Leading Worship To Impress

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Excerpts taken from Pure Praise: A Heart Focused Bible Study on Worship with permission from the author, Dwayne Moore.

I was so ministered to by today’s devotion (week 8, day 1) that I emailed Dwayne to ask him if I could use some excerpts from the devotional to write today’s article for The Worship Community. He graciously granted me permission to do so. I have put the excerpts in blockquote form so you can distinguish my thoughts from the devotional.

At the risk of being misunderstood, both he and I want to make clear that the definition of IMPRESS that we are using has nothing to do with impressing people to seek glory and credit for ourselves. It has nothing to do with puffing ourselves up with pride and patting ourselves on the back after a great “show.”

For too long the church has equated trying to impress with trying to dazzle people… I certainly agree that we must be careful not to fall into that trap. When we hear thunderous applause at the end of one of our songs, it’s easy to believe people are clapping for us. And perhaps at first they are. However, our responsibility as [worship leaders]is to point people’s attention away from us and toward the God who deserves all the attention and applause.

Impress, according to The American Heritage Dictionary means:

  1. to affect deeply or strongly in mind or feelings; influence in opinion.
  2. to fix deeply or firmly on the mind or memory, as ideas, facts, etc.

People come into our worship gatherings with many barriers to worship.

Some are discouraged and defeated. Many are distracted by a plethora of activities. Some are disillusioned with religion and the church. Others are uninterested, even defiant about the idea of entering into a time of worship and praise. And there are always a few individuals who are simply misdirected. These individuals tend to judge the service and the leaders based on their own ideas of how the worship and praise should be done.

If possible, I think it’s a great thing when we as leaders can IMPRESS upon our people the goodness, faithfulness, bigness, and even nearness of our God. Not necessarily by our physical and literal performance, per se, but by our overflow.

I’m a musician and a composer by formal training and life experience. I was groomed to perform and to write for performance. I think there IS a place in our worship gatherings for performance. But not performance in the sense that wows people and drives them to applause for me.

My musicianship, my vocal capabilities, my leadership confidence, my stage presence, all of these things, can come together to make a great performance that is worthy of applause, but does NOTHING to impress upon people anything GOD-oriented.

So the challenge then is to bathe all the tools that God has so graciously given me as a musician, composer, or artist and to bathe them in HIS direction. To keep them immersed in HIS inspiration.

Our goal isn’t to impress people so that they glorify us. Our goal is to IMPRESS people to a better understanding of GOD Himself!

Scripture is filled with people who used what they had when they had it under the direction and inspiration of the Holy Spirit to make undeniable impressions upon people who heard them.

Both Paul and Stephen spoke with great wisdom that came from the Holy Spirit. They had obviously studied the Scriptures and invested much time alone with God to have such spiritual understanding and divine favor. They were neither sloppy, unprepared, nor apathetic; their passion and supernatural empowering demanded that people listen.

The point of this encouragement today is to get you to ponder your “impressions” on people. Obviously, as a musician/singer/worship leader you have a set of skills and tools that you could use to build your own kingdom. But the wonderful thing, is that God will use us and our skills to build His Kingdom!

I’m not advocating a performance based “show” culture. We see too much of that already. What I am advocating is an attitude of willingness to impress upon people the qualities and atributes of God with what God Himself has given us.

Take a look at 2 Chronicles 20:18-22. Here’s a list of 5 things that we can see that the people of Judah did that would leave an impression upon others.

  • Their humility and sincerity – they bowed and gave all glory to God. Even the most cynical of bystanders are often disarmed when we choose not to take any credit for ourselves.
  • Their passion and enthusiasm – Notice how they praised “with very loud voice” (verse 19). Also, the way the Jadeite choir apparently did not even hesitate “as they began to sing and praise” on the front lines gives us a sense of their enthusiasm. No doubt many of the Israelites following behind the choir were strongly affected and influenced by their passion (i.e., they were impressed).
  • Their confidence – Jehoshaphat told them to have faith in the Lord their God and in his prophets (verse 20). They were completely confident that through him they would succeed.
  • Their excellence and preparation – Jehoshaphat told them what to sing as they began their march toward the Desert of Tekoa. It was a familiar song Jehoshaphat chose, so they most likely didn’t need to practice it. They were already prepared and ready to sing. (We, too, need to be well prepared. People don’t want to hear us practicing on them during the worship service).
  • Their authority – These singers weren’t the least bit timid about what they had to share. They knew that what they were singing was the absolute and undeniable truth that had come straight from God.

Ultimately, our FIRST responsibility is to WORSHIP God. Our “leading” and our preparation and our rehearsals, etc, should always be from a posture and place of prayer and worship. As always, it’s our privilege to lead people into a place of worship in a group setting through music. Let us always be mindful that there are several layers that can make those times of musical worship a sweet and sincere offering to the Lord.

One of those layers is how we “impress” people. Or better said, how our postures, our countenances, our stage presence, our skills, our preparation, our leadership, basically, everything we have and use to lead worship, leaves an impression on people.

So do you lead worship to impress people?

Please visit NextLevelWorship.com and support Dwayne Moore and this awesome ministry. Pure Praise is a wonderful devotional to take your worship team/ministry through (and to go through individually as a leader). The Worship Community highly recommends this study!