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You Don’t Have to Be a Rock Star to Lead Worship

I enjoy leading worship. I believe it is something God has called me to do, created me for, purposed for my life. At the same time, no one would mistake me for a professional singer. I would not get very far on the The Voice or American Idol. Yet, it is because of my less-than-stellar talent that I believe I am effective as a worship leader. How?

Paul, in many of his letters to the early churches, acknowledged that he wasn’t the best speaker. He referred to himself as a jar of clay, contrasting his personal worth compared to the “treasure” of the message of the gospel. He recognized that God often uses ordinary people with ordinary talents,”to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Now, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try my best or think too lowly of myself or my talents. No, the Bible encourages those who lead worship to do so skillfully (Psalm 33:3, 1 Chronicles 25:6-7). In fact, whatever we do, we should work at it with all our heart, as though working for the Lord (Colossians 3:23). Even when we are striving to do our best, though, we should rely on Christ’s power – not our own – to work within us (Colossians 1:29).

So, it is fine to feel less than adequate to serve God. It reminds me to depend more on God and less than myself. It keeps me humble, lest I be tempted to draw attention to myself and away from God. When God uses me (of all people) to lead others to a meaningful worship experience, to an encounter with God, then the praise and glory goes rightfully to God Himself.


Connecting to the Congregation

In today’s day of stay-at-home orders, most churches are resolved to offer worship to their congregations online. One of the biggest challenges with this kind of ‘virtual worship’ is how to enable your congregation, apart from you and one another while watching from home, to feel connected. I know the pastors I’ve talked to find it challenging to preach and even lead a service with an almost empty sanctuary.

However, even when leading worship in a room full of people, one of the challenges of worship leading can be connecting to one’s congregation. Just because people are in the room doesn’t mean they’re connecting or engaging with the music, or truly worshipping. So maybe this season of virtual worship can help worship leaders, including myself, to become more intentional about connecting to our congregations, developing habits that can continue once we are back worshipping together live.

First of all, we have to know our music well. The more we have prepared and mastered the music, the less chance there is of making a mistake that distracts people from focusing on God. Mind you, the goal isn’t to “show off” our musical chops; our focus should always be on God, and showing off can just as easily distract people from worshipping God by turning their attention to the performer. But that doesn’t mean mediocrity is OK. Excellence should always be the goal, because God deserves our best. (Psalm 33:1-3)

Secondly, those leading worship should be focused on God. This seems obvious, but it is all too easy to turn our focus on the music, on the congregation, on what other members of our team are doing, or on ourselves. Again, the more prepared we are with the music – individually and as a team – the easier it is to focus on God.

If worship leaders are doing those two things, it is easier to connect with our congregations. This can mean speaking to the congregation, whether before, during, or after a song; although I’ve learned that this should be kept as concise as possible. This can mean inviting the congregation into a moment of prayer. Just be sure that you coordinate with your pastor(s), to understand their level of comfort with the amount of speaking/praying from you. The most basic thing that every worship leader can do is make eye contact with your congregation. If you’re like me, this is a lot easier said than done. But like any public speaking or performing, the more you do it, the less nerve wracking it usually becomes. The next time you are leading worship, pay attention to how often your eyes are on your music, or other members of the team, versus how often you’re looking at different people in the congregation (or these days, into the camera).

The primary job of a worship leader is to be worshipping God ourselves. But while we worship God, if we can connect to those who are there to worship with us by making eye contact or speaking to them, that will help create a sense of worshipping together as the family of God – even over the Internet!

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