Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Open Thoughts on Worship

What does authentic congregational worship in song look like?

We see in the scriptures that in Biblical times it was most often people joining together to worship God and encourage each other with songs, hymns and spiritual songs. We are meant to focus our hearts on God and to be an encouragement to those who join together.

What if we did just what the above brief paragraph says? What would worship in song look like in today's "modern" church? 

Over the last several years I’ve observed a lot of different trends happening in worship at churches and I’m sure you have as well - Some are good and some are bad. Some are authentic and some are not. Some are genuine and some are gimmicks. 

I've been a part of church and around enough churches to see a whole range of things!...and I draw some of these from my own experiences in leading worship in Small Groups, Sunday School Classes, Retreats, Men's ministry as well as Sunday morning corporate worship.

So, I started to put together a list or “open thoughts on worship” sort of a do’s and don't's list not that it's really meant to be that rather, just a list of contrasting thoughts. Not a definitive list but as start and not in any particular order. Or, Maybe it's a list of "does" or "does not" look like list...

Some are meant to be funny although they resemble reality while others are meant to be a bit sobering.

I also want you to encourage you to join the conversation by adding to this list by leaving a comment here. 

I will continue to add to this list in the months to come and hope you will too as we seek to understand and dialogue about “what does it look like to truly worship the Lord in song and lead the congregation in worship?” (from the Worship leader as well as the worshiper standpoint.)


  • Begin with prayer as a team and as you begin to lead the congregation in worship. (as much as possible)
  • Select Christ centered songs
  • Select songs that are Biblical
  • Select a balanced mix of the old and the new songs and hymns as there's depth in both (like adding some hymns into the mix from time to time and doing them in an updated fashion is fine as long as you don't change the words/truths of the original hymn)
  • See your role as shepherding role and then shepherd the congregation in worship in song
  • Avoid songs that focus on man’s feelings or man in general
  • Select songs that focus on God
  • See worship as an opportunity to help focus and prepare the congregations hearts to receive the Word of God.
  • Be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit! 
  • Sing in a Key that is comfortable to not only you but more importantly the congregation
  • Sing the melody when you lead (only do harmony on occasion) because the congregation needs to hear their part and follow you!
  • When praying if you want to some light transition or musical accompaniment - allow someone else to play like the keyboard as it sounds better and it’s not distracting
  • Be Authentic/Transparent
  • Be Humble
  • Encourage
  • Be respectful to the worship team - respectful of their time/investment and respectful of who they are as individuals
  • Be professional in conduct
  • Connect with the congregation
  • Assess if you're truly called to lead worship
  • Enjoy what you’re doing
  • Express joy during worship
  • Practice!
  • Remember that you're also a worshiper! 
  • Strive to be an effective leader.
  • Give thought to coordinating the songs you select with the message that will be given - there might be a way to tie it together or complement the message rather than detract from it
  • Seek out a mentor - Someone who can help you grow spiritually (Disciple you) and as a worship leader or team member
  • Shepherd your team
  • Build a strong and like-minded worship team or teams
  • Remember who you’re worshiping and leading others in worship unto
  • Allow others to lead – you don’t always have to be in the center of leading worship
  • Allow the congregation to respond to the Lord in prayer, etc. and build that into the "worship set" from time to time.
  • Pray
  • Be in the Word
  • Be an enabler
  • Set an atmosphere of worship (this can mean a combination of things)
  • Make sure you're not running the sound system too hot (loud)
  • Allow others to use their gifts and talents
  • Select people who have proven character and a heart to serve
  • Open your eyes as you lead people
  • Avoid gimmicks
  • Encourage the congregation to leave the troubles of the week at the feet of Jesus

  • Select man-centered songs
  • Select songs just because they’re popular
  • Act like you’re a soloist or singing a solo when you “lead”
  • Sing the harmony if you’re leading – the congregation needs to focus on singing praises not trying to find their part!
  • Forget to teach new songs –actually try to teach it /run through it with the congregations.  Just because you know it and your team knows it doesn’t mean they do!
  • Show boat
  • Be a fake
  • Randomly yell /shout - it's OK to be excited but there should be a purpose, order, reason for everything we do!
  • Add in random or pointless vocal runs
  • Sing in a key that only dogs can hear and birds can sing in. :-)
  • Although emotions are part of a natural response to worshiping the Lord, don’t make worship out to be some emotional thing or an emotional device. There's a HUGE difference between being Spirit-Led and and emotion-led.
  • Think worship in song is a your ticket to church growth
  • Try to professionalize worship as you miss authenticity by doing so – this isn’t to say that we shouldn’t do our very best for the Lord just don’t discount non-professionals or complicate  things by making worship something it’s not
  • Be in the spotlight or seek to be in the spotlight
  • Make a big production out of worship
  • Forget that you're NOT giving a performance
  • Run the sounds system too hot (loud) as it's not a "rock concert" and you can seriously impede peoples worship and potentially damage peoples hearing. (No Joke)
  • Have a huge ego
  • Come across as impersonal
  • Stop having a choir just because you think "modern churches" don't have them anymore. There still may be room for choir as part of the "modern" worship.
  • Randomly strum your guitar while you pray…it’s distracting
  • Discount non-professionals
  • Confuse being spirit-led and your emotions. Grow to discern the difference.
  • Select the worship team based on looks alone
  • Select a worship leader just because you think they’ll drive up numbers of visitors and congregation
  • Select a worship leader just because they are young and hip
  • Select worship team members who seek to be up front
  • Select a worship team just because they are “professional”
  • Use fog machines and fancy lighting – leave that stuff for concerts at your local performing arts center as they don't really add to the worship
  • Keep your eyes closed the entire time you sing – you can be heartfelt while you worship and lead but you can’t shepherd the congregation with your eyes closed the entire time

1 comment:

  1. Hey, Randy, Happy New Year!

    I don’t always say it, but thank-you for your faithful, continual ministry to us at Nike - your mailers are a consistent, spirit led encouragement for all believers here at Nike.

    Thank-you , in particular, for today’s Blog you forwarded on Worship. As you know, this is one of my favorite subjects, as I try & read all that I come across on this topic. These are fantastic bullet points on worship - an often volatile, personal or perhaps a topic viewed too subjectively when focused on. The debate frequently lands somewhere around musical styles.

    Personally, I like the points “encourage” “be humble” & “remember that you are also a worshiper.” In addition, I would also add something in the form of personal prayerful preparation in ministry, which includes everything from waiting on the Lord, to offering your body as a living sacrifice, which is your ‘reasonable service’ or ‘spiritual worship,’ - Romans 12: 2. I must also admit that I found several of the ‘DON’T’ category challenging, if not particularly or personally convicting. Lord, help us to glorify You, - as worship is really all about You, - An Audience of One.

    Bless you, Brother.. Thank-you, as always, Randy, for the inspiration / reflection.

    All His Best,
    Wilson Smith

    Worship Leader – Southlake Church