What Does a Worship Leader Do? Pt. 13

A few weeks back, I proposed this definition for a corporate worship leader: An effective corporate worship leader, aided and led by the Holy Spirit, skillfully combines biblical truth with music to magnify the worth of God and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, thereby motivating the gathered church to join him in proclaiming and cherishing the truth about God and seeking to live all of life for the glory of God. Today I’d like to talk about “motivating the gathered church.”

Ideally, as I stand in front of the church to lead them in singing God’s praise, every person is ready to sing with all their might – minds focused, hearts engaged, wills set to proclaim God’s glory. Unfortunately, it’s a fallen world, and people often come into a Sunday meeting bearing the battle scars of their war against the world, their flesh, and the devil. In that situation, how do I help them worship God? What do I do when I sense that people aren’t benefiting from this focused time of remembering God’s greatness and covenant mercies?

Well, maybe I should start with some of the things I DON’T want to do (but have done many times over the years…).

First, I don’t want to demand that people worship God. “Sing it like you mean it! I want everyone here to raise their hands. Come on, people!” God never commands us to praise Him without including reasons why we should do it. Psalm 117 is just one example of many: Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD! When I expect people to instantly respond to my direction without giving them biblical reasons to do it, I’m often just arrogantly thinking that people aren’t as spiritual as me.

Second, I don’t want to manipulate people into some response that doesn’t spring from a clear view of God’s glory in Christ. Some of the potential ways I can seek to manipulate are through music (This beat ALWAYS gets the crowd going!), insincere emotion (Put a smile on your face like me!), “mystical” experiences (No one really understands what I’m doing, but hey, I’m worshipping) and performance (We’ll WOW them into worship with that cool synth sound behind the video.)

Third, I don’t want to project guilt on the church. This is when I draw attention to the fact that they’re doing a lousy job worshipping God. I remember one night years ago when I was leading a small, very unresponsive youth group in worshipping God. I stopped cold in the middle of a song and said in tense, measured tones, “You have no IDEA who you’re singing to! How can you stand there with your hands in your pockets and apathetic looks on your faces and claim to be worshiping God? Do you think this honors Him? No! Now let’s go back to praising God.” As you might expect, I didn’t exactly inspire anyone to greater passion for God. (By the way, I did ask the forgiveness of the youth and parents later.)

If I’m magnifying the worth of God and the work of the Savior myself, I’m in the best place to motivate others to worship God. They’ll see it on my face, hear it in my voice, and observe it in my physical expression. I’ll work hard to paint a compelling picture of God’s glory in Christ, depending on the power of God’s Spirit to open our eyes to His beauty, His greatness, and His goodness. As I give myself to THAT task, people will be motivated by God’s grace to do the same.

Read Part 14 of What Does a Worship Leader Do?

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8 Responses to What Does a Worship Leader Do? Pt. 13

  1. Kevin Schellhase February 22, 2006 at 6:49 PM #

    So what would you say is the responsibility of the worship leader with regard to the congregation’s response in worship? If you’re leading worship and the people don’t seem motivated to respond in worship, is that your fault?

    Kevin

  2. Dan Hames February 23, 2006 at 6:44 AM #

    Bob,

    You ought to collect all these posts and write a book. I’d buy it with pleasure and recommend it to all my music leading friends!

    Dan

  3. Matt Heerema February 23, 2006 at 11:06 AM #

    Dan – I have a feeling that’s what he’s doing :). I’d buy it and recommend it too.

    Thanks Bob. We’re struggling with this in our church. Do you find that the above recommendations effect people, and helps them to respond?

  4. Mike February 23, 2006 at 12:20 PM #

    These are great thoughts! So often I do feel guilty that perhaps I’m not doing something right, but we can’t make people worship. But, that being said, I agree with your sentiment that “If I’m magnifying the worth of God and the work of the Savior myself, I’m in the best place to motivate others to worship God.”
    This is motivation in itself to be right with God and have our own proper motivation before leading in corporate worship! Thanks for this post and all the other wonderful resources you provide on your site!

    Mike

  5. Ian McConnell February 23, 2006 at 4:22 PM #

    Maybe what would help here is to think about what it is we have the capability of motivating people to do.

    Let me run some scenarios by you.

    When I am sharing the gospel with an unbeliever I can not, no matter how hard I try, humanly motivate them to respond to the gospel in saving faith. I simply with the Holy Spirit’s help direct their attention to that which God uses to elicit saving faith from anyone who believes, namely the gospel. The gospel is a means of grace but I can’t make effective the grace available in the gospel. The grace available in the gospel unto salvation is only made effectual by the sovereign wisdom of God.

    The bottom line is that it is always God who makes effectual the grace available in the gospel.

    As we seek to build up the body of Christ with the teaching of the Word of God, no matter how hard I try, I can not motivate any believer to respond to the clear teaching of Scripture in sanctifying faith. I simply with the Holy Spirit’s help direct their attention to that which God uses to produce the fruit of the Spirit in their lives, namely the gospel. The grace available in the gospel of sanctification is only made effectual by the sovereign wisdom of God.

    I would suggest that the same is true of worship. With the Holy Spirit’s help we simply direct people’s attention to that which is full of worship enabling grace, namely the gospel and trust God to make it effectual by His sovereign wisdom.

    Our blessed responsibility is to be so full of the gospel that when we evangelize with the gospel, when we build-up the body with gospel, when we lead worship with the gospel we are doing so in faith begging the Holy Spirit to make effective the grace that is available in it according to His sovereign grace.

    When we unleash the gospel as leaders, it is not always responded to the way we hope, but keep in mind we are unleashing the only thing which will bring a response if there is ever a going to be a response! So I guess the application is that we lead worship by faith alone, through grace alone, in the gospel alone?!? I’m not trying to change the 5 pillars, it just sounded right to me (-:

    Oh the mystery of the gospel! Isn’t it awesome!

    “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways!” Romans 11:33

  6. Russ February 28, 2006 at 3:00 AM #

    Shouldn’t part of the worship leader’s task, or perhaps the primary task, be to impress upon the congregation the objective presence of God when his people are assembled to worship, whether anyone “feels” it or not? I’ve attended several charismatic churches in the past (I now attend a very traditional Reformed church), and for all the things I appreciated about them, I was always uneasy with the underlying assumption that worship was to work up an awareness of God’s presence.

  7. Bob Kauflin June 18, 2006 at 10:50 PM #

    Russ,

    This is the question we’ll be seeking to address at the WorshipGod06 conference in August. You can find out more information at http://www.worshipgod06.com. Briefly, though, I’d say that our primary task is to do as you say – impress upon the congregation the objective, or promised, presence of God. However, I think there should also be an expectation that the Holy Spirit will actively engage our hearts to impress truth upon our hearts.

  8. Bob Kauflin June 18, 2006 at 10:54 PM #

    Kevin,

    You wrote:

    “So what would you say is the responsibility of the worship leader with regard to the congregation’s response in worship? If you’re leading worship and the people don’t seem motivated to respond in worship, is that your fault?”

    I think a leader can do things to encourage or hinder people engaging with and exalting God. However, ultimately the responsibility lies with the individual, not the leader. If I’m a Christian, I should seek to exalt God in my mind, heart, and will no matter what the leader is doing in front.

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