I was leading worship at this church. I greeted the assembled worshipers and… got back a very wimpy response. I felt like I was looking at a room of corpses. It wasn’t that I was expecting them to cheer, but I did want the Body of Christ that had gathered to have at least a breathing expectation that God would meet us. This is what I did next.
I happened to be leading from the piano, so I unwrapped the mic from its stand and stood up so I could talk to the congregation.
“Here’s what we’re going to do. I want you to stand off and shake off some weariness. (I stuck my arms out and began shaking my hands like I was loosening up) It’s ok, get your blood flowing, it’s ok, you’re still here, you’re still alive. Come on, it’s all good. We’re gathered together today not as dead people, but as believers living the resurrection story!
So what we’re going to do is sing to the Lord and this morning we’re going to sing and pray, but I want to point out that this is different from our quiet time at home. It’s different than when we pray and sing in our devotional time or while we’re driving.
Because we’re gathered as the Body of Christ, because we’re in the same space, breathing the same air, there is something that God wants to do, here, that’s different than when we’re on our own.
So we’re saying ‘God, would you come and do something here, because we have gathered as Your Body, as Your living Body here on the earth, the people of God. We have gathered this morning and I’m inviting us to expect God to do something here, to expect God to meet us here.’
Do we have needs? Yes, we have needs. And God is at work, God is alive and working in us. So we sing! And I invite us into that experience…of expecting God to do something. Yeah?
There’s something here that is beyond what we can see with our eyes, beyond what we can experience with our senses, there’s something that we join in with. It’s something that is going on in heaven right now. It has been going on since the beginning of time – where all the created hosts of heaven are saying ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.’ And for years, and years, and years, and years have been saying over and over to the Lamb, to the One who sits on the throne, who is worthy of all, is glorious in holiness, and amazing in His splendor. And THAT’S what we join this morning. That is what we’re joining with, with the worship that’s happening in heaven. We join our hearts together, to join them.” (and yes, then I led into Revelation Song)
So I took about four minutes for this exhortation, which is certainly longer than a good, well-prepared worship leader would’ve taken. Probably in part why I wanted to share this story with you is for you to not be surprised one morning when you are feeling awaked in faith and yet your congregation seems to have sent in their dead body doubles.
Here’s how I see this. My end goal is for every congregation to lead themselves fully into corporate worship, following the great Worship Leader – the Holy Spirit. This isn’t where most of us currently live. We’ve fallen into the pattern of bringing all the energy (as worship teams). We live in a church culture that has rooms filled with “musical preference consumers” who expect a worship team and pastor to “bring the heat.” Now, of course, we need to be leaders, but are we teaching people to worship or are we just worshiping in front of them? And I know I’m speaking strongly (perhaps because I just watched the Barkley/LeBron video), but it’s not just about figuring out how to rally our congregations and bring them into the fullness of understanding why we gather. It’s also about leading in such a way that they learn to rally themselves, taking themselves by the shirt collar and along with the Psalmist in 103 saying “Bless the Lord, oh my soul!”
The reason I felt the need to use the paddles to shock this congregation back to life wasn't that they were unresponsive. It was that I didn’t get the sense that they had expectation, perspective, or even the correct framing for why we had gathered.
I like the way one site talked about the paddles: The purpose of a defibrillator is to “reset” the irregular rhythm of the heart by shocking it (think CTRL+ALT+DELETE). So if the rhythm isn’t appropriate to circulate the blood to the rest of your body, shocking it will hopefully reboot the rhythm to its intrinsic and effective rhythm. http://dankoboldt.com/more-medical-misconceptions/
So one of our roles as worship teams is to help the body to “reboot its rhythm” when our hearts aren’t beating properly. How do we do this? Here are five ideas:
- Scripture. Let the King do His own talking. (just make sure you read it like you actually believe it)
- ¡Ánimo! (Ánimo is a spanish word that means “courage, fill with breath, refresh, transform, bring to life, inspire, encourage, intentionally cheer up, animate!) Talk to them, like what I did above…only shorter, like my favorite one from John Leach.
- Calisthenics. “Left side, you’re the halelu’s, right side, you're the praise ye the Lord” – I’m not kidding…nothing breaks both the religious spirit, the consumer spirit, and the apathetic spirit like going back to VBS together and “going through the motions” of this song. Like like this one. And thanks for modeling this idea, Grant!
- Confession. Lead a prayer, a reading, a song of confession to help us get in touch with our need, so that we can also remember His provision!
- Require. I hope to have the guts to do this sometime… “Good morning! The Lord is worthy of our praise. When we gather together, we worship Him in song. So let’s sing!” Then sit down and wait for the congregation to lead itself in worship.
Lord, help us not to Band-Aid this, but to follow Your lead and serve our congregations well, teaching them to worship, to follow in the ways of the Lord. I bless each congregation represented by the reader that they would more fully be given to You and that they would honor and glorify You more every time they gather to worship. Give my friends the courage and boldness to lead well. In the strong name of Jesus, amen!