We were created for worship.
Recently, I read a post on my friend’s Facebook timeline. It was from some guy I didn’t know but who had a pertinent question to regular churchgoers. Are they getting distracted by how worship is being led nowadays?
He listed some of the distractions, some of which you could be familiar with. For instance uniforms or dressing (he calls it cutting-edge fashion), insane chord progression or aerobic workouts. He also noted phrases like turn to your neighbor and give them a high five, tell them something, open up your mouth and speak, somebody shout (or scream), stand up, kneel, etc. The list could be endless.
His concern was that these have become distractions to congregants, resulting in them not spending good time with their Creator in church.
My initial reaction was to go all defensive. You know why. I am a worship leader. However, the more I reflected on the matter, the more I realized that this guy may be on to something.
Worship or theatrics?
Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord. Psalms 150:1-6
I come from a Pentecostal background. Pentecostals don’t shy away from singing, dancing, clapping, shouting and using musical instruments. In my first church, we didn’t have modern instruments. All we had were hand-held drums that resounded as the church broke out in song in my mother tongue. It was free singing, and dancing, and no one needed to encourage anyone to worship. For the people knew why and Who they worshiped.
Looking back, and looking at the life of leading worship, we have come a long way. Years back, there were only a few select individuals who would lead worship. It was a sacred calling. The church leadership knew its volunteers and their walk. It was very important to place the onus and privilege to lead in the hands of trusted people.
You couldn’t lead songs if you were new to the team. You had to go through probation, sometimes up to six months, before you could join a worship team. You had to demonstrate that you were grounded in your walk and in the Word of God. For you were a minister as well, of sung worship.
Let me admit. I have failed many times in my service to God through this ministry. There are times I have felt that the congregants need to be urged more because they don’t seem to want to sing or praise God. Why do they come to church? Are they not interested in this part of the service? If people weren’t singing as you’d expect, we would stop the music and encourage them to sing with joy and vigor. Then we would take it from the top. I did that once and received a tongue lashing feedback from a congregant. I haven’t done it since.
Other times, I have found myself loving how I sound at the expense of the worshipers’ connection with their Maker. And there are the famous ad libs that have caused many to shy away from leading worship because it’s assumed that great singers should ad lib. In my younger life, I admit that there are times I served to get attention. People got to know me. You were considered special, famous and cool just because you stood on the pulpit.
Let me talk for the newer crop of worship leaders. They need mentorship, including from many of us still leading. There is need to go back to the basics and experience God. We need to learn what worship means and how to do it in a way that focuses on God and honors Him.
To the church leadership, I ask that you get concerned about who is leading your flock in worship. Are you keen to know them, to know what they do, whether they are struggling in life? Are they truly born again? Are you only concerned with ensuring the music is so great that it ends up being a performance, with no impact in people’s lives?
Do you understand why the enemy attacks many worship leaders and why some of them are caught up in sin? How do you walk with them? Do you treat your worship teams with respect or only seek to overwork them because your standards need to be met? Let your doctrine be God-centered and this will have a great effect to the worship ministry.
To the worship leaders, it is time to do a self evaluation and ask if we are doing what we are called to do. Yes we are gifted, but it’s not about the gift but the Giver of the gift. Equip yourself. Allow yourself to be mentored. And spend time in God’s presence. This is a must. For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.
There are times we perform because we are empty inside. We only lend our voice. Don’t emulate the way of the world in your leading. Understand the congregation. Don’t be disconnected. It is not about you. It’s about God. Understand the words of the songs you’re singing. This goes for instrumentalists as well. Internalize them. We’ve been accused of relying on the screens to the point that if they were to go off, it would be clear that we didn’t know the words.
Live in unity with the rest of the worship team. Remember, we each have a place in God’s kingdom. There’s no need to outshine each other. Humble yourselves and remember you’ll be held accountable for your use of that gift. Ask yourself, does this gift draw people to God or to yourself? And learn to never be a stumbling block.
To the family of worshipers, kindly pray for your worship teams. Remember to commit them to God as they serve. For the enemy can attack them in various forms.
Lastly, I would like to ask for forgiveness on behalf of my fellow worship leaders. If you have been offended by the current worship leading styles, please forgive us. Correct us with love. Bear with us. Some of us are too young in ministry while others are still learning the ropes of leading. Kindly avoid talking behind our backs without letting us know what we should do better or stop doing. Find someone in the church’s leadership to raise your concerns with.
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19.14
Photo credits: MugOshot