Today I want to begin unpacking this proposed definition of a corporate worship leader’s role:
An effective corporate worship leader, aided and led by the Holy Spirit, skillfully combines biblical truth with music to magnify the worth of God and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, thereby motivating the gathered church to join him in proclaiming and cherishing the truth about God and seeking to live all of life for the glory of God.
An effective corporate worship leader… If I’m in front of a group, I’m leading. Whether it’s through verbal contributions, facial expressions, or bodily posture, people are following me. That raises some questions. What am I leading people to? Am I aware that I’m being followed? Am I doing anything to make my leadership fruitful? Romans 12:8 says leaders must lead with zeal (ESV), or govern diligently (NIV). We should never think that we can lead people to praise God without any thought or preparation. To be effective, a leader must know where he’s going, how to get there, and how to take others along with him. That kind of leadership requires intentional effort and consistent faithfulness.
At times we can make it sound as though worshipping God together is entirely a mystical, unpredictable experience. More than once I’ve heard something like, “I just don’t understand why last week we really experienced God’s presence and this week our praise didn’t seem to make it past the ceiling.” While God may relate to us in different ways at different times, He is not hiding from us, waiting to see if we’ll find the right combination to unlock His blessing, power, and presence. Worship in spirit and truth isn’t something we’re waiting to have “happen” to us, but something we give to God. God can at any moment choose to reveal His presence in our midst, but He has identified specific actions and attitudes that glorify Him, and to which He generally responds. Critical words, for example, quench the Spirit, while praise invites His activity and involvement.
We reap what we sow. When we moved into our house eight years ago our lawn was non-existent. We were surrounded by dirt. For five years I aerated, planted seed, fertilized, and waited. During that time, an amazing thing happened. Grass grew. Despite my poor horticultural talents, I reaped what I sowed. We will reap what we sow when we lead people to worship God as well. If we sow to musical experiences, we’ll reap a desire for better sounds, cooler progressions, and more creative arrangements. If we sow to feelings, we’ll reap meetings driven by the pursuit of emotional highs. On the other hand, if we want people to glorify God, we must sow to His glory. We must paint a compelling, attractive, grand, biblical picture of our great God and Savior. In order to do that, we need the power of God’s Spirit. That’s the topic tomorrow.
I don’t think God relates to us differently. He is unchanging, ever merciful, loving, all the qualities that God has promised to be as our Father. It is our relationship to Him at any given point that affects our ability to discern whether we are in God’s palpable presence or merely at a distance. If you have been walking closely to Him throughout the week in spiritual discipline and worship, your formal Sunday experience will be quite different than if you only worship Him on Sunday and expect Him to fulfill all your needs within an hour of worship. In other words, worship is a lifestyle, not just a Sunday morning “to do” thing. It is our distance from God, not His distance from us that is the heart of the matter.
Mr. Kauflin, do you think that a ‘Worship Leader’ can stand on the platform, worship God with his/her whole heart, sing whatever songs he/she wants, and thereby ‘model’ what worshiping God looks like, and thus lead the congregation by example?
I agree with you that I think that ‘Worship Leaders’ should definitely prepare for the corporate setting. When the Israelites ‘prepared’ to go to God’s house in the Old Testament, it seemed that they too took preparation seriously otherwise their sacrifice would not be accepted; and the priests prepared as well, or they might have ended up dead.
Maybe the worship ‘experience’ would be improved by all if each one of us took on the idea of arriving to God’s house prepared…in our heart, our mind, and our will.
I also think that if I am ‘worshiping’ to get something from God, instead of bringing something to Him, then my motive is wrong. I should be bringing my ‘act of worship’ because He’s worthy, not because I’m solely driven by the anticipated ‘feeling’ that I’ll attain.
Appreciate your post.
Bob, I see in your blog what appears to be a common misunderstanding. You say that worship isn’t something that happens, but what we give to God. Then, in a seeming contradiction, you say that the worshippers (perhaps including yourself) want or even expect a response from God; to experience Him, have “His activity and involvement.” The exhortation follows that you reap what you sow. The evaluation of worship as sowing and reaping is false as it pertains to moving God to action to make us feel like we are worshipping. Worship is an offering to Him as to a monarch. Expecting we can move Him in this way suggests that we have selfish expectations of gathered worship, wanting to get a feeling or response for ourselves. He speaks to us in return through His Word, enabled by the Spirit. Thanks!
Bob, I’m so thankful for your blog. It has brought so much clarity and light into my worship-leading world.
Thank you so much for this post! I know I’m reading it years after it was posted, but it serves as a great reminder of why I do what I do, especially in planning services.
Bob I really Like your post! I can totally relate with everything you said. Although God is never changing and always the same, he DOES relate/move over people differently. God is looking for true worshippers who worship him in Spirit and in truth. Different people feel a move of God in different ways because we are all at different areas in our walk with Him. There have been times where I was totally blessed by God’s presence in worship where my wife said she felt nothing. Other times, I have gone to church for worship, unprepared, with my heart hardened. I don’t want to worship. But as the music plays, I stirr myself up and just start praising God and focusing on His Glory and all his Mighty works! I already know He is worshy. And my heart melts before God and I enjoy a great experience in His presence.
Gregg Phillips mentioned that Worship is an offering unto God. But as i always experience in worship, I can always expect the Love of God to be poured over me when I give Him my heart and my song in worship. It’s just who God is and what He chooses to do when we worship! What is Man that God is mind ful of him?!