Every worship leader has had a moment where they really felt the Spirit moving through the words of a given song only to open their eyes and see the congregation staring back at them with the “deer caught in headlights” look. Isn’t it frustrating and confusing? Sometimes it can seem like the more we pour ourselves out into leading our congregations in God exalting worship the more blank stares we receive. It’s almost like the connection is lost in the moment, or like our congregations just don’t get it.
First off, I want to make it very clear that we need to be careful not to judge the effectiveness or the “level” of our congregations worship by the people’s outward response. Because, a response is something that is very unique to every individual… I may respond to a particular situation entirely different than you do. My response being different than yours makes it no less of a response. If our worship is truly as it is called to be then it will bring about new revelations about our Savior and require a response from each and every individual. As I said in my last blog post, “The Bible tells us that worship is not just to engage the audience, but to have them change as a result of it.” I say all of that as a preface to this blog or list to make it clear that just because we don’t see a physical or outward response during our corporate worship doesn’t mean that something is wrong with us our congregations… sometimes God is working behind the scenes of a stone cold face.
That being said, we do have the desire to do all we can to invite authentic worship during our gatherings. Often times that may mean reevaluating the things that we are doing… if you feel your congregation is struggling to worship on Sunday take a look at these things and see if anything we are doing as leaders is fostering a difficult corporate worship environment.
1) Are we providing a context to our worship?
People lead busy lives and sometimes church becomes just another thing on our schedules. When we gather on Sundays are we providing a proper context to our worship or are we just “diving in” and hoping that people follow? I’m not saying that we must always go to a traditional “call to worship” but I am saying that we need to provide an environment that focuses our worship from the beginning. As worship pastors we must be just that… we must pastor and lead our people to the throne room of Christ each and every time we come together. Without context our congregations will struggle to worship every time.
2) Are we leading worship or performing?
Excellence is something that I strive for and I believe we all should… but sometimes we can lose focus of the heart of our worship in the pursuit of excellence. Our excellence is absolutely important, but if it’s not balanced with genuine worship then we have missed the mark and we have done nothing more than perform for an innocent captive audience. The idea of leading worship is entirely different than that of a performance because it requires us to lay our own preferences aside in order to better serve our congregations. If I play the newest songs to perfection with a click track and all original loops but sing them to high for my congregation to sing along then how have I served them? I don’t want my congregation to go into Sunday morning like a crowd heading into a concert…
I want my people encounter God through their worship on Sunday and be changed because of it!
3) Are we singing songs that our congregations know?
Just from reading the title to this point some people will say, “We can’t always stick with what is familiar!” To that point I would have to agree, but we don’t have to force feed new material to our congregations each and every week. When a song isn’t immediately familiar, people listen. It doesn’t mean they’re not worshiping and trying to sing along, it just means that they’re watching the screen trying to figure it out. If we play a new song each and every week and never allow our congregations time to learn the songs that we sing then we create a congregation of screen watchers and eliminate any freedom they had to worship without being glued into a staring match with the screen. When our congregations begin to learn and remember the words to the songs that we sing then they can begin to carry those songs around with them on a daily basis within their hearts and minds and allow the words to soak in and affect them to their very being. By allowing them to learn and enjoy familiar songs we create an environment of expectancy when we gather to worship. People look forward to singing to God the song that has been on their heart and mind all week.
4) Are we connecting with our congregations?
How well do you know your congregation? Are you honed into the pulse of your people? Are you singing songs that reflect the environment within your body of believers? Or are we settling for the “trendy” or “traditional” thing to do? At any given time our churches might not be worshiping because they simply aren’t connecting with us. This connection can take time and concentrated effort to establish… but once we have tapped into that pulse then we can work to truly meet our people where they are and serve them better through our choices and what we do.
As a worship leader we must be mindful of the things we do and environments we create when we cone together to worship corporately. A fellow blogger put it best by saying that we must, “become students of who we lead. We must pastor them, love them, pray for them, and pour into them.