Welcome to January 2011! What’s your New Year’s Resolution this year? Lose weight, get fit, get serious with God? If you are a worship leader of some sort, you might feel all geared up and excited about the New Year: This is the year when the choir will sing in tune, the whole church will go through a labyrinth, or the entire congregation will become serious about worshipping God.
Let us take some pressure of your shoulders before you strum yourself into a cramp or get church fatigue by week two. Here are three things that you don’t need to do in 2011:
1. You don’t bring people into the presence of God.
We can pick all the right songs, plan a beautiful service, and get the atmosphere just right (and all these things are important) – but you yourself cannot bring your congregation into God’s presence. Only Jesus does that, by the Holy Spirit. Hebrews 10:19-22 says this: “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”
We come into God’s presence by the blood of Jesus, the ‘new and living way’ he made for us on the cross, and as he continues to act as our Great High Priest, bringing our worship to God the Father. It’s not through our best efforts and greatest ideas, it only happens through Jesus, by the Spirit.
2. You don’t need to make people sing.
When we say in church, ‘Let’s have a time of worship,’ how often do we really mean ‘a time of singing’? Singing is great; it’s a fantastic way for a group of people to communicate a united response towards God. But it’s not the only way. And some people really don’t like singing or have no experience singing as a group. So if your biggest worry this year is how to get that group of uber-cool teens or bunch of bored-looking adults singing – stop worrying! Worship is about meeting with God, serving God, and glorifying God, and there are plenty of ideas on this Web site, within your creative brain, and flowing out of your community that can help you do that, with or without the tra-laa-laa’s.
3. You don’t need to forget about the world.
Perhaps you have spent the Christmas time with a dysfunctional family or a friend of yours have just had a crisis or you’ve had some extra time to keep up with the news. And maybe you feel just a little bit uncomfortable about getting back into that insular bubble that is church. There’s nothing in the Bible that suggests that worship needs to be a me-and-God-exclusive-and-intimate-experience only. God is very interested in your dysfunctional family and in Palestinian and Israeli children dying in vain missile attacks.
In one of Amos’ scathing prophesies to an Israel that had forgotten what worship is all about, he says, “You strum away on your harps like David and improvise on musical instruments…but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph. Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile.” (Amos 6:5-7) How much does that sound like many of us, strumming away behind closed doors of churches, trying our best to ignore the pain and injustice all around us? How about we make a New Year’s resolution to integrate intercession, lament, and mission within the worship life of our churches? This site has a number of ideas on how to do this – please post your own below.
Hopefully, you will feel some sense of relief that there are three things that you can take off your to do list. Although, taking them off might add a few more:
1. Do: pray and seek God for your congregation, that they might draw near the Father, through the Son by the Spirit.
2. Do: think outside the box for creative expressions of worship that will connect in your context.
3. Do: engage your worship with the world around you which God so loves.
Feel free to add your own ‘Not to do’ items below or more ideas on how you might lead people in these directions.