I’ve played guitar and led worship for small groups of three or four people. I’ve led for groups of 100-500 thousands of times. I’ve led groups of 500-3000 hundreds of times. Probably the most people I have ever stood in front of to lead at one time was 25,000.
I’ve been in concert halls, convention centers, and churches with top notch production teams cranking out expert lighting, video and sound. I’ve been in churches and motels leading congregations and conferences that had portable, yet adequate sound and video for worship music and leading. I’ve been at camps where the sound was barely there and have sung tens of thousands of times with no sound system at all.
I’ve led revivals using a hymnal and no visual projection system at all. And I’ve been in venue where all that was used was a piano and song leader. I’ve been in the congregation at Asbury Seminary Chapel with the organ and 700 voices. I remember times at McKendree Chapel when it was me leading on the guitar and 25-50 people were holding song sheets printed in the school computer lab.
And here’s what I know for sure: Worship is not about how new a song is, how nice a space is, what instruments are playing, how many people are there, etc.
Those can have a place and can leave an inspirational and distinguishing mark that helps create a moment for people to remember as they grow in their faith and worship Christ. On a side note, I do believe big events will always have a place in the church and will always make an impact in the lives of people. But, they are not foundational to worship.
So what are the foundational components to worship?
This isn’t an end all list, but here are some thoughts:
True Christian worship is focused on giving praise to the triune God. It’s about turning our eyes toward Jesus. It’s focused on giving more than receiving. It’s done with a focus on worship in spirit and truth. It’s focused on the Word, God’s presence and our understanding that we were created to worship God.
Though there are times and spaces for lament in the life of the congregation, worship should always have a tone of celebration. We should celebrate God’s goodness, even in tough times. On a very regular basis, we should celebrate the good news and God’s grace through testimonies, laughter and joy, the Lord’s supper and music!
[LISTEN TO THIS PODCAST #69]
Worship shouldn’t be theoretical and over our heads. As leaders of the congregation, we should pray simple and understandable prayers. We should lead sing-able songs. We should proclaim the good news and invite people to give their all. We were created for worship and it comes naturally to each person. We shouldn’t complicate it.
Worship is an outpouring of gratefulness on our part. If it’s going to be authentic, we should know that Jesus is our worship leader – teaching, inspiring and leading us in true worship. We must also know that when we try to insert other components into worship that aren’t focused on Jesus, the congregational vitality wanes.
Worship includes some form to it. There is a process or connection that allows us to set aside the time and meet together with the church. It includes some planning into our lives, calendars and discipline. If we only show up when we feel like it or nothing else is happening, we miss the natural life changing rhythms that come with regular worship.
Worship doesn’t stop at the end of our lives – it’s one of the few things that will continue on! We will be able to worship for eternity. Very few things we do on earth carry that kind of weight.
I hope this might inspire worship leaders to stay grounded in a few basic components. We should work hard, plan well, rehearse and prepare, and lead with our gifts and abilities. Then, after those things, we should trust that God is at work through our church and growing hearts of the worshipping congregation. No matter the style, size or situation of your church, you can implement these things into your worship services.