One On One

By Stephen M. Newman
Founder, and Author of Experiencing Worship
April 26, 2023

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As a career worship pastor I have one ongoing struggle. It seems the people in our congregation are behind me in worship. The majority of our congregation are baby worshipers when it comes to their participation and understanding. They come from a variety of backgrounds and denominations, and most come from traditional churches where worship participation was rare. Many still don't see why we have to sing so long or stand for twenty to thirty minutes during worship. Personally I would worship for an hour if I could; but, I am trying to bring them along and not leave them in the dust…. so to speak.

Why is it that we are usually farther along than our people? Why won't they get with it and join in on what's going on? Part of the answer lies in our title as ministers. We are called Worship Leaders. If the people were ahead of us, we would probably be called Worship Followers, right? A large part of my calling is not only to stand up in front of our congregation each week and lead worship… but, also to teach worship to those who don't understand it. If I were to ask you how many people in your church really understand what worship is, the number would be shockingly low. I am finding out that worship is one of the most misunderstood elements in the church today. You ask people, "What is worship?" and you will hear a host of different answers. Try taking a survey in your church with that simple question and see how varied the answers will be. If you happen to get the surveys back, you will find that many don't even know what worship is. Why is that so? Why do the majority of Christians not understand this simple thing called worship? Why is it that we take the time to get ready each week, head off to church and miss the whole reason for being there?

I don't fathom why in twenty years as a Christian, I've never heard a sermon on true worship. We were often taught about, and even practiced some of the elements of worship; but, the principle was never communicated that it was part of our worship to God. Tithing is a classic example. How many of us treat our giving as an act of worship? We usually do a good job with instilling the commands underlying the practice of communion, but fail to teach the big picture of worship. We always had a ‘song leader’ but never a worship leader. How is it that someone who grew up in the church could miss out on this awesome thing called worship? I had no mentor in worship. I had known no one who understood it and definitely knew of no place to practice it. I understood the song service, but never experienced the worship. Sadly, I am not alone in this area of understanding. With the explosion of worship across the country and world, there are still many who have no one to teach one to mentor them as a worshiper. I wish to share a story that may help inspire you in your journey as a worship leader and teacher.

I had recently arrived on staff at my new church. There was a young man who helped me with some business when I arrived in town. We became friends and soon found out that we had a common interest in hunting. Specifically, bow-hunting for elk. What a great thing to meet someone who was as passionate about hunting as I was. It was a friendship made in heaven. This friend attended our Saturday night church and would regularly come in after the music portion of our worship. It didn't bother me, because I knew that some people didn't appreciate the style of music we played on Saturday night, and I respected his preference. Throughout a year of friendship we never discussed worship, only family issues and marriage. After a year and a half, we began a dialogue on the topic of worship. I was able to share my heart on the subject and what it meant to me, and in particular, the place it had in the Christian’s life. My friend began to comment on the music and song selections, he began to make it on time to the services, and soon would even stay for the second service just for the worship. I have seen him grow from a person who purposely avoided the "worship time" to becoming one of the most awesome worshipers I know. In our conversations today, hunting is secondary and worship is primary. We now share two passions together - worship and hunting. It has been a long process, but one that was well worth the effort and time. To see a friend become a true worshiper of God is one of the greatest joys in my ministry.

I have also seen this in our body as a whole. Each week I notice new attempts at worship from people who previously were not visible worshipers. They are stepping out and trying to give to God something during our services. I’ve witnessed those who would never sing before join in the singing. Former watchers of worship have become active participants. The growth has been slow, but incredible. The most rewarding aspect of my job is seeing others being transformed into worshipers of God. Find a friend or two who needs a mentor and teach them worship. Model to them worship, and watch them grow before your eyes. What a blessing it has been for me to see my friend and brother in Christ become a true worshiper of our Lord! Keep teaching worship to your people. Like any other discipline, it takes work and practice to make it a part of your every day lifestyle. One on one or one on a hundred, continue to be the teacher and leader that God has called you to be. It doesn't have to happen fast, but trust God that it will happen in His timing.

Stephen M. Newman
Founder, and Author of Experiencing Worship
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