Do’s and Don’ts of Praise and Worship - Part 1
by Philip Renner
Worship leader, award-winning recording artist, songwriter, and producer, Philip Renner became involved full time in worship ministry at the age of 15. Today, alongside his wife Ella, Philip serves as youth minister for the Moscow Good News Church, founded and pastored by his parents Rick and Denise Renner. Together Philip and Ella are passionate about seeing people connect with their purpose in Christ and developing a real relationship with God. The couple resides in Moscow, Russia, with their young daughter Emilia.
There is no greater sound than when the people of God come together in unison and worship Jesus. Praise and worship is a supernatural experience. Miracles happen, issues of the heart are dealt with, and sinners come to repentance in an atmosphere of godly worship. The Bible says God inhabits the praises of His people (see Psalm 22:3) — and there’s nothing quite like having God “invade” your praise and worship!
This is the goal of praise and worship in every service. How to reach that goal requires commitment — including multiple rehearsals each week — and maturity in your own spiritual walk. The following are some “do’s and don’ts” of praise and worship that can help ministers and their worship leaders lead others into heartfelt, undistracted, and meaningful worship of God.
#1: DO Spend Time in God’s Presence for Yourself
The saying is true that you cannot give what you do not have. If I haven’t spent time in God’s presence throughout the week, my praise and worship as a worship leader won’t be anointed during the Sunday morning service. Spending time in God’s presence helps me know what He wants to say to the people through the praise and worship. But I can’t impart His heart if I don’t know His heart!
Our relationship with God is critical as worship leaders and as any Christian leader. The saying is true that “as the head goes, so goes the whole body.” What the leaders of an organization do or don’t do in their spiritual walk affects the entire organization on some level.
God promised us as believers that out of our “bellies,” or spirits, would flow rivers of Living Water from God (see John 4:14; 7:38). No matter how skilled or talented we are as worship leaders, ultimately, God’s presence is the only thing that will truly satisfy our hearts and the hearts of those we lead in worship. As praise and worship leaders, we must picture ourselves as a sponge that becomes saturated throughout the week by the Living Water of God. Then as we lead worship on Sunday, we release those waters to the people. Every day we must drench ourselves with His presence so that we can impart that same presence to others. This kind of commitment is required of everyone who is part of a praise-and-worship team, but it is especially necessary for the leader. If a leader possesses this kind of dedication and commitment, it will have a positive effect on the congregation as well as the musicians who work with him or her.
The commitment to develop and maintain a consistent life of personal worship requires determination and persistence. Our attitude toward our worship of God should be that of Jacob’s when He wrestled with the Lord. Scripture tells us that Jacob wouldn’t let God go until he received from Him. (See Genesis 32:24-26.) Through that experience, Jacob’s name was changed from Jacob to Israel — and changing his name eventually changed his life. Similarly, we should have the attitude, I’m not leaving until You bless me. I won’t leave this place of worship until you change my heart and take me to another place in my walk withYou.
#2: DON’T Confuse Praise and Worship With Entertainment
I’m all for lighting, special effects, and excellence in performance, as these are things that can enhance praise and worship. But it’s important to understand that praise and worship is not a show. In other words, the goal of praise and worship is not to entertain but to usher in God’s presence. Therefore, as worship leaders, we must be more focused on bringing glory to God than on the entertainment value of what we’re doing for Him.
We’ve heard arguments over which has the best music — the Church or the world. God created music, and no music can surpass His genius and creativity. So certainly, the best music should be coming from the Church. But my honest opinion is that the world has the best entertainment, and I’ll tell you why I believe that. Entertainment appeals to the flesh, or the natural part of man. And simply put, the best entertainment — from movies, music recordings, concerts, nightclubs, etc. — comes from the world.
As worship leaders, we can’t get people to come back again and again to a church or meeting on the sole basis of our entertainment quality. The world is simply superior in this respect. We must focus on something the world does not and cannot have: the anointing, God’s power and presence that changes people’s lives. And one way the anointing is released into people’s lives is through praise and worship.
Worship leaders should remember that the service is not theirs but God’s. And the church is not ours but God’s. We live under His rules, and His rules are to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and to esteem His power and presence as absolutely vital and necessary when we meet together as a local body of believers.
Submission to the authority of the Holy Spirit in worship is something we must constantly strive for as worship leaders. For example, if the Holy Spirit wants me to sing a certain chorus longer than I’d planned for, rather than be concerned about my agenda or schedule, I must be concerned about following Him. I don’t want to grieve the Spirit of God or give Him only limited access to the service and the people in attendance. Instead, I want Him to fill the place with His glory, because when that happens, God touches people, and they’re set free from sin, sickness, addictions, etc.
The Holy Spirit doesn’t just deal with people during the message. During praise and worship, He can deal with people and prepare their hearts for the message. Praise and worship is a crucial part of God’s work during a service, so it’s important to stay focused on Him, allowing Him to lead you and your team into God’s presence in worship and to take the congregation into His presence with you.
#3: DO Realize the Importance of Your Role So You Can Do Your Part Well
Imagine yourself going to church for the first time. You’re not saved, and you go to church only because you made a promise to your friend that you would. You leave your home, careful not to be late, but when you arrive at the church early and find a seat, you have to sit and wait because the service doesn’t start on time. And thoughts begin to flash across your mind, These people don’t respect me or my time.
Finally, the worship starts. The music is loud, and the people look sloppy and unprofessional. The worship leader says nothing to encourage the people to enter into praise and worship, and there’s no explanation as to the purpose of worship or why others are raising their hands as they praise God. You’re thinking, These people are weird or maybe even crazy!
Then the songs are hard to sing because the key is too high. The melody is also difficult, and there are too many words — so many that even the worship leader mixes them up. Afterward, the minister begins the message, but you as a guest are so bewildered that you’re more attuned to your “strange” environment than to the words of the message. At that point, the chances that you’ll ever return to that church are slim.
Unfortunately, what I just described is a reality in many churches and to many who are unsaved and unchurched. Yes, there are a lot of great praise-and-worship leaders in the Body of Christ. But there are also things churches could perhaps improve on regarding their praise and worship.
For example, imagine a similar scenario at a different church. You arrive at that church, and the service starts exactly on time. Whether consciously or subconsciously, you think, This organization is professional, and I feel respected. The worship leader greets the people and leads them into a song that is easy to sing. Then he or she uses Scripture in between songs to briefly explain the importance of worshipping God. Your mind feels at ease instead of distracted by questions and confusion.
Perhaps the leader exhorts the people in a specific way as he or she is led by God, such as to pray for their city, a friend or relative, or even the person in the seat beside them. The worship leader might also have a word of knowledge that he or she speaks out. It “hits home” to you, and the Holy Spirit begins ministering to your heart.
As the music continues, you notice that the team is sharp and plays well together. The sound is pleasant to your ears, and you’re eager to hear the pastor’s message. You end up yielding to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit — and when the man or woman of God gives the altar call, you give your heart to Jesus. You feel at home in that church and look forward to returning and learning about your new life in Christ. The praise and worship played a role in your getting saved because it opened the door for God to move in your live without distraction.
Music and worship play a valuable role in any service. In Second Chronicles 20:20-22, we can read that King Jehosaphat sent his worshipers out ahead of even his soldiers. In other words, the worshipers were in the frontlines of battle! And worship still has its place on the “frontlines” today. Biblically, praise and worship is a spiritual weapon God has given to His Church. But the praise-and-worship portion of a service also provides one of the first impressions for a guest in your church or meeting — and it can prepare the way for a move of God’s Spirit to radically change people’s hearts and lives.
Serving as a worship leader or on a worship team is an honor, but it’s also a calling that carries a great deal of responsibility and commitment. It’s important that we as worship leaders give careful attention to this area of ministry so that we don’t fall short in fulfilling our role to make each service — as well as the church overall — what God desires it to be.