Not too long ago, Kanye West was performing in Sydney, Australia. At some point during his performance, he stopped the concert and refused to continue until everyone in the audience stood up and danced. Most of the people stood up, but Kanye spotted two people in the audience sitting and called them out and refused to go on with the show until they stood up. Turned out, one person was wheelchair bound and the other had a prosthetic limb.
I know what you're thinking.... "How insensitive! How egotistical! How mean!" For you Old Testament readers, maybe you thought "How Nebuchadnezzar of Kanye!"
Trust me, I'd be a liar if I said the same thoughts didn't cross my own mind. That is until the Holy Spirit seemed to use this report to get me thinking about how we as worship leaders will sometime approach the congregations that we're leading with insensitivity because we measure the affect of our leading based on a system of spiritual measure that relies solely on our seeing our congregation's outward responses. Don't get me wrong, it's a huge encouragement to a worship leader to see the congregation that they're leading be so abandoned in their worship of the Lord with hands raised and voices lifted; but it shouldn't be a unit of measure by which we measure the spiritual temperature of our congregation's entering in to enjoy the presence of the One they call Lord and Savior.
I'm a hand raiser the majority of the time. I spent so much of my life worshiping the devil (not in black masses or something crazy like that), but through the intents of my heart and my rebellion towards God that even when I don't feel like raising my hands, I see the redemptive quality in the act that I once used my talents, and resources to worship anything but God that I want to demonstrate that I am reaching out to God through the act of raising my hands; and am not ashamed to worship Him publicly this way. Its a reminder to this man that I'm alive in a way that would not be possible apart from the redemptive work of the cross and resurrection; and free in a way that is not possible apart from knowing Jesus. Plus, He's the King of all Kings. Respect the Crown!
Having said that, if you're not comfortable raising your hands, don't feel excluded or anything. You're not any less spiritual if you don't. Just don't call the act un-Biblical. It's in the Bible. Check out Nehemiah 8:6 for at least one reference.
But my point in the matter is this - you don't know what the congregants are walking in with. One congregation member might have just received a report that they have cancer. Another might have discovered that their husband has been using pornography. Another might be a single parent and barely got her kids out of the house and into church on time. Another might have lost a loved one. The variables go on and on.
We as worship leaders are responsible to model personal worship in a public way. We're to help people along and guide them by our example. We're to select songs that share the truth of the Gospel. We're to camp out on singing a bridge or a chorus repetitively if the Spirit of God prompts us. We're one of the vessels that God chooses to use in a worship service to prepare the way for the Spirit of God to touch hearts. The Spirit will minister to them in a personal way. Frankly, at times, people need to be able to quietly contemplate the words being sung and an act of raising their hands might distract them from what God is doing in their hearts.
But please, don't measure the effect of your serving or the condition of the people's hearts by their physical response, or outward expressions that are visible to your physical senses. Leave the results to the Holy Spirit and trust that He is working if you are serving God faithfully through your song selection and being sensitive to His promptings.
The act of leading people in worship is not an exclusive act; it is an inclusive act. I believe our sensitivity to this in our worship leading will free us up even more to be used more effectively in our serving; and transcend right down to the congregations that we lead producing greater exchange, and participation in the act of worshiping God through song. If we have a mindset of measuring spiritual condition of the worship, the congregants will pick up on it. We'll express our dissatisfaction of their response somehow. Please fear to tread that path. We're talking about the Bride of Christ. We're to love His Bride, not judge or measure His beloved.
So, if you get in a mindset of measuring, remember Kanye. Those two folks were injured enough already. They didn't deserve further injury. Neither do our congregants.