when a worship leader truly worships

Zac HicksUncategorized5 Comments

Worship leaders struggle with a perennial problem.  (At least it’s perceived as a problem.)  Our hearts have a hard time being truly engaged on Sunday mornings.  We’re thinking about the music and liturgical flow.  We’re obsessing over technology and eliminating distractions.  I’ve known some who remark that they’ve transcended that and feel utterly free most Sunday mornings to lift up their hearts and minds, raised by the text of songs into the heavenlies.  God help me, I’m not one of those.  I’ve prayed about it, felt guilty over it, consulted mentors regarding it, and on an on. 

Personally, the place of rest I’ve found over this is that it is my pastoral sacrifice on behalf of the people of God.  I agonize over details, potential distractions, and minutiae, all so that the congregation does not have to.  Half the job of a worship leader, it seems, is to eliminate distractions.  Simultaneously, I’ve come to the theological conclusion that worship takes a variety of forms and shapes, and my worship is in those details on Sunday mornings.  I think God is pleased with that.  I believe that God, through Christ, accepts that form of worship.  At the same time, my theology of worship tells me that worship is just as much about act as it is about experience (see a previous post on this idea), which sets me at ease to not feel as though I haven’t “worshiped” if I haven’t been in some heightened emotional state or “felt the presence of God,” as some put it.  While I don’t disagree with those things, I’m no longer convinced that they’re required rubrics for determining whether or not one has worshiped.

Even so, I still long for that feeling, that mixed intimacy and transcendence, which most others have the opportunity to feel on a Sunday morning.  I would say 8 times out of 10 I am missing that experience.  But I find that God graciously compensates for me in this way…and it’s a secret, private, special way that God ministers to me.  Just a few minutes ago, I tweeted:

i know i’m called to be a worship leader when week after week i find myself fighting back tears as i plan the music & liturgy

And then it hit me that in these private moments when I am praying as I plan and bring together the worship and liturgy of the week, God often grants me the blessing of those “worship feelings” that, though not entitled to, I long for.  It really is the case that as I plan for our congregation to walk through a series of songs and liturgical elements such as confession of sin, assurance of pardon, prayers of the people, and the offertory, I find myself weeping, overwhelmed with God’s goodness and grace.  I’m often imagining the experience of the flow of worship, placing myself there as “just another” congregant, experiencing God’s grace afresh with His people.  I can even picture several of the faithful attenders (we worship leaders know who those sold out worshipers are, don’t we?) engaging with the songs and liturgy.  Perhaps for the first time today, I realized that these quiet moments at my desk are God’s gracious provision of what I don’t get on Sunday.  And, without trying too hard to read into the matchless mind of God, maybe God is telling me that my lack of connectedness on Sunday mornings (my sacrifice of praise, as I call it) is okay with Him.  Knowing that every good gift comes from the Father of Lights (James 1:17) above inclines me to think He smiles and rejoices in the feeble offering of His little child.

Grace & Peace

5 Comments on “when a worship leader truly worships”

  1. Great post, Zac! I too have felt the pressure both internally and externally to "engage" with God by losing myself mentally/emotionally in song during corporate worship. And while it is wonderful and enjoyable, I take great comfort in knowing that God is pleased with my worship based on the merits of his son, not on the merits of my offering. Thanks for the encouragement!

  2. Zac, I love your blog. This one in particular resonates with me. For a period of a year I was privileged to plan/lead worship. While sweating the details beforehand (song lyrics, Scripture choices, corporate prayer), I remember coming to the conclusion that I was going deeper into worship through preparation than anyone else possibly could on Sunday morning. Dr. Lock’s church music class was SO helpful!

  3. Zac,

    thanks so much for this post — it’s such a relief to hear you talk about what i’m sure every worship leader struggles with. for some reason i’ve always felt like i’m not allowed to say that i’m not experiencing that warm-fuzzy feeling everytime i lead worship. i guess i’ve been afraid that people would think i was not worshipping. i 100% agree with you that much of (i’d say much more than 50%) of the worship leaders job is to remove distractions from the congregation. there are so many potential distractors, that it necessarily takes up a ton of mental energy minimizing them. of course there are times when i get caught up in the moment with everyone else (thankfully so!), but i too find that those feelings usually occur in the moments when least expected. it’s encouraging to hear your story and i hope that more folks will get a chance to read this and be real about what’s actually going on in their hearts during the worship service. then instead of denying it, they can find their own space to receive that emotional connection.

    great post, thanks again!

  4. Zac,
    Thank you for your sacrifice. While I have never lead worship, I can only imagine what must go into planning the experience for others. As I read your blog and have had the privledge of worshipping while you lead, it is clear that you aim to glorify Him in many ways, one of which is by striving for excellence. Through your devotion to your calling you have lead my children & me to a deeper level of worship and understanding of what it means to truly worship the amazing God that we serve. Again, thank you for your sacrifice – I know that it does not go unnoticed by our Father. It is VERY clear that when you are leading worship God’s face is shining upon you.

  5. I agree with you. That's how I often felt leading at my church before CCPC too.
    For me, if I was able to genuinely sing out even one phrase of a song with full worshipful passion, then I would feel like I genuinely participated in worship. Other times I'm busy considering the order of worship and other musical elements, which I believe, as you said, is also worship pleasing to God. Rock on! 🙂

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