As a worship leader, I can’t help but constantly see the comparison and contrast between sports and church. I love sports. I love leading worship. When I lead worship, I challenge and push my church to be as excited and loud about their passion for God, as they are about their favorite sports team. I push them to get even louder about their love for God!
When you think about college sports, it seems to be another level. If you’ve been around college football fans, they’re beyond loud. They’re loud and proud! They’re much like Texans. If you’ve ever spent any time with Texans, you know that they’re loud and proud about their home state. “It’s God’s country”, they say! I don’t necessarily think that it’s a bad thing. I admire their geographical enthusiasm. One of my favorite movie scenes about Texas is from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure:
Generally, when people are proud of something, they’re loud about it. Loud and proud isn’t horribly awful in our society. In church world, though, the proud part can really get in the way of worship. It can, in turn, affect the loud part.
It’s a good and biblical thing to be loud in our praise. Psalm 150 talks about “loud symbols”. Psalm 98:4 says, “Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music!”
That doesn’t seem to encourage a quiet atmosphere.
There’s no place for pride in worship. Pride is the main thing that will hold a person and some churches back from joyfully and freely proclaiming their love for God.
This brings the worship leader to the question, “Is my crowd loud or proud?”
What I’ve found is that if we can get our crowd past being proud, we can help them get loud in their worship of the Lord.
Here’s some tips I’ve learned about helping our crowd get more loud and less proud:
1. CHALLENGE THEIR MOTIVES
If the “WHAT” of church is the gathering together of God’s people, then the “WHY” is worship. The purpose of going to church as the Church is to glorify God together. That must be our motive. If that’s not our motive, then we have some serious problems and they’re all mainly rooted in pride. Remind your crowd about that. If we go to a game with the intent of cheering on our favorite sports team, then let’s go to church with the intent of expressing love and adoration for the Lord. It’s ok to do a heart check with our church on that. It’s one hour of the week and most people need to be reminded of that. When we do that, we challenge their motives in a healthy way.
2. NUDGE THEIR VOLUME
If you want something louder, you need to push the volume. The way we do that with our crowd is the same way you do that with a sound system…a nudge at a time. If you just push the volume slider all the way up, you’ll get some major feedback. If you push your crowd too much in their volume, you’ll also experience some major negative feedback from them. Take opportunities each week to nudge them along. Look for open doors to address it, but have fun with it in the process. It’s a baby step process. If their motives are in the right place then you can nudge their volume at the right pace.
3. SHOWCASE THEIR VOICES
There’s nothing more amazing to me than to hear a congregation of average voices lifting praises to our Lord. There’s so much beauty in that. A big factor I’ve experienced in getting a louder crowd, is stepping off the mic and letting the voices of my church fill the place. When a crowd can hear themselves singing, they start realizing that they’re participators instead of spectators. When the worship leader steps off the mic, the place not only hears that, but they also see it. It’s my signal to the crowd that it’s time for them to take the lead vocals on the worship team. When my vocalists on stage see me do this, they know to step back as well. This is the time to showcase the voices of our church. The beauty of it unifies us all into a choir singing praises to our God.
4. RECOGNIZE THEIR PROGRESS
As you challenge and push your crowd, don’t forget to encourage them. Recognize their progress each week. It’s amazing what a little encouragement does to people. Encouragement fuels momentum. I’ve seen worship leaders get up and ridicule their crowd for being too disengaged. Guess what happened….the place got quieter. Remember that they don’t have to be there. They are there because they want to do the right thing. Worship leaders have the power to really encourage that. It’s necessary to challenge your crowd, but don’t neglect encouraging and recognizing them and their progress. It will only motivate them in their pursuit of God.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe that volume is the main validator of hearts. I don’t believe that a loud crowd is the end game here, but I do see a problem. The problem is that there’s a lot of excitement amongst Christians about other things in this world, and suddenly, that energy seems to dissipate as they walk into a church building.
Jeremiah 9:23-24 says,
This is what the Lord says:
“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
or the strong boast of their strength
or the rich boast of their riches,
but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,”
declares the Lord.
There’s no place for pride in worship. We will either boast about God or ourselves. It’s never simultaneous. If our churches are generally quiet about God, that usually means that pride is getting in the way. Let’s teach our churches to boast about how great God is! When it comes to the worship of the Lord, let’s teach our crowds to be more loud and less proud.
Gary is the worship arts director at Orchard Church in Denver, Colorado. He is also a blogger and a songwriter and is passionate about serving the local church. He has released two full length albums in the last several years and two EP’s in the last few years with songs that are completely geared for corporate worship – “Kingdom EP” (2010) & “Jesus EP” (2012). Gary has had his songs recognized by Myrrh Records, WorshipSource.com, the Purpose Driven Worship Conference, TheWorshipCommunity.com, CCLITV and SongDiscovery.
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