Worship Leader Make Over: So You Want The Congregation to Sing More? Try this…

One of the most common complaints a worship leader has when leading worship, is that the congregation doesn’t sing as much as they should.  Of course, there are exceptions to this but by and large it is the most common critique of the congregation.      Often times, we put the blame on the congregation, thinking that they are not as spiritually mature as they should be, or that they just don’t get it.  But could we be pointing our fingers in the wrong direction?

Over the last two years as I have visited 30+ congregations, I have noticed a disturbing trend:  The bands are better, but the people are singing less and less.  What I often observed is a top quality musical performance on the platform, and a completely disinterested response in the pews.  Why the disconnect?  Is it because the people in the congregation don’t love Jesus or don’t think He is worthy to sing to?  That may be the reason for the unsaved, but not for those who are faithfully following hard after their Master.

Consider this:  According to national surveys, fear of public speaking is America’s greatest fear, surpassing fear of illness, fear of flying, fear of terrorism, and amazingly, the fear of death itself!  Fear of singing in public for  someone who only sings at church might play a significant role in their non-singing.   (Our current poll appears to support this.  When asked “What is your favorite element of corporate worship?” 15% of respondents chose singing.  See and take the poll here.)

So You want the Congregation to Sing More?  Try this….. present them with songs that are WORTH singing!

My experience has been that a lot of the songs we are singing in church are just not worth singing!  The music is contemporary and well produced, but the lyrics are often written by a well-meaning younger person (either young in age or in the faith or both) who has no real depth to his/her faith and is not well versed in the great truths of scripture.  The result can be  shallow, vague, or incomprehensible  songs that may or may not apply to everyone present.

The thing about a worship leader is that they can sing at the drop of a hat.  Because they love to sing, they will sing anything. anytime, anywhere.   I sometimes find myself singing commercials from TV!  We have to realize that this is not the norm for most people in the congregations we serve.    The natural inclination for those who are nervous about singing in public is to NOT sing.  If we want to help them  express their love, gratitude, and devotion to the Savior through song, we must keep this in mind and offer songs with more compelling lyrics.

Recently, I was at a mega-church service in my city.  To be fair, people were singing, mostly those up front.  The band was loud and the light show was awesome (I thought I was at a Pink Floyd concert for a moment, but I digress)  However, as I looked around, a significant part of the congregation was not singing.  Then I realized, I wasn’t singing either.  Why weren’t we singing?Everything was top quality.  The answer is simple:  the songs they offered were vague, trite and confusing.

Here is of one of the songs the team was singing, that the congregation was ignoring.  Read it slowly, without any music, and ask yourself if it even makes sense?

“We are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
So Heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about, the way…”             

What is he talking about?  I am not sure, it is vague. There is also not a consistent thought running through the verse.    Are we all sinking into an ocean of grace or is it just believers?  What is an ocean of grace  and what does it mean to be sinking into it?   Ladies, is Jesus your boyfriend?  The sloppy wet kiss line, is  pretty visual.  Are we making out with God, or does it mean that God loves us?  It is not clear. What regrets do I have that I don’t have time to maintain?  I don’t know, they are not stated.  To be honest, I don’t know what this song means or is trying to say.  If I don’t know what it means, then why would I try to sing it, if I don’t really like to sing?

I am sure someone will raise the following  objection: “I have seen an entire congregation pouring their hearts out to God singing this exact song.”  I don’t doubt it for a minute.    I think those types of congregations are already full of people who love singing.  In other words, they are singing in spite of the song, not because of it.

The reason why non-singers will not sing this song, no matter how well it is executed, is because it is not clear what we are singing about. We may attach our own meanings to the lyrics, and it becomes meaningful for us in that way.  However, non-singers are just going to pass.

Vagueness in our songs has an inherent danger.     Michael Horton, in his book “A Better Way” says:

“Vagueness about the object of our praise inevitably leads to making our own praise the object. Praise therefore becomes and end in itself, and we are caught up in our own “worship experience” rather than in the God whose character and acts are the only proper focus.”

I think we are seeing this happen all over the country.

I am not passing judgement on the writer of this song.  I am only saying that this is not a good song to use in corporate worship because most people who find singing difficult  won’t sing it.   Also, if you don’t know what the words you are singing to God mean, can we call that worship?

If we want the congregation to worship the Savior in song, we need to heavily scrutinize the lyrical content of the songs we offer them.   Here is an example of a clear, biblically accurate song, that compels us to sing.  Read it slowly, without the music, and ask yourself if you understand what is being said:

“The mystery of the cross I cannot comprehend
The agonies of Calvary
You the perfect Holy One, crushed Your Son
Who drank the bitter cup reserved for me

Your blood has washed away my sin
Jesus, thank You
The Father’s wrath completely satisfied
Jesus, thank You
Once Your enemy, now seated at Your table
Jesus, thank You

It is quite clear that we are singing about the central fact of the christian faith:  Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins.   This is something that every Christian in the congregation knows and understands and whole-heartedly believes.  Chances are, more people will sing a song like this.  

When the mega-church played this at the end of the singing time, the entire congregation stood to their feet and passionately proclaimed it to the Savior.  The band stopped, and 2000 people sang it acapella.   This is the kind of response every worship leader wants to see, and it is certainly a response worthy of our King.

If you want more people in the congregation to sing, then you have to start providing better songs.    What you must remember is that those who love to sing will sing almost anything you use.     The non-singers will only sing in public when the lyrics are worth singing.  Resist the temptation to use the newest song that has a great groove and sloppy lyrics.   Focus on the lyrics.  A great song will have compelling lyrics and good music.   Use songs that clearly present the great truths of Christianity:  Songs about the cross, and all that the cross means.   It makes all the difference. I will be sharing the process I use to do select new songs in an upcoming post called “How To Choose Songs for Corporate Worship”

Worship leader, I want to end this post by challenging you with this:  If the congregation you lead in worship, is not singing, it may be due to something you are doing.    You are the worship leader.  We are the people you lead.  We want to worship our Savior.  Help us do that, by providing better songs.  Don’t blame us for not singing enough or for not being “on fire” enough.   Take a good hard look at the songs you are using, and take responsibility for that area.  I know this may be painful.  If you start eliminating lyrically poor songs, and adding lyrically rich ones, you will see a big change!

Of course there are other factors to consider, but many of those are out of the worship leaders control.  We can not control how the congregation lives their lives during the week.  We can’t make sure they are actively engaging God 24/7.  We can control their spiritual song diet on Sunday morning.  We can offer them songs that better  engage their mind, challenge their walks and inspire them to live lives of gratitude to their Savior.

For more in our Worship Leader Make-Over series go HERE.

Check out the result of 4 different polls and the challenging conclusions arrived at in our post It’s Official: People Don’t Want To Sing So Much On Sundays

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Not For Itching Ears is a blog dedicated to discussing the serious issues that exist within the American Evangelical church. It is a place for like-minded people to share their thoughts on a host of issues relating to this subject. Jim is available to speak at weekend services, and retreats at no cost to churches in Florida. Contact us for more information.

Posted on February 19, 2011, in Christianity, Contemporary Church Culture, Worship and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.

  1. I appreciate your attempt to address this topic. I don’t agree that “vagueness” is the heart of the problem. Weak-sauce shallow songs are a problem if they are not complemented with theologically-rich ones, but this is not the sole reason people do not sing. There are so many factors that go into the response of the worshipers–the example set by leadership, the quality of the music, the personal taste the hearers have for music, the choice of instruments, the size, age, and habits of the people-group, the aesthetic atmosphere set for worship, and the presence of the Spirit of Jesus. The song you mentioned above as vague and confusing, I have seen a room of 600 worshipers crying their hearts out in true praise. The line that says “like a sloppy/unforeseen kiss” is a simile. LIKE a kiss. The implication is not that heaven or Jesus is making out with His bride, but LIKE a sloppy/unforeseen kiss, heaven and earth have collided with passionately connectivity. In contrast, I have seen a room full of worshipers standing silently in confusion, spectating as the Worship Leader leads a song full of rich lyrics and theological depth that flies completely over the heads of the people. The only way it could get any worse, is if the tune and the music quality was of poor quality or had very little appeal. I understand the importance of having rich lyrics which lead our hearts and minds to higher true thoughts of God thus producing worship in Spirit and Truth. I think it is a good idea to aim for these types of songs. I think it is a much greater idea to explain the message/context of any song and clarify any fuzzy spots. I think it is a bad idea to throw out simple songs that are 100% truth, but that are simple and not wordy or deep. It would be nice if lyrics were the only determiner for the passion and authenticity of worship, but this is simply not the case. Music–the raw sound and all of the creative complementary ingredients–is the draw on the human soul. Thanks for helping us think about this topic.

    • HI Aaron, thank you for your thoughts. Of course, there are other factors associated with people truly worshipping God via singing. However, all those other things being equal, the words are what we are singing to God. If they do not make sense, are shallow, and don’t mean anything, it is very difficult for people to connect with them. I also agree, that a song leader can explain concepts that might have double meanings to help the congregation understand what is being sung. That helps, but I have seen it rarely. My point is this: if you want people to sing, choose better songs. Of course, other things must be present. Just remember people who like to sing, will sing almost anything. The ones that are not big on singing, seldom truly engage in the type of songs I discussed in the post. There certianly are exceptions, but I have been in the back of the room when these songs are sung. If you are on a big stage in a large congregation with lights in your eyes, you can’t always see what’s happening. My expereince in church after church is that non-singers, all things being equal, won’t sing those types of songs. So, if one is responsible for leading worship, he/she should take this into consideration when choosing new songs. This is a better approach that saying “I really like this song, lets do it Sunday.”

      I think I would disagree with your final point, that music is THE draw on the human soul. It simply isn’t. Certianly, we are musical creatures, and we love music. Music can move us in many different ways. But what draws the human soul to God, is the cross of Jesus Christ. Period. The Father draws us to the foot of the cross, opens our eyes so that we can see and understand what actually took place there. We need to sing about that. If we do, our congregations will be filled with stronger disciples, if we don’t they will be filled with weak people who enjoy singing about other things. May we be moved by the Redeemers wounds, more than the groove of any song.

  2. A good post and so, so true. Many of the ‘older’ songs and hymns were written from a theological view, and were a way of teaching good doctrine
    to the hearers. People learned so much of their biblical knowledge by singing each Sunday.
    The ‘love songs’ sung so often in churches today are fine for women (maybe) but many men I know, feel quite uncomfortable with them.
    It is always an interesting challenge to a congregation to be told to “only sing if you mean these words” – some sing, some don’t but often by the end of the song people are singing because they may feel uncomfortable NOT singing.
    Singing bible truths will always draw people closer to Christ because Jesus said “If I be lifted up from the earth I will draw all men unto me.”
    We don’t draw the people by our songs, but Jesus does.

  3. I would be persuaded to say that in the first example, the lyrics would have me wondering what it is I am singing about -turning off the praise/worship attitude and engaging the, “what are they (we) singing about” switch. Furthermore, (not being familiar with the song) I would most likely start wondering if this is not just a catchy song the worship leader wants to perform. I would also most likely wonder whether or not the church was Spirit lead. Especially if it was my first time visiting; I would certainly do some follow up investigation.

    Other points worthy of mentioning is that of the choice of key the song is sung. You can sing the “correct” song in an “incorrect” key and have the congregation struggling; many will drop out and perhaps choose to worship silently.

    Lastly; timing. Ad Lib and variation can be good, but not throughout the entire song when leading worship. Inconsistency in starting points and note durations can leave the congregation “lost” and embarrassed to sing because they may “come in wrong”.

    Just having moved; this is coming from someone who is in search of a new home church and is going through many of the above experiences.

    Felix

  4. So, before you critique a song, learn about who wrote it and why. Some of your ideas were almost right, but what is happening is you are blaming the complacency of the contemporary church on contemporary music. The first song you referenced was a song about Christ’s unrelentless love. It was a song written by one of the undoubtedly best contemporary songwriters. Look the song up on YouTube and you’ll see how deep the song, the idea, the emotion, the content, the faith, the love in that song really is. I won’t issue a spoiler, I want you to hear first hand the story behind the song. (originally written by John Mark McMillan) Try not to generalize, especially when using examples that aree not only out of context, but clearly misunderstood. And read Psalms. Often those songs are a little “vague” and full of symbolism, sometimes even a little “irreverent.” God doesn’t fit into any of the molds any of us have tried to force him, traditinal or contemporary. He is so much bigger than any religion or process or formula.

    • Hi Sean,

      Thanks for chiming in here! I actually have seen the video on Youtube, so I am familiar with the story behind the song. It truly is moving. I am quite positive that the song means a lot to JM McMillan and his family. I mean absolutely no disrespect towards him. However, a song that is good for a corporate setting usually stands by itself. It doesn’t need to have the story behind why it was written explained in order to make it a good song. For example, “Amazing Grace” of “It is Well” are great songs. When you hear the stories behind them it only adds to their greatness.

      The point of the post is that some songs are better for corporate worship than others. You and I would probably agree on that. But let’s take that song example out and replace it with something else.

      I love contemporary music! I am not taking a tradional vs contempory stand here at all. I love them both but I prefer contemporary music. Your point about the Psalms is a good one. Just remember that they were probably pretty clear to the Israelites of that day.

      • thanks for your response. I don’t chime in often in scenarios like this. And when i do, i usually don’t get a reply. I was a little passionate when i responded last not because we had just sang “How He Loves” at church to tremendous response. Well have to agree your observation is select and not a generally true consensus.
        There are two links i would like to point you to as part of this discourse. The first is an interview with JMM regarding worship and how he approaches his responsibility as a worship leader. The second is a teaching my dear friend put together over the last 6 years in his effort to boil worship down to find a root definition that fits any use for the word worship. Check them out.
        Thanks again for your reply.

        http://www.relevantmagazine.com/culture/music/features/22158-the-heart-of-john-mark-mcmillan

        http://youtube.com/index?desktop_uri=%2F&gl=US#/watch?xl=xl_blazer&v=leloGjo__yc

        For the record this problem of involvement drives me wild to. I blame it on the American Church enabling complacency amongst our culture, both Christian and secular. As well as slack of understanding of worship among Church leadership.

  5. On the other hand, focusing solely on “cross-centered songs” — as they did at the SGM church I attended only briefly (thank you, God), makes for entire congregations who wallow in their sin and the sins of others. I’ve seen it happen. When you preach a “cross-centered Gospel” that rarely focuses on how the story all ended, you’re preaching an incomplete, unbalanced Gospel.

    During our brief time at our “cross-centered” church with “cross-centered” songs, I never felt more depressed AND I’d never seen a more depressed group of people. When the joy and hope of the resurrection is mentioned only in passing, you can end up with a bunch of hopelesss, sin-focused, and sin-sniffing believers.

    There’s nothing wrong with a worship song that *doesn’t* mention the cross and just speaks of the awesomeness of God. It should be theologically sound, yes, but I don’t think every song needs to mention the cross.

    • Hi Renee,

      I really appreciate you adding your perspective to this conversation! Perhaps I overstated my point. We need to sing about the central point of Christianity, as well as the other great themes of scripture. My experience of the corporate church in America is that we rarely sing about the cross. I am not sure we could sing about it too much though. I do agree with your observation that a song doesn’t have to mention the cross to be a good worship song.

      I also had a brief stint at a church that sang cross-centered songs (3 months. It was 80 minutes from my home) and my expereince was the complete opposite of yours. It was full of the most alive people I think I ever met at church!

  6. Well, perhaps I overstated my case as well, because the cross-centered worship is not the SOLE cause of the SGM syndrome I mentioned above. There are much more significant issues and dysfunctions than that, but I know enough people who are out of SGM now — myself included — who consider the worship as a contributing factor to the overall “wormy” way they began to feel about themselves.

  7. I’m sorry for insinuating you are dumb but you’ve insulted something a LOT of people love. How He Loves is a wonderful worship and the most heartfelt praise I’ve known in song form, outside of some of the psalms. It gives me great joy to worship God with this song. It rings true and is incredibly powerful. I’m sorry I was overly defensive but you’re attacking something (or taking a stand against) that is wonderful and powerful for His glory. You can’t honestly think that people sing this song less than the other example. People love this song. Don’t try to stop it. It’s good and it certainly cross centered. Once again I’m very sorry for some of the things I said.

    • Hi Billy,

      Don’t worry about it! I have heard a LOT worse! I know how easy it is to get caught up in our emotions. I appreciate both of your comments, but because you did actually apologize for some of the things you said, I didn’t publish the first one. The writing of your second comment tells me a lot about your character and that you truly want to follow Christ faithfully. So thanks.

      I am sorry if you took my critique of the song as an insult. It was only an illustration of my main point. If you take that song out, and put in another song, the point stands. People who are uncomfortable singing in public can be encouraged to sing more, if we provide better songs, that are clearly understood and don’t have to be interpreted. That is what I have seen.

      Over the past two years, I have visited 30+ congregations of all kinds of backgrounds, large and small. All Evangelical: Foursquare, Baptist, Lutheran, Vineyard, all kinds of Non-denominational, Christian Missionary Alliance, Nazarene, Calvary Chapel, Willow Creek, Purpose Driven, charismatic, pentecostal, Presbyterian, reformed, non-reformed etc. I have led worship for over 20 years and I was a senior pastor for 10 of those. I have a degree in Theology. All those things work together to form my current assessment of “worship” in the church. Of course, I have not been to every church, but I have been to such a broad spectrum of the American church in Colorado that I think I can speak on this subject. Here is what I’ve seen: The Bands are great (I am also a full-time musician who has toured all over the mid-west) but people are not really singing. More people are singing in the Charismatic/pentecostal type churches, but not much more. I have seen the song we disagree about sung many times, with the same outcome. The majority of the people are just not interested in it. I have never seen the outcome that you describe, but I am sure that you have. I just haven’t. I have been to many services where the name of Jesus, his work, or his titles were absent from every song. We could have been Jews, or Mormons singing, because the distinct element of our worship is Jesus and He was missing.

      The current emphasis of our songwriters seems to be better music. I actually don’t think it is getting any better. However, a catchy tune appears to be the most important thing, rather than great lyrics. (both would be best) Brother, I have been all over. I have seen it over and over again with my own eyes. That IS what is happening. Perhaps not in your congregation. You should be very grateful if that is the case. And that is the reason I wrote the post. Not to attack what someone else loves, but to call us as worship leaders to consider what we are doing.

      Are we bringing songs to the congregation to sing because they have a great groove and we like to play it? (I have been VERY guilty of this over the years). That should not be the reason we choose our songs. The early church Fathers (see quote Augustine’s quote below)** thought that singing songs accompanied by instruments could lead to debauchery and loose morals. They were dealing with the issues of their day. But I think we should at least consider what the guys 150 years after Christ thought about the subject. It can help shape our understanding of music in church. My take on that is that music should not be the thing that moves us when we come to worship God in song. It should be God that moves us. The challenge for us is that music DOES move us. Hence my call for better lyrics.

      ** “musical instruments were not used. The pipe, tabret, and harp here associate so intimately with the sensual heathen cults, as well as with the wild revelries and shameless performances of the degenerate theater and circus, it is easy to understand the prejudices against their use in the worship.” (Augustine 354 A.D., describing the singing at Alexandria under Athanasius)

  8. Thanks for your comments on worship and worship songs. The lyrics are foremost, but music plays an important part as well. The song “How He Loves” is one of our youth’s favorites, and well…. I don’t believe “sloppy” is in the line: “Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss”. I was recently blessed by a Youtube.com video of a young child singing “How He Loves” while sitting in the back seat of a moving car…..praising God….out of the mouths of babes :) The chorus of this song, after being sung for a while, seems to bring a vivid realization of how much Jesus really loves us all. God bless you and keep on praising Him :) Thanks.

  9. The lyrics for the song “How he loves” by David Crowder Band actually goes “Heaven meets the earth like an unforseen kiss” as opposed to “sloppy wet kiss” which just sounds kind of weird. Anyways, I have to agree with what you are saying in the blog. The worship music today is so contemporarized and vague these days, that it does not touch on the importance of the scripture of the bible. To me, it seems like it has become secularized to the point of not maintaining the truth of the Word, and in turn, does not accurately minister to the lost. I believe alot of Christian music strives to please the secular world and acts as though it is in fear of being labeled purely Christian. The song writers are more interested in making their songs more universal for either one or two reasons: For one, they don’t want to preach the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of God for fear of “putting off” secular listeners and two, they just want to sell more albums. If they were truly grateful to our Lord and his great mercy, they would not care whatsoever about who doesn’t want to hear the truth because they are going to speak the truth, nothing more and the truth hurts. The truth doesn’t always profit as well as lies and misconception, but they have to be more responsible to the messages they sing to listeners who eagerly hang on their every song.

    • Hi Journey Man!

      Great observations. About the lyrics, I have noticed in the last year that the phrase “sloppy wet kiss” has been changed to the current phrase “unforseen kiss”. I would like to take credit for that change, but it was actually many people rising up and pointing out the obvious.

      I think you hit the nail right on the head:

      “I believe alot of Christian music strives to please the secular world and acts as though it is in fear of being labeled purely Christian. The song writers are more interested in making their songs more universal for either one or two reasons: For one, they don’t want to preach the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of God for fear of “putting off” secular listeners and two, they just want to sell more albums. “

      Bingo! They want to sell more albums. Of course, I don’t blame them for wanting to do that. I have been a full time musician myself for many years. If you create an album, you want everyone in the world to want it! That’s great if you are Green Day or Linkin Park. But if you are promoting yourself as a “Christian” musician, there whould be something overtly Christ centered in the message of your songs. Most of the “Christian” record labels are now owned by secular companies that do not care if the message is watered down and unrecognizeable. They want to sell more records.

      I don’t have a real issue with this music thing outside of the church. Listen to what you want to listen to, write and record what you want to. What drives me crazy is the type of songs that our modern day “worship gurus” are writing and that our un-trained church worship concert leaders are subjecting us to. Please, read the lyrics before you make us sing your new song with that cool riff. If it doesn’t make sense, is un-biblical, un-clear, to esoteric, doesn’t exalt Christ, then for the sake of Christ and His body just sing it at your house, but not in His house!

  10. Wow, you pegged it for me with the example of the song you chose. I never sing that song – it offends me, and unfortunately it’s one of our worship leader’s favorites. My heart does NOT turn violently inside my chest, and I refuse to sing those words. However, it isn’t normally the lyrics that turn me off, it’s the tune.

    I’ve been singing my heart out in corporate worship, in choirs, and as a soloist for 50 years. However, as a member of a congregation, I cannot sing along to the tune of the song you mentioned because it wasn’t written for corporate worship. It’s written as a solo. Our worship leader sings it as a solo, with runs, when he’s leading us in worship.

    In my experience, the most frustrating worship experiences are those where the worship leader/band is so self-focused that the worship time is a performance or entertainment, not a time of assisting the congregation to sing in adoration to the King. Songs are chosen because they show off the worship leader’s musical abilities. He’s amazing, and he had a solo career, but that is NOT what makes good corporate worship.

    I catch on to songs quickly, but I object to songs that aren’t meant to be sung by a group of diverse people – songs that have a 3-octave range (or even 2 octaves and go to high or too low), songs that have runs that are meant for a soloist to show their skills, songs that are fun or interesting for the band or are the hottest songs on the charts of K-LOVE, but are impossible for a congregation to sing without stumbling badly. So our worship time is a performance with few people singing and everyone (but me) clapping at the end of each song because the band did a great job.

    Please please, worship leaders, rethink what you’re asking your congregation to sing!

    • Amen, Jenny!

      Thanks for sharing your expereince. I have had similar thoughts about the performance ethic of our worship leaders. I basically have resigned myself that this is the way it is going to be for the next 20 years or so. I only hope that whatever comes next will be an improvement.

  11. Thanks, I just started as the worship leader of a smaller church plant in Sacramento. I found this extremely useful and although i absolutely love the song you used in your first example, i agree with your premise for the most part. I have a lot to learn, 22, single, still working on my degree, etc… So again, I’m thankful for leaders like yourself relating your insights on your experience. Now, im curious what your take is on the effects of the physical environment would be. That is, how does the worship experience change when we consider the input of the other senses? We see a trend of churches relying on dark rooms, smoke, and lights to “engage” the people. How do you feel about that?

    • Hi Joel,

      Thanks for stopping in and commenting!

      You bring up a great question and I haven’t truly given it a lot of thought. So my answer here is basically off the top of my head, take it with a grain of salt.

      I think the enviornment we “worship” in can help the gathered people of God worship in the biblical sense of the word, and it can also hinder true worship. You can read almost any article on this blog that deals with worship, to understand my take on what worship is. Essentially, it is a life laid down. We offer our lives to God, to live for him, to pursue him in our deeds, making the hard choices to order our lives so that we resemble Him more and more.

      You should be asking yourself “What helps this process?” To find the answer, you want to ask how the historical church (not just the church of the last 30 years!) viewed the corporate gathering? What kind of elements have always been included in the coporate gathering from 100 AD until now? Understanding the answer to those questions will go along way in helping a young worship leader become a wise worship leader.

      Dark rooms, incense or lighting are neutral to me. Churches were dark in the past because there was no electricity, so I wouldn’t make too big of a deal out of that, one way or the other. The Orthodox church to this day burns incense in their gatherings and have done so for 1800 years or so. Flashing disco balls and fog machines? I think that crosses the line.

      I have learned that the people of God ARE already engaged in worship or are ready to engage, when they arrive to the gathering. What we, as worship leaders, offer to them as a vehicle to worship is what often causes the people to dis-engage. When I was younger, I blamed the people if they didn’t look” “like they were engaging. As I have matured, I have learned to shoulder more of the responsibility for that. I have also learned not to use my eyes as an accurate way to view authentic worship.

      If I could give you one piece of advice it would be this: Look deeper! Go back farther! Don’t accept today’s model of what “worship” is. Don’t embrace it as the best thing out there, the way it must be done. Believe it or not, the church has been gathering to worship God for a very long time. Those who have gone before us have not left us without a record of their journey. While your well-intentioned friends are busy buying the latest worship CD and trying to mimic the newest worship minsitry, you should be studing early church history and reading the church Fathers. You don’t have to re-invent this thing we call worship. Learn what it really is, and then structure the corporate gathering around those things that graciously draw the people of God to Him. If you choose that path, You will become quite an effective leader for God and those you lead will become more and more like our Savior!

  12. I thank you for your incite in to this issue that I’m sure affects a lot o churches these days. As a worship leader my self, I believe our church has struggled in this area and I will take heed to your advice. One thing that I totally agree with you on is that every church has a different congregation. I can’t expect everyone in my church respond to bands like Jesus Culture or Elevation worship, etc. I know that as a worship leader, which you are right that I can sing worship and praise to anything, we are called to simply lead in the worship and praise of our Lord and some of us worship leader have to learn to humble our selves and pick or even in my case write songs that will help people enter into the presence of the Lord. It’s not just about what the worship team wants, but God wants for that church and it’s congregation.

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