by Maddie Sorensen
What is worship?
A. W. Tozer said, “The primary purpose of God in creation was to prepare moral beings spiritually and intellectually capable of worshiping Him”. Worship should be our natural response as those who have been saved by God and recognize our place in His creation.
Jesus told us that the true worshipers would worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth (John 4:23). To worship “in the Spirit” means that it is not merely an outward action, but a spiritual reality in the hearts of believers, brought about by the Holy Spirit who dwells there. This naturally leads to an outward expression. To worship “in truth” means that the worship is genuine and based in the truth of who God is. Anything we do can be worship if we are offering God our best through it and it is done in the Spirit and in truth. Romans 12:1 (NIV) says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”
Why/how should we worship through music?
Singing truths about God allows us to engage with them emotionally, intellectually, and physically, and also to cement them in our minds. It is of utmost importance that the words we sing are biblical and never misrepresent God. By stating these things aloud, we give Him honor and we also encourage ourselves and others in the truth. Colossians 3:16-17 (NIV) instructs us, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Being reminded of these things can and should often lead to an emotional response, but our worship is still totally worthwhile even if we do not experience an emotional “high”. We know that God has still been glorified and that He is close to us even when we do not tangibly feel His presence.
Despite division over worship styles, what matters is that the words sung are true and pleasing to Him, and that the attitudes we convey are reverent and humble. In leading worship, it is important to consider the people being led and the types of music they will best connect with. However, our attitudes as churchgoers should be focused on giving God glory through our singing, rather than the consumeristic mindset that asks to be fed the songs we like the best.
What is the role of the worship leader and team?
There have been individuals leading people in worship at least since the time of Moses. 2 Chronicles 31:2 describes how the priests and Levites were each assigned duties, including “to give thanks and to sing praises at the gates of the Lord’s dwelling” (NIV). King David was also a worship leader, encouraging his people to praise God: “Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him” (Psalm 33:1, NIV).
Probably the most difficult aspect of the “contemporary worship” format is that the worship leader and band are on display before the congregation, and this can feel like a performance. Our prayer should always be that by watching the worship team lead the songs, the congregation is inspired by their joy and sincerity, is given an example of how to freely sing and move in worship, and is never distracted either by their skill or their lack of it. The team should create an environment where the congregation will want to join with them in worship and be just as engaged as they are.
We strive for quality in each step of the worship-leading process, submitting it to God in prayer. We should come to rehearsal as prepared as possible, having learned the songs and practiced as needed. We are mindful of how we appear on stage and seek not to be a distraction in any way. The clothes we wear should not be attention-grabbing, our attitude should be humble, and we should sing and play in a way that is easy for the congregation to follow: well-rehearsed but not showy.
As worship leaders, it is vital to have a relationship with God outside of church. Our love for God will show when we lead, and we will be able to worship more genuinely because we are grateful for what He’s done for us. Our role is to spur the congregation on to praise God. We can connect with them with eye contact and an open posture. Nonetheless, we should feel free to express joy and love for God without being overly concerned with what the congregation thinks of us.
Although worship can be a nuanced topic, it really comes down to this: We, God’s creation, affirming in spirit and truth Who He is by bringing him our best offering.