The lights are glaring, the music is blaring, the riffs are right on, the hands on stage are raised, the notes sung are in perfect pitch, the segue's are spot on...you can't believe how amazing this time of worship at church has been the past 20 minutes. Your fist is high in the air and your eyes are closed, a single drip of sweat rolls to your brow...you open your eyes and see a room full of people with arms folded, hands in pockets and some even have dared to squint their eyes as if to say..."What was that?"
You and the worship team walk backstage declaring your church is dead. That they need a spiritual revival, that the people in your church simply don't "get it". How could they not be consumed with an overwhelming spirit of praise and adoration for God after the perfect musicianship and emotion coming from the stage?
This is a familiar story many worship teams have experienced.
Don't Assume they Know How to Praise
This post is for you worship leader. The one who stands on stage each week, leading people to the throne of God. It's to the one who is frustrated, tired of leading a room full of people who just seem detached. This is for you worship team member who is deliberate about how you "show" your worship. It's even for the worship team member who is deliberate in how they "don't show" your adoration for God. If you're frustrated with the lack of "worship & praise" expression in your church services, it's time to stop forcing a square peg in a round hole...and start sanding that square peg.
So how do you get your local church to respond in corporate worship? I can't say I know the answer to this question. Because quite frankly, it's something I'm currently praying about for each person in our church. However, I can say that I have identified some questions that are hopefully leading me to the result that God desires vs. what I desire:
- Do I know the spiritual state of our church? Our church desire is to be a church of 1/3rds. That is a church attendance of 1/3 mature believers, 1/3 new believers, 1/3 seekers or unchurched. For me to assume that each person in our congregation should "get it" and display public affection and adoration the way I think they should does not match up with the vision of the church. As worship leaders (and team members I'm talking to you too), stop and think about the make up of your church. How many people in the room do you think are "witnesses" versus "participators"? If you can answer this, it might help you shift your disappointment into opportunity.
- Am I teaching them to praise? I am an acoustic guitar playing worship leader. It's just how I do it. I'm most comfortable hidden behind that beautiful Breedlove constantly strumming without giving me a chance to raise my hands. What I've decided to do these past couple of months is to challenge myself to teach our church visibly how to worship the Lord. I (take a deep breathe) have led a few times without playing guitar. Stepping out of my comfort zone has allowed me to free myself to lead our church visually in expressing worship physically to the Lord. Raising hands, clapping and even moving more than 2 feet away from my boom stand that I'm weekly chained to with the acoustic guitar. My hope is that I'm setting a tone, knocking down barriers for people when I do this. Side note: I've also been able to allow other people in our church to take part in worship leading behind the guitar since doing this. So think of ways you can really teach people how to praise.
- Do I and the Team "Get It"? Yes...that old saying, "When you point your finger accusing someone of something, there are three more fingers pointing right back at you". There have been times I've thought of the corporate worship service as time in front of the mirror. Think of it like this, you and your worship team are a mirror that your church is looking at. Are you reflecting the glory of Christ? If so, the church will see it. It doesn't mean they'll automatically respond in a way you hope through singing louder or raising hands, but it isn't so much about that "moment" as it is creating an opportunity for people to witness first hand the joy and peace a relationship with God can bring. If you simply reflect yourself in the "mirror", yeah...people aren't going to be impressed. Don't be surprised if you just become another "band" in their eyes.
- Am I and the Team Leading Offstage? This is a big one. I've always believed in this principle. The worship leading doesn't stop when you step off the stage. In fact, I contend that it truly begins offstage. In every action, conversation, and interaction with people within the church, you are leading worship. People won't "buy it" if they just witnessed you being a jerk to an audio team member. They won't "buy it" if your guitarist, drummer, bassist, keyboardist or vocalist (covered them all so I won't be accused of signaling out anyone on our team...I love them all) aren't experiencing personal growth within their own local church. How can you lead people in worship if you aren't yourself living it?
These are just a few of the questions I've continually asked myself as our worship team journeys to pastor the hearts of our local church in the area of worship. We must never assume people know how to praise God when we gather corporately. You as a worship leader and team member have a great opportunity and responsibility to look for ways to connect people to Christ every week. Instead of getting frustrated with them...ask God to help you identify ways you can begin teaching your church how to praise the Lord.
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord -Colossians 3:16 (NKJV)