Welcome to the section on Worship, where you will find relevant information on the many different aspects of worship.
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Why is it that in some meetings the worship just flows and at other times the phrase 'You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink' seems to echo inside the worship leader's brain? I am afraid that I don't have any quick and easy answers but here are what I consider to be some of the requirements for leading God's people in worship.
The worship leader must be prepared. Perhaps that sounds obvious but I'm sure I'm not the only person who has rushed into a meeting desperately trying to think of an opening chorus and hoping that, while we're singing this half a dozen times, I'll come up with some more choruses. Freedom in worship doesn't mean that we turn up and see what happens. Yes, it is important that the Holy Spirit is in charge of the worship but the Holy Spirit will work with us in preparation for the meeting as well as in the meeting itself. Having said this we must, of course, be open to His leading during the meeting and be prepared to move away from what we have chosen if the Holy Spirit so leads.
The preparation of the worship leader must go beyond picking the choruses and deciding on the order in which they are to be sung. The worship leader must spend time with God, talking to Him about the worship, listening to God's voice and, of course, worshipping. A worship leader needs God's anointing on his or her ministry. Anyone can flick through a chorus book or a box of acetates and pick a few songs but, without the Holy Spirit's anointing, this will not lead to worship. The anointing will come upon us as worship leaders as we spend time in His presence and receive from Him all that He has for us. God has given us the ministry of leading His people into worship but we can not do it in our own strength or by our own abilities; it is only as we hand back that ministry to Him that He can fully use us as channels for His purposes and to the glory of His Name.
This may be only you and one other singer or musician, it may be a number of musicians and singers (although it's best to avoid having more people out the front in the worship team than are left in the rest of the congregation!). Don't forget to include in the team the person who puts the acetates on to the projector. They have a thankless task; nobody notices until they get it wrong and that's often the fault of the worship leader. The members of the team must practice together but, more importantly, they must pray and worship together.
Satan hates it when God's people worship and he will seek to disrupt the worship in whatever way he can. It is essential that the worship leader and other members of the team are protected, not only in the meeting but also before the meeting and during preparation. You can and must pray for each other but it is good to get specific people from outside the worship team to pray for you. Keep them informed of practice sessions and other times when covering prayer is particularly needed.
The worship team is there to serve the rest of the church, not to dominate them. The worship leader is there to serve the worship team and the rest of the church. Avoid chorus marathons (as an antidote to hymn sandwiches) and leave time for free worship, but the worship leader and his team will need to lead in this, particularly if your congregation is not used to this type of worship. It is wonderful to have all the correct notes, some nice 'fiddly bits', four-part harmony etc. but, most importantly, the worship team should be seen to be worshipping and praising God. Above all else, a worship leader must be a worshipper. Like the Biblical shepherd a leader must lead from the front and so can not lead others where he has not already been. Having read this, please don't think that I always get it right. In fact, preparing this has caused me to think about my ministry as worship leader and made me realise that there are things that I need to change. I pray that within this article there are thoughts and ideas which will enable you to develop your worship ministry and that, through this, God will be glorified.
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