A few weeks back, I proposed this definition for a corporate worship leader: 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. Today I’d like to talk about “motivating the gathered church.”
Ideally, as I stand in front of the church to lead them in singing God’s praise, every person is ready to sing with all their might – minds focused, hearts engaged, wills set to proclaim God’s glory. Unfortunately, it’s a fallen world, and people often come into a Sunday meeting bearing the battle scars of their war against the world, their flesh, and the devil. In that situation, how do I help them worship God? What do I do when I sense that people aren’t benefiting from this focused time of remembering God’s greatness and covenant mercies?
Well, maybe I should start with some of the things I DON’T want to do (but have done many times over the years…).
First, I don’t want to demand that people worship God. “Sing it like you mean it! I want everyone here to raise their hands. Come on, people!” God never commands us to praise Him without including reasons why we should do it. Psalm 117 is just one example of many: Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD! When I expect people to instantly respond to my direction without giving them biblical reasons to do it, I’m often just arrogantly thinking that people aren’t as spiritual as me.
Second, I don’t want to manipulate people into some response that doesn’t spring from a clear view of God’s glory in Christ. Some of the potential ways I can seek to manipulate are through music (This beat ALWAYS gets the crowd going!), insincere emotion (Put a smile on your face like me!), “mystical” experiences (No one really understands what I’m doing, but hey, I’m worshipping) and performance (We’ll WOW them into worship with that cool synth sound behind the video.)
Third, I don’t want to project guilt on the church. This is when I draw attention to the fact that they’re doing a lousy job worshipping God. I remember one night years ago when I was leading a small, very unresponsive youth group in worshipping God. I stopped cold in the middle of a song and said in tense, measured tones, “You have no IDEA who you’re singing to! How can you stand there with your hands in your pockets and apathetic looks on your faces and claim to be worshiping God? Do you think this honors Him? No! Now let’s go back to praising God.” As you might expect, I didn’t exactly inspire anyone to greater passion for God. (By the way, I did ask the forgiveness of the youth and parents later.)
If I’m magnifying the worth of God and the work of the Savior myself, I’m in the best place to motivate others to worship God. They’ll see it on my face, hear it in my voice, and observe it in my physical expression. I’ll work hard to paint a compelling picture of God’s glory in Christ, depending on the power of God’s Spirit to open our eyes to His beauty, His greatness, and His goodness. As I give myself to THAT task, people will be motivated by God’s grace to do the same.