Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I am a stickler on being prepared. I feel that if you are going to do something then you better be prepared to do it right and to the best of your abilities or you shouldn’t even bother at all. So many times though I feel as if we as worship pastors get into the daily “grind” or routine and enter unprepared into one of the most important things we do each and every week… leading congregational worship!
You might be saying, “Woah! Woah! Woah! Hold on to your horses there hotshot… you don’t know my life or my habits.” That may be true… but I believe that if we prepared ourselves and our congregations to worship on a regular basis then we would be seeing so much more true, authentic, and Spirit-filled worship in our local churches.
I’ll put it this way… being prepared for a worship service means more than having faithfully practiced and rehearsed the songs to your accepted level of excellence. Being prepared is more than having a strict minute-by-minute or song-by-song schedule to abide by, a team of professionals who could play the songs forward or backwards at any desired speed, or having all your segues and cues polished and ready to go.
Being prepared for worship includes being ready to lead, sing, and play… but it also includes so much more.
God is on a search for true worshipers. John 4:23 says,
“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.”
Are we being faithful to worship and lead in spirit and truth? Unfortunately for some of us that means we may need to make more time to prepare ourselves, and our teams.
Let me clarify one point before we dive deeper into this subject. We MUST prepare ourselves musically to lead worship. We CANNOT expect to properly lead people if we don’t know our stuff! So, take that as you will. We all prepare differently, but we should settle for nothing less than excellence. Our God is deserving of more than mediocre unprepared worship… and when we continually thank Him for the opportunity to do what we do and yet we don’t spend the time and effort to adequately prepare then we are blowing the opportunity we have thanked Him for. God doesn’t NEED us to accomplish His task and will, but He desires to see us used in His purposes. Prepare well and be ready to be used.
Now that I’ve made that one clarification lets take a look at how we can and should prepare for leading worship.
- Prepare your Heart and Mind
It is of absolute importance that we take time to prepare our hearts to worship God before we set foot in the sanctuary on Sunday morning. True spiritual preparation takes time and effort and isn’t done in the fifteen minute gap between sound check and service.
In fact, God made this crystal clear when He gave the law in Exodus 19. Verses 10- 11 say,
The Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.
God called the people to prepare to come into His presence, or even near His presence when He came down onto the mountain where He would speak to Moses. The people weren’t even on the same mountain and they had to prepare! We are actually approaching and entering into the Lord’s presence with our worship… we should seriously prepare! We see consistently throughout Scripture and history that God wants His people to get ready to come near to Him, to prepare themselves for an encounter with Him.
When we take the time to think about what we are doing when we enter into worship, and lead worship, suddenly personal preparation becomes a priority. Take the time to think about the God that we are worshipping.
- Prepare your Congregation
We know that corporate worship is of central importance. Psalm 22:22 says,
I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you
We are to praise God in the midst of the congregation! Worshipping Christ together is vital for us as Christians. Life wasn’t meant to be done alone… and neither is Christianity. So think about it, you’re worship isn’t for you… it is ultimately for God and also for encouraging your brothers and sisters in Christ.
A runner wouldn’t enter into a marathon without specific training the same way an individual wouldn’t climb into a ring with a boxer without having at least put on gloves before. We should prepare ourselves for worship as least as well as we prepare ourselves for other things that don’t hold a portion of the weight eternally.
Work to both prepare yourself for worship as well as teaching your congregation to prepare for corporate worship. When we place specific value on something people handle it differently. Place value on your corporate worship.
- Prepare through Prayer
This point may seem like a given, but when we get scattered and rushed it is typically the first to fly out the window. Part of our preparations for leading corporately needs to be specific prayer for our corporate gatherings. If we can make this a priority I guarantee you that it will help and encourage you and others in your congregation to keep your focus on the Savior King who alone has the power to save, heal and deliver all who call upon His name and who is worthy of all our worship and more!
We must cover our gatherings in prayer. Commit yourself to praying over your services. We can do nothing alone. Here are some prayer points that will get you started.
–Pray for direction. Pray that we are receptive to the Spirit and willing to go against our own plans if called to. My Pastor has repeatedly said to me that Pentecost didn’t occur because it was placed or scheduled in the bulletin.
–Pray that Christ be glorified. We must continually pray against any sense of pride that may develop within us. Our worship should be about Christ and for Christ. If He isn’t in it then we are just singing songs. All that we do needs to point to the Father.
–Pray for change. We must petition the Father for the hearts of the people within our congregations. We can have great services, but if nothing changes then all we’ve done is provided false security. I challenge you to pray for conviction and repentance, it isn’t pretty… but it is necessary and will bring change.
–Pray against the enemy. Satan wants nothing more than to make us as believer’s weak. A sense of comfort or idleness is a scary thing. Let’s pray against the works of the deceiver that can invade our gatherings and congregations. We serve a mighty God, a roaring lion that crushes the head of the serpent. Pray against the devil and his works constantly.
John 14:13 says,
Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
Hopefully through this non-exhaustive list we have all seen the importance of our preparations. Being prepared keeps us focused on what matters. When we’re spiritually prepared, we’re not as concerned about songs and arrangements (which are important), but the engagement of the congregation and the presence of God take the front seat.
When we begin to ignore the preparation of our heart, trivial matters tend to steal the show.
We also must remember that we have no right to come into God’s presence on our own. No amount of preparation that we can do is enough to make us fit, but we must be faithful to do our part!