I must admit, even after being a worship leader for 18 years, it is still a mystery to me, and a weekly challenge, to discover what motivates a congregation (and each member of it) to worship.
Having said that, I recognize that God’s Spirit and the individual’s receptibility to it is a key factor that is completely out of my hands, and it would be arrogance on my part to think otherwise. Yet still I strive, as Paul wrote, “to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.” (1 Cor. 10:33). So I pay attention to what style of music causes the hearer to truly open his mouth and sing, to sway or move, and ‘enter in’. I recognize that we are a people of distraction, of noise, and it takes a lot of focus to center ourselves, tune out the clutter, and find the ‘still small voice’ of God in the moment. I also recognize that a person’s outward demeanor may not necessarily clue me in to the workings of their inner sanctum, or how God may actually be convicting them during the worship experience. But despite knowing all this, I am still haunted by my own inadequacies, to say the right thing in the right moment, to be sensitive to the needs of my congregation, and to allow God the time He requires, instead of ‘moving on to the next thing’ in order to keep to the dictated schedule or avoid an awkward silence. So the question begs, does the Spirit of God depend on my own discernment of Him, in order to be able to move in the hearts of my congregants during our time of worship? And does the ability of my congregants to open themselves up to receive God’s Spirit depend on my ability to facilitate the worshipful environment they feel they need in order to make that happen?
The appalled reaction of my heart is immediately “Heaven forbid!” Heaven forbid that it should be all on me. Heaven forbid that I would arrogantly think that it does, or that my actions could possibly limit God’s Spirit. Yet deep down I know that God must place partial responsibility on my shoulders, for He calls me to be obedient in preparation, obedient in prayer, and obedient in love and compassion for the congregation I serve. How can I ask God to use me as His vessel if I have been any less? Yet at the same time I recognize that there have been many past worship moments where God moved among His people in spite of my failings, and in spite of my disobedience that particular week.
The reality is that the weight is not 100% on me, nor is it 100% on God. Scripture makes it clear that the majority of the onus is on each congregant individually. Even God, in all His perfection, does not force His Spirit on anyone, but rather only enters a heart by invitation (Rev. 3:20). Jesus Himself wept brokenheartedly over Jerusalem, when He cried, "O Jerusalem…how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing
. Look, your house is left to you desolate” (Matt. 23:37). Jesus Himself could not motivate everyone to believe in Him, or to follow Him.
So perhaps instead my prayer each week must be that I not, by my actions or by my leadership, become a hindrance or a distraction to the people of God as they worship. Perhaps I need to pray simply, “Lord, help me get out of Your way”. And perhaps God is saying to me, like Mordecai said to Esther, “If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise from another place… And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).
- written by Kim Garreffa