I’ve been reflecting a lot as a worship pastor on building a “worship climate”… setting the stage for people to encounter the presence of the living God. In a sense, all of the worshiper’s revelation of Christ risen and exalted is determined by God, but paradoxically, the worshiper can experience as much of God as he or she chooses. And it is in that vein that I approach this topic.
As worship leaders, we mustn’t take it personally if our people don’t seem to be having an encounter with God, but it is one of our primary responsibilities to create the appropriate climate. In other words, we must lead the horse to water.
So how do we create a worship climate?
- Pray beforehand. Our greatest musicianship, our most splendid talents, our impeccable leadership can never manufacture the true presence of God. As servants of God, we must spend time with Him and know Him before we can act on His behalf. Pray over your team, the speaker, the congregation, any spiritual warfare that would strike, and of course all the “techy” things that can be known to go haywire! So much of the battle can be won before Sunday ever rolls around (James 5:16-18).
- Be in your best state of mind and heart. As worship leader, if you are frazzled, your team will sense that, and it may affect your leading – which will affect the climate of the service. Likewise, if you are spiritually energized, your team will sense that, and it will affect your leading – for the better! I’m not saying we must be super-human and that moments of exhaustion, stress, anxiety, or grumpiness should never come. But take a few moments before the service (and rehearsals) to clear your mind and heart. Lead from the best place you can.
- Magnify the person and work of Christ. Whatever you magnify becomes bigger, and everything else becomes smaller by perspective. It is imperative that our people lift their eyes above their situations, whether good or bad, and look to Christ. Make Christ bigger. Make Christ the center. There is such supernatural power in a united body focusing on Jesus! Choose songs and structure the service with the aim to lift up the person and work of Christ – and the climate will be a blend of reverence, thanksgiving, celebration, and repentance.
- Lead by example. So the proverb goes: “You can’t lead someone to a place you haven’t been.” If our expectation is a crowd of people with hands raised, tears streaming, lost in unreserved worship, but that isn’t what we as worship leaders are bringing to the table, then something isn’t lining up. As leaders, we must be intentional about setting the example and exhibiting that personal worship climate – not the other way around, letting the sometimes-fickle crowd dictate the climate.
- Teach on worship regularly. People can’t be expected to learn something if they haven’t been taught it. Include songs in your worship set that “teach” (e.g., the chorus of “Strong God” outlines the lifting of hands and the value of singing). Also, use verbal exhortations to guide (something I say often is, “Can we take a moment and press in to His presence?”) and recognize that prayers and spoken transitions during worship can also be used to teach (John 11:41-42). Perhaps an entire service can be devoted to teach on the subject of worship.