5 Tips For Leading More God-Centered Worship

How do you engage your people to worship?
How do you engage your people to worship? (Lightstock)

When we gather to worship, what are we really hungry for? Why are we there? What is the goal? Is it:

  • Songs?
  • Great music?
  • Entertainment?
  • Powerful leadership?
  • Answers to questions?
  • God?

Malcolm du Plessi challenged us perfectly along those lines in this podcast. If you haven't heard it, I'd suggest you start there.

Today, I want to remind us all about the purpose of our gatherings. We need to get back to a worship expression with God at the center and a worship expression that encourages and enables people to participate, engage, and get some skin in the game.

We want to move people from spectators to singers.

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We want to move people from seeing themselves as an audience to a team member.

We are the body of Christ, but too often our gatherings reflect the talented, charismatic leaders on stage and an audience of consumers.

I'm not saying everyone in your church needs to join the worship team. Rather, I'm saying you should view your congregation as part of your worship team. If they're not singing, engaging and meeting with God in worship, something needs to change.

Every believer has access. No matter who we are or where we come from, the blood of Jesus has made a way for broken, unworthy people to come. We don't need an "anointed" worship team to worship.

But it's not that leadership isn't important. When we look at the sacred assemblies of Israel in the Old Testament we see leadership. But we also see the entire company of people falling down before God.

As a leader, you're a catalyst for change. You're creating an environment for people to connect with God. You are not the center. You are a worshipper, a participant just like everyone else.

So here are 5 tips for being this kind of leader. Whether you are an uber talented worship leader or a simple leader doing your best for God, we can all apply these tips to lead with greater effectiveness:

1. Understand your role. As worship leaders, we don't "bring people into the presence of God" by our talent, passion and excellence. What you do is important, but it's not paramount. Only the blood of Jesus can bring us in to the presence of complete Holiness. Understanding this helps you not take yourself too seriously.

"For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:15-16).

Every believer has access into the presence of God through Christ. And when you as the leader understand that, and every worshipper understands that, corporate worship starts to look different. We don't need permission from a worship leader. We can come boldly to the throne of grace.

2. Prioritize knowing God. When I say this, I don't mean, "Do you know all there is to know about God?" That would be silly because it's impossible. I mean, "Is your life aimed at knowing Jesus? Is He a priority?" I have a tendency to live off yesterday's revelation—to not be current in my closeness with Christ. But that's the most important facet of a worship leader—having a "today" faith.

Know your God more than you know your songs. Know your God more than you know your music. Make growing closer to Jesus your highest priority. This will cause your leadership to connect with people. It will make your countenance less about yourself and more about God.

3. Be patient. Many of us don't see the Holy Spirit move in our services because we're too rushed. I'm not talking about tight programming. I understand the value in that. But tight programming doesn't have to mean "robotic." We have to be OK with some awkward silence. We have to be OK with a couple minutes of lingering in worship—listening, tuning in, watching for God to move.

Many people in our churches don't engage because we don't teach them how and we don't give them the opportunity to try something new. Create a little space. As the guys from Housefires mentioned, don't rush from song to song. Allow those moments to breathe so you can hear what God is saying. This is massive.

4. Prepare and forget. I've said this before but believe it needs repeating. Music production is for rehearsal. If you're too mindful of it when you're leading worship, you'll be too distracted. There's only so much you can focus on.

The most important thing is being present with your people in the presence of God. Your talent doesn't matter. Your new song doesn't matter. The fact that you're on a click track with a sweet loop doesn't matter. Prepare that stuff in advance, but in the moment of corporate worship, forget about it. This will help you be more present with the people.

5. Be bold. Playing it safe isn't an option for leaders. I mean, what is the definition of a leader? They lead. They create change. They inspire forward momentum in a common direction. In order to lead your church in passionate worship, you have to be bold, take risks and step out. Maybe that's encouraging people before a song. Maybe that's giving a prophetic word. Maybe that's inviting people forward for healing.

Whatever scares you the most is probably what you need to do (with the blessing of your pastors, of course). You can't do what you've always done and expect a different result. Put down your guitar. Kneel before God. Sing a spontaneous song. Read Scripture. Be silent. Whatever it is for you, do that.

Worship leader, it's your turn. How do you keep God at the center and engage your people?

Come share any and all tips, tricks, challenges and encouragements in the comments below.

David Santistevan is the worship pastor at Allison Park Church in Pittsburgh. For the original article, visit davidsantistevan.com.

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