This past Monday night the worship team that I have the privilege and joy to lead at my church gathered for our October “tune-up night”. We typically begin at 7:30pm with pizza, drinks, and snacks, and then around 7:45 move into a time of extended and unhurried singing and prayer. After that, I’ll share some thoughts either on the practicalities or principles of worship leading, and then we’ll close by praying for our ministry together. We’ll wrap up by 9:15 and people will hang out for a while afterwards.
We started these meetings about three or four years ago and they have made a tremendous difference to our effectiveness as a worship team. It’s taken me a while to figure out how best to lead them, what night to have them on, what time they should be, what room to have them in, and how to structure them – and I’m sure they’ll keep evolving – but overall, they’ve been crucial to our growth and maturity as worship leaders.
I’ve learned that only the worship team that worships together is able to lead worship together.
For this reason, I expect every member of the worship team to make these “tune-up nights” a priority. Occasionally, because of work or family commitments, sickness, or travel, people have to miss them, but if someone is committed to serving on the worship team, their regular attendance is the primary way of displaying this commitment.
Last night, after our time of singing and prayer, I asked each member of the worship to share how and when they came to The Falls Church, when they joined the worship team, and why. It was great to hear from everyone, and I expressed my genuine appreciation for their humility and passion for God’s glory, and my gratefulness for the health of this worship team. I meant it! Then I said I wanted to challenge everyone – and I meant that too.
If we’re not intentional about growing in our gifts, dealing with our pride, and prioritizing God’s glory, we will just spin our wheels as a worship team over this coming year, and slowly lose effectiveness. We’ll go through the motions when we lead worship, our services will feel the same, the songs will feel the same, our tune-up nights will feel the same, we’ll eventually burn out, and our worship team will become unhealthy. I don’t want to see that happen, so I posed ten questions for everyone to seriously consider. If a particular question made someone uncomfortable – that’s fantastic. If not, that’s fine too.
Here are the ten questions I asked the team (this is taken from a summary I emailed to the worship team afterwards):
Do I see myself as a worship leader – or backup to Jamie?
I am not interested in leading worship with musical back-up, but with a team of worship leaders. Each member of this worship team should think of him or herself as a worship leader. This will radically change the dynamic of our team and the services in which we lead. Our priority and passion must be, along with the congregation, magnifying and encountering the greatness of God. If you’re on this team just to play music, you’re in the wrong place.
Do I sing?
This is a direct, but loving, challenge for every instrumentalist, every sound engineer, and every lyric operator on the worship team – particularly the men. If you’re consistently not singing, you’re inadvertently sending two messages: First, singing is for girls. Secondly, what we’re singing isn’t important. Shame on us if we’re sending any of those messages. We need to be sending a message, loud and clear, that we are here to proclaim and celebrate the glory of God in Jesus Christ, and that what we’re singing about has changed our lives.
I know it’s hard to sing and play an instrument at the same time. There may be times, during a particular section of a song, when you have to stop singing in order to concentrate. I understand. But try to grow in this area, however incrementally. If it means we are a little less “tight” musically for a time, I’m happy with that.
Ultimately, don’t sing because I’m making you sing. Sing because “(God) has done marvelous things!” (Psalm 98:1)
Are there physical expressions of worship encouraged in scripture that I do not display? Why?
I first heard this question phrased this way by Bob Kauflin in his seminar at the 2008 Worship God conference titled “Praising God with the Psalmist.” It’s a good and necessary question to ask. We don’t want to elevate physical expressiveness to the point where it either becomes an idol or a gauge of whether or not someone is worshipping – since we know God is first and foremost concerned with the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). But we also don’t want to ignore the overwhelming biblical support of expressiveness as being normal, appropriate and healthy as if it doesn’t matter to us at all. It does. Each one of us needs to grow in this area. If we don’t, neither will the congregation we serve.
(For your own personal study, here are some helpful scripture references dealing with different physical expressions of worship.)
- Clapping: Psalm 47:1, Psalm 98:9, Isaiah 55:12
- Lifting hands: Nehemiah 8:6, Psalm 28:2, Psalm 63:4, Psalm 134:2, Psalm 141:2, Lamentations 3:41, 1 Timothy 2:8
- Dancing: 2 Samuel 6:14, Psalm 30:11, Psalm 149:3, Psalm 150:4, Ecclesiastes 3:4
- Kneeling/bowing: Genesis 24:26, 48, 52, Nehemiah 8:6, 2 Chronicles 20:18, Psalm 5:7, Psalm 22:27, Psalm 66:4, Psalm 72:11, Psalm 95:6, Matthew 2:11, Revelation 5:8
- Lying prostrate: 1 Kings 18:39
- Shouting: Joshua 6:20, 2 Samuel 6:15, Ezra 3:11, Psalm 20:5, Psalm 27:6, Psalm 33:1, Psalm 33:3, Psalm 42:4, Psalm 47:1, Psalm 66:1, Psalm 71:23, Psalm 81:1, Psalm 126:2, Psalm 126:5, Psalm 132:9, Isaiah 12:6, Matthew 21:9
- Smiling: Psalm 34:5
- Jumping: Acts 3:8
Do I base my value as a person on how often I’m scheduled on the team?
If you’re not scheduled to sing over a four week period, do you feel crushed? If you’re scheduled to play an instrument every weekend, do you feel puffed up and validated? If the answer is “yes” or even “sort of” to either of those questions, it might be a sign that your understanding of who you are is frighteningly tied to how often you’re asked to serve on the worship team. Read through Ephesians 2 where Paul tells us how we were once “dead in (our) trespasses and sins”, “children of wrath”, “without God”, and “strangers”, – “but God… rich in mercy… lavished his grace on us.”
Our identity and value has nothing to do with how often we’re asked to serve. It has everything to do with how God gave us Jesus Christ who bore our sins, died our death, and raised us to life, and sealed us with his Spirit.
Am I comfortable (and faithful in) attending services of The Falls Church at which I am not scheduled to be on the team?
When members of a worship team begin to think that they belong on the worship team to the point that they are uncomfortable not being scheduled – or to the point that they won’t attend services unless they are – the worship team ceases to exist to serve the congregation and begins to exist for its members’ personal gratification. A worship team will only remain as humble, Christ-centered, and congregation-focused as its members.
I’ll post the last five questions tomorrow.