“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12, ESV)
God’s word is the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). It will never pass away (Matthew 13:31). It is “God-breathed” and “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness…” (II Timothy 3:16)
I might speak to the congregation with the most eloquent and articulate words I can, use the right tone, have thought through and written down what I want to say, and even submit to my pastor. But my words are just words. I pray that my words are inspired by God and that he uses them for His glory – but they’re just words at the end of the day. They will pass away.
If you want to effectively communicate with the congregation when you speak, base it on Scripture.
- (1) “Everyone lift your hands.”
- (2) “Feel free to worship however you want on this next song.”
- (3) “I just really want to say that I really feel like we should really be giving our all this morning and that we’re really not giving it our all.”
- (4) “This song was written by a guy who lives on a farm in Kansas and a few years ago he saw a really big tornado and it made him think how great God is. Think about that as we sing this chorus.”
- (5) “It just makes God smile when we sing loudly because he likes it when we sing loudly because it shows Him we love Him.”
- (1) “I don’t want to lift my hands, thank you very much.”
- (2) “I want to worship by sitting in my chair and checking football scores on my phone.”
- (3) “You’re talking about me, aren’t you? That’s hurtful. You don’t know what kind of week I’ve had and that my best friend betrayed me.”
- (4) “A tornado? Are you serious? Tornados kill people and destroy things!”
- (5) “That’s bad theology. I’m going to email the pastor about you and complain.”
You might laugh – but many worship leaders just shoot from the hip and try to whip people up into responding a in certain way or doing a certain thing or singing at a higher volume by speaking “from the heart” or telling personal stories. This has the opposite effect because most people will become defensive when they’re told how they should be responding or when they get the feeling that the worship leader really wants them to do a certain thing for no good reason. It’s unfortunate on both sides. The worship leader puts him or herself in the middle and becomes the focus.
Worship leaders might wonder why nothing they say seems to get through to people. Oftentimes it’s because nothing they say is based on God’s word. It’s easy to argue with a worship leader’s words when they’re just “from the heart”. It’s harder to argue with God’s word.
As opposed to the examples above, compare these:
- (1) “Psalm 63:4 says: ‘I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.’ This morning as we sing to our God who is ‘greatly to be praised’ (Psalm 145:3) let’s lift not only our lives to Him, but our hands as well.
- (2) “We’re going to declare that God is good in all situations. Like Job said in the face of great loss: ‘the Lord gave and the Lord took away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.’ Let’s proclaim God’s unending goodness together.”
- (3) “Let’s take a moment to fix our eyes on the Lord this morning. Let me read to you from Psalm 62, verses 1 through 8.”
- (4) “This next song declares ‘how great is our God’. As we sing, we join in with all of heaven as they sing ‘worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power’ (Revelation 4:11). Let’s join with heaven and sing.”
- (5) “This morning we’re going to spend some time singing together. In Colossians 3:16 Paul wrote ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” As those who have been bought by the blood of Jesus, we have a lot to be thankful for and a lot to sing about. Let’s lift our voices and sing with all our hearts of all that God has done for us.”
These aren’t intended to be perfect examples – but I think you’ll agree that they’re an improvement. In each example my goal is to base what I’m saying on God’s word – which is living and active – and put God squarely in the middle (where he belongs) not me.
We have a choice as worship leaders to either be armed with our own words, or instead with the sword of the Spirit – the very word of God. The choice seems clear to me.