One more time, this is the definition for a congregational worship leader I’ve proposed:
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’m going to share a few thoughts on that last line.
Worship doesn’t begin when the singing starts, nor end when the music stops. We don’t “do worship” in a meeting, nor compartmentalize it to the singing section. Romans 12:1 clearly says that worship is what we do with our lives.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Biblically speaking, there is no sacred/secular distinction in our lives. All of life is meant to be lived in the presence of God, for the glory of God. Our words and actions should constantly proclaim the sovereignty, worthiness, and mercy of our crucified and risen Savior (see also 1Pet. 2:4-12 and Heb 13:15-16).
Many church services begin with a “call to worship.” In one sense, we’re telling people to focus all their energies on declaring, magnifying, and savoring the riches of God in Christ through song, prayer, and the Word. But Harold Best makes this insightful observation, in his book Music Through the Eyes of Faith:
There can only be one call to worship, and this comes at conversion, when in complete repentance we admit to worshiping falsely, trapped by the inversion and enslaved to false gods before whom we have been dying sacrifices. This call to true worship comes but once, not every Sunday, in spite of the repeated calls to worship that begin most liturgies and orders of worship. These should not be labeled calls to worship but calls to continuation of worship. We do not go to church to worship, but, already at worship, we join our brothers and sisters in continuing those actions that should have been going on – privately, [as families], or even corporately – all week long. (p.147)
My goal as a worship leader is not simply to magnify God at the moment, but to inspire worshipers to spread the sweet aroma of the Savior’s glory in the church and beyond through their everyday words, actions, and choices.
So how do we help people see that worship is more than a meeting? One way is to reference ways other than singing that we can bring praise to God. Serving, giving, and evangelizing, to name a few, are all acts of worship that take place outside a Sunday gathering. Often, at the end of a time of singing, I’ll ask God to help us remember every day the realities we’ve been proclaiming. We might also draw attention to the fact that God doesn’t change when we’re in the midst of challenging times. While acknowledging the struggles, problems, and weaknesses we all deal with, we must remind ourselves that God is a very present help in time of trouble. (Ps. 46:1) God is just as worthy of worship when our car breaks down as He is when we meet on Sunday morning.
We can also choose songs that talk about the moment-by-moment worship in daily life to which God calls us. The hymn “Take My Life” is one example that comes to mind. Finally, those who lead on Sundays can refer to other parts of the meeting as worship. “Let’s continue our worship through our tithes and offerings.” “Let’s prepare our hearts to worship God as we hear His Word proclaimed.” Comments like these help people realize that every act can be done for the glory of God. David Peterson comments:
“Church meetings should not be regarded simply as a means to an end – a preparation for worship and witness in everyday life – but as ‘the focus-point of that whole wider worship which is the continually repeated self-surrender of the Christian in obedience of life.’” (Engaging with God, p.220)
Sundays are not an escape from the world, but an affirmation of our faith and an encouragement to maintain our confidence in Jesus in the midst of an unbelieving world. For God is worthy of worship not only when we gather, but at every moment of time, by every creature in creation, for all eternity. That mindset should be the goal not only of our corporate worship leading, but of our entire lives.