Here’s what the path of least resistance often looks like for some of us who lead worship communities:
We surround ourselves with the best musicians we can find and sing the most popular songs available. As things come together, we experience a rush of emotion and satisfaction. But this fades over time as tips and techniques become more important than prayer and time with God. We end up wondering why we’re not more appreciated, happy and loved. So we crank everything up another notch–hoping the intensity will increase the sense of intimacy with God we’re longing for. But it doesn’t, and we risk becoming another statistic: one more choir director/worship leader who stays less than 36 months in one church… just long enough to figure out where the good restaurants are.
Or, we can pursue a more excellent way:
1. Make Prayer the First Act Rather than the Last Resort.
Jer. 33:3 says, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” When we make prayer a priority, God can lead us. This is essential when making decisions for a worship community. What songs should we choose? Pray! Who should be on the worship team? Pray! How can we create a worship experience that is challenging and life-altering? Pray!
If you’re a worship leader, make daily prayer as regular as eating and sleeping. If you’re searching for a worship leader, find someone who lives out this priority.
2. Focus On Our Prayer Life Before Our Set-List.
A well-conceived set-list is important in the same way a well-constructed sermon is important, but it’s no substitute for a committed prayer life. If anything, it’s the result of one!
A leader with a vibrant prayer life will inevitably develop an awareness of God’s presence. Unfortunately, many worship leaders today feel pressured to simply sing the latest, most popular songs as if these have power to conjure up the presence of God. Again, there’s nothing wrong with new songs–but it’s essential that we prioritize actions that will actually affect outcomes.
If you’re a worship leader, consider investing more time in preparatory prayer and see what God does!
3. Learn to Worship Away from the Stage.
While a few hours on Sunday morning may constitute our “worship service,” our “true and proper worship” (Ro. 12:1) happens the other 165 hours or so a week when we are intentionally living for God’s glory. Jesus said his Father was seeking those who would worship Him in spirit and truth. Both are necessary for God-honoring worship. We worship Him based on the truth of who He is and the truth of who we are in Him. We worship with our whole heart and in total submission to Him. When we practice worship this way, we declare that God is worthy of our reverence.
If you’re a worship leader (or even if you’re not!), learn to live—not just lead—worship.
Prayer does change things; but mostly it changes us. There are lots of talented people in the world, but that doesn’t mean they have the capacity to lead and love a congregation and build long-lasting relationships. If we really want to take our music ministry to the next level, this will–more often than not–require us to spend more time on our faces before God. That’s when we’ll start to see true transformation.