By Hayley Solich
I have heard it said many times, “that was great worship” or “that was really bad worship,” “I felt nothing,” and “I wish the congregation or music team would just get it together.”
As a worship leader these kinds of comments can lift us to the heavens or dump us in the gutter if we don’t understand two aspects of worship:
1. What the purpose of worship is – To love God.
2. What people need from us – To be shown how to love God.
Worship is not for us, although it does involve us and there is a side benefit of joy if we allow it to touch us. Worship is for God. He is the object of it and therefore the only one who really is able to judge it, so we should not be making these critical judgments of one another.
So when we come to a gathering of believers and we sit in judgment of what we think is good or bad worship, we are totally missing the point. The question should not be how good it was, but rather, did I (me personally) give God my whole heart today? Did I express how much I love Him and why I love Him?
Equally, if we don’t understand our role and purpose – to help people to understand the purpose of worship (to love God) and to fulfil that purpose – when we come to lead people in worship we are missing the goal.
Too many times I hear worship leaders saying to their singers or musicians, ‘That was awful. Wasn’t the congregation really flat today?’ But what are they really saying? If you read between the lines, what they are really saying is, ‘I am making a judgment today that because there was not an energetic time of worship it was not acceptable, it was lacking.’ But lacking to whom?
So many worship leaders fall into the trap of either performing for the crowd or trying to force feed their congregations worship whether they want it or not, instead of drawing them into a loving relationship with God because they are truly inspired by the love they see the worship leader expressing to God.
So, my suggestion is that we put aside the critical words, the critical thinking in relation to how well or not our congregations are participating in worship and we start to lead, to educate, to inspire our congregations to greater heights of worship through a gracious and loving example.
Let us put aside our own thoughts of how good we were, how well we sounded, how amazing our anointing was and how great our ministry is and put on the humble robes of a contrite spirit. For this is what God says He will not despise.
David danced passionately before the Ark of the Covenant, causing Michal his wife to despise his abandonment. Consequently, Michal drew to herself barrenness as a judgment. From this example echoes what Christ said, “Judge not, lest you be judged” and I can’t help but feel that God is very serious about how we view one another in relationship to worship.
As worship leaders let us be willing to do whatever it takes to express ourselves wholeheartedly and honestly before God, but also, let us have compassion on others who do not understand us or do not want to express their own passion in the same way.
It is a mistake for us to think that every person that comes into a service has a musical gifting, can clap in time, will stand up or jump or dance or bow down when we say so or wants to be the next psalmist. Many are tone deaf. Some are too frail to stand for long periods of time. Many are intellectual, logical, linear wired people who have very little creative right brain activity and have no desire to change because they have learned to worship God in their own way.
As a worship leader with over 20 years of experience I have had to learn to be humble. Like a shepherd, I have had to learn to nurture my lead sheep and to care for the stragglers in the flock. To live my life as an example of extravagant worship of God in the knowledge that as I touch Him, He touches me and others see and feel that love flow, but with my eyes open to ensure that everyone comes on the journey with me and that I am not a soloist in corporate worship.
It is not an easy job. There are so many temptations – to be thinking about ourselves, to be intimidated by others, to focus simply on technical excellence whilst missing the heart communication – and it can be very stressful, but that all fades away if we remember the purpose – to express our love to God.
God is love. We are His conduits of that love. Corporate worship and private worship (both equally as important as each other) are an opportunity for us to receive the living water that Jesus spoke of to the woman at the well that he wants to give those who will worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth.
Let us remember that we are loved and our worship is our way of expressing that love back to God. Let us be tender-hearted to God and to man, loving deeply and honouring both.