For as long as I can remember, there have been arguments in the church as to whether you should plan or ‘let the Holy Spirit lead’ a service. After 10+ years in ministry, I have found that the answer is…both.
The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. Romans 8:11 NLT
Romans 8:11 is one of the many scriptures you will find in the Bible that indicate the Holy Spirit is living inside of each born again believer. So, if He lives in us (and already knows the future) what would withhold Him from speaking to us a week or more before the service while planning?
The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right. Psalm 84:11 NLT
You might think that the Lord would want to withhold these things from us…but scripture tells us otherwise. He will withhold no good thing from us. I don’t know about you, but I would consider church service to be a good thing – especially when we are about His agenda (loving others) and not our own.
How does God lead us?
The primary way God speaks to us is through His word. If we are planning songs based on the word of God, then we are on the right track (see post: God-Centered vs Me-Centered Worship Lyrics). God also directs us through the Holy Spirit living within us.
In 1 Kings 19, God speaks to Elijah through a ‘gentle whisper’. In my life, I have found that this is often how the Holy Spirit speaks as well. It is not an audible voice, but a subtle thought that seems to have come from the outside, yet it came from the inside.
For example, I can remember time after time the Holy Spirit has tried to help me solve a problem at work. He would gently bring the answer to my mind, but I would ignore it and try to find the solution on my own. After wasting time and getting frustrated, I’d go back, follow the Holy Spirit’s leading and find that it was the exact solution to the problem.
I believe this is what it is like for most people learning to be led by the Holy Spirit. You ignore His leading only to find out in hindsight that it was really Him the whole time. It is a good thing He is so patient with us.
How to be Led While Planning Worship
You may not have thought about this, but the Holy Spirit is just as interested in the upcoming service as you are (if not more). So, to even think that He would not assist us in planning and preparing is nonsense.
While you are planning, first make sure that everything you are doing lines up with the Word of God. If God’s Word is not important to you, it is going to be hard (if not impossible) to be led by the Holy Spirit. As I said earlier, the primary way God speaks to us is though His Word.
Now, while you are planning the service, stay alert to that ‘gentle whisper’. If there is a specific song that needs to be played in the upcoming service, the Holy Spirit will lead you (if you are listening). Otherwise, simply use the wisdom and creativity the Lord has already given you to plan the service.
In my experience, I have found that the Holy Spirit generally leaves the planning up to me. You see, God has called us to be worship leaders. And with that calling comes the wisdom, creativity and skill needed to create powerful worship services. Of course, there are times that we miss it, and that is when the Holy Spirit helps us out.
How to Allow for Spontaneity in Worship
Now that you have a plan together that lines up with the Word of God and is led by the Holy Spirit, it begs the question, “Should I stick to the plan no matter what?” For those of us who are control freaks, this is definitely a nice thought. Generally, things do go as planned when you plan in the way I outlined above. But, there are exceptions.
The Lord loves to surprise us with His love. It is much like a dad who loves to surprise his kids with a new toy or unexpected vacation. There have been many services at my church where the Lord shows up in this way. Sometimes I have an expectation deep down for what is going to happen and other times He surprises me just as much as the congregation.
So, I have found it best to follow the plan, but leave a bit of breathing room within the set list to allow the Holy Spirit to direct us. Let the music play. Don’t sing, talk or think – just listen. If the Holy Spirit doesn’t lead you elsewhere, carry on with the plan.
Balancing Planning and Spontaneity
If you don’t plan because you are ‘being led by the Spirit’, then you are most likely using the Holy Spirit as an excuse to be lazy. When a worship leader fails to prepare, the entire worship team suffers.
When a worship leader fails to prepare, the entire worship team suffers. Tweet Quote
On the other hand, don’t get so stuck on your plan that it doesn’t allow God to show up in unexpected ways. These surprise encounters with His love are life-changing for all involved, and I would hate to quench that.
Bottom line, write your plan alongside the Holy Spirit but always be ready for a surprise encounter with God’s love.
You might also enjoy: Are You Helping Your Worship Team Grow Spiritually?