Worship Leading

Don Purdey

The following is an excerpt from the book, “Don’t Fret: The Worship Leader’s Pocketbook.” This book can be purchased by clicking here:


Preparing for Worship

There is always something unique and special about a worship time, whether it’s a thousand people lifting the roof or a few friends around a campfire. Every time we come into God’s presence it’s a fresh opportunity to relate to him and do his bidding. There are always surprises, no matter how much you have prepared. And that’s a good thing: no, it’s a wonderful thing, because in those moments God is flexing his sovereign muscles and tweaking what you’re doing to get it just the way he wants it.

“…in those moments God is flexing his sovereign muscles and tweaking what you’re doing…”

I remember one occasion well, for reasons which will become obvious. It was early in my ordained ministry and I had been asked to lead the worship for a regional gathering of the church. The meeting was packed with people, and being new to the district I probably only knew about four of them! But I had prepared thoughtfully and prayerfully. What would God do with one man and his guitar in this room full of devoted followers of Jesus?

We launched into worship and a few songs later we were blowing the roof off—so much so that the evening’s formal business program went out the window. As the singing died down, we were all forming impromptu prayer triplets, encouraging one another in prayer and asking God for healing.

After a long time the leaders came to me and said, “Don, we need to wrap this up: people have to get home tonight.” I knew what they meant—I had a 200km drive myself.

As I was pondering how to bring the room back into a final time of focussed worship and “sending out”, something really got my attention. I was passed a mobile phone (they were much rarer at that time!) and heard my wife telling me that my dad had died. Now I really needed to end the session, and yet I did not want my own grief to spoil what was still a mind-blowing experience of God in the room.

I said a short silent prayer, and, totally unplanned, found myself strumming a single strong downstroke E chord on my 12-string guitar that resonated around the room and commanded attention. From there, the words “Yes, Jesus loves me!” came out long and slow and strong. We sang the chorus of that beloved hymn very slowly and with increasing power. Then I broke into a faster blues rhythm, adding (occasionally falteringly in my grief) the walking bass on the lower strings of the 12, and the room erupted, “Jesus loves me, this I know…” We sang and sang, repeat after repeat, with people laughing, crying, waving their arms, dancing and hugging one another, all joyously celebrating their walk into the throne-room of heaven—and their emerging from it— deeply in love with their Lord.

Prepare Well

Over fifteen years later people will still come up and recall that evening, but I just thank God for the privilege and the amazing way that he prompted me to find the right songs to open up that meeting to him, and, in the midst of my own grief, the perfect means of ending to make the time truly complete. That is the privilege of a worship leader: to prepare well, to know your job, to deliver it well, and to be on hand as God’s vessel to use in amazing—and unexpected— ways.

Recently I caught the last part of a TV program which had a famous European orchestra playing in an ornate hall in Vienna, with a very famous conductor. The audience were thrilled at what they

heard. Then, during the encore piece, the conductor left his post and went around every member of the orchestra, interrupting their playing to greet them and shake their hands. Two things struck me about this. One was that the orchestra played on quite successfully without the conductor— he had prepared them well in rehearsal. But the other thing showed his true worth. Every member of the orchestra greeted the conductor with great honour and reverence, all clearly moved by what they had done together as they thanked him profusely.

“What you do as a worship leader affects people. At your best, you can change people’s whole perspective on God and their worship of him.”

As a worship leader, you can be like that conductor. What you do may not be all that apparent. It’s not that worship can’t go on without you—it can. But many of your fellow performers, both band and congregation, will be deeply grateful for your role when you do it well. And our “audience of one”—the Lord—will show his delight too, in many lovely and unimaginable ways.

What you do as a worship leader affects people. At your best, you can change people’s whole perspective on God and their worship of him. You can open doors for them to enter into places they didn’t know existed. You can lead and encourage outpourings of faith that will resonate in lives for years—generations even. So—work at your craft. Resolve to be as good at it as you possibly can. Commit it to prayer, and commit it to action.

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Checkout More Articles from Don Purdey:

Song Leading: The Vocalists

The What and The Why of Worship

Presenting the Music

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Purchase Don Purdey’s Book: Don’t Fret: The Worship Leader’s Pocketbook

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