I am a pastor at Richland United Methodist Church in Richland MO. My goal is to seek and follow God's will, to continually strengthen and deepen my relationship with Christ, and to help others discover the experience of "salvation now" by accepting His grace.
Driving home last week I was listening to the new Hillsong United album "Tear Down the Walls." As I listened, the chorus of "Desert Song" rang out with the words "I will bring praise..." This hit me like a brick wall and I began to ponder how I bring praise to God on Sunday mornings. My primary job is to assist in the creation and leading of a weekly worship service that will reach people through music, multimedia and word. I try to choose music that is relevant to the culture, exciting and uplifting. We use special lighting and develop multimedia presentations that enhance the worship setting to further excite and connect people to the message our pastor will present. Nearly everything within the worship service, from the moment the doors are opened to the time they are locked, is planned and refined to help those who attend experience something that will draw them closer to God and encourage them to return to our worship setting in the weeks to follow.
All of that is good and it is what I am supposed to be doing, but let's get back to "I will bring praise." God has always has been the purpose in what I do, the underlying reason, but my efforts are focused first on creating an environment where people can draw closer to God... people are my first priority. I am not saying this is a bad thing as it is a form of servant ministry, but now, as the words "I will bring praise" replay over and over in my head, ponder if it is somewhat misguided. I begin to wonder what would happen if I turned my sole motivation and purpose to bringing praise to God. Instead of building song arrangements with the thought "this will really take the congregation somewhere," I should build song arrangements that are simply the best I have to offer God. No longer should I worry about how or if the congregation will be moved, but if God is pleased. My tasks do not change, only my motivation. No longer is my work for people (primarily), but for God... a small but significant change that has an immense affect on my relationship with Christ and how I perform my job. Does this mean I no longer care what people think about worship? Absolutely not! I care very deeply, and now if I can only get out of their way...
During a worship service my goal has always been to worship first and lead second. However, because my primary motivation is to lead others to Christ, concern for how they are feeling or reacting often finds its way to the forefront of my mind and affects my own ability to worship. How I worship becomes dependant upon how the congregation is worshiping. However, if I alter my motivation fully towards God, the development of a worship service becomes an "if you build it they will come" mindset. If I bring everything I have to worship to God, where He is my primary motivation and inspiration, then leading the congregation becomes the Holy Spirit's work through me rather than of me. Worship is about bringing our selves to God, not about how we are lifted up. What we receive in worship (spiritual and emotional uplifting) is a byproduct of what we give. Such as it is with leading worship... if I focus solely on bringing an offering to God that suits His purpose, the byproduct is an environment where others are led by the Spirit to worship. I am no longer a worship leader, but simply a lead worshiper.
This is so simple, it is almost embarrassing to admit I haven't fully considered the nature of leading worship in this light yet. But as I look at worship services and Christian concerts around the world (via video), I realize what has bothered me for years about the worship industry... it is often built to satisfy people first with the glory of God second. The task is worthy, but the motivation is misguided. I don't think this is intentional in most cases, but it happens all the time.