Church Communications resources and tips from Justin Dean

The Worship Bully

In our desire for our congregations to seek the good things of God in worship, we can sometimes focus on the experience and not on God.

Lift it up! Sing it out! Raise your hands! Get your praise on!

Sometime worship leading can sound less like encouragement and more like Jazzercise.

Worship leaders, I get it. I completely understand.?You want nothing more than for your congregation to revel in and drink deeply of the blessings God has for them in worship.

Your heart burns for them to experience joy and peace and satisfaction in the presence of God as they passionately pour out their praises to Him.

You long for the day when your church would be known as that place where 1 Chronicles 16 worship happens, where your services are described by Psalm 96, and where Colossians 3 worship is expected and happening.

Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
1 Chronicles 16:9-10 (NIV)

Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth.
Psalm 96:9 (NIV)

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Colossians 3:16 (ESV)

We long for this as artists and worship leaders because somewhere along the way, we’ve tasted and we’ve seen. We’ve stood still in the thin place between heaven and earth. We have seen what can happen when the people of God turn back to the cross, lift their eyes to God, fall on their faces, confess their deep need for grace and mercy, and celebrate the goodness of God in every circumstance of life. this is worship, and we want everyone to experience this!

Somewhere along the journey, something clicked for us. I’ve experienced this and know this is true and good and possible. I want nothing more than for other people to experience the same thing and find this same reality of the presence of God.? We were given opportunities to do that, encouraged, trained, developed, and resourced so that now we are in the scary-yet-secure position of standing before people and helping them to do these things we know can be possible.

Turn from your sin.

Lift your eyes to God.

Celebrate His goodness and His grace.

Drink deep from the blessings He has for you.

Please. I beg of you. You need to do this.

In our desire for our congregations to seek the good things of God in worship, we can sometimes focus on the experience and not on God. We make it about the songs and not about the Savior. We make it about the art and not the Artisan.

We’ve all done it, and we’ve all been there. We base our success as a worship leader on raised hands, weepy eyes, decibels, and broken strings.? We may have unintentionally created some kind of worship success formula that looks like this:

(Raised hands + Tear-streamed cheeks – arms crossed) x Peak dB level/number of people = Worship Success Ratio

And because of our humanity and our desire for our people to enjoy and express their passion for God, we become worship cheerleaders. Jazzercise for Jesus instructors.

Lift it up! Sing it out! Raise your hands! Get your praise on!

Is there anything wrong with encouragement and exhortation? Of course not. On some level, our congregations need exactly that, because worship is not our first tendency. Singing is not a regular part of our culture, and your people are not as focused and ready as you probably think they are.

So we should definitely make encouragement part of our worship leadership. Psalm 121 has been so instructive and helpful.

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
Psalm 121:1-2 (ESV)

Part of leading corporate worship is encouraging and helping your people to turn their eyes away from the things that have been begging for their attention and affection all week.

Turn away from the hills and lift your eyes to God.

Turn away from the distractions and look to the Creator.

Turn away from your own uncertainty and despair and questioning and return again to our firm foundation, our only hope, and our solid rock.

As we do that, we certainly want to encourage expression and engagement. But there is certainly a tightrope to be walked here. Part of our maturing and growing as worship leaders is seeing and recognizing when our encouragement is more about generating a response from the people rather than directing our attention and affection toward Jesus.

So, how do we actually do this? Let me give you three ideas that may be helpful and allow you to use them as a starting point as you explore this.

1. Talk with your pastor

Whether you have a great relationship with your senior pastor or not, you need to realize and remember that he or she has put their trust in you to lead the flock they are called to shepherd. We submit to the authority of our pastor, and this is one of those areas. Ask your pastor how you are doing in this area. Are you helping to lead and encourage genuine worship on Sunday mornings? How can we do this better?

2. Call people to worship

Many contemporary evangelical churches have swung the pendulum so far away from the liturgy that we are terrified even to go there. Spend some time thinking about the first thing you are going to say on Sunday morning to open your service. How will you call people away from distractions so they can turn their eyes to God?

3.Instruct strategically

Find one spot in your worship set where you can call for a specific physical response as an expression of a spiritual reality. It might be raising hands to signify our desire for God to be lifted higher than all others in our lives. It might be kneeling to signify our submission to the will of God. It might be singing loudly to show our willingness to celebrate the goodness of God.

You can do this. God is with you. He wants nothing more than for your church to experience things you understand deeply. God wants to meet with your people as you gather to worship Him. He promises to do exactly that.

Lead the way. Don’t bully.

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