No worship leader who is serious about offering authentic, Christ-centered worship wants to simply show up on Sunday, sing a bunch of songs and go home without knowing that God’s heart was engaged and the Holy Spirit moved and worked in the lives of those gathered. Whether we want to admit it or not, we can all attest to times we’ve come together, sung songs, prayed, heard a message and never have worshiped at all. When we do, we aren’t being true to the calling God has placed on our lives as leaders.
So how can we, as worship leaders, keep this from happening during our corporate worship gatherings? Or can we? I mean, do we really have control over whether people in the congregation offer and express authentic worship that propels life change? I don’t think that’s a question that’s easy to answer. Humanly, we cannot make a person choose to authentically worship God but we can call on the power of the Holy Spirit to work in us and allow Him to use the change He’s making in our hearts to lead and inspire the congregation to do the same. In other words, if we want to see the worship life of our congregation on Sunday impact and transform their lives the other days of the week, the transformation has to begin with us. Transformational worship begins privately.
Here are four concepts every worship leader should grasp to be more effective at leading transformational worship:
1. Understand that the songs we sing, the prayers we pray, the sermons we preach, the videos we produce, the lighting we design, the offerings we bring or the testimonies we share don’t transform anyone; ONLY the Holy Spirit transforms lives!
Not even our service, sacrament or formal procedures ensure that our hearts are being transformed. After all, these are just physical motions that can be performed without an engaged heart. The acts of worship don’t do anything to change us. Dr. Vernon Whaley says it this way… “Only when we give ourselves totally without reservation to the Lord – when we focus on the Lord alone and rid ourselves of the distractions of this ungodly, self-centered, self-consuming world – during those moments of self examination and solitude – that the Holy Spirit begins to break down the bitterness, anger, self-promoting attitudes, and the spirit of greed in our hearts. It’s this kind of transformation that changes a life, family, church and nation.”
2. Understand there is a difference between understanding the concept of God’s glory and feeling it, tasting it, and hearing it.
Brother Lawrence said that he was just as close to God peeling potatoes as he was on His knees. We must practice the presence of God during every waking moment. We cannot expect any change in our lives when we focus on God one hour on Sunday and put Him on a shelf the rest of th week. We have not “evolved” beyond our need for God and His Word 24/7. When we bring God into every circumstance, our perspective changes along with our hearts. When God’s glory alone is at the center of our offering, His presence changes us. It’s inevitable! Our worship should be so engaging, so personal, so defining that we can’t be in His presence and not be changed. In worship, words like refresh, renovate, restore, heal, mold, renew, or redeem communicate this transformation principle. Sometimes the change is immediately evident – like when we experience the burden lift as we repent of our sins. At other times, the change is gradual and over a period of time.
3. Understand that surrender is at the core of transformational worship.
When we see God, we are always made aware of our own sin. We must allow God into the secret places of our hearts. God is most glorified when He sees His work grow and develop in our lives. We can’t compartmentalize our life when it comes to our relationship with Jesus. Too often, we want to give Him only a certain amount of control because we want to retain some and justify it for our own selfish reasons. When we do that, transformation will never happen. It may be uncomfortable but remember that there is no condemnation in Christ. He wants our complete acknowledgement and surrender, especially when we fail. These are the times that God begins to change us.
4. Understand that God created us to know Him – He gave us a hunger for completeness…in HIM!
Jesus must be the center of ALL worship. You and I cannot experience the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in anyone else. While being personal, it doesn’t have to be experienced alone. In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit came upon each person individually but it impacted the group corporately. This is the transformational worship that changes a church and catches fire in our cities and nation.
So worship leaders, let’s never settle for just singing songs or creating experiences for people on Sunday morning. Let’s allow Jesus to glorify the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit in us as we submit to His life-changing power. Then let that desire for God’s glory bleed into our congregations every week.