I love hymns and, believe me, I’ve heard them all. From dark suited deacons droning through devotional songs on Sunday morning, to gifted choristers at eleven o’clock on Sabbath, to “Father Abraham” at Adventist Youth Society—they all take me to a happy place. But for me, there’s nothing like a good praise team and band. As a pastor, professor, worshipper, and shameless self-proclaimed authority on every known genre of church music and worship, here are seven things that praise teams should not do.
DON’T NEGLECT YOUR PERSONAL WORSHIP
Excellent corporate worship is an extension of consistent personal worship. If you wait until you arrive at church to begin to worship, it’s already too late.
DON’T MISS REHEARSAL
We can tell if rehearsal began only that morning. Read in the Old Testament about the importance of the Levites, psalmists, and musicians and you’ll be a better steward of your gifts and opportunities.
DON’T PUT TOO MANY SONGS IN THE SET
Praise and worship might be a favorite part of the service but it’s not the only part of the service. Be considerate. And if you tell me the Spirit is leading you to go longer, I’ll remind you that the person who prayed too long just said the same thing!
DON’T WALK BY THE MIRROR
Your appearance can either be an attraction to the excellence of your God and worship, or a distraction that squanders a God moment. Modesty—in context— is the order of the day. Here’s a simple suggestion: when in doubt, don’t!
DON’T TALK TOO MUCH
As a person who has led praise and worship for statue-like congregants, I feel your pain. There is nothing worse than trying to engage a lifeless church. At times, everything is working against you: their religious background, the band, the lighting, the sound tech, the placement of the set, the length of the service, and on and on.
And we’ve inadvertently trained members to see corporate worship like a trip to Burger King: they can have it their way. Not so! One of the distinctions between personal worship and corporate worship is that corporate worship is designed to be done corporately. That means together.
But manipulation doesn’t work. Or at least it doesn’t work for long. Folks get sick of the clichés. Church members have heard it all: “If we were at a Knicks game, we’d be on our feet.” Well, I’m not at a Knicks game. And if I were at a Knicks game I’d be eating a hot dog and drinking soda—not listening to you. You get the picture.
DON’T TAKE IT PERSONAL; MAKE IT PERSONAL!
It’s hard to share a praise and worship set with a congregation that seems disconnected and uninterested. Ask any preacher who has made a passionate appeal, only for no one to move a muscle. It’s tempting to take it personally, but don’t.
There are a thousand and one reasons why people respond to certain sets or songs. This doesn’t eliminate the need to pursue best practices for praise and worship, but it’s rarely just about you. If we could pull back the curtain, we’d see the issues of life that preoccupy the best of us.
Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19 both remind us that the congregation is a very important audience. But they are the secondary audience. God is our primary audience. Our worship begins and ends with Him. Our primary goal is to worship Him.
Praise and worship at its best is overflow. It’s sharing with the congregation what has already impacted you. Nothing gets folks involved quite like that. It says, “We want to do this together, but He’s so good, I’ll thank Him alone.” It’s a contagious attitude. It’s personal gratitude shared with a corporate group. When God and the congregation are placed in their proper order, something happens! Don’t take it personal; make it personal.
So, what do you think? What are some of your favorite praise and worship songs? Who are some of your favorite praise and worship leaders and singers?
Jesse Wilson is the director of the Bradford Cleveland Brooks Leadership Center on the campus of Oakwood University in Huntsville, AL, USA and the director of the Pastoral Evangelism and Leadership Council. This article was first published in Best Practices, and has been lightly edited for Elder’s Digest. Used by permission.