There are a lot of “Christianese” words that get thrown around among the Church. Some of these words are very frustrating because the true meanings (what is actually meant) and the normal definitions of these words are two different things or are at a minimum incomplete. Take the word “worship” for example. We use this word a lot in the context of corporate singing in the church and so the word “worship” has almost become synonymous with “corporate singing”. We know differently however that worship is a blanket term referring to “declaring worth” of something or someone, and we use it in the context of declaring worth to God. We also know that this is more than singing on a Sunday morning but includes every aspect of our lives.
A word that has become common place in our church culture is the term “Worship Leader.” We generally use this term to refer to the person on stage on Sunday morning who is in charge. The longer I have been a staff worship leader though, the more this term makes me uneasy. I lead week after week after week, and I have come to realize that I don’t have nearly as much power to lead people as someone sitting in the front row of the seats (or the back row for that matter). What I mean by that is that I think people are more influenced by other people in the congregation than they are by the people on the platform. So it has made me ask the question, “Who is actually leading?” I have watched many Sundays from the platform as we as the “leaders” are very expressive in our praise and people in the seats are not. I have also watched a single person in the congregation who stands and raises their hands be the first of a wave moving through the congregation.
I have come to realize that everyone is a leader and a follower at the same time. As human beings it is our nature to look around at what everyone else is doing and follow suit, but at the same time everyone is looking at you as well. I once was leading morning worship, (there’s that term again 🙂 ) and watched a woman who was new to the congregation sitting a few rows back with her eyes closed, and her hands raised. Through out the whole song set, she was very expressive. This was in a church that was from the Dutch Reformed background and was typically not very “open” in expression of worship. This Sunday however was different. I watched as many people through the service seemed more expressive. I went up to her afterward and said, “Thank you for leading worship this morning.” I told her that I knew that she hadn’t been doing it for an thank you rather for the praise and glory of God, but that when people in the congregation express praise to God, it is contagious.
What you do affects others. Period. I want to give you a charge: be a worship leader. You don’t have to be up on the platform to lead people. Do you want to bring God glory? Do you want to point people to him? It’s really simple. Recognize that people are following you. I am not talking about putting on a show for others. I am talking about authentic worship with the understanding that people are going to follow you either way. Are you going to lead them closer to Jesus, or further away?