I’ll never forget a story I was told when I was twelve about my big sister in the congregation at a youth service. She happened to have her hands in her pocket as she was singing, and got tapped on the shoulder by the worship co-ordinator and told off because it was deemed as “an unacceptable posture” in worship. She was really upset, and I can still remember the feeling of indignation and righteous anger I had on her behalf - how dare someone judge the way she worshipped based on her body language. It was damaging.
It was only when I was sitting in one of the first sessions on the 10,000 Fathers intensive when Aaron was delivering some really challenging teaching that it hit me right between the eyes. I was so upset about this happening to my sister all those years ago, but the reality was that I had been doing the same thing to others for many years. I hadn’t gone as far as tapping someone on the shoulder and having a go at them for it, but it had been happening in the mutterings of my heart - just as bad.
I think if we are all completely honest, we’d probably admit that we judge people based on their outward behaviour. I know that as a worship leader, it especially easy to look out at a congregation and see people just standing there, maybe sitting down or not looking like they are engaging and making snap judgments based on what is seen. I would even go as far as arrogantly assuming that they didn’t have as deep a faith as mine because their outward expression was not as exuberant and obvious as mine.
Thankfully, God puts people in our lives who speak truths to challenge us, and this was one such moment for me. I was deeply convicted about my judgement in this area, and knew that I needed to repent. I then needed to look deeper and be willing to understand that people respond differently and different expressions of worship are just as valid, because it’s not about the outward expression, but the posture of our heart.
I stepped down from leading worship for several months at this time as I felt God needed to help realign my vision and learn how to see others truly through His eyes, appreciate and love the differences I saw.
As I started on this journey I felt God take away my burden of frustration as I began to realise that I was, in fact, surrounded by people with a beautiful depth of faith, incredible gifts of prayer, wisdom and faithfulness, and who had persevered through so much. These people needed the encouragement to share these gifts, be released into them and the incredible and unique callings on their lives. My focus on expressions of faith and worship meant that I missed.
I started to realise that I needed to find ways in congregational worship that engaged people and helped them in their journey with God and I should not be dragging them, unwillingly, to dance in the aisles and jump for joy if that was not their character. I am learning to have realistic expectations and not fall into the trap of thinking that quieter ways of worshipping mean any less dedication to God.
I am so glad that I am learning that people can catch a vision and be stirred by the Holy Spirit without it manifesting in the same way. It doesn’t have to look overtly loud and expressive to be deep. As a worship leader I have learnt to ask the questions: Where is my congregation coming from? What is their culture? How do they best engage with others? and how do they connect with God? My job is not to make them fit into a one-size-fits-all box, but to help release them in who they are, in their gifts and character and in their expressions of worship. It’s an ongoing journey of learning and I need to remain humble by relying on God and being in community with others.