Some of the earliest and most helpful advice I ever heard as a worship leader, from various sources, is this simple phrase:
‘Lead people to Jesus, then get out of the way’
With something as broad as leading worship this is good advice no matter your setting, denomination, style, age, etc. Even though practically it will look completely different in every church.
I’m not going to go too much into the practical side of things because as I say it will be completely different for each church, as an example, I were to say don’t over do the electric guitar riffs, or the drum fills, there’ll no doubt be people screaming ‘DRUMS? IN CHURCH?’ because everyone screams in capital letters.
The point is, we all have completely different styles and ways of doing things, and that is fantastic, let’s not lose that.
Ok, so let’s get some sub headings involved. How about we split it right down the middle.
First up then…
‘Lead People to Jesus’
I love that the gospels are full of examples of people finding Jesus in completely different, unique ways.
There’s the woman at the well, called out by Jesus for being a little too forthcoming in certain areas of life, yet surprised by Jesus’s accepting nature (not to mention his lack of care for the cultural boundaries).
There’s the fishermen abruptly told to leave their nets and follow.
There’s the lady who touched the coat of Jesus out of desperation, only to find out that he did actually care. Consequently healing her there and then.
There’s beautiful sights all over of people meeting Jesus in amazing ways, and every time it looks completely different.
As worship leaders it’s our job to show something of Jesus.
I’m not going to try and tell you how to do that, mostly because I don’t have the answer, I’m trying to figure that out too. But I do think a couple of things we can do might be the following.
Every time you sit down to plan a worship set, start with the question. How do these songs lead people to Jesus? Maybe it’s a specific song which tells something of Jesus grace, which then leads to a response. Maybe it’s a story you want to share. Give it some thought.
Keep it simple. Sometimes we can over do it can’t we? Focussing so much on song arrangements, lights, timings, etc, that we miss the point. Keep it simple.
Think about the newbie. I always think it’s helpful to think about a complete newbie. I’ve been going to church all my life, yet I still find it scary visiting a new church (seriously). Imagine someone in your congregation has never heard of Jesus. Think about the message they’ll take home, how can the songs we sing help them to go home thinking of Jesus?
‘Then get out of the way’
How can I possibly get out of the way when I’m stood at the front?
First of all, I want to say with worship leading, and worship music there is always going to be a performance element. No I don’t like calling it that either, but it’s true.
Think about it. Even the highest of traditional churches, it’s a performance. The way they process, the clothes they wear, the paraphernalia used. There is an element of oerformance performance.
If our actions whilst leading, such as looking like we want to be there, and enthusiasm weren’t important and bands and musicians were literally only in church to play music, then surely we’d be better off just sticking on a CD? There would be much less packing down each week!
The problem though is when the performance becomes the ‘thing’. Jesus is the ‘thing’, remember.
A better way of putting it, i think, because no one likes the word performance – is to say that our job is to model worship. To model worshipping in an authentic way. Which I think can and should be done without giving thought to consciously ‘performing’, whilst still accepting that there’s a reason we’re out front, to be an example
For some churches to model worship might look band energetically dancing and jumping around the stage, for some churches doing such a thing on stage would certainly get in the way.
But when we model worship, wholly focussed on Jesus, in a bid to show something of Jesus to our congregations, I think we’ll find getting out of the way comes naturally.
As a final note, I think perhaps the most important word in relation to getting out the way is sensitivity.
Be sensitive to the spirit, listen intently to how God is calling you to lead both before hand while preparing, and during.
And be sensitive to those around you. For me personally, I find it important to ensure song changes aren’t abrupt, or if they are, with good reason! So having some songs in the same key, or having intros which don’t distract especially in the quieter songs. There are many more examples, maybe a future blog post is in the writing.
Until then (and after then), just remember…