Forgive me if that sounds like a strange and rather unbecoming question for a major proponent of praise. However, for many of us as worship leaders, it is a question that lurks in the back of our minds week in and week out.
I have to admit I am very curious as to why no one ever really addresses the question of how much is too much or too little. How many songs are “just right” in one worship gathering? How long should the music portion of the service go? When do we begin to reign in an unusually “powerful” praise time and bring it to a close?
Cooking a Thanksgiving turkey bares some resemblance to our delimma. When cooking a turkey how does one know when it’s done? My wife uses a fancy meat thermometer inside her turkeys. When the thermometer reaches a certain temperature she knows the holiday turkey is ready to be removed from the oven. If she removes the turkey too early it will be undercooked and can make sick those who eat it. If she leaves it in the oven too long it will overcook and thus discourage anyone feeling very thankful for it, much less eating it!
Wouldn’t it be great if we had a “worship thermometer” stuck right in the middle of our praise sets on Sunday mornings? That way we would always get the length and intensity just right. We could always be sure our praise times leave them feeling full yet wanting more!
Just this past Sunday we had one of those amazing services where God miraculously moved and many responded. As the music leader it was, of course, my responsibility to both start the praise time and bring the praise time to a close. But as we reached the end of our planned song set, people began to sing even louder and participate even more passionately. What was I to do? Cut if off “as planned”? Or keep the praise going to make sure it was fully “cooked” (while trying not to overcook!)? I had a dilemma, for sure. So, at that moment, there was a very important check-list I needed to run in my mind and heart.
Here is the 10-question check-list:
- Did I pray and seek God’s direction over this praise set beforehand?
- Am I listening right now for God’s voice of direction?
- Will my going longer with the music portion take important time away from my pastor or others?
- What cues am I getting from my pastor (the main worship leader in the service) right now? Is he telling me to keep going or to finish up asap.
- How will a change in the order affect my band & choir, my production team and the people out there in the congregation?
- What do I need to verbally communicate at this moment to keep down confusion and encourage cooperation?
- Is there a specific song or service element (like asking for a testimony) that keeps coming to my mind at this moment, indicating the possible leading of the Holy Spirit?
- Am I willing to obey whatever God tells me?
- Am I willing to get out of the way and trust God to handle the outcome of whatever happens?
- Ultimately, whose service is this anyway, mine or God’s?
Exactly how much praise time is ideal in any given service is an important question. There is no cookie-cutter answer that works everytime. But prayerfully considering the questions above will help assure we don’t miss what God is wanting to do in each and every worship gathering of His saints.