worship service

Worship Leaders, Get Rid of Your Green Room

Performers on stage, whether actors or musicians, usually have a “Green Room” designated for them to use when they are not on stage. In this room there are comfortable chairs, food and water. It is a place they can escape and be separate from the audience. Many larger churches today have green rooms for their worship musicians. Between multiple services church musicians can relax and have conversations with others on the team. Sometimes it is a place a worship team goes during the sermon portion of the service. This particular arrangement sets a poor model for how a worship ministry should operate. The worship leader and team are servants to Jesus and to the church and should carry out their roles with great humility among the congregation. Using a green room can cause your congregation to see the team as a separate, elite group of performers instead of a team that is serving Jesus and the people.

Yes, the worship team often does need a place to leave their things, check on equipment and seek refreshment, but it is not a place the team should camp out. Even though a worship team member may not be the main worship leader, he or she is still considered a worship leader because they are on the platform in front of the congregation assisting with the worship music.

Worship has a vertical and horizontal aspect to it.  Through our corporate worship we offer a sacrifice of praise to our great God.  We strive to bring him glory for who he is and what he has done for us. Our services should also have a horizontal aspect where people are genuinely encouraged in their walk with Christ. Hopefully, we are doing well bringing glory to God, but how are we doing in the building up of our people? Focus on the congregation should go beyond what happens on the platform.

What is a worship leader to do with a team that has a green room philosophy on Sunday mornings? Here are a few suggestions on helping your worship team see their role at the church:

1.  The worship leader leads by example. If you want your team to see how they should use their “off-platform” time on Sunday morning, you must model that behavior for them.

2. The worship leader should get involved in a small group ministry on Sunday morning if possible. It may mean only being in the study time for 30 minutes or less, but there is a connection with people. Expect your worship team members to be involved in a small group (Sunday school, weekly home Bible studies). Here is where they can build relationships beyond the worship team.

3. The worship leader should organize the rehearsal time on Sunday morning so that there is extra time available before the worship service or between the services. This will allow the worship team to be in the congregation prior to the service to greet and encourage people who are arriving for the service.

4. The worship leader should encourage the team to move out to the congregation once they have finished the musical portion of the service. Rather than going off the platform into a back room, have the team walk out into the congregation and find a place to listen to the remaining of the service. Some may think this is distracting but it shows support for the preaching portion of the service and acknowledges the team’s need for spiritual nourishment just like the rest of the congregation. If your church has multiple services on Sunday, I am not advocating that the worship team should sit in the congregation for all services.

5. Worship leaders should teach their teams the meaning of biblical worship and the team’s role in the worship service. The musical portion of the service is not a performance.  I would encourage worship leaders to not use the term “stage” with their teams.  It is a platform. Semantics, I know, but it could help with the team’s view of their role.

6. Worship leaders should lead with a great amount of humility, show servant leadership, and teach their teams to do the same.

7. Worship team members should strive to build relationships with many in the congregation on Sunday mornings.  Sometimes the worship leader has to strongly encourage their team members to pursue relationships with those in the congregations. Musicians in general can be introverted and often this is displayed the minute they move off the platform. 

8. The worship team’s effectiveness in ministry is not limited to their leadership on the platform. Sometimes they are much more effective in encouraging the congregation with conversations they may have before or after a service than in their platform leadership.

Worship leaders, if you currently have a green room, don’t make it comfortable. Take out the chairs and make it a “stopping off place” rather than a “camping out” place. In fact, don’t call the room a green room. Much of worship leadership is about influence. Each week we strive to encourage, edify and admonish the saints through our worship leadership, and this happens on the platform and in the congregation before and after the service.

Dr. Greg Brewton is a professor and chair of the Department of Biblical Worship at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY.

Worshiping in the Dark

I am not usually an advocate of worship services where the congregational lighting is very dim. In a dark congregational worship area, it is easy for individuals to feel they are worshiping alone. Singing in worship services is a corporate activity; something brothers and sisters in Christ do together.

Although not a normal congregational gathering, a spontaneous worship service occurred in a Philippian jail in Acts 16. Here we see Paul and Silas praying and singing in the dark at midnight. The overarching emphasis of this passage demonstrates how the Gospel message is unstoppable even when the messengers are imprisoned. In the midst of this great truth we see another principle that speaks of the hope and trust these men placed in God when faced with trial and jail.

In that dark prison they held an informal worship service.

Paul and Silas were in Philippi for several days sharing the gospel story. They were troubled by a certain slave girl who, on a number of occasions, called out to the crowd saying that Paul and Silas were servants of God proclaiming salvation. This slave girl was a fortuneteller and through her fortune telling she provided income for her owner. One day Paul commanded the evil spirit working in this slave girl to come out and immediately she lost her ability to fortune tell. As a result, the slave owner stirred up a great commotion which eventually led to Paul and Silas being brought before the magistrates in Philippi. They were accused, stripped, beaten with rods and put into the inner prison with their feet fastened in stocks.

Acts 16 says that “about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison was shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” The jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved.” And they said believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:25-31).

The Lord was in the midst of all this and used this seemingly difficult and possibly deadly event to do something miraculous – bring the jailer and his household to faith in Christ.

I have often wondered what my response would be if placed in a similar position as Paul and Silas in this dark jail. Would I be praying and singing hymns to God?  I think there are several implications that we can glean from this passage.

1.   Christians have a reason to sing no matter the circumstances. Despite the conditions in which we find ourselves, our worst problem in life has been solved – we were dead in our sins but have been brought to new life in Christ (Ephesians 2:1-9). For the believer there is always the hope we have in Christ. Despite being in stocks in a dark prison Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns.

2.   When we sing it reminds us of the greatness of our God and the wonder of the Gospel. Worshiping in the midst of life’s difficult times encourages us and keeps our focus on Christ.

3.   We sing with eternity in view despite the outward circumstances of our lives. In this life we may have family conflicts, health issues, job stress or the sorrow of the loss of a loved one. These may seem like real chains but we need to be reminded that in Christ we are freed from the chains of sin and death. In John 16:33 Jesus says “in this world we will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.”  We need to keep our eyes on Christ.

4.   Our worship is a witness to a lost world showing the salvation and hope we have in Christ. In Acts 16:25 we observe the other prisoners listening to Paul and Silas praying and singing. It also seems that the jailer knew enough about what Paul and Silas were sharing that he immediately asked them how he could be saved.

5.   Worship is especially appropriate in difficult situations. Our worries and anxieties need to give way to worship. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts (Colossians 3:15-16).

These verses give us a wonderful picture of believers who trusted God’s sovereignty in their lives so much that they could worship in a dark prison at midnight. As Christians, we are not promised that an earthquake will occur and break our chains freeing us from all difficulties, but we are promised that Christ will never leave us or forsake us (John 14:18, Romans 8:31-38). This assurance should cause us to keep our focus on Christ and worship Him in the midst of trials. Lord, let us worship like Paul and Silas. Amen.

Dr. Greg Brewton is a professor and chair of the Department of Biblical Worship at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY.

A Sample Vision for Worship and the Creative Arts

Worship and Creative Arts Ministry

Christian worship is both the corporate and private response of a redeemed people to the revelation of the triune God found in the Word, to the glory of the Father, by the mediation of Jesus Christ the Son and his atoning work, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The church gathers each week united in the Holy Spirit to glorify God the Father through the blood of Christ poured out on Calvary. The gospel shapes corporate worship practice by providing the Christ-centered foundation by which men and women worship God in Spirit and truth for his glory and for their own edification through biblical, congregational elements. The worship pastor’s task, then, is to help provide a renewed glimpse of the gospel each week through biblical and artistically creative means.

Worship should be gospel-shaped, theologically enriching, congregationally driven, missionally focused, and centered on the Word, ultimately uniting believers with Christ and one another in Spirit and truth (John 4:23-24).

Gospel-Shaped Worship

Union with Christ in Spirit results from an authentic encounter with the triune God as the Holy Spirit guides worship of the Father through Christ. Worshipers seeking to engage with God must understand this Trinitarian source, therefore worship must paint a full picture of God, not neglecting any of the persons. Through worshiping Jesus, believers “who [are] joined to the Lord becom[e] one spirit with him” (1 Cor 6:17; cf. John 37b-39a; Rom 6:5). Participating in gospel-shaped worship is one of the primary ways in which believers unify their spirits with Christ. Re-presenting the gospel story of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation each week reminds Christians that “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness … so that through them [we] may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Pet 1:3-4). Our spiritual union with Christ through the workings of the Holy Spirit to the glory of the Father leads believers into worship.

Believers are not only unified with Christ through worship, but also with one another since “there is one body and one Spirit – just as [we] were called to the one hope that belongs to [our] call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph 4:4-6).

Theologically-Enriching Worship

Worship must also be done in truth. Christians gather in worship to impart doctrine to one another through teaching, singing, praying, and artistic endeavors. Paul urged the church in Colossae to “let the word of Christ dwell in [them] richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in [their] hearts to God” (Col 3:16). Music and song are not just about the artistic expression of the worshiper as a response to God’s revelation but also about spiritual formation. The Word of Christ dwells richly among his people when they glorify God and edify one another through song and the arts. We disciple one another by singing the truth, and that truth is the Word of God. Through art, Christians declare truth for the glory of God. The gospel provides the firm foundation on which doctrinally rich, transformative, and fresh encounters with the one, true God take place. The eternal truth of God also connects Christians to the historical and global church.

Congregationally-Driven Worship

Christians congregating for worship are a continuation of the grand story of God’s chosen people living in the world. No Christian is isolated from the narrative of God’s redemptive plan for the world, and corporate worship is a vivid reminder of this fact. Believers of countless backgrounds, races, ethnicities, and cultures gather together to witness one another affirm the same truths and grow from participating in worship, discipling one another in the process. (Rev 7:9-10). True worship of the living God includes the redeemed from every nation and tribe.

Paul also reminds his readers that participation in worship holds utmost importance: “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them” (Rom 12:4-6a). Worship is not passive, but active. Christians should therefore employ their spiritual gifts in service to the Lord and the church body in a variety of ways (Rom 12:1-2).

Missionally-Focused Worship

One of the goals of corporate worship is to put words in the mouth of the people: battle cries, funeral dirges, victory chants, and songs for everything in between, to carry into everyday life and shape our devotion to the Lord. Through personal and corporate encounters with God, Christians are energized to proclaim and live out their faith to a lost and dying world. As Christians worship, the Word of God alone provides the transformative power for Christlikeness in the lives of God’s people. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17).

Word-Centered Worship

The Bible not only provides a clear picture of gospel-shaped worship, but it also regulates the approach to worship. Through the Word, God mandates what must take place during corporate worship. The Bible depicts worship practice through:

  • declaration with song and voice (Ps. 96, 150; 1 Cor 14:15; Eph 5:19; Col 3:16; Titus 2:11-15)
  • praying (Acts 2:42, 4:23-31, Eph 6:18)
  • public reading of Scripture (Ezra 8:3; 1 Tim 4:13)
  • teaching and preaching (Ezra 8:8; Acts 2:42, 5:42; 2 Tim 4:2)
  • service and the giving of resources (Acts 2:44-45; 2 Cor 9:6-7; Phil 4:16)
  • baptism (Acts 2:41; Eph 4:5)
  • observance of the Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:42; 1 Cor 11:17-24)
  • exercise of spiritual disciplines (Acts 13:2-3; 1 Tim 4:7)

This regulation may appear restricting, but in reality, it allows for creativity within biblical bounds. The Lord delights in the creative nature of his people, and Christians glorify God through creative endeavors. What is crucial to this regulative principle of worship is the centrality of the Word to worship. The Word guides and shepherds man, while providing the substance of worship – the revelation of Jesus Christ. God directly reveals himself to man through the Scriptures, and so man’s understanding of who God is and the redemptive work of Christ comes from the text. God’s revelation fuels and appropriates man’s response. The Bible gives us glimpses into the lives of those who had direct encounters with God (Ex 33:17-23; 2 Chr 5-7; Isa 6, Acts 4:42-47; Rev 4:8-11) and lets us see how people in the Scriptures responded to God’s revelation in various scenarios. The responses always take the form of the elements listed above. The Scriptures, then, provide the guiding principles for worship.

The Word made flesh, Jesus Christ – eternally begotten of the Father and giver of the Holy Spirit – is the source, mediator, and object of our worship, now and forevermore. “For his steadfast love endures forever and his faithfulness to all generations” (Psalm 100:5). May we, his redeemed people, worship him now both in Spirit and truth by the power of the gospel!

Austin Collins serves as the research assistant at the Institute for Biblical Worship. He and his wife Liz currently lead worship at Harrison Hills Baptist Church in Lanesville, IN, while he pursues his Master of Divinity in Worship Leadership at Southern Seminary.

An Envious Eye Toward Football Fanatics

American football is in full swing. As I watch snippets of games and see the devoted fans worshiping...I mean cheering for their teams, I'm reminded of an interview I heard a few days before Super Bowl 49. The person being interviewed was a woman reporter who loved the NFL, and the host of the program led with a question that went something like this: "With all of the bad publicity the NFL is getting these days...a confused commissioner, the concerns of permanent brain damage and early onset Alzheimer's disease among retired players, several high profile stars being suspended or kicked out of the league for spouse and child abuse, and teams being accused of cheating, how can you enjoy something with that kind of reputation?" The reporter responded, "I am concerned about those things and others should be too, but I love being involved in something bigger than myself." When I heard that response, I thought, "You've got to be kidding me!" This woman, who sounded like a sharp, articulate, highly-educated person, was saying that professional football was worth investing her time and energy in because it is “bigger than [herself].”

As I've thought about her response, I've wondered how many of the people who sit through our worship services each week would say that they love being involved in their church (or even Christianity for that matter) because it's bigger than themselves. And then a more startling reality began to dawn on me: there are fans of football teams and other sports that are more faithful, more expressive, and more committed "worshipers" of their teams than many of our congregants are worshipers of the One, True, Living God. Think just for a moment of the time and money it takes for them to get ready for one game. The painted faces, the elaborate costumes, the money spent on season tickets...not to mention the efforts and funds that go to tailgate parties and post-game celebrations. I scoff at their fanaticism, but in reality, there is a part of me that envies their devotion, because on a cultic/ritual level, they are great examples of dedicated worshipers.

 The prophet Malachi severely scolded the Israelites and in particular, the priests, for their lack of dedicated worship. He accused them of being bored with the worship of Yahweh. In fact, significant pen and ink is used by Malachi throughout the book to charge the chosen nation with devotion-less worship:

“You also say: “Look, what a nuisance!” “And you scorn it,” says the Lord of Hosts. “You bring stolen, lame, or sick animals. You bring this as an offering! Am I to accept that from your hands?” asks the Lord. “The deceiver is cursed who has an acceptable male in his flock and makes a vow but sacrifices a defective animal to the Lord. For I am a great King,” says Yahweh of Hosts, “and My name will be feared among the nations." Malachi 1:13-14

The warnings don't stop there in Malachi. Look what God says to the priests in Malachi 2:2: "’If you [priests] don't listen, and if you don't take it to heart to honor My name,’ says Yahweh of Hosts, ‘I will send a curse among you.’" Those are strong words about an appropriate heart and life attitude toward the worship of the living God. 

We understand that our worship is not acceptable to God because of our fervor or our devotion or any type of sacrifice that we make. No, we have something infinitely better! We have access to "boldly enter the sanctuary" to worship the God of the universe through and because of the blood of Jesus. (Heb. 10:19-20). The mind-blowing realization that we have been invited and sought out by the God of the universe (John 4:23) to worship Him and to know that our sins are forgiven through the blood of Christ should compel us to be the most devoted, enthusiastic, and authentic worshipers in the universe! And nowhere are we told that we have to paint our faces and wear ridiculous outfits!

A pro football team will never be able to withstand the weight of its fans worship. They will lose, players will embarrass themselves with sinful behavior, coaches will call dumb plays that result in game-ending interceptions, and someday, football will be no more. It is not something eternal. As Matt Papa reminds us, Jesus Christ is the only One who can bear up under the weight of our worship.

Each week during football season on the same mornings that the NFL has their services in multiple cities across America, people gather to worship the Lord Jesus Christ. May it be that those of us who lead worship would not only point our people to Jesus but remind them of the seriousness of worshipping Him, and that we would "take it to heart to honor His name." After all, gathering together to worship Jesus Christ and being transformed into His image really is something "bigger than ourselves."

Joe Crider

Dr. Crider is the Executive Director of the Institute for Biblical Worship and a professor of Church Music and Worship in the Department of Biblical Worship at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY. He also serves as Worship Pastor at LaGrange Baptist Church in LaGrange, KY.