Worship: Leading a Church through Biblical Change

Some ideas I have picked up during the course of my reading, on how to help lead a church through biblical change are as follows:

Make sure your leaders are in agreement. If a pastor, elders, and other leaders don’t see eye to eye in this area, an unhelpful comparison can take place and the tension will be evident. Many people will see the issue. A ‘worship leader’ shouldn’t try to “balance out” his pastor nor should a pastor feel like he’s contradicting his worship leader. Have as many conversations as necessary to fully understand where other leaders are coming from, express concerns, and come to an agreement. Leading a church through changes is ultimately the pastor’s (the eldership) responsibility.

Lead theologically. Don’t make changes simply for pragmatic reasons (e.g. it will attract more people), out of personal preference, or as an attempt to appease differing factions in the church. Lead from biblical convictions. If you’re introducing a new style of music, use it as an opportunity to teach that God’s glory can’t be expressed in only one music style and that one kind of music is insufficient to communicate the broad range of responses to God. Every time we make a change, it’s an opportunity to ground people in biblical principles that will serve them in other contexts as well.

Teach and re-teach the church what biblical worship is. It doesn’t matter how mature a church is, they’ll need to be reminded how to worship biblically. Each week they’re tempted by idols and deceived by indwelling sin. Also, we have guests and new Christians attending who come with various misconceptions about what we’re doing. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we all at times forget what we already know. What was once a faith-filled encounter with the living God becomes a dull, same-as-every-week experience that leaves us cold. We need to be reminded what an life-altering, awe-inspiring event worshiping God together really is.

We can teach the church on worship in different ways. Some churches have done a series on worship, either on a Sunday morning or a weeknight. At least once a year give a message on worship on a Sunday, to make sure everyone hears it. Regularly share a brief comment while  leading on some aspect of how people should understand what is happening. Say something like, “One of the reasons we gather is to remember God’s mercy to us in Christ.” or, “We’re using a smaller band this morning to remind ourselves that the real ‘worship team’ is everyone in the congregation.” You can also spell out your philosophy of worship on your website. In some cases, it would be wise to meet with individuals who have expressed concerns or raised questions.

Lead humbly but confidently. Once you’ve prayed, done your homework, and prepared, don’t second-guess your decision if you receive negative feedback. God frequently sends critics not only to test our hearts, but to tweak what we’re doing. Humble confidence means we’re open to questions but won’t change course just because someone disagrees with us. Perhaps families will leave the church because they didn’t agree with your choice of music, but surely many more will stay because they have a more biblical understanding of how music works in corporate worship.

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