3 Ways Worship Leaders Can Encourage Congregational Expression

EXPRESSION

Here in Denver, every season is filled with some sort of fanaticism over a sports team.

I’m an NBA fan, so I love to go to Nuggets games. In the spring, the weather’s amazing and it’s fun to go to the ball park and cheer on the Rockies. Last but not least, the NFL season brings on the undeniable force of the Broncos.

One thing that’s common with each team is people in attendance expressing their adoration.

So, I ask myself, “Why doesn’t that expression follow them to church?”

If you’re a worship leader, I want to encourage you to keep asking that kind of question, because your church needs you to.

There are different answers to that question, and I’ve heard a lot of them over the past several years. If I were to pick the most frequent response, it would probably sound something like, “I’m just more reserved and quiet in my worship.”

The only problem with that statement is that it’s less about what God desires and more about what the person prefers.

The responsibility of the worship leader is to lead people to experience and participate in the worship of the one, true God in spirit and in truth, because that’s exactly what God wants (John 4:23).

That kind of worship has nothing to do with our comfort and everything to do with God’s desire. I love to let my church know that God doesn’t NEED our worship. It’s way better than that. He WANTS our worship. As sons and daughters of the King, God’s desire should supersede the need for own comfort.

Expression is not always comfortable, but I’ve come to understand that it’s very important to the corporate worship experience of church.

If you’ve experienced the power of expression, you probably agree. The challenge of it all is convincing your church of that, especially if they haven’t fully experienced that kind of freedom in worship.

If you’ve ever led worship in a church that’s less than expressive, you’re not alone. I’ve been there and many other worship leaders have too. I’ve been really blessed to lead worship in churches where the pastor has shared my desire to see God’s people break free in praise. It’s amazing to see the spiritual growth happen in corporate worship as your people slowly, but surely, let go and embrace biblical expression to their God.

As a worship leader, you can be a catalyst for that growth.

Here are some tips I’ve learned about leading your church toward expression in worship:

1. TEACH IT—There are many ways to express ourselves in corporate worship. The best ways are the biblical ways. Start with the Bible and study what it says about expression. You’ll find out quite a bit. You’ll find the motive for expression, and that it’s not about drawing attention to yourself but about pointing to the glory and presence of God. You’ll also find specific instruction and, some would say, mandates about it. Psalm 47:1 says, “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.” This definitely doesn’t seem to be optional. The churches I grew up in were not comfortable with rhythmic clapping and definitely not shouting, but they sure were proud about their “stance” on God’s Word. There’s freedom in expression and we need to teach our church about what the Bible says about raising hands (Psalm 134:2), clapping (Psalm 47:1), bowing down (Psalm 95:6), shouting (Psalm 95:1) and dancing (Psalm 150:4). We can teach and educate our church during a worship set, and even better, a strategic sermon every once in a while. Remember that the pastor of your church is just as much or more the worship leader as you are. A sermon or message series will teach and lead your church to understand biblical, expressive worship way more than a song or worship set can. Look for teaching moments and opportunities anywhere you can. If you don’t teach, the majority will never learn, therefore you cannot expect them to be expressive at church.

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Gary Durbin
Gary is the Worship Arts Director at Redemption Chapel in Stow, Ohio. He is also a blogger and a songwriter with a passion to serve the church. He and his wife, Jennifer, have two children and have been married since 1999. You can follow him on Twitter & Instagram @garydurbin or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/garydurbin.

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