Inexhaustible: Leading Worship without Growing Tired
A few weeks ago, I was putting together the pieces for a Sunday morning worship service. Though we don’t always plan our services to be strictly thematic, I felt this particular theme was strong and could easily be supported with songs that mirrored that same theme.
As any worship leader and musician would admit, when two songs play well with one another, it’s hard to resist putting them side by side in the chain. This particular Sunday, however, the two songs I wanted to put side by side not only shared the same key and virtually the same tempo…they shared the same title! First, we would introduce one of Mack Brock’s new songs, “King of Heaven,” and then we would go into the more familiar Paul Baloche “King of Heaven.”
I suppose we could exhaust the titles of songs as we speed toward eternity with Jesus.
I suppose we could exhaust the harmonic progressions and note combinations with which we honor the beauty and majesty of God. I suppose we could exhaust the myriad of expressions of worship our human minds could conjure up. But there is one thing that we will never exhaust…God’s worthiness.
It is truly inexhaustible.
The other morning, my son Caleb asked, “How old is God?” I knew right away I was in over my head. How do you explain eternity-past to a four year old? Shoot, how do you explain it to a 40 year old?! I was about to respond with, “Well, He’s at least 7,000 years old,” (I confess I’m a young-earth creationist). But I stopped myself, when I realized what a stupid response that was. I think I muttered out something like, “He’s infinitely old.” Caleb nodded…and then asked for a bowl of cereal with chocolate milk.
God’s eternal worth is not only expressed in time, but it certainly is shown through time, yet it doesn’t stop there.
His praise extends over time, space, geography, people groups, etc. Psalm 48:10 says, “As Your name, O God, so Your praise reaches to the ends of the earth.” We are a part of an endless concert of praise where we simply join in.
Let’s be honest…for those who serve in leading the Church in worship each week, we can get tired of the same songs, progressions, etc., yet we must never lose the wonder of a God who is inexhaustible, a God who is “infinitely old” and infinitely worthy!
I want to be brutally honest with all my partners in worship ministry. After leading worship for just 20 years, it’s already so tempting and easy to get bored, tired and even jaded to the repetition of the same songs, same expressions, same order of service, etc. We can try so hard to keep things fresh, both in public expression and personal devotion. Sometimes it helps. Sometimes it doesn’t.
Allow me to offer a couple helpful tips to keep things fresh in the way you disciple your people in worship:
Call to mind the inexhaustible worthiness of God, as well as the wondrous things He has done. Psalm 105:5 says, “Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered.” Psalm 9:1 says, “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.”
Count the wonderful deeds of God…and then count them again!
It is good to be reminded. We forget. One of the best ways to build true worship within yourself and others is to simply look back to what God has done. How has He been faithful in your life? This is especially important for those who are enduring hardship from every angle. When we are in the middle of hurt, we tend to lose track of God’s track record. So, be reminded of His goodness.
Never lose the wonder of telling the Good News of Jesus Christ. It’s not uncommon to pour my heart and soul into leading worship only to look into the faces of the people I’m shepherding to see some of them aren’t singing. Some don’t appear engaged at all. It is, after all, hard to sing with coffee in your mouth. In those moments, I’ve had to restrain myself from “encouraging” people to “get into it,” whatever that means.
In 2011, Glenn Packiam wrote an article where he pointed out the difference between cheerleading and worship leading. If your only goal from the platform is to get people to raise their voices, hands and intensity, then you might be a good cheerleader.
The difference between a cheerleader and worship leader is that a worship leader will be more concerned with Christ in our midst than hands in the air. He wrote, “As worship leaders, our role is to call attention to Christ not elicit a response.”
If you feel that the response in worship is lacking, the solution will always be this: point to Christ. Tell what He has done. Sure, you might really need to turn up the drums and bass guitar. Sure, you may need to tell your lighting tech to make the transitions a little more smooth. Sure, you may need to tell your vocalist to stop counting the rafters while the Communion meditation is being given.
But if you find that all your efforts to curate a moment of worship don’t seem to be generating the response for which you’ve prayed (assuming you’ve done that), then it’s probably time to point to the work of Christ…again, and again, and again.
The truth is, originality is overrated. “No one is truly original.”
Those are the words of one of my guitar heroes, Phil Keaggy. In my opinion, he’s one of the most creative and original guitar players I’ve ever heard, yet even he was influenced by others.
When we plan worship services to shape and disciple our people, I don’t believe we need to bear the unnecessary burden of being original. It’s okay to simply aim to tell the Good News again, just maybe from a slightly different angle.
If you feel that the response in worship is lacking, the solution will always be this: point to Christ.
God had the wisdom to know when to stop creating. After six days, our infinitely wise God said, “Enough.” Can you imagine what kind of chaos our universe would be in had God not had that kind of wisdom? I believe there comes a point when we, who are made in the image of our creative God, try to create and create and create, but eventually come to a breaking point of exhaustion.
If anything, God knows how to appreciate repetition.
I have often heard preachers use their glorified imagination in describing the Creation account of Genesis. They paint pictures of God thoroughly enjoying the process of every sunrise, every flower opening up, every twinkling star. It’s as if God is saying, “Do it again!” Perhaps we can learn from our God to enjoy what has been created a little more.
Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I’m not proposing we stop writing new songs. The Scriptures give us a clear command to sing a new song (Psalm 33:3). I’m not saying we should order a cease-fire on all new expressions of worship.
Simply consider this a gentle encouragement to not drive yourself mad in an attempt to be creative Sunday after Sunday. Trust that the presence of Christ in our midst by His Spirit is enough to accomplish His will.
God’s worthiness is inexhaustible. Our creativity isn’t, which is why I look forward to the day when all sin barriers will be removed in worship. As we gather around the throne with the four living creatures, the Elders and the hosts of heaven, every tongue will find a new voice. Every nation will explore new expressions. Every tribe will uncover new ways to give glory to the King of kings.