“I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”
When I was 14 years old, my youth pastor came to me and asked me if I would like the opportunity to lead worship music for our youth group on a regular basis. “Are you kidding me?” I thought to myself. That was a dream come true. At that age I was paying people to let me lead worship music. I would’ve led worship music for a small group of cows if they’d asked me to. “Let me pray about it. Um, I’ll do it!” I excitedly told him. So, after much dialog and “jamming” with my peers, I formed a band of like-minded, undeveloped musicians and I (we) began the journey.
I discovered early on that I was pretty much God’s gift to my youth group (I wasn’t really, I just thought I was), so when an adult leader came to me one day with some advice on how to lead worship music, I didn’t receive his guidance too well. “Who does this guy think he is? I am the worship music leader! He can’t even play the guitar!” I thought. I listened to him, but I didn’t really listen.
Everything seemed to be going really great. I led worship singing every Sunday and every Wednesday for my peers, and people seemed to respond pretty well. I didn’t know much about leading worship music, but I did notice that some people closed their eyes when they sang and some even lifted their hands to the Lord. I knew these were good things, and I felt very blessed that the Lord was using me.
Then later my youth pastor came to me, much like that adult leader, but this time with a strong rebuke and a challenge to be a better worshipper of God in my personal life. It was a hard pill to swallow, but I knew that he that cared about me and believed in me, so I humbly received it. I started practicing the things he told me, and they actually worked! Corporate worship singing times became more powerful than ever before, God was moving in our youth group and in my heart, He was using me like never before, and that youth group became for me the launching pad for the ministry that I have today.
So you ask, “What did your youth pastor challenge you with, and what exactly did you begin practicing?” In Amos 5, God plainly and furiously tells the people of Israel that He is sick of hearing their songs when they are not living a single word of them. He says that He will not accept their offerings, and He only wants to see justice and righteousness. God is more concerned with how we live than how we sing. We can sing, “I love You, Lord” all day long, but those words are worthless if we do not love and serve one another!
If you love and serve people off-stage, they will listen to what you have to say on-stage. More importantly, God will listen. It will not be “noise” to Him. It will be a beautiful sound and an acceptable offering because it’s genuine. Leading worship music is about living a life of service and love. It’s about talking to that dude in the corner who has no friends. It’s getting to church early and untangling 45 mic cables. Leading worship music is about really listening to that person who has a lot of issues and who likes to talk. Leading worship music is setting up chairs before and after church. Leading worship music is hanging out with the sixth grader who smells bad. Leading worship music is a ministry.
My challenge to youth pastors: Give your students a chance. Let them lead the worship singing. Teach them, be patient with them, and ask the Lord for a lot of grace. I’m a huge supporter of that kind of system because I am a product of it.
My challenge to students who help lead worship music: BE TEACHABLE and set up chairs (serve).
My challenge to everyone else: lead people to worship God by serving them and showing them His love.