Leading Worship
Calvary Chapel worship leaders share their insights on leading worship in the church.

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What is worship? Calvary Chapel worship leaders share encouragement and lessons learned about leading a congregation in praise.

Story by Christmas Beeler
Photos by Andrew Chappell, Geraldine Wilkins, Justus Martin, and Steve Shambeck

Story originally from Issue 73 of Calvary Chapel Magazine

A Heavenly Calling

“I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it … the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.” 1 Corinthians 3:10b, 13b

“At a recent worship conference, Brian Weed of CC Philadelphia, PA, shared that worship leaders should “take heed” how they serve for several reasons: “The realities we work in are so huge: It’s God’s house. They are God’s people. God’s Spirit is present when we sing. Jesus Christ Himself is there. That’s sobering: We sing in the presence of Jesus as if He were standing bodily on the stage next to us.”

Secondly, Brian related, “Our work will be tested by fire. God takes what we do personally; it reflects our esteem for His house. We can’t act cavalierly or let our personalities affect how we act before His bride, the Church. We’re building on the foundation of Christ.”

Instead of following the latest worship trends or the world’s approach to music, Brian said, “We need to ask, ‘Is this biblical?’ We are doing God’s work.” He added, “If we’re not thinking with the Holy Spirit’s wisdom, then we are liable to think the way the world does.” When that happens, he said, “We’ll end up building things that are burnt up in the presence of God. The Bible is the filter that we pass everything through.”

Crowd worshiping

Friends and family worship together at a Harvest America crusade.

Touching Christ

Pastor Joe Focht of CC Philadelphia shared, “Worship is important to me as a preacher because it sets the stage for the Word of God. It opens people’s hearts to be taught. Often, His healing work begins during the worship time.” An important transition happens during the praise and worship time, explained Joe, citing Psalm 100:4a: Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. He expounded, “You’re bringing people into His presence, transitioning them from the world they have experienced all week—their work, their kids, the stress and pain of life—to a different dimension: into His courts, preparing them to hear from the Lord.”

“Worship is important to me as a preacher because it sets the stage for the Word of God. It opens people’s hearts to be taught. Often, His healing work begins during the worship time.”

Leading a Team

Leading a worship team is not about making music but ministering to people, several worship leaders related. Amber Chieffe, one of the worship leaders at CC Merritt Island, FL, served under the late Mary Barrett before leading a team years later. Amber recalled, “Right before she died, Mary told me: ‘Make Him happy. Serve His people.’ That’s the heart of a true worship leader: Jesus’ pleasure first, His people’s needs second, our musical tastes last.”

Humility is key: “The worship leader should always be willing to take the last place or prepared to take the first place. I’ve been asked to lead, and asked to take the back seat—and I’ve learned to do both. I serve at the pleasure of the King. To be part of a team, you need humility, submission, and flexibility.” Amber enjoys seeing new team members sing lead, viewing her role as one of mentor instead of lead singer. “We should be creating other worship leaders, inspiring and empowering them to lead.”

Practicing worship songs

Amber Chieffe (right), CC Merritt Island, FL, practices among friends.

Cory Fulmer, worship pastor at CC Lexington, SC, also sees his role as a mentor and servant-leader to the worship team. “Pay attention to your team—how they are doing, what they are going through. Ask the Lord to open up conversations. Just listen—that’s hugely important when you’re serving with people.” He also tries to communicate with his team about vision and make sure they feel valued. “[Some may] feel like they don’t have a place or are being pushed out. I thank them for being willing and bringing their gifts to the table. I tell them that they always have permission to leave or take a break from the ministry; I don’t want them to feel pressured to perform.”

“Pay attention to your team—how they are doing, what they are going through. Ask the Lord to open up conversations. Just listen—that’s hugely important when you’re serving with people.”

Even in small churches, worship leaders should be open to helping others develop that gift. Cory reminded, “There may be other people who have that gifting and don’t realize it. As the worship leader, we don’t have the monopoly on worship, but we are called to oversee it. We have standards for those who serve in our worship ministry—that they are an example in their walk, that they are in the Word regularly—because we’re not only looking at their musical gifts but their spiritual gifts.” Cory also tries to prepare team members for being in the spotlight: “No matter who you are, criticism is eventually going to come. It’s just going to happen. Don’t get discouraged.”

Spirit-Led Worship

Leading worship is a work of the Holy Spirit. “The feeling that you’re not up to the task never leaves you,” confessed Brian Weed. “We are living out the love that is between us and Christ when we worship Him. It’s not only one of our most powerful witnesses to the world, but it’s one of the most powerful experiences of our bond with Christ here on earth. You can get overwhelmed that God gathers us into His work and uses us.”

Alex Ortiz, a musician who serves in worship at CC Philadelphia, shared, “So many worship leaders think they have to follow the latest trends—funky haircuts, skinny jeans, sounding like a secular artist. But why should we copy the world? God has given us diverse gifts; we’re a diverse people.” Often times, worship leaders mistakenly think they need to create an emotional experience for people, he said: “What happens as a result of this manufactured worship? It’s like a sugar high. You feel good for a little bit, and then—boom—it goes away, the feeling fades. But worship is not a one-day-a-week thing. It’s a lifestyle.”

He cited Amos 5:23-24, in which the Lord is offended by the impure offerings of His people: “Take away from Me the noise of your songs, for I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. But let justice run down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.” True worship should be sincere, Alex explained, flowing from a life of following Christ. “True praise puts us in communion with God, makes us aware of His presence.”

Bobby Bemis leading worship

Bobby Bemis and Nia Hendricks lead the CC Fort Lauderdale worship team.

“True praise puts us in communion with God, makes us aware of His presence.”

Genuine and Wise

Worship leaders should be genuine and wise, allowing God to speak through them during worship. “God is worthy of our praise regardless of our circumstances or how we feel,” Alex observed. “There are times to pour out what God is doing in your heart—there’s a victory there, a testimony. We don’t need to pretend we’re perfect.”

Cory said, “There’s a balance between being transparent to the point of crumbling before everyone and not putting on a fake happy face. It’s okay to be ourselves, but we want the focus to stay on Christ. You need discretion about how to speak in a congregational setting: not sharing the intimate, personal details of your struggles, but being free to let God use us to talk about what we may be going through—or others are going through—in simple, non-specific words. Keep it general, about grace or forgiveness, or a word of encouragement.”

Most of all, Cory advised, “Be genuine and be led by the Holy Spirit. You don’t want worship to be too regimented, or to be so worried about what people think that you quench the Spirit. Sometimes I don’t say much on a Sunday morning [between songs], and that’s fine because the Holy Spirit didn’t give me anything to say. Be okay with moments of directed silence, letting people be still for a moment and allowing God to speak to their hearts.”

“Be genuine and be led by the Holy Spirit. You don’t want worship to be too regimented, or to be so worried about what people think that you quench the Spirit. ”

 

Myanmar worship

Pastors and missionaries in Myanmar praise God together; many in that country are persecuted for their faith in Christ.

Created to Praise

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Romans 12:1 (ESV)

Sometimes believers can look at leading worship as their identity, Amber warned: “We need to remember that music is not worship; your life is worship. Whether you sing or not, living to please the Lord is worship. Whatever He asks us to do—take care of our children, support our husbands—that is worship.”

Alex agreed: “True praise blesses God. He created us to be intimate with Him. He gives our lives purpose. We weren’t created to be a worship leader but to give God praise, whether that is behind a mic or not. Worship is also when you’re by yourself, giving God glory.”

 

All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version.

© 2020 Calvary Chapel Magazine. All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.

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