I’ve always felt that worship should be done without a stage, without a platform. The purpose of worship through music isn’t to perform songs that are fun to sing together to the folks that showed up at church on any given Sunday, it’s to proclaim adoration and love and awe to the Creator of the universe through the medium of melodies and song of His creation. I’d much rather the band and vocalists leading in worship weren’t elevated on a platform, instead being on the same exact physical plane as the crowd. Worship gatherings I’ve been a part of where this is the practice have always seemed more conducive to directing the focus of our praise through singing and playing to God rather than just being shouted forward at the stage and the blaring speakers.
So here’s a thought. We’re all on the same level. Who’s leading everyone? Me? Well, I can play guitar and sing and coach and prod and guide and bring people along with me into the presence of God to a point, but I’m not worthy to usher an entire room of people into the throneroom of His Grace. There is such a tremendous gap between us and our Father, and there was only one person on earth in all of history who could close that gap. Christ alone was worthy to intercede for us, and when He ascended into glory He gave us the Holy Spirit, our mediator, who intercedes for us now. The Spirit is the very presence of God around us, upon us, within us. Who better to lead us to the throne of grace than the Spirit?
Going back to Matt Redman’s The Heart Of Worship Files, he talks about this very idea of the Holy Spirit being the “real worship leader.” Philippians 3:3 says, The real believers are the ones the Spirit of God leads to work away at this ministry, filling the air with Christ’s praise as we do it. We couldn’t carry this off by our own efforts, and we know it…. That last statement is the key. Our worship without the Spirit is empty. Our words and thoughts are meaningless without the means to communicate them to God. So the Spirit inspires the words, providing to us the realizations we are meant to discover as we sing and as we pray. It’s not about how well we feel we communicated a song from the stage, or if there was any vocal cheering that accompanied the claps at the end of the worship set. It’s our being open to the Spirit leading us in what to say and how to say it, in what kind of posture we hold as we proclaim His goodness and claim His love and promises.
The Spirit’s leading doesn’t exonerate us from our responsibility to prepare ourselves in leading, however. As lead worshippers, we still have to learn our songs accurately, taking the time to practice & hone our craft of playing an instrument or using our voices to ensure we don’t create distractions for the crowd, being conscious of what’s happening in the worship gathering and directing the flow. But ultimately, we are partnering with the greatest worship leader in the universe when we invite the Spirit to guide us into His presence. Takes some of the pressure off, doesn’t it?