There is a dangerous trend in the worship leader community. It is the issue of power. Worship leaders tend to hoard power or they tend to abandon power. One extreme or the other.

Some exert power by controlling everything and commanding the church to respond. While others will abandon power by giving up or begging people at church to respond.

Original Photo by Ani's Photography (cc)

Original Photo by Ani’s Photography (cc)

I’ve seen this at the many churches and InterVarsity chapters that I visit as I speak itinerantly. As a worship leader, you have three postures when it comes to dealing with power. Posture 1 and 2 should be avoided. Posture 3 is the way to go. 

Posture #1: Command — The Power Is With You

In this posture, you take control. You tell people what to do. Lift your hands now. Clap your hands right now. The lights have to be perfect. The music has to be perfect. The singers have to be perfect. Make the experience happen. Control everything. Take command.

I remember visiting a church and the worship leader seemed like he was really mad. He yelled. He looked super intense. He commanded people to respond to Jesus. I could’ve swore he was barking at one point… (shudder). I remember being totally thrown off guard.

This posture can be abusive. It tricks you into thinking that you have the power. But you don’t. You can never conjure up a worship experience. A commanding posture creates cynicism in your church. Millennials can see right through your commanding posture. It feels fake. People turn away from Jesus. Don’t do this!

Posture #2: Plead — The Power is With the People

In this posture, you are a puppet. Your vision is dictated by the loud and proud. Your heart may tell you to go one way, but you don’t do it because that will make people mad. You make everyone happy, and nothing happens. Then at some point, you can’t take it anymore, and you start begging people to love Jesus.

This exact thing happened at one church that I visited. The worship leader did everything the people asked. But no one cared. The worship leader was begging people to sing, to clap, to do anything. He literally pleaded with the people. I thought he was going to cry. It just didn’t feel right. I pitied the worship leader.

This posture is sad. It tricks you into thinking that the opinion of the people is everything. It’s true, as a worship leader, you can’t create worship. But neither can your church people. A pleading posture actually leads to more passivity. You think people are passive now? Just spend a few weeks begging them, it will get worse.

"Sons and Shadows Leading Worship" Photo Courtesy of Andy Wong (c)

“Sons and Shadows Inviting us to Worship” Photo Courtesy of Andy Wong (c)

Posture #3: Invite — The Power is With God Alone

In this posture you are a collaborator with God. You are not a cheerleader. You are not a drill sergeant. But you are more like a host or hostess. You listen to what God wants. You invite people to respond to God. It is up to the people to respond to Jesus.

This posture gives room for God. When you invite people into worship, they are granted a beautiful opportunity. It enables them to check their own intentions as they enter into worship. When you invite, the people are encouraged to follow you into God’s presence. When you invite, you make room for an interaction to take place with God.

God is in control. The people have a choice. You continue to invite. This is a beautiful tension that every worship leader must face. You can only do your part. After that, just let go. This posture creates a sense of welcome, openness, and expectation. It is genuine. It is beautiful. It is the sound of people willingly interacting with God through your invitation.

Lead Like Jesus…

Jesus’ main invitation throughout the Gospels was “come and see” or “follow me”. It is an invitation to be with Him. Everyone had a choice. I encourage you to do the same. 

I realize that there might be some nuance needed for different ethnicities and different church denominations. But the basic principle is the same. Inviting is better than commanding and pleading. Don’t command. Don’t plead. Simply invite. Wait on God to do His thing.

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Do you have a some more thoughts to share about utilizing power while being a worship leader? Please comment below or send me an email!