Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Demonstrating Worship

I preached a sermon last week about Jesus "demonstrating" for his disciples. He didn't call his closest followers to anything that he didn't show in his own life. And what he called them to wasn't easy - give up everything for Christ's sake. But he actually lived it, and as they watched him, they eventually caught on. Everything Jesus did - his prayer life, his dependence on the Scriptures, his interaction with people who were far from God, his compassion for the hurting, his humility - all of these things were object lessons for the 12 men that Jesus was investing in.

As I interacted with that truth, this leadership principle emerged for me:


Everyone demonstrates. Therefore, everyone leads in some way. Right now the patterns that you follow, the way you spend your time and money, the things that are important to you, are all influencing someone else. At times, this is a terribly unsettling idea. At other times, it can be the lone source of hope that God is working through you.

Leading worship can be a really difficult role. Every worship leader at times feels like he or she is singing time-filler songs in front of a disinterested crowd of blank stares. You can imagine, that's not a great feeling. It could be a crowd of clueless 7th graders who are mildly sedated by the chemical reaction of Axe body spray and hormones. It could be a crowd of seemingly responsible adults who are simply too bothered by life to care. Or a thousand points in between.

There are different ways that worship leaders have dealt with the tension of these moments. Sometimes we disengage. Essentially, this is the same as quitting. We just say, "Well, if they aren't engaged, then I don't need to either." So we unplug. We finish our obligatory song set and then leave the stage, knowing that our hearts left three songs earlier. At other times worship leaders can try and bully the congregation into worship. "...If I can just coerce them into raising their hands..." Or maybe we just chastise them for caring so little about the greatness of God.

Whatever our coping mechanism looks like, we all have a tendency as worship leaders to assume that a disengaged congregation is our problem, so I have to fix it. But God has never placed that burden on us. As a worship leader, there is only one heart in attendance that I have any control over, and it is my own. So on a leadership level, one of the greatest responsibilities a worship leader has is to demonstrate what worship looks like. Not on a musical level, or what physical posture you take, but on a heart level. What does it look like when someone's heart is captivated by the beauty of God? Of course, this doesn't mean that our worship is a show... people can immediately see through the facade if you're worshiping to "be noticed." But if we follow Jesus' model of leadership, the things that we demonstrate will eventually rub off on the people we influence.

Before tempos, pitch, transitions, or eloquence, the one great responsibility of worship leaders is this: am I worshiping? If the answer is no, then you have no hope of leading others to worship. If the answer is yes, then you can take heart. The evidence may be minuscule, and the progress imperceptible, but if you are worshiping, then others will follow.