t hurt anyone and it’s a beautiful song.”
So why does it matter? It matters because we, as worship leaders, are responsible for shepherding our people. This isn’t just an issue with songs that have questionable lyrics. I won’t name specifics, but there are many popular worship songs I’ve encountered where I’m not really sure what they’re saying. Sure, they don’t say anything bad, but that’s because they really don’t say much of anything. As Ephesians 4 says, we as leaders have been called by Christ “...to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph 4:12-13 NIV). When it comes to the songs we sing this is an enormous responsibility that needs more response than a simple ‘so what?'
Teaching Pastors have to spend hours, and even days, every week pouring over commentaries and bible translations as they craft a sermon. Worship Pastors often can create their contribution to the service within just a few minutes, and that can be a blessing and a curse. A blessing in that it allows us more time during the week for other tasks like prepping song slides, practicing our instrument, or meeting with volunteers. The potential curse comes when we gloss over the words we’re singing without realizing what we’re singing.
We live in one of the strongest eras of songwriting for the church; countless new songs are being written, recorded, and released every year, and yet we often fall into the temptation of simply choosing what’s on the radio because it has the best chance of being popular with our congregation (I mean, it is on the radio right?), but a songs popularity does not equal a songs worth for the church. Now, this is not to say we should throw out all modern worship songs, or that all songs need to have a certain word count. A song can be new and simple and yet still contain an important truth, or it can be wordy and poetic but never really take you anywhere.
"A songs popularity does not equal a songs worth for the church."
We need to be clear on what a song is saying, because if we’re not clear about it our congregation probably won’t be either. In speaking on preaching, Dr. Howard Hendricks of Dallas Theological Seminary once stated “If its a mist in the pulpit, it'll be a fog in the pews." and I firmly believe the same applies to our singing. So how can we approach this in a biblical manner? When I’m selecting new songs for my church to sing there are 3 questions that I ask myself as I listen to and consider them. While it’s not a perfect gauge for which songs my church will ultimately connect with and sing back to the Lord, it does help provide a series of safety nets to weed out some songs that otherwise might sneak in on a catchy guitar part or memorable chorus along.
Is This True?
This is always the first question I ask when considering a song for my church. When Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well He gave two requirements for biblical worship; it must be done in spirit and it must be done in truth (John 4:24). Why is this so important? Because if we lead our congregation to declare something about God that is not true then we are leading them into idolatry. If I wrote a song that was beautiful musically and lyrically but it said something like ‘Father, thank You for dying on the cross’ or ‘Jesus You sinned so that I would sin no more’ it should be unusable within a church because of those errors. Those words do not worship the God of scripture in truth, which means they are worship for a false god.
"If we lead our congregation to declare something about God that is not true then we are leading them into idolatry."
Every word of every song we put in the mouths of our people should be tied to scripture; it doesn’t need to be word-for-word verbatim, but if we view biblical content as an ocean, we should be at LEAST up to our knees in it (if not up to our neck or even over our head). Merely dipping a toe in the water of biblical wording or imagery doesn’t do enough to cover poor songwriting choices where truth was compromised for the sake of artistic expression. This leads me to my second question.
*For further consideration: I’ve recently started taking songs that are already in our church catalog and have begun searching for the scriptures that reinforce what the song is saying. There have even been Sundays where I’ve displayed the references next to the lines of the song as we sing them to remind my church family ‘Hey! What we’re singing here isn’t just poetry, it’s God’s truth!’ This has been a tremendous blessing for myself as I prepare, and also for many members of my church as we sing. Take some time to do this for some of your songs on a Sunday morning, I promise it will be worth the time!
Is This Clear?
A few years ago a conversation (much like the one I mentioned at the start of this post) popped up around another song and whether we should sing a specific lyric. Some were caught off guard by this unforeseen metaphor, and perhaps considered it to be sloppy while others didn’t see anything wrong with it at all.
In this case of this song I don’t think the issue was whether it was true, but whether it was clear. As artists we have a strong desire to do things differently; to say something in a way it hasn’t been said before, to show something in a way no one has ever seen it before. This desire is not inherently wrong, and I believe that God has placed this desire in us to create because He Himself is a creator. However, we cannot let fulfilling this desire become the end-all be-all when it comes to creating for the church. In the battle between biblical truth and artistic expression biblical truth should win every single time.
"In the battle between biblical truth and artistic expression biblical truth should win every time."
Now, to be fair this metaphor isn’t perfect because the author of the song has stated previously that when he wrote it he did not have corporate worship in mind, and because of this he used metaphors that made sense within his specific culture (which many people immediately understood and latched onto the lyrics). But it does serve as a reminder that as we choose songs for our church we need to be aware of what could ultimately lead to confusion or distracted from the overarching message of the song, and ultimately from worshipping God.
There is nothing we can do to make someone worship, but there are many things we do that can keep someone from worshiping. Our goal as worship leaders is to remove as many of these distractions as we can, which includes unclear lyrics. There is another distraction (though not as serious as false lyrics or unclear lyrics) but I always try to address it when I ask my final question of a new song.
*For further consideration: Sometimes there may be one or two lines that aren’t as clear as the rest of the song. If you think the rest of the song is strong enough in biblical truth that you want to use it, take some time to set up the song when you teach it; talk through the line with your people, show them where it comes from in scripture, or even put a footnote on the slide with the lyric in question. If it requires a lengthy explanation that you aren’t able to do every time then maybe the song is better served as a one-time special element for your church. We aren’t just song leaders, we’re teachers who should desire to help our church body think clearly and truthfully about what we’re singing and the One we’re singing to.
"We aren't just song leaders, we're teachers who should desire to our help our church body think clearly and truthfully about what we're singing and the one we're singing to."
Is This Singable?
*Of the three questions this one has the most variability within your context and people. No one should know or understand more about your congregations context and people than you do, so please take my thoughts through the filter of your church culture.*
There is a common phenomenon that fascinates me within our society. People from many different walks of life, backgrounds, careers, all come together to watch their favorite band or artist and sing along with the songs at the top of their lungs with no regard for what anyone around them may think. Yet, many of those same people will file into the rows of seats at church and barely mumble through the words of the songs on a Sunday morning at church. There are a lot of factors that can play into this, such song familiarity, loudness of the music, sometimes alcohol (and not the communion type). I’ve addressed some of these issues in another blog post so I won’t go more into details about those. However, I do want to address the important of making sure we’re choosing songs that are singable for the congregation. When I say ‘singable’ that means different things to different people, but my main focus is on 2 specific areas:
*For further consideration: Sometimes a songs range can be fixed by removing the octave jump that’s so popular in modern worship songs. If you’re worried about the song losing some of its ‘power’ then ask yourself this question; "is the song powerful because of the message, or the dynamics?" If the dynamics carry the song, chances are the message isn’t that strong to begin with and you can find another song that says the same thing in a better way.
What we sing matters. The way we say what we’re saying matters. Yes, God knows our hearts. Yes, our imperfect offerings of worship are perfected by the atoning work of Jesus Christ. However, just as we should not continue to sin so that grace may about (Romans 6:1), we also should not continue to act out of ignorance to what God has called us to do. James 3:1 warns us that those "...who teach will be judged with greater strictness", and if you are in a position of leading worship then you are a teacher of your congregation. Your responsibility in leading worship is a great joy, but it should never be taken lightly. Just as Jesus called Peter to feed his sheep, we too are responsible for the spiritual feeding of the church through song. Let’s make sure we’re giving them something healthy to chew on.
Contributor / Brad Spead
Brad Spead is the Pastor of Worship Arts at Bridge Bible Church in Norton Shores, MI.
As with any job or task in life, there are often moments where you think, “I wish someone had told me about this before I started," and worship leading is no different. Even as a young worship leader, I’ve already seen and experienced so many things that have shaped me and my ministry that no one ever told (or in some cases, warned) me about. When you encounter these things they will always point you in one of two directions; further towards your goal, or further away from it. They will either help you grow, or leave you saying "I didn’t sign up for this."
These are the moments you rarely hear about from the platform, whether at a camp, during a service, or attending a worship night, but they’re the moments that aspiring worship leaders need to be aware of. While the age of the internet and social media has opened so many positive doors for worship leaders, it has also created a glossy, larger than life image of what a worship leader is. It shows only the highlights and leaves out the struggles. It shows you the latest debut album, but not the 20 years of ministry-building to bring the church to that place. It shows you the bright lights and big stages but doesn’t show the hard work and labor leading into it. So I wanted to write this letter, speaking from my own experience as well as words of wisdom that have been spoken into my life by men who are much farther down the road than me and who cared enough to look back and help show the path for those who are following.
So if you’re reading this and you’re hoping to become a worship leader someday, or have already started, I’m going to present three questions for you to ask yourself that I hope you will dwell on and ponder, and I pray that the answers you find will be beneficial in your journey.
1. Are You Called to Lead, or Called to Pastor?
I could spend an entire blog post discussing the nuances of titles (worship leader, worship pastor, song leader, etc,), but while the responsibilities of these titles are often the same, the clarification is important. If you say that you feel called to be a worship leader, what do you think of first? Being on stage? Writing and leading original songs? Getting a record deal and going on tour? Or does your mind go to praying with your volunteers? Visiting a sick church member in the hospital? Having the hard conversations of confronting sin people's lives? Because unless you’re stepping into a megachurch that only wants someone to lead the songs and look pretty on stage (and yes, sadly there are churches that don’t look for more than that), you will be responsible for shepherding your church in some way, shape, or form.
In an average week I’ll spend between 40 and 50 hours working. We currently only have one service on Sundays that lasts an hour and 15 minutes, and of that service we’ll have 20-30 minutes of singing where I’m on stage leading. That means that less than 1% of my work week is spent on stage in front of the congregation. The rest of my time is spent either directly or indirectly shepherding my volunteers and my church through providing resources, planning and preparing services, making chord charts, troubleshooting tech in the Worship Center, meeting for lunches and coffee, and leading a small group in my home. Many of these tasks were things I had never been warned about or prepared for, but I enjoy doing them now because I see the fruit that comes from shepherding and loving my church in this way. I do enjoy that <1%, but it’s not what drives me to do my job well. In John 21 when Jesus is asking Peter if he loves Him, the command that follows is to "feed my sheep." If you desire to be a worship leader but do not desire to be a pastor then perhaps your desire is simply to be on stage. Which leads me to my next question for you to consider...
"If you desire to be a worship leader but do not desire to be a pastor then perhaps your desire is simply to be on stage."
2. Do You Love to Worship, or Do You Love the Stage?
Biblical worship is not confined within the 4 walls of a church building, it does not require lights and in-ear monitors, synths and large pedalboards. Those can all be helpful (or harmful) to creating an environment conducive to worshipping, but they do not make or break a time of worship. S,o when you say "I love to worship," does that statement come with caveats? Do you love to worship just as much by yourself or with a small group of people and an acoustic guitar? Or do you find that your love for worship is only felt when you’re standing in front of people on stage? A love for true worship will create a deep longing in your heart for others to see more of Jesus. A love for the stage will create a deep longing for others to see more of you (in the immortal words of famed news anchor Ron Burgundy; "Hey everyone! Come see how good I look!").
"A love for true worship will create a deep longing in your heart for others to see more of Jesus. A love for the stage will create a deep longing for others to see more of you."
As worship leaders we are called to do just that; lead. And the funny thing about leading in any aspect of life is that you can only lead someone where you have been before. Whether it’s hiking a mountain trail you’ve been down dozens of times or simply walking through the snow to create footprints for your children to step into after you, true leadership comes from having been there before. So if we are to point people to the glory of the gospel from the stage on a Sunday, we can’t do that with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength unless we have been gazing into the gospel for ourselves Monday through Saturday. If we love to worship, finding times to do it during those other 6 days will become easier for us over time; if we love the stage, finding those times will become harder and harder and we’ll fall farther and farther into the trap of trying to make people worship (something we cannot do) by something more compelling than the gospel (something we do not have). There is nothing wrong with loving the stage or wanting to be a professional musician in the sense of being an entertainer, but be very careful that the local church does not become a casualty of your ambitions. She is the bride of Christ, to be cherished and loved, which leads my to my final question.
"You can only lead someone where you have been before."
3. What Do You Love More, the People or the Music?
As I previously mentioned, one of the greatest gifts I’ve received as a worship leader is the wisdom and experiences shared by those who have gone before me. Countless pieces of truth have been spoken into my life by men I deeply respect, but one that has stuck with me more than any other was advice from my friend Andi Rozier of Vertical Worship; "love your people more than the music." So what does that look like, and how can you do it well?
"Love your people more than the music."
First and foremost, in order to love your people you need to know your people. After your service is done, do you immediately hit the green room? Or do you take the time to have conversations with your church family? Knowing your people, their stories, their struggles, and their victories will allow you to love them as you plan each week. Singing songs that relate to the season of my church as a whole or even to specific families or individuals has been one of the greatest blessings for me, because I get to see first-hand how they are impacted by the words we sing; their countenance changes, a look of peace comes across their face, sometimes there are tears. That is one of the greatest blessings in ministry that I could ever hope for, seeing people impacted by the beauty of the gospel.
Second, it is important to know and remember that Sunday morning is not your personal Spotify playlist (or anyone else’s in the church for that matter). I’ve told my church family on several occasions, there are songs we sing at our church that I don’t really like. They wouldn’t make it into my itunes account, they don’t get stuck in my head, my heart doesn’t skip a beat when I put them in the service plan, and that is ok. But I intentionally choose to sing them because I’ve seen the way these songs minister to our church body. We need to be willing to put our own personal preferences aside for the good of the body. We should first consider the songs substance before considering it’s style.
"We need to be willing to put our own personal preferences aside for the good of the body."
Third, it’s important to love ALL the people of your church more than the music. The body of Christ is diverse racially, but also generationally. Because of this. we need to intentionally be seeking to love every generation within our church family. Far too often I see worship leaders who take a callous viewpoint of the older generations, even going so far as to ignore them for the sake of trying to be culturally relevant to the younger crowd. While I'm not advocating for us to go back to pipe-organs and hymnals, we can love the older generation by finding common ground. Whether it’s a re-tuned hymn, a new arrangement, or even new songs that have a hymn-like cadence or feel to them, it’s possible to love them (not pander to them) in a way that can serve the church as a whole. I intentionally keep a handful of hymns in our song rotation, not to keep a quota, but as a reminder to myself that I am not the first to stand and lead the church in song, and I won’t be the last. Psalm 78:4 says, “We will… tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.” We need to be intentionally providing ways for the generations who came before us to share and reflect on how God has worked and moved in their lives. This can also help us keep an eternal perspective on the vapor that is our existence on this earth.
"We need to be intentionally providing ways for the generations who came before us to share and reflect on how God has worked and moved in their lives."
Contributor / Brad Spead
Brad Spead is the Pastor of Worship Arts at Bridge Bible Church in Norton Shores, MI.
It seems to become a more and more frequent response. I don’t know if it’s a the result of the church reflecting culture more, a desire to not appear ‘judgey’, or just a general lack of biblical knowledge. It sadly seems though that any discussion of right vs wrong when it comes to our actions within a church service is supposed to stop when placed under the umbrella of ‘their heart is in the right place.’ Whether it’s in relation to singing songs with questionable theology, singing secular songs in church, preaching something of a self-help message rather than the gospel, the list can go on and on (and I'm sure you’ve had or heard of this discussion before).
I understand the desire to fall back on this; we want to think the best of people, we don’t like confrontation, it’s easier to just ‘have grace’ in these situations. But while we are called to grace, we are also called to truth — both/and, not either/or.
"While we are called to grace, we are also called to truth — both/and, not either/or."
‘But it’s not hurting anyone.’
‘But we like that song.’
‘But the sermon makes me feel good.’
‘But their heart is in the right place.’
But the problem is when we compromise truth for what is easy or fun or pleases others, people do get hurt. We may not always see it immediately, but if you are a worship pastor/leader in any regard, your calling is to shepherd the flock.
"When we compromise truth for what is easy, or fun, or pleases others, people get hurt."
There was another worship leader and shepherd who you could make this argument about too. Take a minute to read about him now:
"David consulted with the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, with every leader. And David said to all the assembly of Israel, “If it seems good to you and from the Lord our God, let us send abroad to our brothers who remain in all the lands of Israel, as well as to the priests and Levites in the cities that have pasturelands, that they may be gathered to us. Then let us bring again the ark of our God to us, for we did not seek it in the days of Saul.” All the assembly agreed to do so, for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people.
So David assembled all Israel from the Nile of Egypt to Lebo-hamath, to bring the ark of God from Kiriath-jearim. And David and all Israel went up to Baalah, that is, to Kiriath-jearim that belongs to Judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the Lord who sits enthroned above the cherubim. And they carried the ark of God on a new cart, from the house of Abinadab, and Uzzah and Ahio were driving the cart. And David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their might, with song and lyres and harps and tambourines and cymbals and trumpets.
And when they came to the threshingfloor of Chidon, Uzzah put out his hand to take hold of the ark, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he put out his hand to the ark, and he died there before God. And David was angry because the Lord had broken out against Uzzah. And that place is called Perez-uzza to this day. And David was afraid of God that day, and he said, “How can I bring the ark of God home to me?” So David did not take the ark home into the city of David, but took it aside to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. And the ark of God remained with the household of Obed-edom in his house three months. And the Lord blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that he had." (1 Chron. 13:1-14)
When David set out to bring the Ark of the Covenant back, you could easily make the statement that his heart was in the right place- he desired for God’s presence to return to Jerusalem, so the Israelites could worship their God when/where they were supposed to. He had the support of commanders of thousands and hundreds, of every leader, and all the people went with him and "it was right in there eyes."
But Uzzah was still struck dead by the Lord. Why?
Exodus 37:4-5 "And he made poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with gold and put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark." (emphasis mine)
The Ark was central to Israel’s worship, and God had given them instructions on how to transport the Ark; carry it. David instead chose to move it on a new cart. One of the oxen stumbled and Uzzah (who I imagine, had his heart in the right place too) reached out to stop the Ark from falling into the dirt and was struck dead.
David, because of his zeal for the Lord and desire to see the ark return to Jerusalem, thought he could do things a better way, and someone lost their life over it. David’s heart was in the right place, but was his head in the right place?
"It’s not enough for our hearts alone to be in the right place because the heart is deceitful above all things."
And the means to transport the Ark wasn’t a mystery. There was no hidden password or secret handshake to gain this information, it was plainly explained in Exodus, part of the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible), which David would have grown up hearing read in the synagogue and meditated on. Either he missed that extremely important detail, or he thought he could do it better another way. What’s worse, in all his council with the commanders of thousands and hundreds, in presenting the idea to all of Israel, did not 1 person speak up with the truth of how God had told them to carry the ark? We don’t know for sure one way or the other, but the important detail is that because David used his heart over his head a man lost his life.
‘But wait, this was in the Old Testament, so how can you say this applies to us today?’
Because Jesus reinforced this in John 4 when he met the Samaritan woman at the well. While the New Testament doesn’t give many details or prescriptions for Christian worship it is very clear on this point;
"God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth." (John 4:24)
It’s not enough for our hearts alone to be in the right place because "the heart is deceitful above all things (Jer. 17:9a)." Our heads need to be in the right place. But in the same way it’s not enough for us to simply have the right knowledge if it doesn’t move us to worship. If David had said ‘the Ark must be moved with the proper carrying poles’ and then didn’t bring the Ark back to Jerusalem he still would have been in error. For our worship to be acceptable before God it must be how He prescribes it.
"It's not enough for us to simply have the right knowledge if it doesn't move us to worship."
Spirit AND truth.
Head AND heart.
Both/and, not either/or.
In some ways David was fortunate because he was able to witness the repercussions of his error immediately when Uzzah was struck dead. This led him to be able to fix his mistake in 1 Chronicles 15 by doing it the right way.
Worship leaders and pastors, we won’t always get that same chance. If we choose to sing songs with poor/wrong theology it will impact the lives of our people in ways we can’t imagine. If we choose to try and ‘wow’ the crowd with warm, fuzzy, feel-good messages rather than clearly present the gospel, there may be souls in the seats of our service who spend eternity separated from God. At that time, it won’t matter if our heart was in the right place. I’m sure those words would not have comforted Uzzah’s family or friends had someone tried to reassure them that way.
"For our worship to be acceptable before God it must be how He prescribes it."
So as a brother in Christ, who loves the church, loves Jesus, and loves you, I plead with you today— yes, make sure your heart is in the right place, but make sure that that place is falling in line with your head. And above all else, make sure your head is filled with the knowledge of the word of God; His truth, His wisdom, His commands. Meditate on them, memorize them, delight in them with your mind, and then your heart will be in the right place.
"Bless the Lord oh my soul, and forget not all his benefits…" (Psalm 103:2)
Contributor / Brad Spead
Brad Spead is the Pastor of Worship Arts at Bridge Bible Church in Norton Shores, MI.
I apologize for the click-bait title. I hate click-bait with a passion, but it felt appropriate because it seems to be a frequent question; "How do I get my people to be more responsive?" I’m sure we’ve all been there at one time or another:
And you look out into the congregation to discover they were replaced with extras from a zombie film. So what gives? Don’t they know how much prep work you put into the service? Don’t they realize WHO you are singing to?
If you clicked on this article I imagine it was for one of 2 reasons- either you really do want a quick fix for this problem (sorry, there isn’t one, but I will give you 3 steps on how to work towards a solution), or you thought to yourself ‘this guy really thinks you can MAKE people respond physically in worship? I can’t wait to read his article and tear it apart in the comment section!’ Either way, I hope that you keep reading, because I genuinely do believe that these 3 things can help bring about a change in culture within your church and your people.
STEP 1: Point your people to Jesus
I’ve heard it more times than I can remember; a well-meaning church member or fellow worship team member comes up to me after the service and thanks me for ‘leading them into the throne room’. While I understand the sentiment, and there were times in the past I would use this terminology, it’s completely wrong.
In the Old Testament the people of Israel could not enter the Holy of Holies and stand in the presence of God for themselves, they needed the high priest to serve as a mediator to enter on their behalf. The priests would be in charge of carrying out the sacrifices for the purification of the people of Israel and for themselves, and this needed to happen over and over because of their fallen, sinful nature. However, once Jesus died on the cross, taking on the role of both priest and sacrifice, He made a “new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh” (Hebrews 10:20). And because Jesus now stands as the great high priest who lived a sinless life, the sacrifice to purify us has happened once and for all (Hebrews 4:15, 7:27).
We can draw near to the throne of grace with confidence ONLY because of the atoning work of Jesus- worship leaders could never hope to fill this role. The best possible thing we can do is point our church family to the beauty of the gospel and the beauty of the savior we worship. As worship leaders, we aren’t the spectacle, we are the tour guide- we should not strive to be what holds the attention of the church on Sunday morning, we should be pointing with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength to the only One who is glorious enough to hold our gaze for all of eternity.
"As worship leaders, we aren't the spectacle, we are the tour guide."
So if you walk onto the platform on Sunday feeling the stress of needing to lead your congregation into the presence of God, REJOICE! Because it’s already been done by the someone who is far more able to do it.
Or if you walk onto the platform thinking that you hold the power to draw people into the throne room, humble yourself before the Lord and repent of trying to elevate yourself to the level of Christ. Let us never try and take credit for a work we could never accomplish.
STEP 2: Teach them WHY, not HOW
Scripture is full of examples of physical response to worship;
However, do your people know that these verses exist? When you encourage them to be physically responsive in worship, do you just tell them what to do, or do you take time to explain why we do it? I work in a heavily-churched area with many people who grew up in denominations where physical expressiveness was frowned upon. If you’re shepherding people like this it becomes all the more important to teach them lovingly and strongly what God asks of us in worship.
Conversely, if you’re in a church or area where people are already physically expressive it’s important to teach them what God’s word says about it. If all they know is ‘this is the part of the song where I’m supposed to raise my hands’ then we’re no better than a zumba instructor leading the spiritual macarena on stage. Physical expressiveness can be a huge blessing to the church body, but can also be a distraction when it gets out of hand (no pun intended).
Whatever your role is within your church, when you step onto the platform you are taking on the responsibility of shepherding and caring for your people. Don’t be tempted to resort to guilt-tripping or emotional manipulation to get the response you want to see- instead teach them why we respond the way we do, and point them to Jesus so they have something to respond to.
"Don’t be tempted to resort to guilt-tripping or emotional manipulation to get the response you want to see- instead teach them why we respond the way we do, and point them to Jesus so they have something to respond to."
STEP 3: Pray For Your Senior Pastor
This one may come as a surprise to you, but I truly believe it’s one of the greatest things you can do for the health of your church’s worship. I began feeling convicted of falling short in this area a little over a year ago, and have made an effort to step up in it since then. Think about your senior pastors week in comparison with yours;
We carry our own kind of stress and responsibility with us each Sunday, but our senior pastor carries more. Paul tells us in James 3 that “...(those) who teach will be judged with greater strictness” and 1 Timothy 3:1-7 lays out the biblical qualifications for a pastor or elder. It’s a high standard to held to.
Your senior pastor needs your prayer, and you need to pray for him. Why?
Because for as much as you can point people to Jesus, he can and should do it even more. For as much as you can teach the body during the time of sung worship, he can and should do it more in his sermon. For as great as the congregation thinks you are (or aren’t) they’re often holding him to a higher standard.
So pray for your senior pastor. Every week. Put it on your calendar, set a reminder in your phone, write it backwards on your forehead so you’ll see it in the mirror- do whatever it takes to make it a priority, and know that the enemy will do whatever he can to keep you from it.
Pray that he will preach the gospel boldly and clearly. Pray that God will remove anything from his message that could be a hindrance or distraction from the gospel being proclaimed. Pray that he will fall more and more deeply in love with Jesus and that the scriptures will remain fresh and new for him each time he goes to the word.
"When we dwell on Christ’s word, His character, and His commands, we will see Him for who He is and we won’t be able to keep ourselves from worshipping Him.
Because when these things happen, when the pastor preaches clearly and truthfully, it stirs the hearts and minds of the church. And when our hearts and minds are stirred towards Jesus allowing his word to dwell in us richly (Colossians 3:16) then we will see our churches begin to change. When we dwell on Christ’s word, His character, and His commands, we will see Him for who He is and we won’t be able to keep ourselves from worshipping Him. This is true, lasting, biblical change for your church. It may not look how we expect or want it to look, but we will see it. It won’t happen in 20 minutes of singing, but you may start to see it over 20 weekends of gathered corporate worship.
Contributor / Brad Spead
Brad Spead is the Pastor of Worship Arts at Bridge Bible Church in Norton Shores, MI.