I was visiting with a mentor of mine on the phone this past week. Him and I both served at a church about fifteen years ago together. A church that was making waves in their community in that season. Since then, though, the church has struggled. There are all kinds of variables that play into those struggles that I won’t go into in this post. However, there is one aspect that he mentioned that made me perk up.
Do people sing in your church? Philosophically, we can go around and around with the topic of worship. I grew up in the church singing hymns to a piano and organ, always the first, second and fourth stanza from the hymnbook. I love some of those hymns. My favorite is “How Great Thou Art.” I get totally lost in the moment every time I sing that song. At least in the church that I grew up in, people sang pretty well. I don’t mean to sound judgmental, but I have no idea whether most of them sang because their hearts were in it, or if it was just the routine, what they were supposed to do.
As you know, though, musical styles have evolved quite a bit over the past 25 years or so. It’s almost a daily thing for me to see someone post something online about how our modern-day worship style is lacking. How people no longer sing, they just observe. I don’t really get that myself. We rock the rafters in my church and people sing their hearts out. It begs the question.
Why do people sing in some churches and not in others?
The comment that was made in that phone call with my mentor was this. He said, “Scott, even as the preacher, you still approach the stage as a worship leader.” I paused for a moment attempting to process exactly what he meant by that. At first, I was unsure if I should take it as a compliment or not. He went on to explain that, to him, my first and foremost responsibility was not to teach, but rather to lead. (Okay, now I get where he’s going.) We pay very close attention to transitions between songs, from a song into the welcoming, into a video, out of the message, etc.
PASTOR: Here’s the reality…
YOU ARE THE LEAD WORSHIPPER!!!
It is your utmost responsibility on Sunday mornings to ensure the environment of your worship service lends itself to non-believers meeting Jesus and to believers worshipping Jesus. For example, let’s say you have a video cued to set up your message. It’s a fairly deep video and will tug at people’s hearts. Your plan is to come out of that video into your message. However, because of the nature of the video, you’re going to be pretty mellow in your introduction. There’s a moment at the end of the video to drive a significant point home. You’re standing at the front of the stage ready to make that point. There’s just one problem. The lighting guy in the AVL booth fails to bring the lights up. You have a choice. You can attempt to make the point… in the dark. Or, you can stand there and wait. Either option will kill the moment. People are sitting there with their hearts wide open. Then, suddenly they’re distracted and the moment is gone.
Worship isn’t just about the music. It’s about the entire experience from the first song that’s sung to that final word that’s spoken. At the end of the day, it’s not about people singing… it’s about people growing! That’s what it means as the pastor to approach the stage as the lead worshiper. You’re always looking for key moments to allow Jesus to touch people’s hearts. When you miss those moments, you realize you missed the boat and you train your people up so that you don’t miss it the next time.
So, here’s the question. If you’re the pastor, what do you consider your role to be in the Sunday morning worship service. If you’re just solely the preacher, you’re missing the boat. Your role is so much more. You’re the lead worshipper!