Let me first start by helping us better define what Spirit led worship is NOT…
- First, it does NOT mean you get to prepare or practice less…if anything it means you need to prepare and practice MORE!
- Second, it does NOT mean you get to go off into your own personal “la la land” of worship and leave your congregation behind.
- Third, I know I am not speaking to the majority here, but it is NOT a time to show off. (I’ll explain this later in the blog)
So now that we know what “Spirit led” worship is not, we can head off in the right direction. Unfortunately, the Bible does not decipher between “regular worship” and “Spirit led worship” for us so we cant really go to the Scriptures and pull out an easy answer.
For me growing up, Spirit Led worship was always the alternative to stuffy, boring, planned to the “T”, structured—how “A type” people worship. As someone who has a hard time paying attention for long periods of time, the more structured a worship time, the more I felt like I wanted to scream and smash my head on the pew (this was totally my jr.high days). So by the time I started leading worship, some years later, I was drawn to the FREEDOM that “Spirit led” worship provided.
So what is “Spirit led Worship”? Well, here is my understanding: Spirit led worship is when the Worship leader/ team allows the Holy Spirit to go before them, lead, guide and execute the worship time. In my opinion, there are three levels of Spirit led worship.
- Level one is very basic. When planning the worship service, time is spent in prayer asking for the Holy Spirit to guide the leader to songs, scriptures or different elements in the service that will help the church meet Jesus during the worship time. Once the worship leader receives the direction of the Holy Spirit, the worship set is constructed and communication with the Spirit is stopped (I’m not trying to be a jerk…just being honest here) and the rest of the time is spent polishing the set, both musically and vocally. Song order is decided upon…and if there is any diversion from the planned set, it is severely frowned upon. You might even be called out for disobeying God..This is how a majority of our North American Churches do worship these days (90-95% planned).
- Level Two is more advanced: Level two takes the preparation from level one but during the service, the worship leader/team is open to the Holy Spirit’s leading. What I mean by that is that during the Worship Service, The Spirit may lead to not do a song, or to repeat a certain chorus or bridge over and over, or that there may be a time or prayer or scripture in the middle of a song that was not planned or even possibly just do a chorus or bridge from another song. Some of you just got super stressed and that’s ok! Moving from level one to level two is not meant to happen over night. It can take months or even years. It will take more practice and a heightened connection with the Spirit. But don’t get caught up in all of it though…because the main goal of leading worship is to increase our trust and faith in Jesus as we lead. As a worship leader, we should always be looking for new ways to push ourselves in our faith and reliance on Jesus. We should be afraid of getting comfortable in our worship service…because the mundane leads to atrophic worship, which then leads to the decay of our church. This style is increasingly becoming popular as a strong median (50-70% planned)
- Level three is usually what people understand as “Spirit led worship”. Usually the Worship leader/ team will have a repertoire of songs that they practice regularly and can perform very well. So instead of practicing all the time the week of the service, the worship leader/ team spends more time in individual and corporate prayer. They strive to be on the same page as each other and in sync with the Holy Spirit. The worship leader/ team may enter the worship service knowing a time span they has (ie. 45 min) and they may only have 2 songs agreed upon. But during the worship service, much time is devoted to prayer and the Holy Spirit leads the leader/ team to different songs/ scriptures/ choruses/ bridges that can be done to compliment the direction of the worship service. The next step in the service is not planned as the worship leader/ team is completely reliant on the Holy Spirit for direction. This style is something to be strived for but is not very common. (5-10% planned)
Now, ok lets be real here. How can worship that does not seek to push us into further reliance and faith in Jesus…be true worship? Wouldn’t that be “self dependent” of “self led” worship? But yet how many churches do we know, that are stuck in this rut? I don’t know how many times I have observed a worship service and left going, “wow they didn’t need God at all in that set…they just had to rely on themselves”. How is that pleasing to God? Sure we aren’t suppose to be showing off and drawing attention to ourselves like a concert, with drawn out instrument solos, or singing in a key or octave only you can hit, or playing a song that contains complicated words that most people have to google, to know what they mean -.-
So I guess what I am saying, is this; every worship leader/ team should learn how to lead by faith and look to increase their reliance on the Holy Spirit during their times of worship. I believe one of the main reasons why many of the churches here in North America have such bland…mundane…borning…”life sucked out of them” type worship, is not because of the songs they sing, or the style of music they play or even the instruments they use. It is a direct result of self-reliant worship…they have diminished the role and power of the Holy Spirit and his ability to overwhelmingly blow us away with a personal encounter with the Divine—that my friend is the goal of true Spirit led Worship.