Worship Leader or Cheer Leader

Lately, I’ve been noticing that the church world is split on how to conduct worship in the church. I’m not talking about the issue of contemporary music versus traditional music. I’m referring to the philosophies of Spirit-led worship versus Seeker-driven worship. If you’re not familiar with these terms let me briefly explain.

In a nutshell I view Spirit-let worship as placing intimacy with God above anything else. It is not designed to please people, but it is strictly designed to foster a deepening relationship with God. The styles of music that can be used in this arena are all across the board. There are many “traditional” hymns that can be effective in this atmosphere as well as many of the “praise choruses” from the 80’s and 90’s and all the way into the post-modern music of today. The motto of the Spirit-led worship service says, “We are going on a journey to meet with God, and we will do whatever is necessary to get there”

The other philosophy is the Seeker-driven style of worship. This type of worship service is dedicated to the purpose of making everyone feel like they have a place in the service. Many churches use music heard on secular radio stations so that just about anyone can come in and sing-along. Many churches go out of their way to make this worship service a mini-concert event with lights and fog machines. The motto of the Seeker-driven worship service says, “It doesn’t matter what stage of spiritual development you are in, you can come here and find a place. We will find a way to make you feel comfortable.”

No matter which type of worship service your church subscribes to, I think there are some important worship lessons that we need to understand from scripture. So many churches have tried to solve the problem of getting the ‘sinner’ inside their doors that they turn their worship services into a pep-rally for Jesus.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love to celebrate the goodness of the Lord. I love to dance, jump, clap my hands and sing out loud. The best biblical definitions of the word “praise” tell us that we are to be excited about the Lord. Our praise should be demonstrative, and we should not be reserved in our worship. But so many churches stop there and don’t progress any further. When they do this they are missing out on intimacy with their Creator.

King David, in a moment of intimate worship, said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart…See if there is any offensive way in me. (Psalm 139: 23-24) So many times we are afraid to let the Lord into our lives and speak to us, change us, or even discipline us. But if we never make it to this place in worship, how will we ever grow? The Hebrew definition of “worship” is more intimate than any of the definitions of “praise”. The definition of “worship” is to bow down, crouch, fall down (flat), humbly beseech, do obeisance, do reverence, make to stoop, worship. The very act of worship is a recognition that we are coming into the presence of someone that is far superior to us, and we must approach Him with awe and wonder.

Romans 12:1 tells us that true worship is coming to the Lord and offering ourselves as living sacrifices. Now, to me being a sacrifice doesn’t sound like it’s always going to feel good. As a matter of fact sometimes it is going to hurt. But we have to endure the pain in order to grow.

Jesus said in John chapter 4 that true worshipers will worship in Spirit and in Truth. Simply put: “truth worship” is surface worship. It is worshiping and praising God for all of the obvious reasons—He is a great God, He blesses us, He died for our sins, etc. Truth worship, however, is only half of the equation. The other half of worship that Jesus taught about is “Spirit Worship”. Spirit worship is a unification of our spirit with the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5 tells us to live by the Spirit (v. 16), and to keep in step with the Spirit (v. 25). There has to be some time allotted in our worship services for the entire body to get in tune with the Holy Spirit.

Many people argue that those times are reserved for a “special” worship service, or it is taught in a class in a room somewhere. But I believe that as worship leaders we have an obligation to allow times for the Holy Spirit to move and work in us individually and corporately.

Yes, there are times to celebrate, but God wants relationship as well. If we are always whooping and hollering for Jesus how can we ever hear His voice? If we are always being overloaded visually with lights and smoke, how can we ever see His face?

The excitement of high energetic praise can make us feel good for a moment, but sooner or later the ‘high’ will wear off, and we will come back down to the same place that we started. But if we would allow ourselves to come deeper into the presence of God we would see things from His perspective. When a trial comes, the lifestyle of intimate worship gives us a solid foundation.

What better way for a “lost” person to learn about God than by seeing His children worshipping Him and getting intimate with Him. 1 Corinthians says that when worship is carried out in the ‘right’ way (the way the God designed), the unbeliever will “fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!’”.

Again, I am not lifting up one philosophy over the other. No matter which philosophy of worship you prefer we can get so caught up in the mechanics of it that we forget why we are doing it. We as worship leaders, have not been called to be Spiritual Cheer-leaders saying, “Give me a J, give me an E”, etc. We have been called to our position to lead others into intimacy with Christ.

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