Worship leaders, we have a responsibility.
Our planning matters. The songs we choose matter. The heart we bring matters. The more I feel this weight, the more I become concerned for worship leaders and how we're shaping the culture in our churches.
Are we trying to be too cool? Are we trying to be too clever? Are we getting in the way of God?
I don't know the answer. But I do know that what my church needs more than anything isn't to be entertained. They need God. They need to see Him, to feel His presence, to know His Word, to declare His truth, to orient their lives around Him.
That is my goal as a leader. That is your goal as a leader. Lead people to a beauty beyond yourself. Lead people to being impressed with God above your songs.
Which brings up an interesting tension.
There's a tension that every worship leader must learn to balance. Sure, there are lots of tensions. There are a lot of details you need to make happen, information you need to process, skills you need to develop. But one tension seems to rise above the rest.
It's striking a healthy balance between our friendship with God and the fear of God.
My tendency is to emphasize the glory of God—majesty, wonder, awe and magnitude. But the downside is the tendency to view God from a distance. We tell Him how great He is but we don't actually draw near.
This is a dangerous place to be because the story of the gospel is that we have access. We can come into His presence. The Bible commands us to come, to cast our cares, to trust, to cry out. As worship leaders we need to create environments where people grow in intimacy with God.
It's not enough to look upon lyrics and say, "I agree with that." We need to actually do it. Worship is beholding His glory, but it's also drawing near and receiving all that God is for us in Jesus Christ.
It's about coming close, drawing near. I love how Psalm 73:28 (NIV) says it:
"But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds."
The verse doesn't say, "I agree that the Sovereign Lord is a refuge." It says, "I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge."
I love the progression of thought—being near, making the Lord a refuge, and then telling of His deeds. All actions.
Worship isn't business. It's personal.
On the other side, many emphasize the friendship and exclude the fear. This is what is often criticized as sappy, "Jesus is my boyfriend" worship music. Many criticize the charismatic movement for erring on this side.
For sure, there are challenges. We sing more about our worship than we do our God. We focus more on what God provides for us than who He is. We have a tendency to waltz into His presence without wonder and awareness of the miracle of that moment.
Without a healthy balance, our worship isn't complete. To worship without fear is to take God for granted. To worship without friendship is to dishonor what He has done.
How does this apply to worship leaders? It means emphasizing both. A worship set shouldn't go by where both tensions aren't introduced. We should stand in awe of God's glory every time. We should come close every time.
We need to worship with understanding, not just sing karaoke.
Pick songs that outline His perfection, majesty, beauty, and wonder. But also pick songs that encourage pursuit, coming close, and responding to God.
It's not enough to agree with theology. Worship is an action, a choice, a life of being near God.
How does this tension play out in your church? How do you balance friendship and fear?
David Santistevan is the worship pastor at Allison Park Church in Pittsburgh. For the original article, visit davidsantistevan.com.
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