Another Sunday morning rolls around as a familiar face appears on the screen,welcoming me to church. It feels normal, the motions of the Sunday service but this time something is different.
I have never led myself in worship until today
I started worship leading at my small local church at seventeen years old. I found role models online, watching famous worship leaders for inspiration. It is alluring, seeing people worship with passion and vulnerability in front of crowds of thousands. Of course, I dreamed of being a worship leader like them. I thought being on screen would be the best thing ever.
And then it happened, although not at all the way I had imagined.
COVID-19 shut down my local community and church and within two weeks we were all online. We were able to record our worship team playing songs which we spliced every week into our online services. My dream had come true. I was getting to see myself worship on-screen, filmed under lights.
Being both a worship leader and a member of the online congregation challenged me in how I view myself and taught me about the importance of self-leadership.
Watching myself on screen is very disconcerting
The first thing I learnt was how strange rather than glamourous it was to watch myself on screen. Disconnected from myself, but I know it’s still me.
It made it even harder not to focus on myself
One of the greatest dangers for Christians is when we fix our eyes more on ourselves than on Jesus. It’s a very easy trap to fall into. Screens, social media, self-help: everything encourages us to focus on ourselves. This becomes dangerous when we become our own idols. When we think more about ourselves than Jesus, or believe we have the power to save ourselves.
I learnt to worship with my eyes closed because otherwise I was fixated by my screen self, both admiring and criticizing.
Fix your eyes on Him
I’ve learnt more than ever from being my own worship leader that worship is about directing our attention and hearts towards Jesus. Refocusing my distracted mind back to Him. I’ve learnt the joys of not being distracted by others or by the technical side of leading. And I’ve remembered how much I need the encouragement of a community surrounding me in worship to pull me back when my heart is weak.
I’ve learnt to use the skills of leading a congregation on myself. To call myself into worship with psalms and prayers, to encourage myself to worship with my body and posture, to worship simply because God is worthy not because I need to lead or out of habit.
Worship is a heart posture which flows out into action. Whether we’re the ones leading, whether we’re allowed to sing or not, whether we’re in a church building or we’re just walking down the street, we can worship God at any time.
Only I can truly lead myself- warm-up for worship
At home, there was no one else to lead to me into worship. Worship leaders meet a congregation where they’re at, but it is so much easier to worship God when everyone is already ready.
Before we gather to worship together, we need to prepare our own hearts. We warm-up before we exercise, we drink coffee before we start work, so let’s prepare ourselves to meet in community and with the Lord as well.
The Israelites had Psalms of Ascent, songs they sang on their way to the temple in Jerusalem for the annual feasts. These fifteen psalms cover many of the emotions we experience during our journey of faith- distress, suffering, praise, joy, as well as reminding what the Lord has done, is doing and will do. This is how the Israelites prepared themselves to meet as a community with the Lord. They were honest in acknowledging their fears and suffering. They praised and worshipped God. All before they had even reached the temple.
Preparing beforehand and just imagine
This is how we can prepare ourselves before a Sunday service. Spend time with God beforehand (sounds simple, but how many times do we rush out the door on the way to church without praying, reading our Bible or even stopping to acknowledge God?) Come before Him honestly, no need to be fake or pretend to be perfect; instead tell Him how you really are. Allow Him to work in that emotion. Then spend some time remembering who God is and what he has done. No matter your circumstances, when you remember the power, majesty, and love of God, you can’t help but worship Him.
Imagine how our worship would overflow in the Sunday service if we had all prepared our hearts beforehand, rather than using the first three songs as a warm-up.
Imagine how our worship would overflow as a pleasant and fragrant offering to God if it was only a small portion of the worship we offered to Him during the week. Imagine how we could fully engage in community and worship if we did the preparation work beforehand.
Watching myself lead on-screen has been surreal and strange. I’ve remembered it’s really not about me. It’s about God. And I need to take responsibility as a congregation member in worshipping Him.
Melanie is a young Christian and leader from Sydney, passionate about Jesus, creating a better world and appreciating the good things in life. She works for an NGO and serves at Northern Life Baptist Church.
You can email her at email@example.com or check out her socials.