Tricking People Into Worshiping
Ok, so you may already be offended at the title of this article. So was I when I began to write it. But let’s first stop and examine several of God’s biggest and sneakiest tricks on us, then develop our hypothesis.
Firstly, consider His lovingkindness and goodness—which defies human logic—luring us into repentance quite unexpectedly. We expect judgment, He gives grace. Or consider the cross—that cosmic trick on both the devil and humanity—where we thought we had rid ourselves of His unrelenting perfection, and had killed Him, only for Him to resurrect and chase us all the more. Consider God’s trick on Saul of Tarsus. Consider marriage—that great divine strategy to make us more Christlike.
Life is full of tricks—good tricks—because we are foolish and often need to be drawn out of our layers of protection and caution to be ourselves, our true selves, again.
Worship is no exception. Most parishioners rolling into the pews on a Sunday morning aren’t necessarily in an absolute state of readiness or meekness to receive the implanted Word. The truth is that they probably had a fight in the car with their spouse or kids on the way to church; they’re probably tired from the previous evening’s festivities if they’re single; they’re probably angry at God for something or feel like God is angry at them. And as worship leaders we seek to disarm them by being sensitive to their fragility instead of rebuking them for carnality. As the Gospel, by the music, is slowly unveiled and they are reminded of God’s mercy in Jesus Christ, their heads are lifted, and then their hearts are lifted. Then their eyes are lifted, and maybe even their hands will be lifted.
Now I believe that every believer wants to worship God in reckless abandon, but let’s be honest—life happens. Stubborn as we are, we allow ourselves to be cold and callous out of pride and pity. And the worshiper we so desire to be is silenced by internal and external workings. In this life, our true selves will always be ahead of our present selves.
I believe that every skillful worship leader possesses a gift for gently drawing people out of circumstance, self-loathing, or self-fascination and into laudation as they point to Jesus, because that’s preaching. Preaching isn’t dryly rattling off points—it’s carefully arresting hearts with the wonder of the King and His Gospel. And many times that arresting is by surprise, the unexpected, and by divine trick.
So while it’s impossible to trick your congregation, it is possible to connect them with God and let Him do the work of bringing their hearts into the worship process.