Lisa Pearson regularly takes part in leading worship both at Northampton Jesus Centre and in smaller local settings. She speaks of her journey into and vision for worship leading.
LISA Pearson was brought up in the village of Bugbrooke in Northamptonshire. As a teenager, one evening she was sitting on the wall near the old village chapel and heard loud singing and the buzz of lively voices. Curiosity got the better of her and she wandered in.
“I was unchurched,” explained Lisa. “I returned again and again to the chapel after that first visit and the worship completely took my breath away; I’d never experienced anything like it. One particular evening, as people were singing spiritual songs, I found God. I sensed God’s presence in a very real way and invited Him into my life.
“On one of these occasions in the chapel, I remember one of the worshippers, Alan, playing his guitar while his wife, Mary, sang her heart out. Their worship touched me and called something from me. ‘I want to do that!’ I thought.
“I started to experience and find communion with God in my little way. I had no self-confidence but I was gripped when people like Alan and Mary expressed their worship. I wanted to experience a love for God like them!
“I picked up a battered old guitar, watched people play, began playing alongside people and, little by little, learned how it was done and my confidence in playing slowly grew.
“I moved into Christian community when I was 17, first to a house called ‘Living Stones’ and later to ‘Shalom’. At Shalom I was pushed to the front as a worship leader – and so into confidence. After a few years I moved to another house and was one of a very few guitarists. Here, I learned the beauty of supporting other people in their ministry. The leader of the house, Trevor, loved to ‘let the worship go’. We had amazing worship times. Again, I grew in confidence.
“In the Old Testament you sense Jewish worshippers were on a journey as they approached the Temple and progressed towards the Holy Place. We, too, as we worship together, are on a journey with the Holy Spirit. I began to find, as I led the worship, that I wanted to help people get into the Holy Place, the presence of God, because ‘stuff’ happens when you get there. God moves and conviction comes. God speaks and is healing, renewing and restoring His people.
“When we open up our hearts in worship, the overflow begins – we get filled up with the Holy Spirit and He overflows into those around us, like ripples and waves spread over the water.
“In difficult times, as a worship leader, you want to encourage and reassure the church – reminding people of the kindness of God. If we worship Him, we’ll sense His goodness. Human beings need to worship – otherwise we often end up worshipping ourselves.
“We really can learn something from Miriam in the Old Testament: she led the people in worship and they followed. Like her, people who pour out their hearts in worship towards God ignite the flame in others; they take people with them. As a worship leader, you want everyone to come with you into the presence of God.
“In worship leading, it’s not important to go with what is trendy. In choosing songs, it’s what touches hearts that matters. Recently, we all sang a very old hymn – ‘it is well with my soul’. The Holy Spirit’s anointing came. When we sing something with a true and honest heart the Spirit comes! There is quite a lot of worship done on autopilot. I can’t bear it. It makes me afraid of being a hypocrite – singing something and it not being reality in my heart.
“The best worship is when we let go and let the Holy Spirit move. Worship often starts off cold; it ‘softens the ground’ of our hearts and draws a response from us. We move into a place where God moves and there is an overflow of His life – then the prophetic word comes as part of the overflow. People just can’t keep in what the Spirit is saying within them! True worship opens the door to the prophetic word. I long for this kind of worship.
“I have observed this kind of worship in other churches where the worshippers are on a journey – progressing with songs, thanksgiving, praise, intercession – all the time the worship is pushing open doors. It’s intercessory, it’s warfare. Sometimes the worship becomes quiet with a strong sense of the presence of God and then the noise of praise and prayer rises again. At the end the prophetic word comes - and it is received.
“We have to be ourselves in worship; we have to be who we are; we have to learn to focus on God and break through our inhibitions! I also find the presence of God in silence. Sometimes I have visited a convent and have sat down and drank in the devotion I have found amongst the nuns there – even though it is not a form of worship I’m used to. I like to feed on the worship style of others.
“Our worship can become predictable. Aslan, the central figure and lion in ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’, is not a tame lion. Nor is the Holy Spirit! ‘What’s going to happen tonight?’ should be our question – not the response, ‘I know what’s going to happen tonight’. If we haven’t got the former – we’ve lost it; we can block out the Holy Spirit. We’ve slipped into a form of what we do.
“Sometimes, on this worship journey, someone has to ‘stick their neck out’, obeying the Holy Spirit. The Argentine revival began by someone banging a fist on the table! I’d love to see God’s presence so strong among us, so that our hearts cannot contain but express our love and worship, but you can’t force it!
“Recently I helped plan our Accelerate women’s event in Northampton. My one big thing was, ‘Let’s give room to worship and God’s presence and see what He does.’ Like Peter, we’re called to ‘walk on water’ - not organise the Holy Spirit!
This post is part of a series on worship leading. See all our posts on worship