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What I Think About When I’m Leading Worship (More Than Music)

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Written by Rick Muchow

“…brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Php 4:8

Churches are looking for worship leaders that have the ability to connect a congregation to God through worship. More than music, Pastors are looking for connection. Pastors may or may not know/care anything about music but they do know and care about their flock! The worship leader that knows how to connect a crowd to God

and stays away from the temptations of this world, will have no problem finding ministry opportunities.

When you lead worship do you feel like the crowd is connecting to God? More importantly, does your Pastor feel like the crowd is connecting?
In this article I will describe 13 things that are essential for connecting a congregation to God in worship.

The most important thing for a worship leader to be is to be a worshipper. Building methodology on Biblical theology is key to the success of every servant leader of God and especially to the worship leader.

“YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ “ Matt 22:37

Effective worship leading is rooted in knowing and loving God with all ones heart, soul and mind.
Who we are, children in relationship with our heavenly Father, is far more important than what we do for a living or any “act of worship”.

Further it is vitally important that worship leaders understand what the bible teaches about worship. Rather than learning biblical worship theory, it is common for God’s children to “worship by ear”.
As musicians, we understand the importance of having a foundation in (music) theory. Personally, I enjoy playing music by ear but have benefited greatly by understanding the principles of theory.

Before we move on let’s look at four foundational principles of Biblical worship. Understanding these principles gives us a correct perspective for leading worship.

1.Worship must be done in love. “ If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophesy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” 1 Cor 13:1-3

2.Worship is always accompanied by humility and reverent fear. Isaiah 66:2 describes it this way: “All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord.
 But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”

3. God commands us to worship. Worship is not an optional activity for the believer. The bible is filled with scripture commanding us to worship. “Worship the Lord your God, and his blessing will be on your

food and water.” Ex 23:25 “All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name.” Psalm 86:9

4. Worship involves surrendering your entire life to God. “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.” Rom 12:1-2

Here are 13 things you should think about when leading worship. Leading worship, for me, starts when I leave my house and ends when I get in my car to come home.

1. Think About Magnifying God. Avoid substituting Worshipping God for Worshipping Art forms and performance by remembering the foundational principles of worship. Worship is about God not us! This will eliminate self- promotion. “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.” Ps 34:3 “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Ex 20:3

2. Think About Others. The second part of the Great Commandment is to love your neighbor.
It is so important to have love for others on your mind as you lead worship. Consider these verses:
“So let us then definitely aim for and eagerly pursue what makes for harmony and for mutual up building (edification and development) of one another.” Rom 14:9 “Let all things be done for building up.” 1 Cor 14:26b “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” 1 Th 5:11 “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please
ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up” Rom 15 “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the
weak. I have become all things to all people,
that by all means I might save some. 1 Cor. 9:22

3. Think About Recruiting

Watch the crowd…look for musicians. Greet your congregation before and after the service. One of the primary roles for the worship leader is to be the Manager of God’s Musical (Artistic) resources in the church and give opportunity for others to use their gifts in

worship! Rom. 12:6 says, “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.” Rather than asking people to come and help me do my thing using phrases like: “Oh please help us.” Or “We need help.” I offer opportunities for people to use their gifts for God. Most of the time, people are interested in opportunities that benefit them personally. There is NOTHING more fulfilling than using your gifts for the glory of God.

4. Think About Excellence

Always give your best…physically, spiritually and musically. When we are well prepared we are more available to people and not tied to the “score”. Plan for excellence. You cannot be better than your material so choose service elements wisely and program them well.

I think about excellence but I don’t worship it. Excellence is a good value but not the goal of a worship service. Connection is the goal! The bible is filled with verses about giving your best. Rom 12:8 says it like this: “If we are leaders we should do our best.”

5. Think About Thanksgiving, Praise and Joy

Worship needs to be enthusiastic.
Enthusiasm has nothing to do with volume preference. All Hymns were not written to be sung slowly and certainly none without passion. Tempo and Dynamics are often thought of as synonymous…but they are not. Further, a slow song does not have to be void of energy. For that matter fast songs don’t have to be loud. The point is that every song used in Christian worship should be presented from a heart of thanksgiving, praise and joy. “Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous,
and give thanks to his holy name!” Ps 97:12 “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God..” Isa 61:10

6. Think About the Holy Spirit Leading

“Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord Almighty-you will succeed because of My Spirit, though you are few and weak.” –

Zechariah 4:6 TLB

Listen to the voice of God while leading worship. The Holy Spirit is the BEST worship leader.
Moses and Aaron relied on the leading of God for their ministry. God said to Moses “Talk to him (Aaron), and put the words in his mouth. I will be with both of you as you speak, and I will instruct you both in what to do.” Ex 4:15 And Jesus said:

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” John 4:23

7. Think About Authenticity

Personalize the lyrics. Love and live the Word. Pray the songs. Enter into worship (don’t get lost in it while you are leading) and be the lead worshipper. Jesus teaches us not to be like the hypocrites who love to stand up and pray in the houses of worship and on the street corners, so that everyone will see them. (Matt 6:5 James 1:22 exhorts us to not merely listen to the word and so deceive ourselves but do what it says. A worship leader is not merely performing but living the message. None of us are perfect but all of us can be honest and sincere; sinners in love with a merciful Savior.

All believers are trophies of God’s grace. Consider this verse: “I have found David a man after God’s own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.” Acts 13:22 (Sam 13:14) (for more refer to Rom 12:1)

8. Think About Navigating The Unexpected Moments

Be ready for the last minute and unplanned moments and use them for God’s glory… making the most of every opportunity! These moments can be carrying out a change of worship plan without anyone noticing. It could mean transitioning the attention of the crowd from a noticeable “snag” in the service back to God. Strings breaking, missed cues, the Fire Alarm going off all can be used as opportunities for ministry that enhance a live worship service.

The old saying “when you get bumped the real you spills out” applies here. People, especially skeptics, love seeing the real you. The key in navigating the unexpected (even more important than experience) is prayer.

“Devote yourselves to PRAYER, keeping ALERT in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.” Col 4:2

9. Think About Managing Chaos

I think about managing chaos when I am leading worship. Isn’t that weird? This is similar but distinct from Navigating the Moments. Being able to navigate the moments is very helpful to managing chaos (review Col 4:2). Knowing how to deal with Chaos is very helpful to the worship leader. Again experience is helpful here however Wisdom is the key to Managing Chaos. In I Kings 3:10 God said to Solomon: “I am pleased you asked for this. You could have asked to live a long time or to be rich. Or you could have asked for your enemies to be destroyed. Instead you asked for WISDOM to make right decisions.” The best way to Manage Chaos (Chaos distracts so much from connecting people to God and drains joy out of the team) is to stay one step ahead of it and make right decisions calmly, clearly and confidently. Always value people more than the program.

Be personal and professional but the greatest of these is personal. LOVE as you lead.

10.Think About Urgency

What you do REALLY matters. It is truly a matter of life and death. People all around us are dying without Jesus. This is the worst human disaster on the planet. People need the Lord. Consider the words of Paul in 1 Cor 9:16-23

“For I take no special pride in the fact that I preach the Gospel. I feel compelled to do so; I should be utterly miserable if I failed to preach it…For though I am no man’s slave, yet I have made myself everyone’s slave, that I might win more men to Christ…I have, in short, been all things to all sorts of men that by every possible means I might win some to God. I do all this for the sake of the Gospel; I want to play my part in it properly.” He goes on to compare our life of ministry to a race that we are trying to win! “I run the race then with determination. I am no shadow-boxer, I really fight! I am my body’s sternest master, for fear that when I have preached to others I should myself be disqualified.” 1 Cor 9: 26-27

Jesus speaks of his Father’s heart for his children in Matt 18:14 “He doesn’t want any of these little ones to be lost.” Matt 18:14

We have a job to do… it matters… we may not get a second chance with some people.

11.Think About Servant Leadership

This was Jesus’ model: “Do nothing
from selfish ambition or conceit, but
in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of
a servant, being born in the likeness of
men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Phil 2:3-8 Please refer to Matt 20:25-28 where Jesus taught servant leadership.
One of my favorite verses regarding Servant leadership is Rom 12:10 “Be good friends

who love deeply, practice playing second fiddle.”

12.Think About Involving The Crowd

Throughout the bible there is an emphasis on THEY worshipped. Worship at church needs to be participatory. There is a difference between an Artist and a Worship Leader. An Artist IS the fire. A Worship leader LIGHTS the fire.

A great way to get a crowd to participate is to ask them to participate. I don’t think asking is offensive. For example… If you ask the crowd to clap their hands to the music they might do it. If they don’t respond just be patient and ask again. Don’t get frustrated with the crowd, be nurturing. If you speak their cultural language you have a better chance of getting a positive response. Learning how to ask is like learning a language. They may be ready to respond but are not responding because they don’t understand what they are being asked. Funny… Sometimes we think that if we talk louder and slower to people, that speak a

different language than we do, our words will eventually be understood. That does not work! Most of the time when attenders are not involved in a worship service it is because they have simply not been invited to participate. The bible says in Isaiah 44:23 to “tell the heavens and the earth to start singing! Tell the mountains and every tree in the forest to join in the song. The Lord has rescued His people… now they will worship him.”

Again the bible emphasizes THEY worshipped. When Jesus sang in the upper room he sang with his disciples. If anyone could have asked for a solo, Jesus could have… but it was recorded that “they” sang a hymn. Don’t be afraid to ask the crowd to participate and be sure to create opportunities for their involvement in the service.

13.Think About Changed Lives

This is very similar to URGENCY. When you lead, sing to the lost, hurting and broken. In every worship service there are people present with genuine needs. Ask God to help you encourage, comfort, serve and communicate the Good News to His precious children especially the lost, hurting and broken. Ask

your team to envision God using them to minister to God’s children. Pray for attendees, volunteers, staff and the speaker.

In conclusion, when Pastors ask me how I can have so much energy and engage the crowd in worship consistently, my first thought is that God is using me and that is what energizes me. I look at what I do as much more than music.

I love music and art… but I LOVE God! Serving the Lord through the Great Commission and the Great Commandment is extremely fulfilling. My second thought, when asked about my worship leading, is that I think about these 13 things, as a matter of habit, every time I lead worship: Magnifying God, Others, Recruiting, Excellence, Thanksgiving, Holy Spirit Leading, Authenticity, Navigating the moments, Managing Chaos, Urgency, Servant Leadership, Involving The Crowd and Changed Lives. This is a lot to think about when leading worship but as we practice them eventually they become second nature. Remember that leading worship is

M.O.R.E. T.H.A.N. M.U.S.I.C. ………..

Rick served as Pastor Of Worship at Saddleback Church with Rick Warren for 24 1⁄2 years. He is the author of The Worship Answer Book (Just released as an eBook), His worship songs and other resources can be downloaded from iTunes, Praise Charts, CCLI and from his website www.encouragingmusic.com
Contact Rick:
Facebook: Rickmuchow band
Twitter: @Rickmuchow
Email: info@encouragingmusic.com

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