I have been tweeting and commenting on Facebook lately about the seemingly unending blog posts and articles written about all that worship leaders do wrong (or could do better) in leading their congregations on Sunday. As a worship arts pastor and worship leader for over 8 years, I must say that while some of these posts and articles do offer some insight, many address all that is wrong or that which should be corrected. Carlos Whittaker made some really good points here which got me thinking...
Leading others in worship through song is already a tough job. Most of us pour tirelessly over our repetoire week after week to choose just the right message in just the right key leading to just the right transition so our congregations can have a meaningful experience. Most of us rehearse for hours so we are well prepared for rehearsal! And finally, I would suggest that most of us worry endlessly about whether or not we are really hearing from God as we plan, and worry even more about whether or not what we do is making a difference in someone's spiritual journey; and these are just the tip of the iceberg.
Here's a few topics that usually get addressed-
Worship leaders must guard against performance: I've heard it said about a mega-church in our area that they are all about performance. Over 10,000 people go there every week and they are getting bigger and bigger. That number represents a person in the seat singing songs with biblical content and hearing a message from God's Word; performance or not. Only God knows the heart of the person on the stage (Jer. 17:10). I sang my first solo in 6th grade and knew early on that I was going to be a performer - I love the stage - whether acting, singing, leading worship, preaching etc. and I guess I have been gifted in that area; it's very natural for me. Someone asked me why Mick Jagger would bother going on tour at 71 - though I'm sure money is one motivator, Mick is a performer; he has to be on stage, that's what he does. So yes, worship leaders can be performers and unfortunately, some people do have the wrong motives for leading, but let's not forget what Paul says in Philippians; "But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way,
whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of
this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice..." This though, is not an excuse for our worship leading motives to be focused on us.
Worship leaders must worship while leading: This is a good concept but also a challenge if you are talking about worship in the traditional sense. A friend of mine put it this way... it's really difficult to truly enter into a spirit of worship while leading on Sunday. Are we keeping with the click? Do the singers know the harmonies are only on the 2nd half of the bridge? Are the lyrics moving too slow? My guitar sounds sharp with the capo on... praise you Lord Jesus I'm worshipping! Sorry, I know that's sarcastic but my friend made a good point - someone has to concentrate on all these elements for the good of the whole; we worship in our serving, in our attention to detail, in our desire for excellence; this is worship too! I'm reminded of the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant; I would assume they were just a little concerned about the task at hand... that didn't go to well for Uzzah! (2nd Samuel 6:1-7)
This post is already too long but I could go on. Most of us have self-esteem issues as it is (that's why we're on the stage!) and to continually read about what a bad job we're doing is discouraging. And I must say that I know that those sharing their thoughts about worship have good intentions. We need though, to encourage each other and talk about what is good. A young man who is considering becoming a worship leader told me that he's on the fence because everyone makes it so hard - like an impossible task. God knows our hearts and our abilities. If we are truly walking close to him and seeking him as best as humanly possible, he'll put us where he wants us to be, even as we struggle with our motives and our egos; he's not surprised by what we bring to the table. In the words of Carlos Whittaker; worship is going to be OK."
"He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him." Psalm 40:3