I was asked to write this during an application process, and it made me think about what my practical goal is as a worship leader. This is what I came up with.
I believe that Worship is a lifestyle, and a constant choosing of God over everything else. As such, I believe that corporate worship has the responsibility to be both a heart’s cry and a challenge, a means and an end. When we embrace the dual nature of worship, both the inward and outward aspects, we can effectively lead a congregation in a corporate worship service that helps every type of person move closer to God.
I think it is easiest to think of corporate worship as the heart’s cry of the believer, and that many people stop at this point and try to minister to only this group. However, I believe that when we minister especially to the personal experience of these people, we are actually being detrimental to their spiritual growth. There are many “me and Jesus” songs that leave out the key part of the equation, the love for others that Jesus puts on equal ground with love for God (because it is the natural result of love for God). I believe when you spend time in “adoration”, it should always be with one eye open toward the Jesus that may be begging for food or crying out for love.
Therefore, the aim of worship should be to cause movement. This accomplishes two goals, one for both the believer and the non-believer. Toward the believer, this aim is beneficial in reinforcing discipleship lessons and providing fresh inspiration to live the life of a disciple. Toward the non-believer, this aim reflects the purpose of Christianity and shows what the church values. Non-believers have trouble relating to traditional church when it becomes about the business of running itself. A community of believers is valuable, to be sure, but that community should not be insular.
In practice, the planning of Worship services should take the approach of Paul, who saw God in everything good. Everything that can be used to magnify God is within the worship artist’s scope. It is the responsibility of the artist to use the different media and gifts available to him, in the most culturally coherent way possible, in order to achieve the aims of the ministry. It is important for there to be coherence in the message of each service, from the speaking to the music and other creative elements. It is also important for this coherent message to be consistent with the ultimate aims and direction of the church.
As far as this relates to Music specifically, the worship leader should realize the power of music. God created us in such a way that a powerful chord progression, combined with a certain melody, can drive the right lyric straight to the heart of the listener. We must learn the musical language that speaks to the hearts of those we are ministering to. In some places this may be R&B, Hip-Hop, Modern Rock, Pop, or Indie Rock/Folk, and if you are not gifted in that place’s form of music, you should take that into account before taking on the responsibility of leading worship in that place. For example, my strengths are the Indie Rock and Modern Rock sounds, and I am versatile enough to play some Pop and some hymns. However, when I’ve tried to lead gospel tunes in the past, I’ve been less than stellar, and I know I would not be the best to reach people who are touched by that sort of music.
When we’ve begun speaking to the hearts of our congregation, worship leaders must then supplement the music with whatever other media is available to them, as discussed previously. We must always be sensitive to which forms of art will resonate with those under our leadership, and strive to weave those into the worship services seamlessly and, once again, coherently. We can’t force a certain creative element simply because it is available to us, or because we want this or that artist to be satisfied. We must have that one coherent aim that we stick to and strive for.
Finally, we must be practicing what we preach. A coherent, outwardly focused message can be undermined by an immoral or simply selfish lifestyle. Us “on-stage” people, who are seen and known by the congregation, have the special opportunity to make the message a reality through their service.
Misquoted Verses (Philippians 4:13)
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