Worship Mythbusters: Leading worship for response versus reaction

The myth of leading worship for a reaction rather than a response…

You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 2 Corinthians 2:2-3

Instead of programming for a reaction in worship, I believe it is better to lead to a response. Reaction implies manipulation to get your people in a worship service to behave a certain way in the moment. Response means you lead the congregation to make a choice that hopefully extends beyond the moment. It is a choice, made with inspiration as well as thought. The idea of reaction is that people simply live in that moment, with no thought that they are being led to make a choice that has an impact on the trajectory of their lives.

The issues about volume, worship style, and other programming elements often look the same in the conversation. However, the goals are quite divergent. Where one does not take responsibility for the lasting impact the other owns a piece in the discipleship process of real people.

Yes, in a large group it is not an entirely adequate space in time to disciple people. Jesus spoke to large and small groups and to his friends. Worship leading is like this, too. Whether with a friend at the coffee shop, discussing faith at a small group study or singing with them from the platform the goal is to lead. Real leadership and discipleship will carry over to every venue, even if your gifting is not equally strong in each respectfully.

What this means is that just because you can get a reaction from the platform it does not mean you can claim anything but a reaction if the results for your ministry over time do not have the end in mind to help see people move closer to the image of Jesus. Yes, the craft of guitar tone, vocal technique, worship flow, and production all matter. But, are they the goals or the tools?

Manipulation occurs when charisma is divorced from character. A magnificent orator can wow a crowd, but does the effect bring lasting life-change or momentary goose bumps? Our worship leadership is indeed valued too often for the hairs on the back of the neck, but is that all there is? And, is that the evaluation we are happy to proclaim?

Often it is a sacrifice to even put on a decent worship set for your local church. But, does that mean we should sell our efforts short by settling for the isolation of the platform? What is better is to see how what we do in public is important. The other extreme is to not value public leadership gifts.

Often when people say “worship is not about you” they love to remind the worship leader that with that loaded statement it means his or her gifting is not important. Well, it is important. The platform gifting simply must be put into context. Balance is a goal, not to deride those who God gifts to be in the spotlight.

With that being said, let’s not let the spotlight be the goal. It would be better to leave a legacy of lives moved to greater love of Jesus than simply a worship song hitting the top 25 CCLI charts or for a worship CD to be widely played and loved.

The resume of our leadership as worship leaders has to be that of Paul’s. Is the work of God through us engraved on hearts of real people or is it in bragging rights about our worship band?

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Rich Kirkpatrick

Rich Kirkpatrick

Writer, Speaker, and Musician. Rich Kirkpatrick was recently rated #13 of the “Top 75 Religion Bloggers” by Newsmax.com, having also received recognition by Worship Leader Magazine as “Editor’s Choice” for the “Best of the Best” of blogs in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

15 comments

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  5. Love It! You make some very good points. While there are always elements of technique when dealing with an audience, response is the godly and Spirit led way for sure. Our job as worship leaders is to lead people to the throne, and that’s a response, not to manipulate their emotions to a different end. The techniques help, for sure, but used with the right heart we can see God do amazing things. As I teach worship leaders around the world I teach them the techniques but also the responsibility of service and guiding the people into true worship.

    1. This morning at the worshiptogether.com workshop I posed the question: “what will we do that will last 3 months or beyond?”

  6. Love It! You make some very good points. While there are always elements of technique when dealing with an audience, response is the godly and Spirit led way for sure. Our job as worship leaders is to lead people to the throne, and that’s a response, not to manipulate their emotions to a different end. The techniques help, for sure, but used with the right heart we can see God do amazing things. As I teach worship leaders around the world I teach them the techniques but also the responsibility of service and guiding the people into true worship.

    1. This morning at the worshiptogether.com workshop I posed the question: “what will we do that will last 3 months or beyond?”

  7. Love It! You make some very good points. While there are always elements of technique when dealing with an audience, response is the godly and Spirit led way for sure. Our job as worship leaders is to lead people to the throne, and that’s a response, not to manipulate their emotions to a different end. The techniques help, for sure, but used with the right heart we can see God do amazing things. As I teach worship leaders around the world I teach them the techniques but also the responsibility of service and guiding the people into true worship.

    1. This morning at the worshiptogether.com workshop I posed the question: “what will we do that will last 3 months or beyond?”

  8. Love It! You make some very good points. While there are always elements of technique when dealing with an audience, response is the godly and Spirit led way for sure. Our job as worship leaders is to lead people to the throne, and that’s a response, not to manipulate their emotions to a different end. The techniques help, for sure, but used with the right heart we can see God do amazing things. As I teach worship leaders around the world I teach them the techniques but also the responsibility of service and guiding the people into true worship.

    1. This morning at the worshiptogether.com workshop I posed the question: “what will we do that will last 3 months or beyond?”

  9. Love It! You make some very good points. While there are always elements of technique when dealing with an audience, response is the godly and Spirit led way for sure. Our job as worship leaders is to lead people to the throne, and that’s a response, not to manipulate their emotions to a different end. The techniques help, for sure, but used with the right heart we can see God do amazing things. As I teach worship leaders around the world I teach them the techniques but also the responsibility of service and guiding the people into true worship.

    1. This morning at the worshiptogether.com workshop I posed the question: “what will we do that will last 3 months or beyond?”

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