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The Art of Exhortation

We must be careful, though, that we do not abuse our privilege of exhorting the people. Some worship leaders have become so “preachy”during the worship time that their pastors have forbidden them to do anything but lead in singing. Our exhortations should be kept short and to the point. We should not simply repeat the words of the song at hand but should contribute something unique that will augment what the current song is saying.

Most worship leaders are able to function well when everything is going fine. But what do we do when we encounter rough waters? How should we feel and act when nothing seems to get the worship service “off the ground,” and the worship ends in what we perceive to be a failure? These times are never easy, but there are some principles that will help guide us through them, and they can contribute to our learning and development.

Worship leaders seem to be continually frustrated with those who are unresponsive in worship. People will refrain from openly worshiping with all their hearts for a variety of reasons, but one key reason is because of the natural tendency of people to be inhibited in a public gathering, unless it is socially acceptable to be enthusiastic (for example, at a sports event or a political rally). In our society, to be socially acceptable in a religious convocation, one should be very conservative and refined. Church is not thought of as a place to be enthusiastic and excited; “church” seems synonymous with “quiet and dignified.”

“Some churches encounter the problem of their worship style being offensive to visitors. Some people will always be ‘offended’ by the genuine move of the Spirit, and that is similar to the ‘offense’ our worship incurs.”

Individuals will be even more inhibited if they do not know anyone in the church. Since many people have difficulty being open and communicative with someone as close to them as their spouse, we can expect them to be even more introverted in a public place of worship. If worship leaders do not understand these social ramifications in worship, they will become annoyed and frustrated at the people’s unresponsiveness.

The challenge to the worship leaders, through the prophetic anointing of the Holy Spirit, is to help the congregation open their hearts to God’s love. When we find that nothing works, our natural and immediate reaction is “What am I supposed to do??” This is the time when we must hear from god for that specific situation and not only discern what is holding back God’s people but also know how to initiate a solution. It is one thing to know what the problem is; it is quite another thing to have the godly wisdom to deal with that problem. How reassuring it is to know that we can ask the lord for a “word of knowledge” to reveal the problem and also a “word of wisdom” to know what to do about it. No amount of preparing song lists will equip us to minister effectively to these types of problems. But time spent in prayer will cultivate the sensitivity that is necessary to discern the Spirit’s guidance during the worship service.

“Genuine forms of praise and worship will not be repulsive to those whose hearts are pure before God. On the other hand, we can be boisterous and insensitive to culturally unacceptable forms of expression.”

When we are looking over the congregation to see how the people are participating, it can be unnerving if we see several folds who appear to be “out of it.” We must not become disconcerted by the appearance of people. I remember being part of a worship team in one service in which a certain gentleman scowled at us for the duration of the service. I was convinced he had barely tolerated the entire thing. Afterward, however, he was very warm in expressing his sincere appreciation to us. That taught me the important lesson that we cannot always “read” someone’s receptivity by the expression on his or her countenance. Some people can thoroughly enjoy a worship service but look miserable throughout. If the expressions on the people’s faces discourage us, let’s stop looking at them! We can place our affection on the Lord, radiate his joy, and stop fretting about people’s response or lack thereof.

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Category: Fall 2000, Ministry

About the Author: Bob Sorge served as a pastor for thirteen years, as well as a music director at Elim Bible Institute, NY. Now he bases his writing and traveling ministry in Kansas City, Missouri, where he lives with his wife, Marci, and three children. Author of the widely acclaimed, Exploring Worship, Bob has written numerous books that have been deeply influenced by his journey through a sustained personal crisis. Among his most noted works are the titles, The Fire Of Delayed Answers, Pain, Perplexity and Promotion, and Secrets Of The Secret Place.

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