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Worship Team Basics

Tips, advice, and theology for those new to our worship team.

This is the writeup we give to musicians who are interested in joining the worship team. But we thought it might also be interesting for those wanting to find out more about our theology of worship and why we lead the way we do.


If you are new to our worship team, this is a great place to start. You’ll find tips and advice, but more importantly, you’ll read about what it means to lead God’s people in worship. Let’s start at the beginning.

Made to Worship

God made us to worship and glorify Him (Eph 1:11-12). That is at the very core of our existence. As Paul Tripp puts it, ‘We have been born into a life that is a celebration of another.’ We, as worship leaders, get the awesome privilege of drawing people to become who they are made to be.

Worship Explained

Worship isn’t just the songs we sing in Church. It is a way of life. It is an attitude of the heart. It is our whole being – heart, mind, and body responding in adoration and thanksgiving to who God is and what He has done.

Music

God created music (John 1:3). He created it as a unique form of communication that fuses both the mind and heart; our intellect and our emotions. Through music, we are able to worship the God of the Universe in a mind-engaging, and heart-captivating way. Music guides our emotions. As Andrew Dealy puts it, “Worship leaders leverage their skills of music to surface emotions in order to knit them together with God’s truth.” Music helps to properly align our hearts with the reality of God’s awe-inspiring glory.
Throughout the scriptures God instructs us to worship through music (Psa 98:4-5, Psa 150, Eph 5:19). Music isn’t inherently worship, but God created music to uniquely express the worship of the infinitely good and beautiful God.

Lifting Up Christ

As musicians, it is easy to confuse musical worship with performance. But worship is not a concert. It is not simply songs we sing about God. It is not a place to show off our musical talent. Worship leading is about humbly leading God’s people to see the beauty and glory of Christ. Our aim is to lift up Christ and get out of the way. John the Baptist said that he simply came to prepare the way for the Lord, and that Jesus must increase and he must decrease (John 3:30). In the same way, we as worship leaders have the same prayer – He must increase, we must decrease. We are not lifting up ourselves in worship; we are lifting up Christ, that all may see His eternal glory. Our prayer is that He would be seen and not us.

Serving the Congregation

The role of the Worship Leader is to serve the congregation. We do this by laying down our personal preferences of music styles and songs. We choose our setlists not based upon which songs are our favourites, but based upon which songs God is using to draw His people into deeper intimacy and awe of Christ.
We also serve the congregation by leading them into new avenues of worship. It is easy for our relationships with the Lord to grow stagnate, and sometimes we need a strong encouragement to grow deeper into Christ. This may be through new songs, styles – even uncomfortable silences. Our aim is not to make people comfortable; it is to draw deeper into the worship of the Glorious God for whom we were made.

Leading by Example

The greatest way we lead is by being worshippers ourselves. The best way of leading is by setting an example; by being the first through the gate. As worship leaders we draw people into worship by entering in with our whole being; by worshipping when no one else is. We lead by example – not in an inauthentic, fake way, but by choosing to worship even when we don’t feel it in our bones; even when we feel weak and broken, because God is far greater than our insecurities, distractions and mood swings. We offer up a sacrifice of praise because we know that He is worth it, despite what our fickle mind and emotions sometimes tell us.

One Voice

Remember that worship leading isn’t an “us and them” thing. Whether we’re on the stage playing an instrument or in a seat singing, we’re all one people worshipping the Living God together. Being part of the worship team doesn’t make you any more or less important than someone serving in the Sunday School or just sitting in the congregation. We are all one in Christ. Our prayer is that we may together “with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Rom 15:6

Putting Words in the Mouths of the Saints

“Show me a church’s songs and I’ll show you their theology.” Gordon Fee
As worship leaders we need to take very seriously what words we are putting in the mouths of the saints. The lyrics we sing shape people’s theology and their very view of God Himself. If we only sing about God’s power and might, the congregation may develop a theology of a strong, but impersonal God. If we only sing about God’s intimate love for us, then we may develop a theology of a loving, but not all-powerful God. We want to lead songs that speak of the whole spectrum of God’s character; loving, yet holy; merciful, yet just; intimate, yet fearsome. And most of all we want to lead people to the Gospel. In Christ we see the fullness of God on display; His whole character and his heart for His world. That is why we never tire of singing about the cross and the glory of the Risen Christ.

 

Tips

If you’re totally new to being a part of the worship team, here are a few tips.

  • Concern yourself less with playing the right chords and notes, and more about worshipping the God who is the author of music. God cares more about our hearts than our music.
  • Think about what your face may be saying to the congregation. You are leading by example. If you are frowning, that is telling the congregation that you wish you weren’t there. You don’t need to have a smile on your face all the time, but be aware of the fact that you are leading with more than just the instrument you are playing.
  • Watch the leader for song cues. He or she will likely turn and nod when there is going to be a major transition in the song. Sometimes simplicity is the best. Over-complexity may distract more than inspire.
  • Pick your spots. If the song is in a quiet part; pull back. If the song is building; slowly build. Save a little something extra for the final chorus. You don’t need to play every chord or sing into the mic all the time. Much of music rides upon dynamic range.
  • Pray that the Holy Spirit would unite you with the others in the worship team as you play. As Christians, the Spirit dwells in each one of us. He draws us and binds us together.
  • As worship leaders we are servants of the congregation, but remember that, in reality, we are playing for an audience of one – the God of the Universe. His is the only approval that we need and we already have it in Christ. We don’t need to impress anyone, God simply loves when His children sing to Him with full hearts.
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About the Author

Bryan Hunt
Bryan is the Worship and Media Pastor at St. George's. He lives in Hamilton with his wife, Emily, and their three kids.

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  • About the Author

    Bryan Hunt
    Bryan is the Worship and Media Pastor at St. George's. He lives in Hamilton with his wife, Emily, and their three kids.
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