Sunday afternoon conversations with my family inevitably drift to what took place as the church met that morning. We might cover impacting points from the sermon, prayer needs, guests we met, unusual happenings in the children’s ministry, and of course, the “worship.”
Was the mix good? How about the song selection? Were the songs arranged well? Did the transitions make sense? Were there any dead spots? Was anyone emotionally moved?
Such are the questions that arise in a family where the patriarch has been involved in music ministry for over forty years. Of course, we all know (or at least we should know) that worship is meant to be an all-of-life response to who God is for us in Christ (Romans 12:1; John 4:21–26). Just like breathing, worship can’t be limited to one portion of our day or one day of our week. We’re always doing it.
The same can be said of our leading. Leading worship starts and ends with the way I live my life, not what I do on a public platform. Encouraging others to glory in Jesus Christ is an activity that extends far beyond the twenty to thirty minutes I give to it on Sunday mornings.
But how do we realign our hearts and thoughts to that reality?
1. See your preparation as worship.
Most weeks I spend about six hours planning and rehearsing for the Sunday gathering. Some leaders I know invest even more time. All those hours of planning, preparation, and practice are meant to be worship too. Jesus is no less on his throne before the meeting as he is during the meeting. He’s no less of a Savior. The lyrics to the songs we’re going to sing are no less true. And God wants my attitudes to reflect a grateful response to the gospel, even as I “prepare” to worship.
That means that even as I plan, I can allow the significance of the lyrics we’ll be singing and the Scriptures we’ll be reading on Sunday to affect me. I can glorify God by serving band members when I communicate with them in a timely fashion. I can pause during rehearsal to remind myself and the other musicians why specific truths we’re singing are so important. I can do all my preparation with faith and joy, knowing that the Holy Spirit is just as present with me before the meeting as he will be when we gather.
2. Don’t let your daily life contradict your public worship.
In both the Old and New Testaments, God rebukes those who proclaim his praise in the assembly, but sin against him through their thoughts, words, and deeds at other times (Matthew 15:7–9; Isaiah 1:12–17; Amos 5:21–24; Psalm 50:16–21). Consistency matters for God’s people, and it certainly matters for those who lead them.
No amount of passionate singing on Sunday makes up for passionate sinning on other days. Of course, if we confess our sins and trust in the substitutionary death of Jesus for forgiveness, we have every reason to sing. But we don’t sing because Jesus excuses our sins. We sing because he has freed us from them.
3. Be as passionate about glorifying God in your relationships as you are up front on Sundays.
My spouse, kids, musicians, and friends aren’t interruptions to my ministry — they are my ministry. God intends my relationships to bring him glory even more than my songs (Romans 15:5–6). Those closest to me should be able to see a connection between the way I speak and act in front of people on a Sunday morning and the way I interact with them at other times.
Am I insensitive or caring? Am I unapproachable or inviting? Is the faith I exude on the platform evident when I’m going through a challenging season? Is my public passion for God’s glory reflected in my private acts of purity, humility, and generosity? If not, my view of leading worship is not only narrow, but dangerous.
4. Be ready in season and out of season.
A significant part of my job these days is training younger leaders. I often don’t give them much lead time when I ask them to sing or play. I want them to recognize that life is preparation for what we do in front of others.
Of course, we want to know chords, melody lines, lyrics, and good ways to transition between songs. But our leading is meant to be the overflow of the glory of Christ we’ve been pursuing all week: in our devotions, at our jobs or schools, and in our free time. That’s why David exclaims,
I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together! (Psalm 34:1–3)
I will bless the Lord at all times, not just on Sunday mornings. May that be our prayer and practice even as we give ourselves fully to leading God’s people every week.
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