I love this song and this might be my favorite version of it.
I am so excited for Paul to teach this song on Sunday. I have been digging this song for over a year. Listen to it and come ready to sing.
Dear Worship Leader,
Because I speak every week and have done so for the last 10+ years, I’ve seen a lot of worship leaders. From camps, conferences, church services, student and college ministry, it takes all kinds. Most of them are great. Some of them, not so much. Most of them have great hearts with a desire to lead a group of people into the presence of Jesus to worship, others, not so much. I thought I’d share some thoughts as a person who preaches and worships in church on a weekly basis, sort of my viewpoint of you and some requests.
- It’s not about you. I know worship leaders would never say it is about them or preachers either. But sometimes, it seems like it is more about you than Jesus. We are not there to watch you worship. We are not there to see how amazing you are or how incredible your voice is or that killer drum or guitar solo you just nailed. If that’s all people talk about at the end, it failed.
- Talk normally. So many worship leaders when they talk between songs sound like they are trying to seductively get me out of my clothes. If your voice sounds like Barry White normally, then great. If not, talk normally. Don’t breath heavy, make weird pauses. I leaned over to Katie at one worship service recently and told her I felt like the worship leader was hitting on us. It shouldn’t feel that way.
- Everything you say, pray and the songs you sing teach me about God. When you pray, think through it. When you talk about asking for more of the presence of the Holy Spirit, is that possible? Or do we need to be more aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit? Make sure you know what the Father, Son and Spirit do. When you make it up on the fly, you make theological errors that we in the seats listen to and believe. After all, you’re on stage. As for lyrics, make sure they are theologically correct. Also, what does it mean to sing to the heart of Jesus? When you tell us to sing this straight to Jesus I wonder who we’ve been singing to this whole time. A lot of what is said on the latest Hillsong and Passion album sound awesome in an arena, but when there are 25 people in a church planet, we don’t want to shout to God.
- Pray normally. When you pray, do you say God or Jesus over and over. Dear God, we love you God. Thank you God. God, your presence is so amazing God. Oh God. If that’s how you pray, great. If not, pray normally. The way you pray teaches the rest of us to pray and if it doesn’t sound normal, it communicates a normal person can’t pray. Also, when you pray, I learn theology about God.
- Don’t repreach the sermon. There is nothing worse than preaching a sermon, one that I as the preacher has thought about for anywhere from 1 week to 8 months just to have a worship leader come up after me and on the fly repreach it in 5 minutes and make me wonder, “Why did we just sit here?” Or, when you repreach it incorrectly? I remember speaking at another church and the worship leader came up and tried to make my point, but missed it. Showing he wasn’t really listening.
- Your dress reflects your heart. This is for men and women. If your dress is distracting, revealing or over the top, no one is paying attention to Jesus. They are looking at you. What you wear, how low cut it is, how shirt your skirt is, how tight your shirt is, all reflects your heart.
- Don’t make us stand forever. I know people stand forever at a concert, but once you start getting to 15, 20, 25 minutes of straight standing people start checking out because it hurts. Knees, back, necks, they all start to ache.
- When you sing high, men stop singing. If you are a worship leader, you probably have an incredible range. That’s awesome. You can probably sing all the songs exactly as they are recorded on the CD. That’s awesome. The problem is few other people can, especially men. When you sing too high, men stop singing and check out.
- Explain what we are doing. Why are we standing? Why are we reading this prayer? If you want me to do something, tell me and explain it. Don’t assume I want to do the thing you want me to do. You’ve spent all week thinking about it, working on it and I just heard about it.
- Sing songs each week. I love new songs and if you lead worship, you get tired of songs quickly. The reason? By the time you teach a song to a church, you’ve listened to it 100 times. The problem is, most people do not listen to worship music throughout the week. They don’t know the songs. So, if you teach a song and the following week don’t sing it again, we forget it.
I love worship leaders. I love that at Revolution, almost half the service is music. I want you to be great. If you don’t serve with a pastor that wants you to be as great as possible, go find a new pastor to work with. The people who show up each week show up wanting to meet Jesus and you are a big part of that. You help us encounter Jesus in a personal, emotional and logical way. I want you to be great and I don’t want anything to stand in the way of you being the worship leader God called you to be.
Every Sunday morning around the world, churches gather for community, equipping, communion, singing, prayers and preaching. The pastor is involved in many of these things and leads many of them.
Yet, one of the most important tasks a pastors does is public and yet it does not happen on the stage. It happens while he is surrounded by his church, during the singing.
Why is this so important?
The pastor sets the tone for the church. The church becomes a reflection of the pastor.
If you look around and see that people are not engaging in worship, there are a few reasons that is happening, but one of them is the leader is not engaging (the leaders on stage and the leader in the congregation, the pastor).
Is it that simple? No.
But I often see pastor’s looking around, not singing, checking their notes or even not in the room until it is time for them to preach.
These things communicate.
They tell your church, the corporate singing and prayers are not the most important thing we do, because I’m not participating. I’m not even here for it. I’m looking at my notes for the important part.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Preaching is incredibly important. Personally, half of my week is spent on preaching.
But pastor, come on. You have all week to prepare your sermon. Looking at your notes for 10 minutes right before you go up to preach is not going to make a difference.
There is another reason this matters.
This gets to the heart of the pastor and how prepared he is to worship. Is he scatter brained when he walks into church? Has he prayed his heart up so he is ready to enter the presence of God? Is he ready to be fed in worship?
I know this is hard. It is hard to connect in worship in your church as a pastor, when you are about to preach, but when you do, your sermon connects in a way it doesn’t otherwise. You are also modeling to people how to worship as many of them don’t know how to connect with God corporately. Men are wondering, why do we sing? Why do people close their eyes? Why do they raise their hands?
And worship leaders, for the sake of your men, stop singing love songs to your boyfriend Jesus.
This task of being a lead worshiper in the congregation is one of the most important tasks a pastor has on Sunday morning. It impacts things you don’t even see and sets the tone for things you wished would go better, like the response of your church.
So pastor, this Sunday. Lead from the congregation. Help get things moving. Sing loud. Raise your hands. Clap along. Help lead from off the stage.
On Sunday, Paul taught a new song, “Mighty Warrior” that is kind of a theme song for our series Fight. If it’s new to you, give it a listen and come ready to kick this week’s service off with it!
In his book The Business of Belief: How the World’s Best Marketers, Designers, Salespeople, Coaches, Fundraisers, Educators, Entrepreneurs and Other Leaders Get Us to Believe, Tom Asacker makes this point:
We only see what we’re prepared to see, and what we expect to experience influences what we do experience.
This has enormous implications on church, preaching, atmosphere in a service, etc.
Often, when a worship leader or pastor get on a stage, they expect everyone wants to be there. That everyone has prepared themselves to be there or agrees with everything that is about to happen.
Think for a minute about how different a church service is from anything else you experience in life.
Where else do you stand with a bunch of people you don’t know and sing songs (that you often don’t know)? Where else do you sit and listen to someone talk for 30-60 minutes? Don’t even get me started on the churches that have the “turn around and say hi to someone” moment.
You must as a pastor, help people be prepared for what is coming. You cannot assume they are there or ready for what is about to come.
Here are some ways to do this:
- Explain what you are doing. If you sing, tell them why. I’ll often say, “We’re going to sing some songs that we believe to be true.” I’ve just told them what is coming, why we are doing and what they mean. I’ve given them an out. If they don’t believe them to be true, just listen. Also, tell them how long it will be. We always say, “For the next 75 minutes” or “For the next 80 minutes” depending on the week. This lets them know, “I know you are curious as to how long this will last and now you can set your watch.”
- Have great signs. Atmosphere and worship start out in the road as people drive up and walk up to your building. Have great signs. They should explain where to enter, the front door, bathrooms, kids space, worship space and food. Your signs should be so good a guest should be able to navigate your church without ever having to ask for help if they want to.
- Assure them they don’t have to do anything. Give them an out. More than likely, they’ll take it anyway. But, by giving them an out you also communicate you know how they feel and that it is okay. Pastors, remember this: the New Testament is largely written to churches, filled with Christians. Don’t make those who don’t believe feel guilty if they don’t apply a passage. Yes, you want them to and tell them that. Also say, “You don’t have to do this, but if you do, here’s what you can expect _______.” Cast a vision for how amazing applying the truth of Scripture to your life.
- Talk as if they have no idea what you are talking about. This is what The Heath Brothers in their book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die call the “curse of knowledge.” Christians and pastors forget what it is like to not understand the Bible. To not know the order of books of the Bible, what the sovereignty of God means, what justification or sanctification mean. Don’t assume everyone knows what you are talking about. If you use a big word (like the ones in the previous line), define them. It takes 10 seconds and if you don’t, you will give everyone who doesn’t know what you are talking about a great excuse to check out.
Every pastor when they write a sermon and preach it want people to remember it. Most people though forget most of what is said in a sermon. This is why it is important to have one point instead of five.
You can use visuals, video clips, readings, stories and a host of other things to make your sermon and church memorable.
One thing that we do at Revolution that helps to make church memorable is to line up the songs with the sermon.
This seems like second nature to us, but I am amazed at how many worship leaders and preachers are not on the same page. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a worship service and the worship leader introduces a song by giving a 2 minute sermon that has nothing to do with the sermon and the point of the day.
A lot of times people will debate if preaching is the reason the church gathers on a Sunday or is it worship. I would say it’s both. If you don’t have both, you’ve failed to do something very important as the gathered church.
At Revolution, we use worship music to set up the sermon and then for the sermon to set up the response time and communion.
To make your church memorable, you have to do a few things:
- Decide to connect the dots for people. People come to church with their brains all over the place. They often rushed to get out the door, had a fight on the way to church, a screaming child. They are tired and stressed from the week. They fall into the chair at church exhausted and wanting to catch their breath. They need help connecting the dots. Talk about how songs connect to a sermon. In recent weeks at the end of my sermon I’ve talked about why we are doing a song that we are doing. You don’t always have to do this. But decide that you will do the work of working with your pastor or worship leader to connect the dots for your people.
- Plan ahead. If you want to do anything great or creative or connecting the music with the sermon, you have to plan ahead. You can’t decide on Wednesday what you will preach on this Sunday. Does the Holy Spirit change things? Yes. Two weeks ago I rewrote my sermon at 11pm on Saturday night. That isn’t a pattern for me. We plan about 15 months in advance to that the person leading worship can spend time in the passage and let the verses speak to them as they prepare a set list.
- Have a worship leader that cares deeply about theology. Thankfully this is becoming more and more important. In the past, being a worship leader meant you could play guitar and sing. The bar has been raised in churches, which is a good thing. Your worship leader does not have to have an M.Div. in theology, but they need to know theology, care about doctrine and be able to discern if worship songs are doctrinally correct. Some of the most popular worship songs today are theologically incorrect. And never miss this pastor: your church will often learn more about God from the songs they sing than from listening to your sermon.
- Listen to the worship set while you prep your sermon. After talking through my sermon with Paul or the worship leader on Monday morning, when I get the final list, I will make a playlist for my iPod and listen to it in the car, while I am prepping my sermon or taking a run. I want the words to get into my head and my heart. This helps me connect the verses I’m preaching on to the songs we are singing, which helps to make church more memorable to someone when they leave the service.
Listen and come ready to sing loud on Sunday!
Here’s a new song we’re learning Sunday at Revolution Church as we look at John 14:7 – 31 and the peace that the Holy Spirit brings to our lives. Fits perfectly.