Part 1 of the series: Building Strong Worshipers
Worship services are made up of people. I know that’s not news; it’s obvious. Yet, how often do we overlook this important detail? Most of us would like to take our services up a notch or two. But we tend to focus on things like newer songs and cooler lights and stage sets, in hopes these will prompt our folks to worship better. We hire talented worship leaders and invest lots of money in externals. All these things can be good, mind you, but none of them really cause worship to happen. Think about it. Worship’s not something we can muster up or generate on the outside, if it’s not first taking place on the inside…of people.
I agree with those who teach worship is best experienced in a corporate setting with other Christians. However, you and I both know that just because someone attends a worship service doesn’t necessarily mean that person is actually worshiping. Worship doesn’t “rub off” on us from those around us. Worship starts on the inside of a person. Jesus said, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24 ESV). Worship that’s acceptable to God is spiritual in nature. Our spirit communes with His Spirit who initiates the worship in us.
Psalm 45:1 says, “My heart overflows with a pleasing theme; I address my verses to the king” (ESV). Praise can be defined as the “bubbling over of a hot heart.” Imagine what could happen if more in your church had a “hot heart” for God, because they worshiped Him with their lives every day. Let’s say, for example, during a weekend service you sing the hymn, Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus. To some in the room, that might be nothing more than another old song. On the other hand, those who had actually trusted in Jesus throughout the week could immediately identify with those lyrics and think, “Yes, it is sweet to trust in Him! I’ve experienced it for myself!” The simple truth of that song could ignite the worship that’s already simmering in their hearts. It wouldn’t matter to them whether it was an old song or a new song. It might not even matter how well it was being sung and led. They would want to join in and sing it with fervor as personal praise to their God. Talk about taking your corporate worship to a new level!
So, if worship begins inside each of us individually, then doesn’t it make sense to do all we can to encourage our congregations to personally worship God? The late A. W. Tozer famously said worship “is the missing jewel in modern evangelicalism.”1 At first glance, it would seem many of our churches today have embraced that jewel. Yet, in large part we’re keeping it to ourselves. We display worship from the platform, but are we really sharing the jewel of true worship with our congregations? Or to put it more precisely, are we teaching our people to offer acceptable worship in their daily lives–after the stage lights go dark and the music fades?
Building Worship Leaders Who Worship
Leaders can’t lead where they’re not going. Of all the people in our churches who need to understand and experience biblical worship, it’s especially true for those who help lead it week after week. They set the example for the rest of the congregation. The motto and desire of every singer and band member should be to “magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!” (Psalm 34:3 ESV).
Churches and pastors want their worship leaders to lead by example as worshipers, and they place high expectations on those leaders to engage their congregants in praise each week. Yet, as important as worship leading is and as high as the standards are in most churches, it’s amazing how few churches invest in their worship teams and leaders, to train and mentor them.
Not long ago, I was talking with one of the professors at Liberty University who teaches a course for worship leaders. One of the textbooks for his class is Pure Praise: A Heart-focused Bible Study on Worship. He told me, “Dwayne, your study has been very helpful to our students. You’d be surprised how many of these young people come into our worship program with little or no clue about worship. They’re talented, and they’ve sung and played in their churches; yet they don’t understand what real worship is.”
I’ll never forget what one talented teenager named Jonathan said to me once. I had recently come on staff at his church. We had just finished our third mentoring session at a coffee shop with a couple other young musicians like him. I was driving us all back to the church, when he suddenly raised up from the back seat and said, “I’ve been in this church all my life. No one’s ever taken time to train me like this.” He thought for a moment, and then he spoke up again: “I don’t understand that. How can churches not want to help train a young musician who said he feels called to be a worship leader? I mean, I even asked them for help.”
It was at that moment I understood why that church had such a shallow bench of quality worship leaders and musicians to draw from. Apparently, no one had taken time to build them…
Yea, It’s That Important
I realize pastors and church leaders have plenty on their plates already. The last thing you need to add is something that is not absolutely necessary. I pray you can see how intentionally building worshipers and worship leaders in your church is necessary and vitally important—both to the health and future of your local church and to the Kingdom.
1 The Best of A. W. Tozer, as quoted in Making New Discoveries (California: Insight for Living, 1996), 29.
About This Series:
The articles in this Building Strong Worship Leaders series are written by church leaders committed to intentionally training people about worship. Their churches are reaping the benefits–and they gladly pass on ideas and suggestions of how your church can too! This series is presented by Pastors.com, in partnership with Next Level Worship, a ministry providing quality worship discipleship resources to churches. Go to NextLevelWorship.com to register for free and exclusive coaching webinars for the Pastors.com community.