There are a lot of “Christianese” words that get thrown around within the Church. Some of these words are very frustrating because the true meanings and the normal definitions of these words are two different things or are, at minimum, incomplete. Take the word “worship” for example. We use this word a lot in the context of group singing during our services, and so the word “worship” has almost become synonymous with “corporate singing.” We know, 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; it includes every aspect of our lives.
A word that has become commonplace 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, but 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 is that I think people are more influenced by other people in the congregation than they are by the people on the platform. This has led me to ask the question, “Who is actually leading?” Many Sundays I’ve watched from the platform as we as the “leaders” are very expressive in our praise while 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, while 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. Throughout 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 to become more expressive. I went up to her afterword and said, “Thank you for leading worship this morning.” I told her that I knew she hadn’t been doing it for a thank you, but for the praise and glory of God. Yet 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’m 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 farther away?