The below article is written by a man who has greatly encouraged me. His name is Leo Flores and he immediately struck me as someone who was serious about his life, faith, family, and ministry. While spending some time with his faith community I encountered the song below, which he wrote. It has been an extremely important reminder for me over the last two years. Let the song play as you check out his thoughts and routines about preparing for worship.
By Leo Flores
First, a little disclaimer: I don’t claim to know all the answers about leading worship, or your situation. I am praying right now for God to encourage your spirit. All I know is I am a child of God. I want to share my heart with you & some things I’ve learned on my journey this far.
The most important conversation of my life came in 2006. It was the last conversation I would ever have with my Grandpa Leo. We sat down at the table together. My Grandpa’s voice, faint, shaky & almost a whisper said something I will have written on my heart forever. “Choose this day whom you will serve,” he said to me. He was once a young man on the path of darkness & by the grace of God he gave his life to Jesus in a jail cell where a Gideon bible minister shared the Gospel with him. Now, generations are following Jesus (Psalm 145:4). He spoke straight into my soul, for I was a wandering son with no direction, but he reminded me with love I needed to choose today whom I will serve. I chose to follow Jesus instead of professional music. I went to bible college and graduated in 2010. I was married to Meagan in 2008, and currently we are worship pastors at The Gathering in Muncie, IN. We have two beautiful girls, Shiloh (4) and Sparrow (1), who teach me more and more everyday about the Father’s deep love for us.
Our lives were changed forever on May 13, 2015 when Meagan’s mother, and grandma were killed in a car accident. Without going much further in the pain of that day, I want to simply say that the Kingdom reality of Jesus became more urgent and his comfort more real than we ever knew because of that day. We were asked to be interviewed in our home church & though there was great pain, there was also great joy in learning how afterward God moved in our community like we didn’t know possible. We were forever marked by tragedy but also marked by a real hope in the Kingdom that Jesus built and he is still building. The Kingdom doors are open wide. We are driven to invite people to the love of the Father more than ever before. For all of you who struggle with doubt in God…He is real, He is good. If you struggle with fear, God’s perfect love drives out our fear.
“Don’t be afraid, just believe”
Jesus (Mark 5:36)
PREPARING FOR WORSHIP…
My vision & dream for this generation of worshippers is for us to rise up & declare who we are, sons & daughters of the most high God, unafraid & confident in the Father’s love. I prepare each week knowing and trusting that Jesus will move through me and I can rest in him. Before I get to the practical tools, I should mention that we need to start with Why. In Simon Sinek’s TED talk he codifies what he calls the world’s most simple idea: Start with Why. The idea is this: people don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it. Do you believe the worship of you and your church drives away the darkness? In the wilderness, Jesus sent Satan away after the declaration of worship of God (Matt. 4:10-11). Do you know that Jesus has imparted power and authority to you (Mark 6:7-13, Matt. 28:16-20)? Instead of believing that we are merely music leaders, we can be a generation of God worshippers who drive away the darkness as sons & daughters of God. If we came expectant to see the Holy Spirit move through us, and that your involvement in the worship of God has very real impact on the Kingdom, would that change how you prepare? My prayer is that you read this and feel empowered to do the impossible.
1 // SIT DOWN WITH THE FATHER
Before you even start, ask the Spirit to search your heart (Psalm 139:23). Ask for his words, his songs, and remember he delights in you. Read scripture. Soften your heart, still your mind, rest in Jesus. Hear his voice speaking. Before you can look at your song list, we need a humble posture of the heart simply to be in His presence. My pastor calls this being centered. Is this not the place we desire to be in worship in the first place? On the subject of pastors, that leads us to the next most important place to start.
2 // COLLABORATE WITH SENIOR LEADER
Talk with your senior leader about the Scripture he/she is speaking on. Don’t merely ask what they are speaking on. Ask them why their heart is resonating here. What are the themes being revealed to your leader? Many times I will resonate with a certain part of the scripture but when I ask my senior leader where their heart is resonating, a whole flood of creativity comes from the collaboration, and when it comes down to the day of carrying out this beautiful message, people are amazed at the way God moves in worship. One of the most powerful ways to drive darkness away in your church is to honor your senior leader. Plan worship around what he/she is hearing from God.
3 // FLOW
As worship leaders, we are hosting (not bringing) the presence of God and asking people to turn their attention toward him exclusively. We cultivate a spirit of worship that is like a flame. A flame begins small but when we foster the flame, a brilliant fire emerges. After you have collaborated with the senior leader, start adding songs that speak to this theme, not necessarily the songs that are popular. Too often we want to replicate the experiences/songs of another church but when we try it, it falls flat. Why is that? Start searching the scripture again and ask the Holy Spirit to lead you to the right songs for this occasion. For me, I use Planning Center Online to plan worship. It syncs with Song Select CCLI for all the songs. If you don’t have it, there are other planning services like https://worshipplanning.com/. The idea is to collect a library of songs in their themes & keys, and schedule volunteers or teams. Choose keys that are easy to transition in and out of. Don’t feel like you have to stay in E major all day, but when you plan the songs, plan the transitions too. If the transition feels funny to you, it will feel funny to those in your church. The more planning you do up front, the more freedom there is for you, your team, and your church. The more detail you can give, the more confident your team will be. I would recommend charting the entire song out from beginning to end, including all the repeats and instrumentals with timing brackets. There are many free charts on the internet but you need to own the song in your own way and commit to the way you chart the song. A note on scheduling, consider doing a month schedule and asking your team to commit in advance so you’re not hit with surprises.
4 // LEAD WORSHIP
So…now you have been led to the theme, chosen songs in keys that flow well into each other, and your team is lined up, you’re ready. Remember, we can do nothing apart from Jesus. Ask the Spirit to move however he wants to (this is a scary prayer if you believe it). It may take people a few minutes to connect. Give them grace, you have been hearing from Jesus all week, and they may just be talking to him for the first time all week. Let’s say a few songs go by and you know that the next song is coming but you sense Jesus telling you to stay. Instead of extinguishing the flame of a song immediately after the chart ends, be comfortable in the Selah moments of worship where the Spirit is leading. Is there a new song on your heart? I’ve found that sometimes the Father plants a truth in me like a seed in moments like this. An instrument that really helps in these Selah moments is a keyboard with a pad sound, or if you have an acoustic piano, you can alternate between suspended chords to major chords. It is not essential to worship flow, but really helps. If you’re by yourself with just a guitar, you can continue lightly picking the chord progression. Be unafraid, believe Jesus is using you.
Consider the flow of worship, or at other times, completely break the flow. Did I lose you? Here’s what I mean. One time I led worship and after the song ended I felt God wanted me to say something completely strange and borderline crazy. After some resisting, I said from the stage “I am getting the overwhelming sense that I need to tell someone that you’re enough today.” Months later I am interviewing this same girl for a baptism video (4:19 seconds in). She reveals to me that she was there that day I disrupted worship and said she was literally thinking about a conversation with a man who broke her heart, and her asking him “am I not good enough? Why don’t I measure up to you?” When we aren’t concerned about how we look but how Jesus is being honored, crazy and amazing things happen. Don’t create a flow just for the sake of being smooth, obedience is more important than smooth transitions. Trust that people are hearing from the Father, and that they are pouring out their affection on Jesus.
One more thing: Our generation is craving passion over polish. Check out this article by Carey Nieuwhof that speaks powerfully to the next generation of leaders. As you worship the Lord, in my opinion, it’s more valuable to be real and vulnerable than it is to be polished and structured. That doesn’t mean we don’t plan, it actually means we plan more so that we can be more free, more passionate, more obedient.
5 // RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP
To date, the greatest resource I have found for worship leaders is Worship U. The link above is free but the membership is absolutely worth the cost ($14.95 per month). They focus primarily on the heart of worship. They have an array of anointed worship leaders who teach on worship. This is a ministry with global impact.
LEADWORSHIP.COM // PAUL BALOCHE
Paul Baloche is one of my greatest heroes. He has a heart for the local church and for worship leaders. He is great.
Hillsong Creative These are Hillsong Church's training videos they provide for their own teams from every facet of worship. Why not look into one of the most effective worship ministries in the world?
Leo And Meagan Flores Music