This is part two of a series on Getting To Know The People You Lead. Part one can be read here.
Your rows of chairs or pews are filled with people going through a marital crisis, financial struggle, battling cancer, drug or alcohol addiction, pornography or sexual sin, or even worse, people who think all is well, that they’re all good, and have no desire or need for Jesus.
This is what I have to remind myself every weekend. These are the people I’m leading.
So, if these are the people we are leading, if these are the ones we are getting to teach and coach to come alongside us in doing what we love the most by celebrating Who we love the most, what do we do? How do we lead them effectively?
We must slow down, be patient, and thoroughly explain to them what we are doing, what our goal is. We can’t expect our people to understand why we do what we do, and do it the way we believe it should biblically be done, without our leading them through it. We must slow down, be patient, and explain to them what we are doing, reminding them why we are singing and Who we are singing to. We should put much thought and effort toward this. Effective leaders know not only what to say, but how to say it in order to most powerfully impact their listeners.
We cannot just expect that if our week is great and we are ready to celebrate and rejoice in the Lord, that the person battling cancer or the widowed mother is going to just jump in singing with that same voice of rejoicing. And if we are naïve enough to believe that a 5-6 song set list will get them to the point of rejoicing just as we might want to, then we are foolish and are missing an important opportunity to share with them the power of the cross and the burdens that Jesus bore for us.
Our goal every time we lead is to show our people Jesus. Sure it’s fun singing a song or two, or seeing some of your friends at church, but neither of those things are the goal. The goal is Jesus.
Jesus Himself always had a way of slowing down, being patient, and explaining various things well to his disciples.
33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. 34 He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything. Mark 4:33-34
My goal with Braedyn wasn’t just to play catch. If that were the case I would’ve just stuck with the velcro toss thingy. My initial goal was to show him the thing I loved most about playing catch and how that illuminated for me so many other loves I have for baseball. Our goal is to show our people Jesus, which in turn illuminates all of the attributes of Jesus and we fall in love with Him even more.
We have to take the initiative to get to know our people. After our worship service, I go to the front of the platform and stand there waiting to see if anyone would come up for prayer or just say hello. If nobody comes up, then I try to find two or three people to just go say hi to and introduce myself to. I have to get to know them. I need to hear their stories. I need to hear what God is doing in their lives, how He called them from darkness to light, how He called them to this church, etc. I need to hear from the people that might be in the same position as some of my friends, the people who might be attending for the very first time and are just now trying this church thing out.
The people that attend your services are filled with unique stories of the gospel, which by the way should be influencing the songs you’re writing. The songs you are planning and leading each week ought to parallel what Christ is doing with and through your people. But back to my original point, the body of Christ is a huge book filled with a wide variety of stories of people that Jesus has redeemed and brought to new life. We have to take the time to get to know our people and hear these very stories.
Once we get to know our people, whatever frustration or tension there might be with either party (that being the worship leader or the worshipers) starts to dwindle away. Trust between you (worship leader), and them (worshiper) begins to build.
16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens … 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him.
Paul was excellent at taking initiative mainly because he didn’t wait around for conversations, he went looking for them.
I absolutely loved just playing catch and spending time with Braedyn. I loved it! Yes, I wanted him to love it to and yes, I wanted him to love the same things in playing catch as I did. But at the end of the day the fact that it was just us two playing catch was pretty cool.
So yes, we want our people to see Jesus and love the things we love, but the fact that they are even there in attendance gives us some cause for celebration. So if they are there, we might as well do our best to take the extra time to get to know them and hear their stories.
We need to know our people, but we must understand that it’s not up to us to do the greater work in their hearts, it’s the Holy Spirit that does the work for us.
As a worship leader, this can be one of the most difficult things to come to grips with. Like I mentioned earlier, there are still people that might be present in church, attending regularly, but still holding on to their own guilt and shame, not trusting in the good news of the gospel. Sometimes I feel like I have to muster up the right words to say, plan the most solid set ever, and then God will do His thing, but it doesn’t work that way, thank goodness!
Bob Kauflin says this in his book, “Worship Matters:”
“Thank God, we’re not alone in this task. The Spirit is already working in every situation to expose their need for God’s grace, mercy, and truth. The Holy Spirit is the one who makes us worshipers of God. He has been sent to glorify Jesus and is actively working in our hearts to accomplish that goal (1 Cor. 12:3, Phil. 3:3).”
(John 15:26 – But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness about me. )
Not only does this truth free us in our leading, it frees up those we are leading. There’s nothing we can say or do that will change the worshiper’s hearts to respond. It’s the Holy Spirit that convicts, it’s the Lord’s kindness that leads us to repentance, and it’s the powerful gospel of Jesus and His work in our lives that brings us joy and causes us to sing.
I love that my son loves baseball. I love that he loves to play catch and has his own good baseball vibes as he hears the pop. And even though I was the one that showed him how to catch, how to throw, and bent his ear toward hearing the pop, I couldn’t make him love it.
I’ve done this same process with my younger son, Baylor. He likes baseball, likes to throw and catch. He actually might be a little better at the sport than his older brother. But, he couldn’t care less about hearing the pop. For whatever reason, there’s no baseball vibes that flow through his thoughts as he plays catch.
Point being … it wasn’t up to me. I can’t make my boys love the exact things I love. And if by chance they do, it’s due to their own unique experiences, and it becomes their story.
In leading worship, we have a helper! It’s not up to us to do this task of worship leading on our own but it is God, the Holy Spirit, who works in and through us that ultimately leads our people. Yes, we need to take the time to get to know our people, hear their stories, slow down, and be patient with them, explaining well to them what we do. But the most important thing is we must trust that it’s not merely our words or song selection that change their hearts, but it’s Christ in us, and the work of the Holy Spirit that bears the witness of Jesus.
So get to know the ones you lead. Be patient with them, explaining the goal and helping them understand what we are doing. Listen to their stories and hear from them what Jesus is doing in their lives. And trust in the Holy Spirit to do a greater work in their hearts.