Aggressive Versus Assertive: A Tale Of 2 Worship Leaders

by Bobby Gilles

in Worship Leading

Kristen Gilles and Sojourn Music worship team, leading Sunday worship serviceThe Assertive Worship Leader:

It is your job to sing songs of worship clearly and speak liturgical elements like prayers and scripture readings clearly, helping the congregation to sing, pray and read with you. Remember that you are not something “other” — you are a worshiper. As such, you will close your eyes from time to time while singing, you will sing passionately, and you will indirectly model what a worshiper looks like as you do so.

On the other hand, you are a worship leader, which means you will also directly model what a worshiper looks like. Sometimes this involves saying, “Let’s clap along,” or “Sing louder.” You don’t keep your eyes closed through every song; you need to look at your congregation. You know that eye-to-eye contact can be encouraging and communal. Also, this helps you gauge the responsiveness of your congregation.

You move through the liturgy (what is often called “the worship set”) with confidence because you’ve practiced playing, singing and reading during the week. You’ve rehearsed with the band. You’ve prayed over these songs. You’ve prayed over this congregation — everyone from church members to unsaved first-time attendees. You’ve prayed over the rest of the band, you’ve prayed over the preacher and those who will handle the communion elements.

And after you prayed, you let go. You’ll do the best you can do, but, after all, you can’t break down all barriers between God and humankind. Christ has already done that, on the cross. You may help plant seeds, you may help water seeds, but it is God who causes them to grow. (1 Corinthians 3:6-9).

The Aggressive Worship Leader:

It is your job to lead people into the throne of God. And you’re going to do it if you have to pull them by the hair. When you tell them to lift their hands, they better do it. If not, shame them, bully them — whatever it takes. They need to get those hands in the air. Even that guy you’ve never seen before … the guy from down the street who has never come before and who is not a Christian. He needs to experience the glory of God, and that isn’t going to happen if you can’t make him drop his reticence and get those hands in the air.

Your performance isn’t acceptable if the congregation doesn’t resemble a rowdy throng of 20,000 fans at a Springsteen show. So if that isn’t happening, maybe turn the volume up louder. Go ahead and motion to the sound guy — these things go to 11, right?

You don’t actually need to practice reading scripture during the week — after all, you know how to read. But make sure you have lots of stock phrases ready, like

“Raise your hands in the air like you just don’t care.”

And if the crowd just doesn’t get it — if they won’t give you (um, give Jesus) the response you’re looking for, just enter your personal worship space. Keep your eyes closed all the way through every remaining song in your set. Keep your hand raised and speak directly to God, never to your people. Maybe they’ll see how passionately you’re worshiping, and they’ll start doing it right.

Which Of These Two Worship Leaders Will You Be?

Obviously Example 2 is a caricature. And you walk a fine line when encouraging people to engage in worship. It’s right, not wrong, to encourage people to sing, to raise their hands, to pour out their hearts to God. But

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  — James 1:5-6



Doug Weaver September 4, 2013 at 12:21 pm

I know that I’ve been both of these as I’ve led. One excuse I always used/use for closing my eyes the whole set is “I just can’t stand to watch a whole room of people not worship.” As though I’m the only one in the room that “knows how to worship”.

Thanks for the post!

Bobby Gilles September 5, 2013 at 10:30 am

You’re welcome, Doug!

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