This article is titled “Worship Service Etiquette” simply for the reason that I couldn’t come up with a better title. There are probably as many ways to conduct a worship service as there are churches. The leadership of each local church is given the responsibility of seeing that God’s vision for their church is implemented. However, I do believe that there are certain considerations that should be made in the implementation of a worship service vision.
My journey in worship leading had a humble beginning to say the least. Like a lot of children and teenagers growing up I had an infatuation with lead guitar players and rock-n-roll bands. However, it wasn’t until I was 23 years old that I actually began to learn to play the guitar.
One Sunday morning around 8:30 our worship band gathered for morning rehearsal. We met early because Sunday school began at 9:00 a.m. and we wanted to have some time to look over the song list and get a sound check. Some of us looked like we had just climbed out of bed with the rest of us wishing we were still in bed.
I vividly remember the first worship band practice I led as a full-time worship leader. Here I am the worship leader of a church that was once two churches. Many of the members of the praise team I didn’t even know. The truth is I didn’t want to be the worship leader. In fact, I was so wounded from my previous ministry position that I really just wanted to sit for a while. Only out of submission to the pastor’s request was I in that position. At first I had no job description, no training and no clue as to what I was doing.
In my book “The Making of a Worship Leader” I share the following story.
I vividly remember the first worship band practice I led as a full time worship leader. Here I am the worship leader of a church that was once two churches. Many of the members of the praise team I didn’t know nor was I totally convinced I wanted to know them. The truth was I didn’t want to be the worship leader. Only out of submission to the pastor’s request was I in that position. At first I had no job description, no training and no clue as to what I was doing.
In 1983, upon finishing a short term mission in Haiti, my wife and I moved from our home in northern Alabama about fifty miles south to become youth pastors in a small church in Alexandria, Alabama. We had a strong sense that God wanted us in full time ministry, but we struggled at times with exactly what it was he wanted us to do. When we were asked to take this position we jumped in with both feet. One thing we didn’t realize was that in a small church full time ministry doesn’t always mean full time pay. So, I had to do some work outside the church while still being expected to be a full time youth pastor. It was in this church that I had my first experience leading worship in front of a congregation.
In 1987 a friend and I went to Anaheim, California to attend a worship conference at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship. During one of the afternoon sessions following a time of worship, someone in the audience began to speak in tongues in the hearing of the entire assembly. There must have been a thousand people in the large auditorium, so I could just barely hear the person speak. However, almost the minute they began I felt my heart jump out of my chest. I thought, “Oh no; I’ve got the interpretation to this tongue!”
In 1986 when I became the worship leader at Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Anniston, Alabama I had very little confidence in my guitar playing ability. I had only been playing for a few years and had not led worship with the guitar except in small group settings. After taking the reigns as worship leader I was content to allow our pianist to be the lead instrument. Most of the time I didn’t even play the guitar because many of the songs we sang I had not yet learned to play.
When I first became a worship leader I had little training as a musician or singer. I had taken a few voice lessons years before and had taught myself a few chords on the guitar. When I started learning to play guitar I had no idea that I would ever lead worship. Being asked to lead worship was a total surprise to me. It was something I neither aspired to do nor felt qualified to do.
One of the most important and God-given tasks of a worship leader is to train others to lead worship. I believe scripture gives us a mandate for training others for ministry. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-12)