“Golden Nugget” of Worship Leading #5
Worship is God’s idea! As important as worship is, your primary purpose is to make disciples -not to make music. The best musicians have the biggest ears, there is always a lead instrument, but it is not always you, and leading a church in worship is all about serving. Along those lines, equipping people is greater than buying equipment. We have uncovered a lot of “Golden Nuggets” during this series, and I trust that they have been helpful! This final “Golden Nugget” of Worship Leading may be last, but it is certainly not least: Private Before Public.
It can be far too easy for us Worship Leaders and Musicians to fall into the false way of thinking that our public worship is what really matters. It’s not. Our public worship should be the result of our private worship throughout the week. In fact, though there are exceptions to this rule, I would encourage you to never do publicly what you have not first done privately. Whether that means that you do not lead a song publicly that you have not first offered to God privately, or whether that means you should not say or pray something publicly that you have not first said or prayed to God privately, the principle remains. Never do publicly what you have not first done privately.
I once heard a prominent speaker and Pastor say, “Delivering a sermon is not worship… not really. My prayerful preparation and diligent study for the sermon is the true worship.” Clearly this speaker was using hyperbolic language to make an important point. We typically think of delivering the sermon (or the song) as the true worship, but in reality, offering ourselves to God through prayerful preparation and diligent study (when no one but God is watching!) is our truest offering of praise.
Practically speaking, how do we live out this principle of private before public? Here are some tips (appearing in no particular order).
Pray the songs to God in private. More than anything, these songs are just prayers set to music. One of the most powerful ways that we can connect our hearts to God through the songs that we sing is by simply praying the lyrics out to Him in private. Before we lead the congregation into musically praying the song together, we should first pray it out loud to God on our own. As a side note, if the song doesn’t feel right to pray out to God in private, then it is really not a worthy song to lead in congregational worship.
Journal the lyrics of the songs to God. I like to physically write out the words of the songs that I will lead. This exercise helps me to further connect my heart and mind to God through the words that I will be singing to Him. As I write the words, I may add some of my own thoughts in response to what I am thinking or feeling. Throughout this process, I begin to own the words of the song -even if it is a song that was written by someone else. Their prayer truly becomes my prayer. All the while I am praying that this prayer will also become the heartfelt prayer of the congregation.
Lead worship in the empty auditorium. God has always been partial to spaces. There is something special about passionately worshiping God in the same empty space that will later be filled with church members. On a solitary Saturday morning, plug in, crank it up, and pour your heart out to an empty room that is filled with the presence of God.
Prayerfully determine what you will say between songs, and rehearse it. The personality of so many Worship Leaders that I have met throughout the years lends itself to more of a “let’s just wing it” mentality. Honestly, that approach works. But it works because it is built on the winning personality of the Worship Leader. There is a better foundation. What if we built our approach on the Person of Christ? What if we spent time in preparation, asking the LORD what He would have us say to the people? Yes, the Holy Spirit can give us words to say in the moment, but He can just as easily (and far more frequently) give us words in advance… if we ask Him. As an act of worship, prayerfully determine what you will say between songs. Rehearse it. Test it. Is it true? Is it edifying? Is it clear? If so, then it is worthy of saying during congregational worship. If not, go back to the LORD in prayer… thankful that you didn’t blurt that silly thing out for the whole congregation to hear.
Pray for the people. One of the greatest joys of being a Worship Leader is having the privilege to pray for the people we are serving. But that should not only happen in public. In fact, some of the deepest, most heartfelt prayers happen in the preparation. Pray for the people as they come to mind in your prayer closet. Pray for the people as you pray through the lyrics and specific circumstances come to mind. Pray for the people in the empty room. You know who sits where. Lay your hands on the seats and pray for the people who will be sitting there. Pray, pray, pray. Do not allow your public prayers to be your primary prayers.
* This #ThursdayWorshipThoughts article is part 5 (of 5) of a larger series, “Golden Nuggets of Worship Leading”. Be sure to check out the other articles in the series, as well! For a printable version of this article, click here.
Artwork provided by my good friend, Brooke Gehman, an authentic and wonderful man of God, devoted follower of Christ, and an amazing husband and father. Brooke is a gifted Worship Leader, an incredible artist, and a Potter by trade (check out his website)