As a worship leader, it is often a challenging task to lead people from the stage in singing together. Unlike a performance setting, in worship we do our absolute best as a team to engage with everyone as we lead on Sundays. Our success is not in how loudly people sing or who is raising their hands, but rather in if we go home for the afternoon feeling as if we genuinely lifted the name of Jesus high. On the days I go home feeling otherwise, I often find myself asking the question "Why are we even doing this?". Sometimes it feels as if we only sing songs because that's the way it's done. Because of this doubt, I am constantly taking a personal inventory of my motives as a staff member at Awaken to make sure that we are doing what we are called to as a church when we sing songs together on Sunday. From my prayer and studies (singing to God is mentioned over 250 explicit times in the Bible), I have found a few items I would like to share with you.
For starters, there are a few things that singing in worship isn't.
Singing in worship is not designed to entertain.
We are not in the business of entertaining ourselves, or more importantly, God. We do not wish to pacify Him with what we do together as a church, but rather respectfully and reverently lift him up, giving him all the honor, glory, and praise through our actions.
Singing in worship is not a substitute for studying the word of God.
We can often find ourselves satisfied in simply singing worship songs together. If worship is something you particularly enjoy, the dangerous possibility exists that you may start to believe it makes you a spiritual person. While worshiping together is an integral part of the Christian faith, it should never be the highest point of your week with Christ - instead, it should reflect the week you have spent with him.
Singing in worship is not the main "attraction" in a church service.
Worship has shifted into a form of entertainment in many places. At Awaken, we don't lift our worship team up as the elite or demand special treatment. I ask for humility and service from my team, and stress that we remember the gravity of what it means to facilitate communication with God through worship. We will never be an "attraction" as a band.
There are a lot of "do-nots" when we have a worship gathering, but there are also several solid reasons why we should sing.
Singing reflects a scriptural command.
"16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God." - Colossians 3:16, ESV
Singing reflects the character of God.
"17 The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing." - Zephaniah 3:17, ESV
Singing reflects the Spirit in us.
"18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ." - Ephesians 5:18-21, ESV
Aside from scriptural obligations, there are practical reasons for us to sing together also.
Singing helps us memorize words.
We should sing what God wants us to remember, and this is why scripturally-based songs are of the utmost importance at Awaken. We spend time choosing songs that directly exemplify scripture, not just prosaic beauty and pleasing melodies. This results in us being able to recall substantial scriptural passages quickly and easily.
Celebrating together completes our joy.
Our first goal as worshipers is to glorify God, not ourselves. That being said, the Westminster Shorter Catechism says that "The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him fully forever." When we celebrate what he has done, is doing, and will do, we should enjoy it, and by extension, enjoy God. Celebrating God together should make us a joyful individuals, and by extension, a joyful church.
Singing together is generationally uniting.
The diversity of age at Awaken is something that has fascinated me since I began leading here. What I strive for as a worship leader, and intentionally meet with Pastor Matt about, is finding songs that speak to everyone in any given worship gathering. It is my goal that worship at Awaken always includes everyone, not just the young or overtly musical. When we choose the proper songs and sing them with the proper motives, we are able to partake together in a mutual activity that defies and goes beyond not only generational bounds, but ethnic and preferential ones as well. We understand that we will never please everyone with the songs we choose, but it will always be our goal to humbly serve in turning eyes to the throne room of God and letting the Holy Spirit do the rest.
What we sing reflects who we are.
Mom was right when she said "Garbage in, garbage out.". Mankind visibly reflects his passions. What we've internalized finds it's way out, and it shows who we are. Singing out words of praise in humble honesty reflects not the world, but God at work in the world through us.
Singing is testimony to our faith and salvation.
When we sing truthfully and from a genuine heart, it sets an example for others that we cannot contain the joy we have received from the love of Christ. Our worship should be a blazing testimony to the new creatures we have become in Christ with every word we lift up.
At Awaken, our services are not designed to make us look or feel good about what we've accomplished as a group of people. We aim to set an example in glorifying God, regardless of who is watching us. Our worship should be authentic and driven by a heart to please and exalt God in all that we do, and I personally am willing to devote my whole self to seeing this as a reality at Awaken Church. I don't hope to see you singing on Sunday so I can feel good about what I do - I pray that I see it and know it is a direct representation of Jesus blooming in your heart and soul.
Thanks for reading!
- Joel Burgher