READING THE SIGNALS

Take a look at the picture. Its funny. I don’t know how long people have been passing it around but my wife sent it to me yesterday it made me laugh. My favorite is the “Carry The TV”. I’ve grown up in a Baptist church so we don’t see anything much more flamboyant than that. The “Carry the TV” allows us to use our hands, but to keep it secret so that no one notices us. The credit for this poster goes to Tim Hawkins and its a really great observation of worship postures. If you’ve spent any time in church then you’ve seen at least some of these signals on display.

Worship leaders are experts at identifying the signals. I fully admit that I have found myself looking for them as a way to gauge how my worship set is going. They serve as a barometer for the worship atmosphere in my congregation. Worship leaders naturally bring our own preconceived idea of what an engaged congregation looks like into our worship. If we came from a Church of Christ background, then we are used to a very stiff worship service. If we are baptist, we’ve probably flirted quite a bit with outward expression of worship but never given fully over to it. We’ve certainly seen them at youth camp, when students inhibitions fly out the window of the last night of camp and everyone lets loose and the “signals” fly. Non denominational and community type churches are next. Definitely looser than baptists but not entirely crazy yet. If you come from a charismatic background you regularly see people dancing and jumping around and you look out of place if you are not flashing Expert level signals.

We use these experiences to judge how others are worshiping. And if the group of people we are leading worship for doesn’t meet our preconceived expectations, a couple of things can happen.

  1. We find ourselves judging them. We can become frustrated. If we aren’t careful we then begin to jump to conclusions about their spiritual lives and level of spiritual maturity. We think things like, “If they were really living for God, their worship would reflect that”.
  2. We examine the way we lead worship and wonder if we are doing something wrong. If worship goes well and people appear to be worshiping, then we assume we have done something right. And when people don’t seem to be engaging, we begin examining what it is that we did or did not do that kept people from worshiping. I’ve done this a million times. One Sunday I have a great worship service, then next week people seem disinterested and unengaged. I then find myself wondering if I had prayed something specific that made the difference, or if it was the combination of songs that I used, or any number of things.

The problem with both of these however is that both are forms of the law. The law places requirements on God’s people. It sets an unobtainable standard that all are forced to live up to. But the beauty of God’s grace is that those requirements were removed from us. We were set free from the law. With that being the case, who are we to turn around and place requirements on God’s people or ourselves?

Take the first one for instance. This is where the law can really stroke our pride. Because when an individuals display of worship doesn’t look like what I believe it should look like, I dismiss their spiritual maturity and elevate my own. What right do I have to hold people to my own standards and judge them if their worship doesn’t look like what I think it should look like? Yes, scripture gives us guidelines as to what appropriate worship should look like, but the examples represent a wide array of things. Whether it’s David dancing “undignified” like he is on MTV Spring Break to Paul writing to the church at Corinth about orderly worship. On top of that, there are an abundance of personalities represented in our congregations. From the most reserved, introverted person who may never display outward signs of worship to those who are quite extroverted. They can’t stand still in worship and are constantly moving.

When I find myself examining what did to make worship a success, I have placed myself under the law. I have made worship about my own abilities. How people respond to worship is not dependent on me and my skills. It has nothing to do with whether or not I say the right thing or pray the right prayer. The problem with this way of thinking is that I will always find “flaws” in how I lead worship. I could have said this, or prayed that, etc. Choosing to live under the law means that the more I do right, the more I also realize I am doing wrong. This leads to a feeling of inadequacy and failure as a leader. I have placed myself at the center of the universe and it doesn’t take long for me to realize that I’m not that great at keeping the universe spinning. A congregation doesn’t need me to worship. God certainly doesn’t need me to to inspire a spirit of worship in His people.

Worship is quite simply our response to God.

As believers, we are free to worship how we choose. The result is a wonderfully diverse and beautiful expression of our love for the Father. So lets cut ourselves and others some slack. God simple asks that I, as a worship leader, operate in faith. Laying down my own expectations, and my own abilities and coming to the feet of the Creator and worshiping.

Just for funsies though, I’m curious. If you are a worship leader, what “signals” do you look for when you are leading worship? Leave a comment below.

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Riaent

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