What is a worship team’s first and main responsibility: engaging with God or leading people?
This question is probably the greatest and most argued question in the Christian worship world. Many sermons, commentaries and conferences spend their time debating whether worship teams and leaders should make their main focus seeking God or whether they should focus on the congregation they’re leading.
Before I try to answer this question, we must talk about the three kinds of worshipers that come to a church every service:
The white-hot worshiper
This is the person that comes to each service ready and prepared to worship. These worshipers are what I call “the worship team encouragers.” They are passionate, alive and in love with Jesus and whether they physically express it in their praise to God, their heart is engaging with God before the first note is played or sung.
The “smoking flax” worshiper
This is the person that comes to a service a bit unfocused and distracted or a little cold of heart and lacking in passion. This person will usually engage in worship by the end of the worship set, it just takes several songs before they’re heart comes alive. These people love Jesus greatly, but they struggle choosing to push through the worries, troubles and pressures of their lives in order to worship corporately.
The cold-hearted or unsaved
This is the person who either does not know Jesus or is so cold feeling towards Him. They come to church services either out of duty or to soothe their conscience. They may like or not like the music, the lights, sermon, songs, but regardless of what their opinions are, their hearts are unengaged.
(Note: It is not our job to judge what category each person that comes to church is in. We only need to be aware of the different categories for the sake of planning and prayer.)
Now upon looking at these three types of worshipers, we must ask what is the solution and answer for all three types. What is the answer for encouraging white-hot worshipers, re-igniting “smoking flax” worshipers and birthing love into those who are cold or unsaved? Lights aren’t the answer. New songs with driving guitars isn’t the answer. Using the best skill and talent available isn’t the answer. The only thing that can engage all three types of worshipers is the presence of God. Only an encounter with the Lord can encourage, re-ignite and break through to the heart of all types of worshipers.
Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. (James 4:8 ESV)
There’s a powerful thing that happens when we worship and draw near to God (whether indivdually or corporately). The Bible says that God draws near to us. His presence comes close to our hearts. The God who is a consuming fire, the fountain of joy and the healing balm comes close to us, engages and ministers to us when we worship Him. People who are struggling with addictions, shame or a host of other issues are set free when God draws near.
When a congregation seems not to be stirred to love and worship, the most loving/merciful thing a worship team can do is to love God without reserve; a love that removes all hinderances and distractions and focuses on God. Why? Because even if the worship team are the only ones truly loving God that service, God will still draw near to the entire congregation. That’s why we say in our church:
Worship is the highest form of intercession.
When we lead worship (instead of following people’s emotions for that service), we are reaching out to God asking Him to come and minister and touch His people. We are asking for the rain of the love of God to come and soften the hearts of His people to receive the Word that is to be preached that service. We are standing in the gap for those who are bound and can’t cry out for themselves.
I believe that you can focus on people during worship and still worship God as long as we are not taking ques from the congregation concerning how passionate we should be. Whether or not the congregation is stirred, we should give God our all, because after all is said and done, we are ministering to an audience of One. Our greatest hope and prayer should be that as we worship God with all that we are, He would draw near not only to us, but to all those who are following us. That is our #1 cry, hope and focus.