Question: How A Praise Leader Can Focus On God While Leading

Youth Celebration Night, May 26th 2007

Anonymous asked:
quick question for you! so i read one of your blogs saying that you used to be a worship leader, i too am a worship leader and i kind of need your help/advice. when you lead worship, how did you focus on God? i try to, but it’s hard for me to focus on Him because i’m too busy concentrating on playing the piano or trying to match my tempo with the other band members, etc. help? thanks in advance!

I’m still learning here, but this is exactly one of the things I teach during praise practice and seminars.

First of all, practice the heck out of your instrument.  It’s not just to sound awesome (though that helps), but so you can get it down to second nature.  Unlike a regular old band, your last priority is chords and keys and tempo.  The better you know your music, the less you have to worry about it.  This will help with focusing on the most important priorities for praise.

Now the “focus” part: Most good praise songs will have two elements: Story and Imagery.  Inevitably this leads to Response.This is why the best praise songs read like the Book of Psalms — you’ll see Story, Imagery, and then David’s (or the psalm writer’s) Response.

Take a look at Psalm 98.  Soak in the Story here of God’s relentless love for His people.  Eat up the Imagery: rivers clapping hands, mountains shouting for joy.  And notice the physical and verbal responses. If you read this slowly, you feel the immense power of God over His tiny little created beings.

Let’s take a classic praise song to see a similarity. Just the first few lines:

Over the mountains and the sea / Your river runs with love for me / And I will open up my heart and let the Healer set me free / I’m happy to be in the truth / And I will daily lift my hands / For I will always sing of when your love came down

Wow. Powerful words.  Some will say “That’s shallow theology,” but it reads a lot like Psalm 98.  Don’t let anyone snob you out of a good song.

So here’s your job: It takes an active consciousness to participate in and submit to the Story of God while you’re leading praise.  All of nature is already praising God; Jesus told us even if we stay quiet, the rocks will cry out to him.

Jesus doesn’t so much want your thrashing guitar as he does your heart to follow him into anywhere. When you hit that first note or begin to prepare for praise, you’re taking up the invitation into God’s running narrative.  You’re not “bringing” anything; He’s taking you in to what the world is already doing. And what He’s doing.

I’ll be a part of that.

So be aware of how the song is taking you on a journey.  Over mountains, over the seas … happy to be in the truth, daily lift my hands — I could sing of Your love forever. Every great praise song will almost give you flight into the presence of God.  But you’ll also have to actively participate and submit to that.

Let the imagery take you in too.  Picture the oceans, the rivers, the people singing for joy.  This is the epic part of worship: to visualize the beauty of God and His people.

Yes, you’ll still have to look out for your team.  You’ll need to gauge your congregation.  You’ll have to clean up the mess-ups fast.  But you won’t be so distracted or “taken out of the moment” if you know where all this is going.  Be part of the story, visualize the imagery, and respond.

A few more things:

Have a heart to love the people you’re praising with; both the team and the congregation.  You don’t want to shut them out and creep into your zone — invite them with you.  When people are goofing off or your team is messing up, you should feel more compassion than anything else for them to see the hugeness of God.

For the rest of the team, share regularly about your convictions over Bible verses. I wouldn’t talk too much about the songs themselves except to teach them how to be a part of God’s Story.  So the drummer is setting the pace.  The back-up singers are an ensemble of God’s People.  The bass guitarist is warm rhythm keeping you all together.  The piano is punctuating.  The electric guitar … should calm down (Just kidding. Sort of).

And please consider that prayer is more important than practice, and if you’re practicing anything, practice purity.  A “weak link” on the team will kill you even if you don’t know about it.  Rely on the Holy Spirit for everything. You need His filling to even worship at all.

All that to say: every member of your team is privileged to join and tell a part of God’s Story.  Without that, you’re just a band.


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