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I recently tweeted the following about a problem that exists in a lot of churches:

2 pet peeves: 1) Pastors who don’t engage in worship 2) Worship musicians who don’t engage with the Word

It seemed to resonate with a lot of people, and I wanted to elaborate on it a little because I think these are two big roadblocks for taking your church to a whole new level in worship.

1) Pastors who don’t engage in worship.
Pastors, you’re the primary worship leaders at your churches. And that’s even if you don’t have a lick of musical talent and your voice would offend people if they heard it.

Your church is never going to go further in worship than you’re going to lead it. And what you need to understand is that you set the tone not only with the Word but also by your example. Your worship before God is preaching a sermon on the greatness of God long before you ever open up your mouth to speak about God. And it’s a sermon people listen to and apply to their own worship. Immediately.

But this goes beyond your leadership. You will never graduate past your need to worship God. You’ve been called to preach, but you were created to worship. There isn’t an advanced level of Christianity where you no longer have to engage with God in passionate praise.

So don’t let your mind become so occupied with what you’re called to do—preach—that you lose sight of what you have been created to do—worship.

2) Worship musicians who don’t engage with the Word.
This is ultimately an honor issue. Yes, honoring your pastor is part of it. He’s been preparing for this all week, and one of the best ways you can support him is by actively responding to the Word.

But really, this is about honoring the Word of God. Just like your pastor, before you’re a musician, you’re a worshipper. And there is no such thing as true worship divorced from God’s Word.

The Word gives us a God worth worshipping. A God worth leading others to worship. And the intensity of your own personal worship and your effectiveness in leading others in theirs is directly related to your engagement with it.

So whether you’re preaching or playing music this weekend, choose to fully engage. Pastors, put your notes down and worship the God you’ve been studying about all week. Worship musicians, catch your breath for a minute, and then pick up your Bible, a pen, and press into the God who is the source of your creativity and talent.

And then watch as the worship in your church is taken to a whole new level.

Pastor Steven Furtick is the lead pastor of Elevation Church. He and his wife, Holly, founded Elevation in 2006 with seven other families. The church has been listed by Outreach Magazine as one of the fastest growing and largest churches in America. 

Pastor Steven holds a Master of Divinity degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also the New York Times Best Selling author of Crash the ChatterboxGreater, and Sun Stand Still.

Pastor Steven and Holly live in the Charlotte area with their two sons, Elijah and Graham, and daughter, Abbey.

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John E Miller

commented on Nov 3, 2011

I'm a little puzzled. Mr Furtick seems to equate, even restrict worship to the musical content of a service. Worship is far wider and deeper, coming from the heart and soul being occupied with God. It may be silent, vocal or musical or all three. Perhaps I have interpreted his remarks wrongly but that's how his description of worship appears here.

Keith B

commented on Nov 3, 2011

I'm also puzzled. He has publicly stated that his church is geared toward the lost. If you're lost, you're incapable of true worship until God saves you. Rom 3:10, Rom 8:7

Dr. Luke Kauffman

commented on Nov 3, 2011

Pastor Furtick is hitting a hot issue that must be addressed in local church worship. If we are negative toward his primary premise, we may need to worship the Lord to cleanse our critical spirits. I am so far uncomfortable with the tone of negativity that I am reading. Let's look for something profitable in the article and not emphasize disagreements. Yes, I can endure negativity in Christian conversation. As a leader, it is all around in Christian ministry, and it goes with the calling.

Timothy Jones

commented on Nov 3, 2011

I agree, there are two people during Sundays who the people watch the most it is the pastor and the worship leader. The pastor must lead from the front, by example worshipping God and when the pastor is preaching the worship leader should be doing the same, diligently paying attention to the pastor, writing notes and affirming gestures.

Tracy Mcintyre

commented on Nov 3, 2011

Amen, we visited a church in Branson MO a few weeks ago and that Pastor was totally engaged in worship and at one point the Pastor and his wife were sharing, I looked at the worship team and choir and they were all smiles, staying right with them, nodding in affirmation, focused on their every word, EVERY one of them and I was sitting near the camera guy and as the pastor was preaching I heard him quietly say -" Amen, wow, that was good". I was SO impressed. EVERYONE was honoring EVERY part of the service, that was excellent.

Steve Mack

commented on Nov 3, 2011

Steven...this is a fantastic article...and certainly not intended to be an all inclusive treatise on worship in the church. I can remember a few years ago when I lifted my hands during a Sunday worship service and sensed the same spiritual dimensions at work when Moses lifted his arms over the armies of Israel [Ex 17:11]. In that moment there seemed to be a breaking loose that I sensed was impacting the entire church. Now there are few worship services in our church when I am not reminded of this dynamic at some point. And here in Europe sincere, vibrant, Christ-centered worship is drawing many people to confessions of faith in Jesus' name.

Trevor Payton

commented on Nov 3, 2011

Maybe we would benefit on these comment boards from less criticism of the articles, and more appreciation of them. Give the author the benefit of the doubt, or at least explore his point of view, rather than picking the article apart for x, y, or z perceived flaw. If we are pastors then we know very well how much it hurts to have our sermons distrustfully picked apart rather than gratefully received and we are also aware of the twisted and negative mindset that fuels that picking. The word "worship" can be used to describe 3 different things: music, an event, and obedience to God. He's talking about the first and second things: pastors who don't sing or pray with devotion in the Sunday morning worship service. It is true that people worship in different ways...but it's usually also too not hard to recognize when someone is not worshipping. I think he makes a valid point about pastors not giving their all in praise and worship during the worship service. We can't make a show of it or fake it, which means that if we're "not feeling like worshipping today" then we've got to address that before the service. It's not just the sermon that needs to be prepared for Sunday: the pastor does too. It's true that those who are lost cannot worship God (cf John 4:23-24 also)...but if they're visiting at a worship service, then I'd certainly hope that they get a picture of what worship is about by observing the worship of those who are found, and the pastor plays a significant role in that. I think Mr. Furtick makes two very good points, and they boil down to this: pastors and worship leaders both have often been guilty of focusing on their performance more than on God in the worship service. And I agree with him 100 that it needs to change.

Donald Rapp

commented on Nov 3, 2011

I would imagine if people stopped making assertions that beg a negative response then there would be fewer negative responses. I personally find a problem with separating the "worship" service into parts. When we gather together on Sunday morning at our church it is to worship. That takes place in our song service and in our giving, in our prayer time, and most importantly in the sharing of the Word of God. I don't really see how my participation in worship has any effect on how other people worship. As a matter of fact it should not. Are people there to "watch" me worship or are they there to worship God? I don't recall Paul giving any instruction to pastors about their participation in "worship" but he does say a lot about how we are to accurately handle the word of God and preach it boldly and teach truth to the saints so that they can grow? Worship is a very important aspect of a church service and it must be kept in mind that every aspect of the service should be worship. Not watching to see if the pastor or the song leader is engaged at any given moment. I happen to enjoy singing and I sit in the front row of our church but that doesn't mean that others have to follow my routine. And I don't sit there to be noticed. If someone's worship is impacted by whether or not I "participate" in worship then they are there for the wrong reason.

John D Jones

commented on Nov 3, 2011

It appears that Steve is addressing the issue of influence. Any pastor who denies their attitude and attentiveness during a church service has an impact on the congregation is deluded. The same goes for a song director or any other member of leadership. Lee Roberson was famous for saying "Everything rises and falls on leadership." Our disposition during a church service will influence others who are there. It is not because folks have gathered to watch us, it is the nature of the ministry. Leaders lead, whether for good or for ill. That is the power of influence. I appreciate the comments made in this article.

Donald Rapp

commented on Nov 3, 2011

I agree with you entirely however if I am thinking about how my worship is affecting others then what am I there for? I am not saying that it's ok to sit there and do nothing or have a sour look on my face that is totally wrong also. I was in a church one time where the pastor sat on an easy chair during the "worship" service and just watched the people as they sang. That was creepy. My personal form of worship is not very demonstrative. Does that mean I will negatively affect those who are more animated? Does it mean that I am not leading by example? One's style of worship is subjective and if it is to be genuine then it should not be scrutinized. Maybe it would have been better if Steve had given some specific examples instead of speaking in generalities which implicates that if we don't fit his idea of worship we are setting a bad example.

Fernando Villegas

commented on Nov 3, 2011

To expand a bit on Dr. Kauffman's and Trevor's comments, I think the primary point Mr. Furtick is trying to make is that all of us who lead out in worship must be engaged in the entire worship experience, rather than worrying about whether "my part" will go well. We can't just hide behind saying things like, "Well, the people should be there to watch God, not me or not the music leaders." Well, yes, they should be. But a lot of them aren't, and maybe our example will serve as an influence to lift their eyes up to God. I'm quite sure Christian leadership includes just that. But it's also for our own sake, as well. I do agree with the sentiment that has been expressed by some that "Worship," as many understand it, has become minimized and compartmentalized. By engaging in every part of the worship experience, we are resisting that temptation and are thus able to have a clearer vision of God's beauty and holiness.

Fernando Villegas

commented on Nov 3, 2011

Donald Rapp, I agree with you that the way we worship will vary greatly depending on things like temperament, health, even religious background. And I don't think anyone, including Mr. Futrick, is saying that we need to be worrying about how our expression of worship is affecting others. That would be just as counterproductive as worrying about if "my part" will go well. In fact, Mr. Futrick is specifically talking about ENGAGING in worship, not about how that engaging is EXPRESSED. And the overall point is that if you engage in every part of the worship service, regardless of how that engagement is expressed, God will use that as an influence for good to others who are there. One last point. You wrote the following: "Maybe it would have been better if Steve had given some specific examples instead of speaking in generalities which implicates that if we don't fit his idea of worship we are setting a bad example." Yes, unfortunately, writing in generalities does put a person at risk of having others assume things the writer does not intend, and I suspect some on here may be reading more in to Mr. Furtick's remarks for just that reason. But in this case, I think the purpose for writing in generalities is in fact to emphasize the EXPERIENCE of engaging in worship, not the EXPRESSION of it, since as you yourself said, the expression of worship is subjective.

Dav Ross

commented on Nov 3, 2011

Thanks to Steven Furtick for the timely reminder. Such a positive insight!

Dav Ross

commented on Nov 3, 2011

Thanks to Steven Furtick for the timely reminder. Such a positive insight!

Ryan Donoho

commented on Nov 5, 2011

I think Steven brings up some good points. However, a pet peeve of my own made it hard for me to read what Steven was trying to say. My pet peeve is this: churches and pastors that overemphasize the Sunday morning worship service. I have a problem with saying the highest aim of being a human, a Christian, and/or a church is worshiping God through a Sunday morning worship service. To riff off a comment by Steven, the way you live your life throughout the week has been preaching a sermon about the greatness of God (or lack thereof) before you open your mouth to sing or speak on Sunday morning. Throughout the Bible, Old and New Testaments, God seems more concerned about other things than our passionate singing or attentive listening to a sermon. God seems much more concerned about our obedience in how we live our life and bring justice and righteousness to the world. Also, I have an issue with this comment, ?Your church is never going to go further in worship than you?re going to lead it.? Really? Are the churches we serve so dependent upon one person, even if it is the senior pastor, that nobody will be able to grow in worship beyond the capabilities of that one person? That seems pretty limited. I guess that might be true if our view of discipleship relies almost solely on the Sunday morning worship service and the preaching and leading of one person. See pet peeve above. I?m sorry, but I think taking our church to a ?whole new level of worship? looks a whole lot more like living out the Kingdom of God in our everyday life, following the example of Jesus, than it does singing with a lot of emotion or listening carefully to a sermon. Amos 5:21-24

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