“Worship” can be a complicated issue, and being a “worship leader” certainly comes with its own share of thorns and blessings. When “leading worship” is your profession as well as your passion, defining what “worship” looks like at home in every day life is often difficult. For our band, Leeland, we have the added nuance of being traveling musicians. As Christian musicians, we’re often leading worship in front of thousands of strangers and journeying from city to city, night after night. However, what we’ve been discovering is that “worship” happens onstage only when it’s present consistently in our daily lives. For us to lead our audiences to a deeper, more meaningful place, we must be committed worshipers ourselves at home, on the bus, and in our own congregations.
As sons of pastors, everyone in our band grew up around worship music, and when we were younger, that’s primarily how we defined worship—as music. We got involved in youth bands, started writing songs, and explored our faith with the creative gifts we’d been given. As we grew older, though, our parents began to teach us more about what real worship is—that it envelops and permeates our entire lives, our entire beings. It’s how we treat people, how we commune with God daily, how we serve—how much space in our lives is given over to God. That’s our worship.
Our worship gets tested the most within our families. Putting on a mask when you step on a stage is easy, but our parents and siblings – and now our wives! – see the real deal. We more easily lose patience and snap at the people we’re around every day – our flaws and failures are no surprise to them and we feel safe slacking off. But God calls us to give our lives away, to love as He first loved us. This means we need to make kindness a priority, serving our spouses and families and spending time together when we’re home.
We’re also discovering how important and amazing serving together can be. As we write this, our band has just arrived home from a mission trip with Food for the Hungry to Cambodia and Bangladesh. There was no greater joy than having our wives share those experiences with us, serving others together, and witnessing God’s hand at work in a place we’ve never seen before. With family, worship isn’t just about music. It’s about loving fully and completely, and sharing every aspect of our lives.
In addition to praying for one another, worship in our home church comes as a result of mentoring and accountability. For Jack and I, there are members of our parents’ church who changed our diapers as kids! They couldn’t care less about having our autographs or treating us like superstars – instead, they’re always there to keep us grounded and authentic. They have the right to speak into our lives, and thankfully, they share their wisdom and encouragement with us frequently. And even though we are still young, we’re finding more and more opportunities to do the same with the next generation. When we hit the road as a band, a new group of young adults stepped up to take on the duties of leading worship music at our church. We now have the privilege of walking in community with them, sharing our experiences, and hopefully encouraging them as they pick up the mantle of leading worship music in our home fellowship.
When we practice worship in our daily lives – with our families and our home church, both alone as individuals and among the community that knows us best – everything else seems to fall into place. It’s like you’re showing up to sing on Sunday morning to the Friend and Redeemer you’ve been communing with all week long. When we’ve let God rule in the nitty gritty of our lives, shining His light into every corner and drawing us closer to His Son, then singing songs of praise on stage and leading others into an attitude of worship is just a natural expression of who He has made us to be.
As a worship leader, picturing your ministry as what happens on stage or at the front of a church is easy. But the reality is, our real ministry is our life – living in God’s presence and letting Him invade every moment. That’s when worship becomes more real and deeper than we could previously imagine. That’s when, as Ezekiel tells us in the Old Testament, that God “will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)