Authentic, Engaging, and Responsive Worship


Note: Based on a devotional I wrote for my church choir, which is posted on Grace Notes

Last week I introduced you to Soulprint by Mark Batterson.  I’m going to continue sharing some insights I’ve gleamed from his book today. Last week we specifically looked at what I called “Undignified Worship”, so let’s pickup where we left off…

I asked the following question: “Why are we so afraid to demonstrate our love, praise, and worship of God in physical actions?”  and I also asked what it means to look desperate for Christ (remember the song we sang this morning?)  This morning at my church we sange Breathe, which contains as it’s chorus, “And I, I’m desperate for you.” I found it ironic that as I stood up on the stage this morning and looked over the congregation there were a good number of people who actually did not sing that particular song (many who do normally sing), yet the song was one of the louder songs that was sung this morning by the congregation – even though fewer people sang!  Now there are many reasons people won’t sing, including not knowing the song, and I’m not judging their choice to sing or not sing as right or wrong or good or bad. What I want to focus on is the physical posture people took as they sang (or didn’t sing) this song.  There were people in the congregation with their hands up, others had their hands out in front of them with palms up, some were sitting, some had their eyes closed, and some just stared and looked forward.

While I can’t judge people’s hearts and attitudes in regards to the words they sang, I can ask the question, “Does your physical posture reflect the words you are saying (singing)?”  And for some the answer will be “No”, and for some (but not all) of those whose answer is “No” the reason is fear.

Remember the reference last week to 2 Sam 6:22 when David was caught dancing in the street in response to the return of the Ark of the Covenant?  Some people didn’t really appreciate how he demonstrated his excitement regarding what God had done for Israel – they even ridiculed him for it.  Batterson writes,

“When you get excited about God, don’t expect everybody to get excited about your excitement.  Why?  Your intensity confronts their passivity.  When you completely yield yourself to God, it convicts the unconsecrated by disrupting their spiritual status quo…After all, it’s much easier to criticize others than it is to change ourselves.”

Here’s the point…  I have noticed a marked – and I mean a marked – transformation in my church choir over the past several months.  We’ve spent a lot of time looking at what it means to worship individually and as a choir, moving towards becoming a worship leading choir instead of a performing choir (some of the devotionals I’ve written for the choir can be found by clicking here or here).  They are beginning to truly worship during the service, at least when I can see see them (only the Call to Worship and choir anthem, since the rest of the time they are behind me as I lead my congregation).  The looks on their faces as they sing communicates more about the message of Jesus than any words in any song I choose.  When they look up (instead of down), when they smile (instead of frown), they communicate a love and passion for Jesus that goes beyond the words you say.

As choirs model worship for their congregations people will follow, and the same is true for worship leaders.  Don’t be afraid to smile, get excited, or even raise a hand now and again.  Put down the music/hymnal and don’t worry about singing in parts – just look up and sing the words.  Let the congregation see a choir of worshiping musicians and not just a choir of performing musicians – for there is a huge difference.  This whole worship thing starts with us.

Don’t be afraid to allow your posture to reflect your heart – even if it might seem a little uncomfortable at first.  And don’t be discouraged if you don’t feel like people are following you.  Remember whom you worship and sing for – and it’s not the congregation.

Here’s what I believe: as the choir leads in authentic, engaging, physically responsive worship, others will follow.  And God will smile.

Authentic, Engaging, and Responsive Worship (3.18)


Last week I introduced you to Soulprint by Mark Batterson.  I’m going to continue sharing some insights I’ve gleamed from his book today. Last week we specifically looked at what I called “Undignified Worship”, so let’s pickup where we left off…

I asked the following question: “Why are we so afraid to demonstrate our love, praise, and worship of God in physical actions?”  and I also asked what it means to look desperate for Christ (remember the song we sang this morning?)  I found it ironic that as I stood up on the stage this morning and looked over the congregation there were a good number of people who actually did not sing that particular song (many who do normally sing), yet the song was one of the louder songs that was sung this morning by the congregation – even though fewer people sang!  Now there are many reasons people won’t sing, including not knowing the song, and I’m not judging their choice to sing or not sing as right or wrong or good or bad. What I want to focus on is the physical posture people took as they sang (or didn’t sing) this song.  There were people in the congregation with their hands up, others had their hands out in front of them with palms up, some were sitting, some had their eyes closed, and some just stared and looked forward.

While I can’t judge people’s hearts and attitudes in regards to the words they sang, I can ask the question, “Does your physical posture reflect the words you are saying (singing)?”  And for some the answer will be “No”, and for some (but not all) of those whose answer is “No” the reason is fear.

Remember the reference last week to 2 Sam 6:22 when David was caught dancing in the street in response to the return of the Ark of the Covenant?  Some people didn’t really appreciate how he demonstrated his excitement regarding what God had done for Israel – they even ridiculed him for it.  Batterson writes,

“When you get excited about God, don’t expect everybody to get excited about your excitement.  Why?  Your intensity confronts their passivity.  When you completely yield yourself to God, it convicts the unconsecrated by disrupting their spiritual status quo…After all, it’s much easier to criticize others than it is to change ourselves.”

Here’s the point…  I have noticed a marked – and I mean a marked – transformation in the choir over the past several months.  You all are beginning to truly worship during the service, at least when I can see you (and that’s during the Call to Worship and the anthem).  The looks on your faces as you sing communicates more about the message of Jesus than any words in any song I choose.  When you look up (instead of down), when you smile (instead of frown), you communicate a love and passion for Jesus that goes beyond the words you say.  And you need to continue doing it.

As you model worship for our church, our congregation will follow.  Don’t be afraid to smile, get excited, or even raise a hand now and again.  Put your hymnal down and don’t worry about singing in parts – just look up and sing the words.  Let the congregation see a choir of worshiping musicians and not just a choir of performing musicians – for there is a huge difference.  This whole worship thing starts with us.

Don’t be afraid to allow your posture to reflect your heart – even if it might seem a little uncomfortable at first.  And don’t be discouraged if you don’t feel like people are following you.  Remember whom you worship and sing for – and it’s not the congregation.

Here’s what I believe – as you, the choir – lead in authentic, engaging, physically responsive worship, others will follow.  And God will smile.

Undignified Worship (3.17)


Cross posted on I Respond to Jesus

This past week I read a book entitled Soulprint by Mark Batterson, a pastor up in Washington, DC (for a review of the book click here).  While worship is not the focus of the book, Batterson shares some great thoughts on the subject which are relevant to our work as a choir.

Let’s begin by reminding ourselves that one of the main purposes of our choir is to lead people in worship.  Now I’ve said before that worship isn’t limited to the music that is sung and performed on Sunday mornings, but for the purposes of our discussion today I am going to limit it to that.  In the back of our minds, though, let’s remember that we worship all the time in many ways – not just via music.  Music is a tool of worship, but it is one tool among many.  Our job as a choir is to model the use of this particular tool in an effort to lead people to worship as well.

This morning as we sang a congregational song that made a reference to “lifting my hands” I was struck by the fact that I only saw one or two people in the entire congregation lift their hands.  And, shame on me, I wasn’t one of those few.  It struck me that here we were singing to God that we loved him so much we were willing even to lift our hands up, yet all we (and I say “we” because I fit in here, too) had were hollow words that were not backed up by concrete actions.  Batterson writes in his book that,

“Religion is about protocol.  Following Jesus is all about desperation.  It’s about a God who is desperate for us and a people who are desperate for Him.” (emphasis mine)

Would you describe your relationship with Christ as one where you are “desperate” for him?  Next week we’re going to sing a song in the AM service as a congregation that cries out, “I’m desperate for you.”  But what does desperation look like?  While I might not know exactly what it looks like, I can tell what it does not look like, and what it does not look like is what most of us were looking like this morning.

Why are we so afraid to demonstrate our love, praise, and worship of God in physical actions?  I’m not suggesting here that we need to be “more charismatic” or  “Pentecostal” with jumping and dancing and speaking in tongues (I’m also not saying there is necessarily anything wrong with any of that, either – don’t get distracted by the reference).  What I am asking is why we are afraid to worship God in ways that sometimes take us out of our comfort zone.  One comfort zone for our church (as a whole) is an unwillingness to “raise our hands” in worship and/or surrender to God.

I’m going to suggest here that one main reason (maybe not the only one, but a large one) is found in both our insecurity and our pride (now that seems like an oxymoron!).  Insecurity because we are afraid of what others may say or think, or maybe we even struggle with truly believing God is there, and pride simply because we don’t want to look foolish (again, being afraid of what others may think or say about us).  But here’s the real question: Why does it matter what others think or say?  Isn’t God the only one who matters?  Do we worship through song and lifting of hands for others or for Him?  Batterson writes, “Pride is simply the failure to praise.  And the lack of praise always gives rise to pride.”  After being accused of making a fool of himself by dancing “half-naked” in front of all Israel, David replied, “I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.” (2 Sam 6:22).

Now, again, I am not suggesting we all get “half-naked” next week during the service and start dancing around the sanctuary during the worship service.  What I am suggesting is that perhaps we do need to be a little less afraid of what others think of our worship and more focused on what God thinks of our worship.  I am suggesting that we be more willing to be so excited about what God has done for us that people can see it in how we act.  It’s been said so many times it’s almost cliché, but it’s still true: too many of us get more excited about our favorite team winning a big game than we do about our God winning us salvation….   What does that say about what are we worship?

Undignified Worship


Cross posted on Grace Notes

This past week I read a book entitled Soulprint by Mark Batterson, a pastor up in Washington, DC (for a review of the book click here). While worship is not the focus of the book, Batterson shares some great thoughts on the subject which are relevant to our work as a choir.

Let’s begin by reminding ourselves that one of the main purposes of our choir is to lead people in worship. Now I’ve said before that worship isn’t limited to the music that is sung and performed on Sunday mornings, but for the purposes of our discussion today I am going to limit it to that. In the back of our minds, though, let’s remember that we worship all the time in many ways – not just via music. Music is a tool of worship, but it is one tool among many. Our job as a choir is to model the use of this particular tool in an effort to lead people to worship as well.

This morning as we sang a congregational song that made a reference to “lifting my hands” I was struck by the fact that I only saw one or two people in the entire congregation lift their hands. And, shame on me, I wasn’t one of those few. It struck me that here we were singing to God that we loved him so much we were willing even to lift our hands up, yet all we (and I say “we” because I fit in here, too) had were hollow words that were not backed up by concrete actions. Batterson writes in his book that,

“Religion is about protocol. Following Jesus is all about desperation. It’s about a God who is desperate for us and a people who are desperate for Him.” (emphasis mine)

Would you describe your relationship with Christ as one where you are “desperate” for him? Next week we’re going to sing a song in the AM service as a congregation that cries out, “I’m desperate for you.” But what does desperation look like? While I might not know exactly what it looks like, I can tell what it does not look like, and what it does not look like is what most of us were looking like this morning.

Why are we so afraid to demonstrate our love, praise, and worship of God in physical actions? I’m not suggesting here that we need to be “more charismatic” or “Pentecostal” with jumping and dancing and speaking in tongues (I’m also not saying there is necessarily anything wrong with any of that, either – don’t get distracted by the reference). What I am asking is why we are afraid to worship God in ways that sometimes take us out of our comfort zone. One comfort zone for our church (as a whole) is an unwillingness to “raise our hands” in worship and/or surrender to God.

I’m going to suggest here that one main reason (maybe not the only one, but a large one) is found in both our insecurity and our pride (now that seems like an oxymoron!). Insecurity because we are afraid of what others may say or think, or maybe we even struggle with truly believing God is there, and pride simply because we don’t want to look foolish (again, being afraid of what others may think or say about us). But here’s the real question: Why does it matter what others think or say? Isn’t God the only one who matters? Do we worship through song and lifting of hands for others or for Him? Batterson writes, “Pride is simply the failure to praise. And the lack of praise always gives rise to pride.” After being accused of making a fool of himself by dancing “half-naked” in front of all Israel, David replied, “I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.” (2 Sam 6:22).

Now, again, I am not suggesting we all get “half-naked” next week during the service and start dancing around the sanctuary during the worship service. What I am suggesting is that perhaps we do need to be a little less afraid of what others think of our worship and more focused on what God thinks of our worship. I am suggesting that we be more willing to be so excited about what God has done for us that people can see it in how we act. It’s been said so many times it’s almost cliché, but it’s still true: too many of us get more excited about our favorite team winning a big game than we do about our God winning us salvation…. What does that say about what are we worship?

A Culmination Exercise in Worship


Cross Posted on Grace Notes

We’ve spent the last seven posts  looking at worship, so today will serve as our final devotional on this (at least as part of this ongoing series).  We’ve looked at a lot of different ideas – from what worship is to how we worship to how we lead in worship.  I’d like to close this series with looking at a worship service from my church, how it is organized, and what that means for us, in short – putting this all together.

We begin the service with a Call to Worship.  The CTW (as I call it) serves a couple of functions.  First, liturgically speaking, the CTW serves to call worshipers together and stand as a boundary between the rest of the week (what has just happened) and the opening of a worship service (what happens next).  Second, it directs our attention toward Christ (ultimately), often (though not always) by introducing the particular theme for focus for the service.  Finally, it is meant to build anticipation and energy as we move into the service.

At LBC the choir performs this service for the congregation. The song we sing marks the beginning of the worship service, it focuses us on Christ and the theme for the week, and (because we very rarely sing the entire song), builds anticipation and energy into the rest of the service.

After the CTW we then enter a time of congregational singing.  Songs are selected for a variety of reasons, but are arranged in a particular order for very specific reasons.  Let’s look at this morning’s service one model of how songs are selected.

We began with Praise My Soul the King of Heaven, which served as a “rally cry” to ourselves and others around us to sing praises to God and honor him as the Lord of our lives and Savior of our souls.  We then transitioned into Shout to the Lord, a song of clear and purposeful praise and worship towards Christ.

After that we had the offering – a time of response to God for the blessings he has given us (this also connects the service with what happens the rest of the week – since we are giving a monetary substance as a result of our weekly work).  At this moment in the service we present our praise and worship as a physical offering and not a song – it is a time for prayer, confession, surrender, and trust.

Following that we entered a new time of congregational singing.  We began with We Are Called to Be God’s People, a reminder to ourselves and a pledge to God and each other that salvation is more than something to be received but also something to be lived (again, connecting worship on Sunday with our Monday-Saturday lives).  Christ commanded us to “Go forth and make disciples.”  This song serves to remind us that we are now God’s hands and feet in the world.  This song lead to Let it Be Said of Us, a declaration of commitment to Christ and, in particular, the cross – reminding us that without the cross there would be no hope for forgiveness or glory.  We prayed, “Let the cross be our glory and the Lord be our song, till the likeness of Jesus be through us made known.”  This prayer can not be answered on a Sunday morning but must work itself out in Monday-Saturday living.

Finally, since we had just sung a prayer, we finished with a song of worship regarding the cross (Wonderful Cross).  This song takes the text of When I Survey the Wondrous Cross and inserts a new chorus – one which directs us to thank God for what Christ has done on the cross and what it represents: “Oh, the wonderful cross, oh, the wonderful cross bids me come and die, and find that I may truly live. Oh, the wonderful cross, oh, the wonderful cross; all who gather here by grace draw near, and bless Your name.”

On most weeks we would follow this congregational singing up with a choir anthem to serves as the climactic musical moment of the service, but this week we omitted the anthem.  Did you notice how this selection of song and verse served as a leading of hearts directly to the cross (the place of salvation)?  We started with a call for everyone to join together, and then we ended by taking them and dropping them off at the cross (the place where they need to make a decision in regards to the grace God offers through Christ).

As a worship leader, the choir models this journey to the congregation both musically and emotionally – as they see the look on your faces and as your faces reflect the spirit of your hearts.  It is vital that you view yourselves as worship leaders – because that is what you are.  The congregation will follow you where you lead them – and this morning (if you had been leading) there was only one place they needed to go: the cross – the place where salvation and grace are offered – and received – which leads to a transformed life.

In contrast to that journey, if you stand in front of them and fail to worship yourself, then you lead them down the dark path where worship is only an outward motion but has no inward connection.  Jesus warned of this in Matthew 15:7-9: “Frauds! Isaiah’s prophecy of you hit the bull’s-eye:  These people make a big show of saying the right thing,  but their heart isn’t in it.  They act like they’re worshiping me, but they don’t mean it.  They just use me as a cover for teaching whatever suits their fancy.” (taken from The Message)

We lead every week; the question is: to where?

“Let the cross be our glory, and the Lord be our song, ‘till the likeness of Jesus be through us made known.  Let the cross be our glory and the Lord be our song.”

A Brief Review of Our Worship Study


Cross Posted on Grace Notes

The past five devotionals have focused us on worship – from, what worship is, to how we worship as individuals, to preparing for worship, to leading in worship.  So let’s take today to simply review some of the things we’ve learned.

  • Our definition of worship: “Worship is our response to God’s revelation of who He is and what He has done.” (Post 2)
  • Worship is rooted in relationship and continually fosters that relationship between God and us. (Post 2)
  • Worship requires both the mind and the heart (Spirit and truth) (Post 2)
  • We must prepare for worship – both in the time leading up to the service on Sunday AM as well as the days and evenings beforehand. (Post 3)
  • We have two primary jobs every Sunday – to worship God and also to lead the congregation to worship God as well (Post 1)
  • Because one of our responsibilities on Sunday morning is to lead people in worship, we are a Worship Leading Choir (Post 4)
  • The choir leads in worship by (Post 5):
  1. Singing the climactic song of the service
  2. Teaching new songs to the congregation
  3. Practicing worship during rehearsal
  4. Internalizing the text of the songs (both congregational and choral) so they minister to our hearts.
  5. Modeling worship for others to see (including physical posture and facial expression)
  6. Worship throughout the week so that Sunday is an overflow of Monday-Saturday, not an isolated event we prepare for.

Where does that leave us now?  I would say we need to begin focusing on what worship means for us Monday through Saturday.  We’ve spent a lot of time looking at worship on Sunday morning, but if Sunday is to be an over-flow of Monday-Saturday relationship, what does that Monday-Saturday relationship look like?

That’s where we’ll go from here – and we’ll actually start that next week.  For this week, just think about how you worship God in the every day – remember that worship is responding to God – and then examine your response to him every moment of every day.