Thursday, August 16, 2012

Who's Responsible For Worship

A photo from Monday Morning worship here at the YWAM base.

I've been wanting to write a series of blog posts on worship for a while now.  I think this is as good of a starting point as any… 

My friend Phil Cunningham the other day tweeted this: 
"Thank you for leading me in worship but please don't tell me what posture I need to take while worshipping Jesus"

I asked him to expound on what he meant, so he blogged about it.  

You can read his explanation and the comments here -->  Lead me in worship, not where to put my hands.  

I don't have a strong opinion on what he wrote at all.  Phil is expressing how he feels and probably expressing how a lot of people feel.  

I'm both a worship leader and someone that struggles to engage in corporate worship.  The struggle is sad, and it's no one else's fault, but worship times used to be the one time that I felt most connected with God.

I can relate to what Phil is saying.  On a recent sunday, I got quite annoyed with the worship leaders rock concert-esque questions.  "Are you guys ready to worship?!"  He was a "younger" guy and it  made me thankful for all of the people who have been gracious to me when I was leading anything when I was his age.  I probably did similar things.  It's tempting to want feedback when you're on stage.  My dad always reminded me that I can't judge what is going on inside of someone by their outward expression.  

From a worship leader perspective: I've sat in meetings where I've been berated (literally brought to tears) because of my worship style not being what others expected or were used to.  It was too dark, too heavy, not happy enough. I think it hurt a lot because it was my personal expression of worship to God.  It's how I connected most intimately with God.  I've also been challenged on my use of pronouns in the songs I've selected.  Too much "I" and not enough "we."  

When we come together corporately, your worship leader can't please everyone.  So please, be gracious.  :)  

From a worshipper's perspective:  No matter what annoyance, discomfort, stylistic preference, distraction, lack of atmosphere, sloppy powerpoint slides, poor musicianship, bad sound mix, it's still my responsibility to use that time to give God worship.  

That DOESN'T mean that worship leaders shouldn't be careful to serve the people they are leading and be sensitive to what God is saying and doing, and sensitive to the needs of the people.  But at the end of the day it's not the worship leaders complete responsibility for how YOU engage in worship.  

We're going through Leviticus right now in our SBS.  Chad Lewis' teaching is amazing, its really opened up the book to me, things that I would have never understood or picked up on my own.  

We're learning that tabernacle worship always COST something.  The 5 animals that were sacrificed were the currency of the day.  

What is worship going to cost you?  Don't let your personal preference get in the way of your worship to the King of Kings.  

Enage:  Weigh in on this conversation.  What are your thoughts as worshippers and worship leaders?  List your pet peeves and favorite worship times in the comments.  


  1. Hey Jim great thoughts!  I agree it's up to each of us to prepare and to worship God, of course what that worship looks like will be different for everyone.  It can be a very difficult thing to "lead" worship.  Yes, worship leaders are often burdened with "results".  Though I do agree that often "we" leaders use too much I and not enough "You".  There was a year that while leading our community didn't sing any songs that had I in it, a good challenge. 

    But often it's said that a good or great worship leader doesn't have to tell you to do anything, they simply help help foster an environment for others to connect with God.  I think sometimes it's good to try to get people to try something new I wouldn't make it a staple to say lift your hands, shout to God, or whatever else.  Simply to ask them to engage with the team.

  2. Good post thanks Jim.  

  3. I wish there was a different word for the corperate service we do together. As i understand from scripture worship happens everyday in all that you do.(at least it should) i think one of the reasons the music service is difficult is we try to cram our everyday worship into once or twice a week corperate services and we want in that moment to be connected with God when it should be a constant. And when we dont connect with God, it then becomes the styles fault or the music, or the setting, or even the worship leader. If we all worshiped God constantly as we should, and came together for corperate praise/prayer time, which would be essentially what we concider worship, i think we'd be focused on God and less on details. Just thoughts....

  4. I'm with you that not liking a personal style is no reason to tune out.  I would say the reason for that is that in submitting to God in our worship we will also submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  Ephesians 5:18-21 calls us to be filled with the Holy Spirit in speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, and to submit to one another, and Colossians 3:16-17 expresses a parallel thought with the premise that the word of Christ dwells within us.  So, ultimately, the answer to who is responsible for worship will be Christ producing worship in us.  If our worship time together is done according to his word and with a group of Spirit filled believers, there's going to not only be the freedom to express a personal style, but the freedom to set aside a personal style in submission to others around you.  This goes both ways.  A leader needs to submit to the needs of his fellow worshippers just as much as worshippers need to be charitable to the worship leader whose style isn't quite their bag.  Otherwise, we're not strengthening the church as we're called to in 1 Corinthians 14, we're just promoting our own interests.

    Hope that doesn't come off as too preachy, thanks for sharing your thoughts and for asking for ours.

  5. So good! Excellent thoughts Jeff, thanks so much for sharing!

  6. I agree Thomas, people would be less picky if we were "worshipping" throughout the week.

  7. great points! Thanks Marc!

  8. I think the responsibilities of worship leaders are to be fully aware of the fact that they are not in control of the worship time and yield their will and agenda to the Holy Spirit and be fully depended on him. And as the body of Christ, we should leave room for the worship leaders to make mistakes and know that they are humans who are trying to do their best to lead us to worship. 

  9. I totally agree with Stephen308. If the focus is not Christ and heart is not prepared,then any style or something will always bother people, i now  for myself,that i couldn`t worship, if the worship leader was getting out of tune now and then, but one time i didn`t notice that,only after worship, and i knew it`s my heart not his tunes, the leader was so anointed,even tunes didn`t matter..
    One other thing that get`s me confused is when in church you feel like in a concert, and also christian concert`s, where there`s sometime no difference.. i think worship should be less style,more Holy spirit , less of my voice, more my hearts voice and if the people are not engaging  with Holy spirit, then no worship leader can help them.

  10. i like both these thoughts Stephen. I miss leading worship with you man. I really liked how you switched from singing in Korean to English in a bi-lingual setting. Honolulu is running a Korean DTS right now so this quarter there is translation.

  11. Liene! Great to hear from you, thanks so much for commenting. I really like what you're saying, that if our hearts aren't prepared to worship, than we find things to be picky about.
    I think there is a time and place for the expression of joyful concert like worship, but yes and amen to your comment about less style, more Holy Spiri, less voice, more of hearts voice!

  12. I'm a little bit late in commenting on this two-week old post, but since I am thinking about it... 

    I've lately been inspired to think of worship from the perspective of an aesthetic which sees praise and worship as something that is constantly, nay, eternally happening in the heavenly realms before the throne of the Lamb (day and night the elders cry out... etc) and therefore our worship is not something that we prepare on our own, we do not contrive it or create it ex nihilo. When we worship, we participate in eternity and we join in the chorus of the angels that is already being sung day and night. Our sacrifice of praise, then, ought to befit the dignity, solemnity, joy, power, and life of the constant and eternal heavenly "leitourgia" (Greek for public service, used in the NT in the sense of prayerful, public worship; from which we get the English word 'liturgy'). Hence there is a standard that our worship must aspire to, and it is certainly not a free-for-all. Perhaps more than praise choruses and contemporary "Christian" music, we ought to make use of those elements of the heavenly liturgy that have been revealed to us: the psalms, the hymns witnessed in heaven by the prophets. This is why even the first Christians preserved elements of the worship of the synagogues and the Temple in their liturgy: Temple worship, as revealed in Scripture, was seen as the true representation of the worship in heaven, and their perspective of worship was that we should join in, imitate, and "mystically represent the Cherubim," as the Orthodox liturgy of St John Chrysostom says. Even the sacrificial system of the Temple finds its true content in Christian worship as it is a remembrance of the saving work of God through Christ - hence St Leo the Great called the Divine Liturgy "a great and bloodless sacrifice" each time it occurs. 

    Anyways, that's my plug for liturgical worship. And why I think Leviticus is the worship leader's handbook, if you will. 

  13. thanks for your thoughts dan, always appreciated!


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