Whenever I teach about preparing for worship at an event, I inevitably have someone raise their hand and say “I don’t like to plan too much. I’d rather be spontaneous and respond to what the Spirit is doing.” Or I’ve heard people say they won’t use tracks during worship because it limits there spontaneity.
Let’s think this through. There is nothing spiritual or unspiritual about making a plan. In fact, Proverbs 16:3 says “Commit to the Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed.” The Bible is filled with examples of people who made detailed plans to do something important for God. Nehemiah rebuilt the entire wall around Jerusalem. David built the first temple for God. Jesus’ plan was to endure the cross.
However, making a plan doesn’t mean that God won’t change the plan. Proverbs 16:9 says “A man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” David had a plan to become king, but he would be tested and run for his life before it finally happened. In Acts 16, Paul was prevented by the Holy Spirit from preaching in Asia even though he planned to do so. So what we see from Scripture is that we, as children of God, are to plan well, but be sensitive to the Holy Spirit if He wants to change our plans.
Within the context of worship ministry, I believe we are to approach worship with a detailed plan that’s been thought out and prayed through. The more I prepare and am confident in my plan, the more freedom I feel to deviate from that plan. I believe sometimes the “freedom in the Spirit” argument is just an excuse for not putting in the hard word of planning ahead. God can speak to you 7 days before your church service the same as 7 minutes. I tire under leaders who are always changing their minds at the last minute and blaming it on God. Yes, sometimes God will redirect you at the last minute, but in my experience this is the exception and not the rule.
Planning honors those around you as well. No one would ever get on a bus if the driver’s plan was to go wherever he felt. The next time you get the urge to switch that song right before walking up on the platform, think about what it will do to your band and congregation.
Finally, if you’re a spontaneous person and love freedom in worship, plan times in your worship set where you can “wait on the Lord’ or have a time of free worship. I’ve been out with worship artists who have a “spontaneous” worship moment during the same song every night of the tour. And guess what? It’s usually awesome every night! The worship leader is providing a planned space where people can engage with God directly in their own words and songs. That’s a very loving thing for a leader to do.
So work hard, plan well and watch how the Spirit will bless your preparation.