How To Pursue Excellence AND Authenticity in Worship


Reposted with permission from Part of a very insightful series entitled: Tips For Taking Your Worship Team To The Next Level.

Imagine with me. The sound is perfectly mixed. The lighting mood is sublime. The band is grooving. The crowd is enraptured. We all idealize the perfect worship environment.

But how do we pursue excellence in our performance while remaining authentic in our worship?

I’ve been in too many worship services where the worship leader and band performed well, yet their heart for true worship was seriously lacking. Quite a turn off, in my opinion.

First of all, what is authenticity? I define it as the ability to blur the line between WHAT YOU DO and WHO YOU ARE. As worship leaders, we have a lot to do. We need to prepare the band, worship God, engage the congregation, sing on key, play the right chords, stand up straight, sing the right words, brush our teeth, etc.

An authentic worship leader does those things but also displays who they are – a worshiper of God. Singing well is not enough. A tight band is not enough. Their own heart is hungry for God and they long for his glory to be seen, experienced, and cherished in the heart of every person in the room. I crave that sort of authenticity.

I remember experiencing a worship service with Matt Redman for the first time. I think Matt is a very authentic worship leader. He’s anything but flashy, borderline boring to watch. He wept, jumped, knelt, and shouted to God in a way that impressed me and drew me into the presence of God. He practiced what he sang. I left that service thinking about God.

So how can we pursue a deeper authenticity in our worship? I think there are at least 5 things we can implement TODAY:

  1. Obey What You Sing – If your songs speak of singing, shouting, dancing, kneeling, and lifting hands, model that. Don’t be afraid to step away from the mic and do what the song says. It speaks volumes to a congregation when their worship leader actually worships and leads the way not just by telling them to worship, but by modeling what that looks like.
  2. Speak With Honesty – When the time comes for you to speak to your people, don’t just blabber Christian cliches and trite phrases. It’s a turn-off. People know when you’re reading a script or speaking from your heart. Speak to the struggles people are experiencing. Speak to the confusions they may be feeling. Talk like you would be if you were at Starbucks with a friend. Your congregation will appreciate that.
  3. Do All You Can to Avoid Stressful Rehearsals Before Service – It can really be an “authenticity-killer” if you stress yourself out up until the time service starts. I know this from too much experience. At times it just cannot be avoided, but do all you can. Rehearse well on a separate night. Spend the 15-20 minutes before service in prayer and fellowship with your team. Pray out loud. Sing a song together. Remind yourselves why you are there.
  4. Engage in the Mission of Your Church – Too often the worship team is viewed as a “gig” for the musicians. We need to capture a sense of “local church mission” within our teams. Challenge your team to listen to the sermon. Talk about it together. Apply it to your personal lives and to your team. Don’t view your team as a separate entity but as an extension of your senior pastor’s vision.
  5. Allow Space Between Songs – This requires wisdom because you don’t necessarily need 10 minutes of spontaneous flow between every song. A worship service seems to lack authenticity when it’s a non-stop train ride from song to song to song. When you’re on a date with the person you love, you don’t pull out a script and quickly move through your points. You enjoy the moment. You enjoy spontaneous conversation. You look for adventure. Pursue that in your worship services.

Questions: Do you feel this is important? How have you pursued deeper authenticity in your worship leading? Answer below in the comments section.