Don’t you like a good invitation?
Someone has free tickets to sit behind home base at a baseball game and they want you to join them. Someone has a beach house they can’t use and they want you to have the week for free. Someone has a voucher for a free meal at the finest steak house in the area and they want to treat you.
Being invited by someone you trust to join them somewhere you’d like to go is one of life’s greatest gifts. We all love a good invitation. It’s hard to turn a good invitation down.
Worship leading, at its core, is an invitational role. We stand before our congregations with an invitation behind every song, every arrangement, and every service. The invitation is to look, to consider, to behold, to cherish, to savor, to sing about, to celebrate, and to respond to a God who has revealed himself to us, rescued us through his Son, and sealed us with his Spirit.
Our tone, our countenance, and our approach should be inviting. Not demanding, not rote, not passive, not preachy, not cutesy, and not flippantly. We want our congregations to get the feeling from us that we’re inviting them to join us as we worship God. This gives them freedom to respond in their own way, with their own personality, at their own pace, and from their own heart. But it also gives them a gentle nudge. Yes, people need nudging. But they need to know they’re loved and safe before you even try. Within the context of an invitational style of leadership, you can provide this safety and nudging at the same time.
An invitational style also gives people the freedom to say “no, I won’t lift my hands” or “no, I don’t want to clap” or “no, I don’t think I want to sing, thank you very much”. It’s important for the stragglers, the depressed, the bereaved, and the atheists to stand under your worship leading and not feel guilty for not meeting your expectations.
Leading worship with an invitational tone communicates a love for Jesus, a love for people, a longing for them to join you, a gentle nudging to go further than they’ve gone before, and a freedom for them to be who they are. We all love good invitations. But none of us like having no choice but to say yes.
So consider your own heart when you stand before people, or when you sit down to a piano or organ, and you lead people in worship. Start with yourself. Draw near to Jesus and worship him from your heart. Then invite others to join you with a confidence, winsomeness, clarity, and freedom that will be hard for people to resist.