pictures. words (sometimes). blog nonsense.

a worship question

Kirsten and I have been talking about a question re. worship.

Should worship leaders lead out of an overflow in their own lives?

Historically, this has been my philosophical conviction.

At the current moment, however, when I come to participate in worship, I often feel as “needy” as anyone else in the room. I’m not necessarily looking to “lead” anyone–I just want to meet with God, to lay my questions and struggles at his feet, and declare something in faith. Ideally, I would think this would be the kind of “lead worshipper” that Matt Redman talks about in his (excellent) book, as opposed to a “leader.

More and more, I desire to be as honest with God as I think he wants us to be (which is totally). The same goes with my relationships with other people, both inside and outside of a church setting (and I use that word in the “two or more gathered” context). Sometimes, this doesn’t look like leading out of an “overflow” in my life, or equipping others…sometimes the only encouragement I can give others comes from my declaring something in faith that I need for myself just as much as the other people in the room, and not out of an overflow of conviction.

But I know from personal experience and observation that it can be very dangerous for people to “lead” from a place of need/discontent with God. I think it is extremely foolish to give people a blank check, as it were, to shrug off all sense of personal spiritual responsibility. What’s the difference?

I tend to think it’s a combination of factors, including whether you’re looking for that time to be your healing, and (again) your honesty. Am I trying to present a front to anyone (including God!), or am I trying to behave a certain why to usher in a certain atmosphere, a certain set of reactions?

I think there is scriptural evidence that we are supposed to prepare and to come with the overflow of our hearts. I think there is also evidence that we are supposed to simply come with our needs and hurts…

Most of all, I conclude, we’re supposed to simply come and be completely honest with the one who knows everything about us. And while I think there are movements that have greatly abused the idea of “speaking things into existence”/”declaring”/”creating spiritual reality,” I think there is truth to be winnowed from the idea. Maybe the answer is to do it in humility, and not from a place of spiritual pride? From complete recognition of our need, that isn’t fatalistic or dramatic, but simply Honest?

What do you think?

6 responses

  1. Deacon

    Usher: Hey Deak, this guy thinks you gotta be perfect to worship?

    Deacon: Yeah, isn’t that a shame.

    Usher: Well, I guess you have to in most churches because after all, it’s a performance.

    Deacon: Isn’t it nice as buzzards we don’t aren’t confined to man’s rules when it comes to worship

    Usher: Yep, even being buzzards, we can worship off tune, out-of-context and there’s no congregation waiting to judge us

    Deacon: When will the young ones figure out that leaders aren’t perfect, aren’t together, tragedy is par and that GRACE abounds…..

    Usher: And that all they do in the “church that man built” is essentially not for God but for man….

    Decaon: There’s hope Usher, there’s hope – pray they will question the church, the model and everything pagan the church has adopted over the last 1700 years

    July 13, 2008 at 9:32 am

  2. Here’s a thought! We lead our lives a certain way to set an example…why not worship? So if you want to encourage people to lay their burdens down does it not make sense to lays your down first?

    July 13, 2008 at 9:54 am

  3. In re. to Derek and Deacon.

    Glad you’re enjoying the discussion! However, I do hope you’d get to know me before you say “this guy thinks you need to be perfect to worship.” I appreciate the thought, but I really don’t think that’s what I was saying…As for rethinking the church model, that’s something I have blogged about before and a topic of discussion I’m quite familiar with. In fact, I defined church in my post simply as “two or more.” What that looks like is up to you. I’d welcome further discussion about that topic via email (, on a more related blog post (simply look in my archives), or on your own online arena.

    To elaborate, I am not fearful of a congregation waiting to judge me. No, I’m more curious about God’s desires in this case–and while they may not be rules, he does allude to some particulars in the New Testament (the themes of which I referred to somewhat obliquely).

    As for “When will the young ones figure out that leaders aren’t perfect, aren’t together, tragedy is par and that GRACE abounds…..” Well, all I have to say to that is, you certainly don’t know anything of my story…and in fact, in light of my own biography, that statement is pretty darn funny. Not that I expect you to know it….

    Hillary–I think that’s part of it! Or during it. Or after it. (smile). Again, I keep circling back to honesty, and all of its layers and nuances. Personally, deep and raw, without pretense or affectation before man or God.

    July 13, 2008 at 2:35 pm

  4. Susanna

    what I would consider to be of utmost importance is:
    1) Accountability.
    2) someone being in enough of a right relationship that they aren’t walking in blatant sin, or doubt of their Faith.

    The first part is fairly simple, the second a bit more tricky- I’ve seen way too little accountability, especially in the “worship” areana of church, and people are allowed to be up there when there are pretty obvious things about their faith, lack of faith, and current walk with God. I don’t say this in a judgmental sense, but just being very familiar with the people involved. But without any accountability, this often goes on for much longer than it should, and can really affect the whole atmosphere with that group.

    I think that comes off as hypocritical to other people when leadership allows this, (while holding other leaders to a much higher standard) but also a lack reverence for God and his presence. If you have non-believers, or people very far away from the presence of God, attempting to lead others into worship of Him, it seems futile to me.

    I’m also not saying the “worship leaders” need to be perfect or know exactly everything they believe-most of us wrestling constantly with various aspects of our faith. I just think there needs to be wisdom and much prayer involved, and the said leaders DO need to know to whom they are directing the praise of their fellow believers. I supposed humility, an open heart to God’s leading, and much accountibility with others would be a standard I’d desire.
    The second issue

    July 14, 2008 at 11:17 am

  5. Susanna

    The second issue is tied in with the first. It’s a tough call to decide when someone is or isn’t walking in a right relationship with God, but we are called to hold each other accountable, so it is proper to be aware of these things. As fallen beings, we will always be confronted with sin and temptation, and often give in. It’s a whole different story when you live in continual, blatant sin, with no remorse or desire for change. Yet people living this way often get caught, while in leadership, thus causing a mess for everyone to try to clean up. Basically, through the accountability and openess with others, we should be holding each other to a standard that allows for grace, and mistakes, yet still upholds the standards for leaders you can find in the New Testament. With wisdom and guidance from God, we can together (or those in leadership can) discern whether someone is in a position to “lead” others into worship.

    And this can and should all be done without false righteousness- no one needs to try to look perfect on “stage”. that’s not what it’s about!

    Just my thoughts………

    July 14, 2008 at 11:58 am

  6. Jeremy

    I have found that the best worship I have seen is done in absolute humility. The worship team gave their worship as an offering to God. They did it with abandon and from the perspective of the audience, they acted as if the audience was not even there. When I say that, I mean that they were so filled with the vision of playing and singing before the feet of God that His presence before them filled everything they knew. When you offer yourself in worship leading before God as if He is there before you… giving everything you have of yourself in an offering to the God that created all things… and you desire Him and His presence more than anything… THAT is when you set up an environment where He is going to show up… in a real, tangible way… and do some amazing things. So, don’t worship to usher in an atmosphere or fake how you feel. Realize that the God who sees all and knows all is there, watching you and witnessing the offering you are giving to him in worship, and act as you would if you could see Him and knew you really were worshipping at His feet. After all, Earth is His footstool. If you know He’s there and it becomes a truth for you that you experience instead of just know in your head… then you won’t wonder how you should do worship, it will be a natural expression of your joy at His presence.

    September 27, 2009 at 10:13 pm

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