Music has been a part of my life ever since I was young, playing instruments such as piano and violin, as well as singing for fun. However, it wasn't until I was in college when I started getting involved in musical worship. Worship is something we are called to do (see Colossians 3:16). Once I started serving in this capacity, I felt as though God had been preparing me for musical worship my whole life. I felt called to worship God through the musical abilities that He had given me. But after a year of serving as a worship leader, I felt burnt out. I had often heard about how real worship was depicted in the Bible, and had even sometimes talked about it myself, but at this time, I had felt completely separated from that. Ironically, things changed when I stepped down from worship team. My perspective on worship was flipped on its head. During this time, I discovered some important things about serving on a worship team.
1) Worship was bondage.
I found myself restricted by all these rules that I was forced to follow. I tried to follow everything my peers told me, and I had to jump through hoops in order to please the church leadership. Our church was being hosted and funded by the church whose building we rented, and so even though we had no personal relationship with one another, we had to do things their way or risk losing a space to have our service.
2) There was no joy in worship.
When you get burnt out, there’s nothing to enjoy in any aspect of worship. The practices become tedious and frustrating, the relationships between band members become strained, and Sunday services just feel like a repetition of the same thing over and over again. I can honestly say it was one of the lowest points of my spiritual life. I didn’t look forward to worshiping God, but rather I just wanted Sundays to be over so I wouldn’t have to do it again. I was merely continuing to serve out of obligation.
3) It wasn’t about God.
This is probably the most important thing that became clear to me after I stepped down as a worship leader. I had always thought that if I didn’t make it about me, it would be about God. But that’s not always true. I found that I was making the worship not about God, but about the band, the sound, and the church itself. I would focus so much on trying to please others with the way things were run, from the songs we sang to the instruments we used, that the worship became all about following a set of rules.
I will also praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praises to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel. My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed.
1) Worship was freeing.
Maybe sometimes rules come with serving on church leadership, but that doesn’t mean it should take away from your personal experience of worship. I found myself finding freedom in singing praises to God. Knowing that I was worshiping the God who freed mankind from the bondage of their sin was a thought that made me feel completely unhindered. On a personal level, this resounded with me because I had felt shame in stepping down and not serving, but the more I reflected on the freedom God gave me from my personal sin, the more freedom I felt in worship.
2) There was joy in worship.
Once I stepped out of leadership, I was able to rediscover the joy I had in worship that made me love it so much in the first place. For me, it was more than just singing songs; it was a personal space with God that no one could intrude or interfere. Words of truth began to speak, not just lyrics on a screen. This is what it should have been from the start, but I had lost sight of that.
3) It was all about God.
Like I said before, this was the most important thing that I learned during this time. Worship has to be all for God, giving praise, worship, adoration, and thanks to Him and Him alone. It is dangerous to sing praises with your lips and worship an idol in your heart at the same time. Once that became clear to me, I no longer had to worry about pleasing others, and I was able to focus completely on God.
What’s interesting is that one fact changed everything else that I mentioned above. Because it was about God, it was freeing. Because it was about God, there was joy in worship. BECAUSE it was all about God, I rediscovered what worship was truly meant to be. And I thank God for revealing it to me.