For over 6 years, I held the position of worship leader at my dad’s church. My primary responsibilities were to choose songs, rehearse with the singers, and lead worship on Sunday mornings. Initially, my main goal was to have enough songs to get through the 20-30 minute set, but as time progressed I realized there is an art to worship. The song choice mattered. The people who sang mattered. And as hard as it was to admit, my lifestyle mattered…a lot.
Every Christian or Gospel song is not appropriate for praise and worship. I learned this the hard way. Although God can move outside of song choice, I had to realize that just because a song speaks to me doesn’t mean it will speak to the masses. Since the objective is to involve and engage the congregation, the focus is less about popularity, or my connection to a song, but how I answer the following questions:
Does this song align with the Word? (Don’t be fooled by the classification, every Christian or Gospel song is not biblical.) Is this song singable/easy to catch on to? Do I need to simplify the arrangement to avoid distractions from the meaning? Is this song uplifting? (Believe it or not there are some songs that make you feel worse than you did before you sang it.) Does this song exalt the character of God? After answering these questions, choosing the right songs for praise and worship became easier. I can’t say I always got it right, but I can say when I did; I knew it was because of the filter above.
Praise teams consist of people, who often times have no (or very little) desire to pursue music as a profession. In many cases, singers on praise teams have jobs that range from students to executives. They give of their time to support the ministry, but often have other priorities during the week. I learned very quickly that the singers who sing with Kirk Franklin and Byron Cage are singers who either sing full-time or have the skill to do so. This is important to know when choosing songs, but also when choosing people. There is a love for God and a love for music ministry that must be present in all members. Music ministry is no small job and when added to the complexity of life commitment to grow in Christ and in skill is critical.
Danger comes when a large or professional sounding praise team becomes more important than the effectiveness of the group. A worship leader must consider the heart of the person and their love for God above their skill level and realize that at the end of the day (or end of rehearsal) the anointing makes the difference.
To whom much is given, much is required. Although I was quite young when I accepted the position to lead, I also had to accept the calling to fully follow Christ; otherwise my worship and leadership would be counterproductive. I had a hard time with this initially but after many days dreading to sing because of guilt and shame, I finally made the decision to commit to a lifestyle of worship. This doesn’t mean I didn’t make any mistakes from that day forward, rather I no longer allowed my issues to go unaddressed. Confronting myself was one of the hardest things I had to do, because it meant going to God and allowing Him to determine how I would lead my life. It was the relinquishing of control that made me nervous. Would I let God down? Would I let myself down? Could I be as strong as God called me to be?
When I took that first step, God took the rest. The depth of my worship increased. I sang with more authority and conviction and could boldly worship God without the shame of sin interrupting my thoughts. I’ve said before and I’ll continue to say, worship saved my life. I found the love of God in worship. I found who I am in Christ in worship. And now it’s my sincerest desire to create an atmosphere for others to do the same.