Personal Development

Are you parched?

Are you parched?

There’s a time or times in every worship leader’s life where we feel dry, worn out, or wrung out; where every last bit of creativity seems to have been used. We often try to fix that by going to a conference, reaching out to other worship leaders for inspiration, or by taking a vacation or sabbatical.

A conference may inspire you or show you the direction in which musical styles are headed. Other worship leaders may be able to share new songs. A vacation or sabbatical will refresh your body and soul. But your creativity doesn’t come simply from seeing or hearing something beautiful; it comes from your spirit as you are inspired by God’s Holy Spirit who reveals the truths in the Bible.

If you are starving or parched it’s because you haven’t been getting your inspiration from God’s Spirit through the Scripture.

That is only thing that can provide true direction and inspiration, that can water you and make you flourish.

Psalm 1-3 says, “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” NASB

If I want to stay fresh, creative, and inspired from a source beyond myself and natural wisdom, then I need to read, study, and meditate God’s Word.

If I’m parched, it’s my fault, and I shouldn’t be saying or singing, “Oh God, I’m so dry, come and fill me.” God has given us His wisdom, now it’s up to us to take it, implement it, and allow it to inspire us.

Let’s get wet.

Don't be afraid of the silence

Don’t be afraid of the silence.

As musicians we like sound. We like harmonies, and lead lines, and riffs. We like the sound of an individual instrument and also the complex whole of a tight band.

We shouldn’t be afraid of silence. When God directs or inspires silence during worship, it can be a time of reflection about His greatness, an expression of awe, and a time of reverence.

Remembering to revere God and not the music is something to keep at the forefront of our minds. We practice and prepare to honor Him, to lead skillfully, and to create an opportunity for people to worship God. But the music is a vehicle, a tool through which we express what’s in our hearts. Reverence and honor of God should be the underlying foundation of all that we do.

Yes, He loves our abandoned praise where we are uninhibited with joy, but He also wants our focus to be solely on Him. He is our sustenance—our everything.

If you’re uncomfortable with silence during corporate worship, where no one is singing and no instrument is playing, ask yourself why you feel that way. Do you take the time to worship personally at home, and then bask in awe of who He is when it’s just you and Him? Corporate worship is an extension of your personal worship.

Allow that silence, that holy hush, to be a time of honor, reflection, and heart-to-heart communion. There’s no obligation to fill it with sound. There can be an amazing time of connection.

Respect the team’s gift

Respect the team’s gift.

You finally have a great worship team. Your sound is tight, your relationships are strong, your worship ministry is solid, and you want to keep it that way.

One of the things that can undermine that unity is a lack of respect for each other—a disrespect of people’s time.

I’ve been a minister for years, but there have been times, for different reasons, when I’ve worked a second job in addition to the ministry work. I’ve done this on top of being a mother and the domestic manager of my home. I know just how little physical and mental energy is left after working two jobs, managing a home, and caring for a family.

I have a friend, a guitar player, who works two jobs and cares for his immediate and extended family. He’s been a volunteer worship leader for years. I empathize with the sacrifice of his personal time to bless the church. I’m grateful for the gift of his time. I also know a volunteer vocalist who works a demanding full-time job and is a mother of young children. She gives her personal relaxation time to her church to lead worship.

But I’ve also heard some senior pastors and worship ministers complain about the fact that those amazing volunteers don’t seem to be committed to do special services or extra meetings. Those ministers don’t respect the incredible gift of a volunteer’s time.

Where am I headed with this post? I want to encourage you to respect your team’s time. Set your rehearsal schedule, but work with their lives. I’ve encouraged team relationships and the development of spiritual growth in other posts, but there also is a balance where compassion and understanding for people’s time and personal/family commitments comes into play.

Work together, and respect the different seasons of people’s lives. Walk through life together and enjoy how rich and fulfilling it can be.

Where's your focus

Where’s your focus?

It’s easy to be distracted from what really matters. It’s easy to be distracted by something shiny and miss what is real.

It’s easy to be distracted and want things more than the opportunity to effect a change.

Jesus put this into perspective in Matthew 16: 21-23. “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.’ But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.’” NASB (Boldface added.)

When I read these verses, one particular truth pierces me: when my mind is focused on man’s interests and not on what God wants, I become a stumbling block. So I ask myself these questions:

Where has my focus been?

Am I really focusing on what God wants—what I sense He’s leading me to do?

Have I been focusing on what will please God, or have I been focusing on pleasing people?

We need to honestly evaluate ourselves as worship leaders, and determine whether we’ve allowed ourselves to be distracted by what’s shiny, what’s worldly, and what’s emotionally-driven.

When our focus is on God, what He has said in His Word, what is His commission to believers, and what pleases Him in worship, then we’ll be available for Him to use powerfully. I’m not satisfied with trying to minister based on what I know or see or think. I want to know, see, and think from God’s perspective.

Recently, during prayer, I sensed these words: My job is to be so full of the Holy Spirit that I think on a different plane—looking at things from God’s perspective—where I am not enthralled with this life, where I am enthralled only with Him. A true, Spirit-led life means that my spirit is so in tune with the Holy Spirit that we are united in perception, understanding, and action.

I’m keeping my focus on God and His Word.

You can’t put a price on it

You can’t put a price on it.

We’re very casual about assessing someone’s value. We look at people and determine whether they’re worth our time and effort.

At times, while leading worship, I’ve been in a sweet spot and I’ve glanced to the back of the church and seen someone with their arms crossed in defiance, or someone yawning or texting or talking to someone else. To put it mildly, that doesn’t make me happy in that moment. My emotions flare and I want to shout, “Don’t you know that we’re worshiping GOD, and He’s worthy! What are you thinking!” But those are my emotions.

Regardless of whether someone in the congregation isn’t responding to worship the way you think he or she should, regardless of people’s actions, we don’t have the right to judge them. We don’t know what they’re going through or how much they worked lately, or what’s really affecting their actions.

It’s time for us as worship ministers to look at people the way God sees them – looking at them with God’s eyes of love.

We have the capacity to love like God loves. 

Ephesians 5:1-2 says, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” NASB

We have the ability within us to look at others and see their value through God’s eyes. Their worth is so great that Jesus paid the price for their sin. He valued them more than His life. He gave His life because He loves us. 

We have the ability to love people the way God loves them. Romans 5:5 says that God’s love has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. It’s already in there. God’s love was demonstrated and provided for us. It’s so great that it allows us to look beyond a person’s actions and see their value and potential.

It’s time to look at people the way God sees them, with the eyes of love. Be an imitator of God. Accept and celebrate the other person’s gifts and abilities, their uniqueness and strengths. 

You can’t put a price on their value. Their worth is so great that Jesus gave everything for them.

Building Your Team

Building your team.

A worship team or choir can be one of the most wonderful, supportive groups of people with whom you will ever be involved. After all, you are all musicians, and you have your relationship with God and your love of music in common. But those two commonalities are just the foundation of what can be one of the most enriching experiences of your life.

Here are some suggestions for developing and strengthening your unity as a team.

  • Look at yourselves as a small group (life group, core group), and live life together by being supportive and authentic.
  • Pray together. Pray for your local church, for each other, for the missionaries the church supports, and for your pastor and leadership team.
  • Study God’s Word together. Talk about scriptures that you’ve been reading individually or as a group. The worship leader/pastor should be the moderator or initial teacher.
  • Practice together. Work to make the music tight. Check out my post on making it tight (part 2).
  • Worship together. Not all rehearsal time should be music practice. Take some time, maybe once a month, where all you do together is just worship during your rehearsal time. Flow from song to song, and then spend some real time (not just a few minutes) in free worship. One of the benefits of simply worshiping together (outside of leading a congregation in worship) is that you will become more attuned in following the Holy Spirit’s prompting while you’re in free worship or going from song to song as you feel led. You also will become more sensitive to each other; you won’t be thinking about the congregation. It’s unifying. It’s uplifting. It’s powerful.

These suggestions will help you to grow together.

If strife, envy, or offense occurs in the team, choose to love, restore, and forgive. Follow Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:1-3, “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” NASB (emphasis added)

The more you pray for each other and choose to love and live in forgiveness, the stronger you become as a team. God loves unity. He can use the team as you flow together.

Ask Why

Ask Why.

Have you ever wondered why we do some of the things we do in worship-leading? Why do we make those specific hand gestures? Why did we choose to have a dance break? Why did we get stuck in a rut and think only one style of music would please God?

Let’s take a step back and evaluate why we do things the way we do. Ask yourself if you’re being pressured by people in the congregation. Ask yourself if you do something because it’s societally- or culturally-current. Ask yourself if you’re choosing to do something or sing a particular song because it creates an emotional response.

Ask yourself this hard question: “Did I start to do that because another, larger church has done it that way?”

The two most important questions in your evaluation should be:

  • Why are we doing this?
  • What will please God?

The only way you’ll know the answer to the second question is if you know God and have read His Word that is written to you. His Word tells you what pleases Him in praise and worship.

Are we trying to please people or are we pleasing God? Ultimately, it should be praise of God and worship of and to Him.

Stay connected

Stay connected.

When you remove worship from your life, you disconnect. I’ve said before, worship is more than a song.

Worship is your spirit expressing adoration through your mouth—the words you say that glorify and exalt God—and through your body’s submission in the act of worship with the focus off of your body and its desires.

So when you stop telling God how amazing He is, you disconnect, you forget who He is and that He is not separate from you—He lives inside you in the person of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we forget that 1 Corinthians 3:16 says that we are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in us.

Just stop reading this for a moment and lift your hands and tell God how amazing He is and how much you love Him. Just do it. It’s too important to put off. You, your spirit, wants to worship, to have that personal connection to God.

Worship is not just a song

Worship is not just a song.

I was in a ministry meeting yesterday—an annual board meeting—where we made decisions about international ministry outreach. My focus usually is on the big picture—what countries, when, and how.

In the daily operation of a ministry or in the everyday work of a job we tend to push worship aside as if it’s just music in a Sunday morning or Saturday night service.

Worship is not just a song, and it should never be relegated to a weekend church service. We shouldn’t say, “just open the teaching time with a song to get the people’s minds off their workday.” Worship is not a throw-away or just an opener.

Worship is life. It is the expression of our relationship with God. It is the expression of our love for Him.

Before that 50-minute annual board business meeting began, we spent two hours just worshiping and praying. Two hours. Our focus was totally on God, singing and speaking about how great He is; how powerful and majestic and holy He is; how faithful and strong and honorable He is; how amazing and wonderful, and glorious He is.

Worship doesn’t just put you in a position to hear from God so you can do ministry work or business; you can hear from God without worshiping. Worship is the core expression of your heart. It’s not a throw-away opener. It’s the main act.

It’s not just a song; it’s life.

Be Authentic

 Be authentic.

As I’ve traveled, I’ve seen worship teams who seem to be engaged in leading worship, jumping up and down in excitement. But it’s been fake. It’s almost as if they were coached to look excited or to move their hands in a certain way so the congregation would know what to do.

And to my chagrin, I have to admit that I used to coach teams to do that very thing, but with one caveat—I’ve always said that it needs to come from your heart, not from your head.

I appreciate seeing someone on the platform who is abandoned in worship—still leading with their eyes open but focused on God—not caring if they look pretty or if they’re moving their hands in a certain way. Oh the habits we pick up.

Be who you are in Christ. Stop trying to put on an act of joy. Know WHO lives inside of you, and allow Him to manifest His presence in and through you.

If you’re not living a holy life, or you’re so focused on putting on a good show, or you think you have to be a cheerleader for the congregation, then you won’t be authentic. The congregation will see it, and they will disengage from the worship experience—you’ll distract them.

I’ve also seen worship teams who don’t know how to smile, or use eye contact, or how to release the joy that’s inside of them as they lead.

I think that since God lives inside of you, you should be so consumed by Him that He is one that people see when they look at you. Otherwise, all they will see is your body, or your professionalism, or in some cases your fear.

Get to know God. Allow His Spirit to show you areas in your life that need to change. Repent. Move forward. Be real—who you really are—one who expresses the life and character of your Savior in all ways.

Be authentic.