The greatest challenge for today’s worship leader in a postmodern world is how to help individuals feel and think within the worship experience. These challenges cause trouble for the worship leader because they must try to blend different worlds together. In the book Experiencing God in Worship, Leonard Sweet, the author of the piece titled, A New Reformation: Re-Creating Worship for a Postmodern World, states “Here’s the point: In postmodern culture, the experience is the message. Postmoderns literally ‘feel’ their way through life. If postmodern worship can’t make people furiously feel and think (in the old ‘modern’ word, we would have said only ‘think’), it can’t show them how God’s Word transform the way we ‘feel’”(177).
With this understanding, it is vital for the worship leader to seek God’s direction for the Spirit to guide the worship process as stated here, “worship is not about style; it’s about spirit. If the ‘spirit’ isn’t right, presentation means little – no matter how contemporary or high-tech. Ten times zero is still zero. And, if the Spirit is there, presentation also means little – no matter how traditional or bookish” (Sweet, 181).
The worship leader’s job, with the help of God is to help the congregation address some of the problems facing worship today. First, the congregation needs to be given an understanding about the purpose of worship. In the book Experiencing God in Worship, George Barna in his piece titled, Worship in the Third Millennium, states, “Most adults will contend that a Christian has a responsibility to worship God. However, when asked to define what worship means, two out of three are unable to offer an appropriate definition or description of worship…For most Americans worship is to satisfy or please them, not to honor or please God” (15).
A worship leader must allow God to work through them to create a worship service that will grasp the attention of the worshipers and call them to interact with God. The worship leader must create an atmosphere that calls for individuals to thirst for God, and that can be difficult when trying to blend different music and artistic styles. It is important then for the leader to introduce changes, such as music, dance, video or other artistic mediums in the service in a gradual way, with much prayer and leading by the Spirit of God. Some will complain and that is unfortunately due to the fact that individuals think worship is more about them and their likes or dislikes. “The problem is that American Christians do not have a heart that is thirsting for an experience with God, eager to express gratitude and praise to him, and open to his response to their efforts to convey humility, appreciation, acknowledgement of his love and character, and joy in knowing and serving him” (Barna, 16).
A worship leader may also face difficulties because of the age and cultural differences within the worship services, along with the difference in music preferences. The step that can be taken to help is to teach the importance of worship. “Teaching individuals how to worship by helping them achieve a sense of God’s holiness, understand the meaning of worship, and commit to worshipping God is often necessary if more than just a scattered handful of attendees are to be engaged in real worship” (Barna, 25).
The greatest help the worship leader can give is to help individuals experience God in worship through the flow and choices made using different styles of music and artistic blends. The individual can then begin to move from the idea that worship is about one’s self and understand that it is more about giving to God. There is no one way of doing it, so each worship leader must seek to present what is needed for their congregation remembering that the most important factors are the leading of the Holy Spirit and prayer. Alas, with all changes, both good and bad, there will be individuals that will resist. The leader must not give up, but patiently help others see that the changes are not to move the church away from God, but to move his people closer to experiencing his presence.
Barna, George, et. al. Experience God in Worship. Loveland, CO: Group Publishing, Inc., 2000.