When we are up front and leading worship, we are all called to rise above the herd (click to read Rise Above the Herd Mentality). We are called to learn to do our part in leading others into the presence of God. This means so many different things, but primarily what it says to me is that I need to get myself out of the way. What do I mean by that?
We’ve heard, ‘I need to get myself out of the way’ in these contexts before. But I believe it is more than just a general call of humbleness. It is not only a passive act, but one that requires thought toward what actions may need to be taken in order to lead God’s people.
For reading scripture, it requires that a person practice that act and/or learn to speak in public. Why? Because stumbling over God’s words is, of course, acceptable and we all do it. But the words are delivered much more powerfully and clearly when we remove the distractions of stumbling and mumbling. People will remember the word, not my stammering. My inability to deliver God’s word concisely may place stumbling blocks in front of another person’s worship and edification.
The same can be said about preaching the word. I’ll be brief on this point. We’ve heard that those who preach will be held more accountable by God and they need to be sure of the truth. But even when those who preach are sure of the truth, they all need to spend the time in learning to deliver crisp and clear speach. They will all spend the time in studying the structures of sermons and how they are best delivered and remembered. These things are all a part of an active committment in becoming a more powerful delivery tool for God’s word and to remove personal distractions from efforts.
When we are up front and singing and playing, we have an enormous responsibility to be leaders and not distractors. All who are called to be on the team leading music are required to approach this work with extreme humility. I personally believe that if there are problems in this area that the person who is leading the worship team needs to address the issues.
All called for the worship team need to have an inner dialogue and learn of their shortcomings in order to make a plan to grow. We all need to be open to discussing our weak areas with our leaders and be open to agree on reasonable action measures when situations go wrong.
I was on a worship team one time when the leader, Johnny, used to always remind us that if we don’t feel right in our walk with God or we currently are struggling with our faith that we take the time to examine ourselves and include the possibility of stepping off of the worship team for a season. I’ll never forget when the time came and Johnny took himself off of the team for a month. He told us he was not right with God at that time, and he wanted to be able to give his whole self to the effort of worship. I sure loved Johnny’s heart.
All who are called need to understand their roles. Yes, they need to understand their musical roles, but they really need to understand their role as an approachable leader of the church. They are ‘up there’ for all to see, and any person might approach them to talk or to ask for help. One of our responsibilities in being on the platform is to know what to say. It’s our responsibility to act in the manner as a leader of the church and proclaim the values of Jesus. It’s our responsibility to tell another person who they might connect with when they have questions of life and of faith.
Back to the aspect of music. Here is an area where the individual needs to examine their heart as to their understanding of giving their best efforts. My personal take as a leader is that we approach practice time as something each individual does at home. Rehearsal time is when we get together as a group before Sunday. Sunday mornings are for a run-through and for last minute tightening.
The thought of giving nothing short of our best efforts has to be the goal. A book written by Robert Sterling on songwriting said that we may not know for sure if Jesus was actually a carpenter, but we’re pretty sure he did some creative handiwork. So, Sterling says, let’s assume Jesus was a carpenter and made chairs and tables for a living. Do you think that Jesus would have hobbled together some crooked pieces of wood and thought, ‘eh, that’s good enough’. I doubt it! So it should be in the preparation of delivering your musical product! And songwriting!! I will now forever think about how Sterling sprinkled throughout the book, “Jesus’ chairs”.
If you are up there singing, you are up there leading worship. Your preparation time includes learning the words to the songs and learning to have a cheerful face. There is nothing more distracting to the people than a singer with a lifeless expression and their face buried in a song book or a page of words. Learn to be expressive and to help lead the congregation in raising hands (if that’s appropriate in your church) or rising up and singing.
If you are a person running sound, your efforts are the same because you ARE playing an instrument in the band. Learning to play the sound board and getting all of the balances and executing all the different level and effect cues is just as important as any guitar or keyboard. More so, actually, because the sound board has the power to make the guitar or keyboard sound so small, not heard and out of balance with the rest. The board has the ability to add distraction more so than any voice. The mastery of all microphone levels to prevent feedback and to present a transparent and musical experience is a skill sorely needed in the worship setting.
The person running lights and video are equally tasked with providing a timely product on cue. If any of these elements are off, the visual distractions and the interruption of worship can be staggering.
Does the world come to an end (so to speak) when any of these elements aren’t perfect? Does God honor our efforts when we come short of these goals? Does it completely ruin the day of a worshipper when things go wrong up there? No, yes and no. But God deserves our best at all times, especially in the house where we gather to worship so as to draw less attention to ourselves.
Having said all that, I also realize that the entire notion of trying to make everything ‘smooth’ can in and of itself be an idol to me and others who are trying to make the entire service a ‘seamless production’ and not devote the time to worship ourselves. I believe that this is a matter of balance. However, for the good of the people, the service of the technical and worship team is the sacrifice of those who are called to help and run the church service. That is why it’s important to give all church volunteers regular time off, so they can make sure that they are not burned out and can enjoy the church service when it’s not their time to serve.
The people with whom we worship deserve to bring praise to God without distractions. We edify the group when we can present our gifts without breaking the flow of our communication with God.