Thanks to Gary Durbin for sharing this encouragement with TWC. Originally posted at http://www.garydurbinblog.com/2014/02/worship-leading-tips-expression.html?m=1. Republished with permission.
Here in Denver, every season is filled with some sort of fanaticism over a sports team.
I’m an NBA fan, so I love to go to Nuggets games. In the spring, the weather’s amazing and it’s fun to go to the ball park and cheer on the Rockies. Last but not least, the NFL season brings on the undeniable force of the Broncos.
One thing that’s common with each team is people in attendance expressing their adoration.
So, I ask myself, “Why doesn’t that expression follow them to church?”
If you’re a worship leader, I want to encourage you to keep asking that kind of question, because your church needs you to.
There’s different answers to that question and I’ve heard a lot of them over the past several years. If I were to pick the most frequent response, it would probably sound something like, “I’m just more reserved and quiet in my worship.”
The only problem with that statement is that it’s less about what God desires and more about what the person prefers.
The responsibility of the worship leader is to lead people to experience and participate in the worship of the one, true God in spirit and in truth, because that’s exactly what God wants. (John 4:23)
That kind of worship has nothing to do with our comfort and everything to do with God’s desire. I love to let my church know that God doesn’t NEED our worship. It’s way better than that. He WANTS our worship. As sons and daughters of the King, God’s desire should supersede the need for own comfort.
Expression is not always comfortable, but I’ve come to understand that it’s very important to the corporate worship experience of church.
If you’ve experienced the power of expression, you probably agree. The challenge of it all is convincing your church of that, especially if they haven’t fully experienced that kind of freedom in worship.
If you’ve ever led worship in a church that’s less than expressive, you’re not alone. I’ve been there and many other worship leaders have too. I’ve been really blessed to lead worship in churches where the pastor has shared my desire to see God’s people break free in praise. It’s amazing to see the spiritual growth happen in corporate worship as your people slowly, but surely, let go and embrace biblical expression to their God.
As a worship leader, you can be a catalyst for that growth.
Here’s some tips I’ve learned about leading your church toward expression in worship:
1. TEACH IT
There are many ways to express ourselves in corporate worship. The best ways are the biblical ways. Start with the bible and study what it says about expression. You’ll find out quite a bit. You’ll find the motive for expression and that it’s not about drawing attention to yourself, but about pointing to the glory and presence of God.
You’ll also find specific instruction, and some would say, mandates about it. Psalm 47:1 says “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.” This definitely doesn’t seem to be optional. The churches I grew up in were not comfortable with rhythmic clapping and definitely not shouting, but they sure were proud about their “stance” on God’s Word.
There’s freedom in expression and we need to teach our church about what the Bible says about raising hands (Psalm 134:2), clapping (Psalm 47:1), bowing down (Psalm 95:6), shouting (Psalm 95:1) and dancing (Psalm 150:4). We can teach and educate our church during a worship set, and even better, a strategic sermon every once and a while.
Remember that the pastor of your church is just as much or more the worship leader as you are. A sermon or message series will teach and lead your church to understand biblical, expressive worship way more than a song or worship set can. Look for teaching moments and opportunities anywhere you can. If you don’t teach, the majority will never learn, therefore you can not expect them to be expressive at church.
2. MODEL IT
When it comes to expression, you have to model what you want to see happen. If you’re on a guitar or a keyboard, plan specific moments in a song where you can free up your hands and model expression for your church. Showing people what to do can be more effective than telling them what to do. Think about those moments as you’re planning your service and running through rehearsal. Be intentional about it.
The next step is directing your team to model it as well. One of my songs, “Alleluia (Our Praise is)”, has a pre-chorus that says, “Lift your hands to the One that you were made in image of.” At that point of the song I direct my band and vocalists to model that. If you have a choir, they are a huge model of expression.
I’ve directed choirs behind me to model expression at specific and non-specific times and it’s incredible to see it spread from the stage to the crowd. Expression is contagious. When you model it more and more, you’ll see a slow and gradual emulation of your expression take place in your church.
3. ENCOURAGE IT
Some people come to your service and they cannot wait to express their adoration to God. Others will come and they’re going to need a nudge. They may have come from more conservative, reserved churches or they may just be brand new Christians. It’s funny how effective a timely nudge or encouragement can be in a worship set.
As a worship leader, you need to understand HOW to encourage your church to expression. Learn to encourage them without badgering them. Prayerfully plan moments in your set to encourage your crowd to lift their hands or shout to God. If you do that during every song, then you run the risk of losing them. Timely encouragement will effectively bring a unity of expression to your crowd and will also create special moments in worship. Plan these moments at different times in a set.
There’s times where you’ll start a song with expression. There’s times where you’ll end a song with it. There’s also those moments during a song, where all it will take is a quick “Lift your hands!” or “Shout to God!” Encouragement will nudge those, who normally don’t express themselves, to join the crowd.
Everyone gets excited about something. Shouldn’t we be excited most about God? I’ve jumped, shouted, danced and fist-pumped about a lot of things, but there’s nothing or no one more deserving than God.
2 Corinthians 3:17 says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Expression is one of the biggest catalysts to freedom in corporate worship. When you stretch out your hands, dance, shout or bow down, you’re boldly proclaiming your love for God.
Worship always requires a sacrifice. Expression can definitely be a sacrifice of self, preference and comfort.
As the worship leader…it starts with you.
Teach it, model it and encourage it. It’s worth it.