(This is a post written for http://levitecamp.com/ a new social network for worship leaders to meet and discuss practical and theological principles in worship.)
Dear Worship Leaders,
You cannot take people where you do not regularly go. Period.
As a worship leader your responsibility is to help usher people to the throne of God in praise and thanksgiving, in sorrow and grief. Yet if you do not spend your own time before God in worship and in prayer, how can you ever expect to adequately lead others there? That is the act of preparation more so than getting your chord progressions flawless or perfecting what you are going to say in the interim between songs. Without spending face time before God throughout the week, there lies a sense of spiritual bankruptcy emitting from the stage. You cannot take people where you do not regularly go without being disingenuous.
I have been there.
Standing on stage, guitar in hand, microphone ready for my voice; I wondered why everything felt so hollow. The lights were perfect; the slides were mostly right; I practiced a few times that week for this set. I was ready; people were there; music starts; the sound is good. There echoing in the room was plenty of music, some singing, but no worship. As a worship leader, I made the worst mistake I could make, I had failed to spend time with the Lord that week in worship. Its like me taking a group of campers on a hike to a place I have not been in a while. Sure I’ve been there, but its been so long, there is a sense of anxiety instead of a sense of joy abounding in the group.
When you worship on your own time, you prepare your heart so the spotlight doesn’t overcome you.
It is so easy when leading people in worship, arguably the greatest action humans can perform, to let it go to your head. I recently visited a church where as I walked in, the music had started and the worship leader was center-stage, leather jacket on, cabbie-cap cocked to the side, glowing from the spotlight beating down on him, and with his back up singers flanking him on either side. I have never been so uncomfortable in a worship service. It music was performed well, but it wasn’t worship.
Its not about you.
Its not about the clever things you say.
Its not about the amazing solo you built into the song.
Its about having a heart bent on worshiping. People see that. Their spirit recognizes genuine worship. They don’t need you to put on a show, or come on stage with a forced smile every week. They need you to spend time in worship with God throughout the week and to be real with them when you stand up front.
Avoid the trap of a busy week. Don’t fool yourself to think its all about the execution of the music. Rather, focus on being a worship leader.
Its time to lead. But leading always begins in a quiet room on your knees.
“The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.” – Isaiah 29:13 NIV