Human beings are emotional beings, to say the very least. Some of us are more emotional than others. Our emotional state plays a role in how we worship and what we exude when we worship. If you are feeling sad about a specific issue, you tend to show this in some way, shape, or form. It’s the same way when you are excited or happy. Worship is an action that is deeply rooted, for some, in emotion. However, worship was designed to be a spiritual act. John 4:24 tells us “God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in Spirit and in truth.” This verse is very clear about how a believer “must” worship God (the truth aspect of worship is something that I’m not going to attempt to tackle today. If I did, this would be less like a blog and more like a novel. The spiritual side of worship, however, is something we can discuss briefly without taking up your entire week. But I digress). If worship must be done in Spirit, so must the leading aspect. If a worship leader’s role in services is just that, worship leading, then their actions and intentions must be rooted in the Spirit. Some work off of emotion, but one cannot fulfill his or her role as worship leader until they are lead by the Spirit.
When I was around seventeen years old, I began leading worship in my local assembly. At that moment, I was thrust into this position out of need. There had been a change in work schedules for our long-standing worship leader and I was chosen to fill this position on a limited basis. Being the age that I was, and my maturity level, I didn’t fully understand the gravity of what I was doing. I grew up loving music. I started bass lessons when I was seven years old. From there, things began to take off. A love for music is something that runs in my family. All of my cousins are involved in music in some way. For me, music was an emotional experience. I would listen to all different types of music, and, throughout different genres, I would find the emotion attached to each. These emotions lead you on a musical journey, so to speak. With each crescendo came a new emotion. With each key change, and with each change in melody, you could feel your emotions being affected. Some people mistake a move in emotions for a move in the Spirit. We sometimes sing certain songs, whether they be fast or slow in tempo, just because of the emotions they provoke. This isn’t leading in the Spirit; this is an exploitation of human emotions. When a worship leader or music director does this, they cross the line from spiritual leader to performance-based artist. Performances aren’t, most of the time, spiritual events. If you were to go to a secular concert, your emotions would be moved, but your spirit would be left untouched. It’s this emotional experience that creates a connection with you and that artist. Although it is certainly a connection, it isn’t a meaningful one.
When people come into the church, they should experience something that transcends emotion and moves into a realm of the Spirit that they have never been. When worship is done properly, it creates a spiritual connection between the worshiper and God. Being lead by the Spirit, in terms of worship leading, does just that. Following the leading of the spirit takes you, and the people you are exhorting, to a place that is conducive to spiritual worship. This results in worship that isn’t rooted in emotion, but rather in the Spirit. This type of worship is the only way a believer can truly reach out and worship their Creator. Just as the scripture said, we “must” worship God in Spirit and in truth. The Spirit will lead us to a place that emotion can never take us.
We have to remember our purpose in terms of leading. We are there to create an atmosphere where lives and hearts can be changed. A few months ago, my pastor was preaching a sermon and began talk about the difference between emotional and spiritual connections. We, as believers, may come to a specific service and have an emotional experience during that service. It may happen during worship service, during altar call, etc. This emotional experience, however, isn’t something that will sustain you. He went on to say that for that moment you may feel great, but that emotion will soon wear off. However, if it goes beyond emotion and is a spiritual experience, it is something that will change you. This same thought can be attached to worshiping in the Spirit, rather than emotional exploitation.
This whole thought came about this past weekend when a friend of mine came to visit me here in Wilmington. My friend, Logan, is an incredible musician. He’s a gifted drummer. I grew up playing music with him in Virginia. He and I both were under the incredible leadership of Andy Ferguson. There were many, many services with me on bass, Logan on drums, and Andy on guitar. Something that Andy instilled in both of us is playing in the Spirit. This concept may seem weird to some, but for us, music and the Spirit are meant to be inseparable. Let me explain: Musicians in the world are driven by emotion and their love for music. Musicians in the church should be driven by the Spirit and their love for God. It’s this subject that got him and I talking about musical dynamics and being lead by the Spirit in those dynamics. (I promise I’m going somewhere here). Logan is a dynamic drummer that usually finds some part of the song to build. He does this usually under the unction of the Spirit. Songs move people, but without the Spirit, where are the people being moved to? In one of the services this past weekend, you could feel a shift beginning to take place in the Spirit. Without missing a beat, literally, Logan adjusted the dynamics of the song to meet that shift.
In these occasions, it takes a person who is sensitive to the Spirit to lead the music to a place where the dynamics of the music match that of the Spirit. When people feel that moving, and the music matches it with movements of its own, a wonderful thing takes place. The spiritual meets the emotional and an amazing exchange happens. We use musical dynamics to create and recreate emotions. When we use these same musical dynamics to create spiritual moments, it’s the perfect melding of spirit and emotion. Emotion drives the outermost man, while the spirit drives the innermost man. In this, worship is, and should be, spiritual at its root. It’s the worship leaders job to turn an emotional experience into a spiritual one. This only happens when the leader is lead by the spirit.
If we can capitalize on these spiritual worship experiences, we can aid people in their search for God and salvation. The way we lead them into worship can be the difference they need in experiencing God. Worship is meant to be a medium by which we can show God what we feel toward Him. We sometimes find it hard to show these feelings without emotion. Since we are emotional at our core, we exude emotion when we worship. It’s when this emotion meets the spiritual that true worship happens. However, we must follow after the Spirit, rather than emotion, because the Spirit is the only thing that can lead people to salvation, healing, and any other God-given thing that they may need. We must strive to be in tune with the Spirit to ensure that we will go where God is telling us to go. Many people have said, “I don’t want to go where God isn’t leading me.” Often times, this saying is meant to show their acceptance of God’s will in their lives. Likewise, I don’t want to go through one service where God isn’t leading. As leaders, we must strive to be lead by the Spirit. If we are lead by emotion, we do it to the detriment of our music department and our church body. This mindset of being lead by the spirit should bleed over into every aspect of our lives. A.W. Tozer wrote of Christians living their lives without thought of the spiritual realm that is continually around. We cannot be so self-absorbed that we forget that we are beings that occupy two realms in the same moment; a natural one that is full of time-consuming tasks and a spiritual one. We must be on guard so that our spiritual self is not constantly being overtaken by the natural. If we are to be effective, generation-changing leaders, we must be lead by the Spirit.