Below is an excellent article written by Rick Muchow, Worship Pastor at Saddleback Church. In this article are items I agree with very much and others I only agree with somewhat. Regardless, it is a must read for anyone who leads worship on a regular basis.
Happy New Year!
"Refuse to produce while worshiping. If the drummer is dragging or something ‘wrong’ is going on, try to coach without having to have your own way. Don't look for mistakes as if the band is being tested but give your best to God." - Rick Muchow
There is a lot more to worship than an enthusiastic crowd, an intimate atmosphere, and great music by a great band. Worship involves nothing less than offering up our whole lives to God so all we do is in conformity with God's character and standards rather than with the attitudes and values of the world (Rom. 12:1-2).
Of course, the vast majority of the world's cultures love and respond to music. Music is by far the most influential art form of the day. Worship is not creative arts, nor is it the art of public speaking. Worship starts with a believer's attitude toward and focus on God. Worship is an expression of our love and thanksgiving to God. Without that, our "worship" can often become just the singing part of the service or even just entertainment. Like it or not, the reality is that many people feel that worship is what we do at church. Just coming to church and singing a few songs is not the place worship starts.
As the Scriptures command in the Great Commission (Mark 16:15) and the Great Commandment (Luke 10:27) the church's purposes are clear. Music is not mentioned as a purpose and should never and could never take the place of true worship. The effective worship leader understands that worship leading is not just leading songs but leading lives to life change.
Here are my tips for effective worship L.E.A.D.I.N.G.:
1. Let God lead
Jesus said that he is the vine and that we are the branches … apart from him we can do nothing (John 15:5). Being effective musically does not guarantee effective corporate worship. In my experience, God is more interested in the heart than the art. God leads me through my quiet time each day and by his grace. Pastor Rick Warren taught me years ago that the local church belongs to God and that it is only by his grace that he uses us. Our leadership and the congregation's participation both start with a focus on God.
2. Engage the senior pastor's philosophy of ministry
There are many methods and styles of ministry. As long as they are effective and do not violate Scripture, they are all valid. There are many different kinds of churches because there are many different kinds of personalities and cultures. In most cases, the "worship leader" of a church is not the leader of the church and does not set the philosophy of ministry for the church. My role at Saddleback is to support the senior pastor's philosophy of ministry through worship. Before I came on staff, the most important thing that my pastor wanted to know about me was not about my talent, professional background, or personality but whether or not we shared the same biblical doctrine and if I embraced his strategy, style, and ministry methods.
3. Align with the other purposes of the church
There are five purposes of the church as outlined in the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. They are magnification (worship), membership (fellowship), maturity (discipleship), ministry, and missions (evangelism). Along with the five purposes of the church, there must be a defined purpose for each event or service. For example, a midweek Bible study might belong to the purpose of maturity. Worship would be incorporated to support the purpose of the event ... maturity. While on the other hand, a missions event might need an entirely different approach on worship. Working with a clear purpose and objective for each event eliminates guess work and will help you prepare more effectively.
4. Define your target
Know whom you are going to reach. At Saddleback, we have identified five different people groups or targets based on their spiritual maturity (Community, Crowd, Congregation, Committed, and Core). In worship leading, the most important reason to identify your target is culture and language. Simply put, an unchurched person (Community) does not understand the church culture and its language. More importantly it is easy for an unchurched person to misunderstand the church culture and be turned off. Although a non-Christian cannot worship, they can watch worship. If they can understand what they are watching, they have a better chance of saying yes to Jesus. All of the target groups are best communicated to at their level of spiritual maturity. Profound concepts can be communicated in simple ways. The Gospel doesn’t need to be watered down to be communicated effectively to the unchurched. It needs only to be stated in the language and culture of the unchurched. This means that the lyrics, musical style, and presentation must be appropriate to reach the target.
5. Inspire by example: Be the lead worshipper
The most important thing that every worship leader must do is love the Lord with all their heart, mind, and soul. Excellent programming, artistry, and production cannot replace the power of God released through a genuine and contrite heart. During rehearsal and sound check, it is appropriate to be both pastor and producer/director but when rehearsal/sound check is over so is our role as producer/director. When leading worship – worship! Refuse to produce while worshiping. If the drummer is dragging or something "wrong" is going on, try to coach without having to have your own way. Don't look for mistakes as if the band is being tested but give your best to God. As you sing, "I Love You Lord" say it directly to God, not to the "audience." People respond to sincerity and will follow its example.
6. Never stop loving those you are leading
What happens when we are criticized or feel unappreciated? How about when the crowd doesn't feel like singing or "getting into it" and it feels like you are pulling teeth (your own teeth) to get people to participate. Sometimes the natural thing to do is to get frustrated or angry. It is a fact that everyone has an opinion about music. Sometimes people actually rate our performance from week to week as though we are at some sort of worship tournament. On the other hand, sometimes we rate our team and congregation's performance. Jesus loved us from the cross. We should be able to take some criticism and still love. If you ever get frustrated by critics, remember that critics are often used by God to teach us something about ourselves as well as cause us to evaluate and improve our ministry skills. Compliments can actually do more harm then criticism. It's best to stick with the fundamentals and love the Lord with all your heart, mind, and soul and to love your neighbor as yourself.
7. Give your best
One of the most important things that a worship leader can do is to be prepared.
1. Memorize your music and the order of service.
2. Prepare your team (musically, emotionally, and spiritually).
3. Be spiritually ready, physically fit, emotionally rested yourself.
4. Have the appropriate equipment in place and in working order.
5. Wherever possible, plan ahead.
Other tips for giving your best:
- Delegate: Let others take some of the responsibilities and tasks so you can operate out of your strengths (Eph. 4:7-16).
- Avoid comparing yourself and your team to the latest professional worship recording.
- Learn by listening but don't compare.
- Evaluate for excellence. It is important to get feedback from your team and the congregation. Especially from people that will tell you the truth … not just give you compliments.
- Keep growing musically.
- Keep the song set fresh by introducing new songs.
- Finally, guard your testimony by avoiding the pitfalls of temptation (Eph. 5:1-21).
Rick Muchow is celebrating his 21st year of service at Saddleback Church as the pastor of worship. He provides music for six weekend services, the monthly Night of Worship, and various conferences in addition to managing more than 2,000 people in the Magnification Ministry. He has written and recorded numerous songs and CDs and is the author of The Worship Answer Book. For great worship resources, visit his Web site at EncouragingMusic.com.