Song Singing vs Worship Leading

Years ago, I attended a Methodist Church for many years. I had gotten connected there in an interesting way back in my twenties. My friend’s mom was getting married. She asked if I would play the organ for her wedding at the church, a small country church with a big organ. I didn’t know how to play an organ at the time. Piano yes, keyboard yes, but not a pipe organ. It was the kind with all of the foot pedals, stops, etc.

I said, “Sure, I will!!” What was I thinking? All I knew was I better start practicing. So I called to see if someone would let me into the church so I could “practice,” meaning, LEARN HOW TO PLAY AN ORGAN! Someone kindly let me in on a Saturday morning. As I was sitting on the big organ bench, finally getting up the nerve to touch the keys, the pedals, fiddle with the stops that made all different sounds with the tones, I began to play the Bridal March. Soon, the church secretary looked in the backdoor near me and said “Oh, we need an organist! Do you want the job?” Well, she was talking to a struggling twenty-five year old that needed money and could play one song on the organ, so I said “SURE!” The rest was history. I learned how to play the organ and became the praise team leader. But, I am convinced I was just a song singing leader. I didn’t know the first thing about worship leading. There is a big difference.

Our Pastor then retired and a new guy was hired. He was so different. He looked like a surfer dude. Long hair, younger. And he slowly challenged the norm at our church. I noticed that he put his hands up in the air when he sang. This made no sense to me. I was the paid music director and youth director, so he and I worked closely together. I remember he would question what music I was listening to. It definitely wasn’t worship music. He would ask, “Lo, when you listen to your music, does it lead your mind closer to Jesus or farther away?” What a great question. Usually my answer was, “Jamie, my music if fine!” But, eventually I was willing to admit that it wasn’t fine. The music I filled my head with didn’t move me closer to Jesus. It would put my brain and heart in a place it didn’t belong, sometimes leading me into temptation. Slowly but surely, I eliminated that kind of music from my life. I also remember a retreat he took the leaders on up at Harvey Cedars. He passed out a survey, and one of the questions was about how we follow Jesus. One answer was I AM A RADICAL follower of Jesus. I thought that was crazy, so I didn’t check it. I didn’t understand what that really meant. I had no clue what I was missing either. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. That was also true of the “hands raised up thing during songs at church” as well. I didn’t think it took all of that. I thought it was kind of weird. I just didn’t know what I needed to know. So I finally asked him, and this is what he taught me. He said the reason he raised his hands was because he was communicating with Jesus. People raise their hands for many different reasons in church.

I am now someone who rarely keeps my hands down and here is why. I learned that when I used to go to a church service, I did not really expect anything from God. I was going because I grew up being trained in that is what we do on Sunday morning.

I expected the doors to be open; I expected to sing some songs; I expected the song leader to lead us.

I expected the Pastor to talk and talk.

I expected to sing one last song; I expected to have to put some money is some basket; I expected to then leave. Church was done and now we get on with our day and have fun. It was like a weekly appointment. I was good for doing it. That was my experience of church. There was no Jesus in that, only me religiously doing something.

My understanding has totally changed, Thank God! I also have to thank Pastor Jamie Bagley for allowing God to use him to speak into my life. It was huge! He was my first mentor in worship training.

Now, I don’t consider it church anymore, but a worship service.

I expect God to meet me there in corporate worship. When the worship leader tells me to stand, I MOVE from the back of the seat to the front. I cannot stand well so I sit, but no matter. I MOVE. I follow their leadership.

I expect music to play, and I will worship Jesus. It is a conscious choice to direct all of my attention to Jesus, not even the screens up front with the words. They are only there for those who don’t know the words. If you know the words, you shouldn’t have to look at the screen. Direct all of your attention onto Him. Close your eyes if you want. I raise my hands to communicate with Jesus. When my hands are straight up in the air, it’s my way of declaring victory with my Jesus. If my hands are out with palms up, it’s usually because I’m surrendering or I am once again in a desperate place and need Him to fill me up again and again. My body language communicates with my God throughout the worship service and throughout the week. I focus on how beyond grateful I am for ALL HE HAS DONE for me. The words of the songs resonate with me because they remind me again and again WHO HE IS, HOW GREAT HE IS, HOW MIGHTY HE IS, HOW HOLY HE IS.


As I see it, the only other options would be for us to not engage with singing or just sing the song because we like it. Singing a song doesn’t involve much. The focus is usually on us. We like it so we tend to really get into it, and we shout out our enthusiasm for the band or the people singing it with us. We sing the words and then we are done, without much engagement.

I expect the Pastor to preach a message that God has anointed. I ask the Holy Spirit to speak to me and to help me understand what He, God, is saying to me through the Pastor.

I expect to give God 10% of my weekly paycheck. This is not because I am just supposed to give MY money to the church but because God owns it all, including the money HE has allowed me to earn. God commands me to be a good manager of everything He has given me to manage, including finances. Me tithing is me communicating to God that I love Him, I will obey Him and I will give freely and joyfully to advance His Kingdom.

I expect to sing one last song some weeks. I move forward if God directs me to, and I always pray that the Holy Spirit will move the people forward that He is calling forward.

Song Singing vs. Worship Leading…you, my friend, are your own worship leader. If you choose, command your soul to worship...even when you don’t feel like it!


—Lois Robinson